The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury by Jack Prelutsky (Editor), Meilo So (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
"I objurgate the centipede,/ A bug we do not really need," writes Ogden Nash. Carl Sandburg hums and strums, while pages later, William Jay Smith compares a toaster to a silver-scaled dragon. And of course A.A. Milne must add his two cents' worth, "tiddely pom, tiddely pom." What a labor of love! Children's poet and anthologist Jack Prelutsky has collected 211 of his favorite poems by 137 poets, representing the best of verse from each decade of the 20th century. "Until this century, most children's poetry was either syrupy sweet or overblown and didactic, and tended to talk down to its readers," Prelutsky writes in his introduction. "Contemporary children's poets have thrown all that condescension and moralizing out the window, and write with today's real child in mind."
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What's in this anthology for today's child? Food fights, outer space, animals, noses, monsters, sports, and sibling rivalry. Each of award-winning illustrator Meilo So's spectacular watercolor-splashed spreads reflects a theme: one buggy watercolor romp is surrounded by Deborah Chandra's "Cricket," Walter R. Brooks's "Ants, Although Admirable, Are Awfully Aggravating," and Robert Frost's "Blue-Butterfly Day." Five nocturnal poems nestle into a moonlit cityscape. Four music-related poems, from Bruce Lansky's "My Violin" to X.J. Kennedy's "The Girl Who Makes the Cymbals Bang," burst from So's cacophonous paintings. This excellent collection, a companion to The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury, belongs on every poetry lover's bookshelf. Prelutsky, creator of The New Kid on the Block, The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, and more than 30 other poetry books, has perfect pitch.