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National Poetry Month, 2014 Poetry for Children

Oakland Bay Bridge
Oakland Bay Bridge
Catherine Al-Meten

April is National Poetry Month. Poetry is some of the first literature we hear and learn to read and sing. The rhythms and colorful language of poetry appeals to children, and often tickles the funny bone. This is the first in a series of articles featuring children's poetry.

Local poet, Kenn Nesbitt, was named Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. Nesbitt was born February 20, 1962 in Berkeley, California. His website is a great resource for parents, grandparents, and educators alike. He is even available for Skype visits to your classroom. A number of his poetry appeals to the silly zone we all carry around within us. Here are just a few samples of his poetry, as well as some favorite classic poems of other well-known poets.

“I Love to do the Laundry”

I love to do the laundry.

I mean it.

I don't mind

because I get to keep

whatever money I might find.

I know it sounds ridiculous.

I'm sure it must seem strange.

But every time I wash the clothes

I find some pocket change.

I found a dollar yesterday.

Today I found a ten.

I'm certain that tomorrow

I'll find money once again.

You see, I have a strategy.
(I guess that's what you call it.)

And sometimes

I just accidentally

wash my father's wallet.

“My Mother Said to Do My Chores”

My mother said to do my chores,

to dust the shelves and mop the floors,

and wipe the walls and wind the clocks

and scoop the kitty's litter box,

and walk the dog and feed the fishes,

wash and dry the dirty dishes,

and clean my room and take a bath

and read a book and do my math,

and pick up all my Lego blocks,

and put away my shoes and socks,

and hang my shirts and fold my pants

and water all the potted plants,

and organize my toys and games,

and straighten up the picture frames,

and polish all the silverware,

and brush my teeth and comb my hair

and rake the leaves and mow the lawn

and on and on and on and on.

She said I'll get to have some fun

as soon as all my chores are done.

With all the chores I have to do

until my mother says I'm through,

like study for an hour or two

the names of places in Peru,

and peel potatoes and stir the stew,

and fix a vase with crazy glue,

and practice tuba till I'm blue,

and scrub the tub and toilet too,

and sweep the chimney and the flue

and wash the dog with pet shampoo,

and pick up piles of puppy poo...

It looks like I'll be ninety three

before I get to watch TV.

“My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes”
My teacher calls me sweetie cakes.

My classmates think it's funny

to hear her call me angel face

or pookie bear or honey.

She calls me precious baby doll.

She calls me pumpkin pie

or doodle bug or honey bunch

or darling butterfly.

My class is so embarrassing

I need to find another;

just any class at all

in which the teacher's not my mother.

"All My Great Excuses"

I started on my homework

but my pen ran out of ink.

My hamster ate my homework.

My computer's on the blink.

I accidentally dropped it
in the soup my mom was cooking.

My brother flushed it down the toilet
when I wasn't looking.

My mother ran my homework

through the washer and the dryer.

An airplane crashed into our house.

My homework caught on fire.

Tornadoes blew my notes away.

Volcanoes struck our town.

My notes were taken hostage

by an evil killer clown.

Some aliens abducted me.

I had a shark attack.

A pirate swiped my homework

and refused to give it back.

I worked on these excuses

so darned long my teacher said,
"I think you'll find it's easier

to do the work instead."
--Kenn Nesbitt

Some classic poetry for children:

The Crocodile
by Oliver Hereford

Crocodile once dropped a line

o a Fox to invite him to dine;

But the Fox wrote to say

He was dining, that day,

With a Bird friend, and begged to decline.

She sent off at once to a Goat.
“Pray don’t disappoint me,” she wrote;

But he answered too late,

He’d forgotten the date,

Having thoughtlessly eaten her note.

The Crocodile thought him ill-bred,

And invited two Rabbits instead;

But the Rabbits replied,

They were hopelessly tied

By a previous engagement, and fled.

Then she wrote in despair to some Eels,

And begged them to “drop in” to meals;

But the Eels left their cards

With their coldest regards,

And took to what went for their heels.

Cried the Crocodile then, in disgust,

“My motives they seem to mistrust.

Their suspicions are base!

Since they don’t know their place,--
I suppose if I must starve, I must.”

From Robert Louis Stevenson’s Children’s Garden of Verse:

“My Shadow”

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;

I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;

But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

“The Land of Nod”

From breakfast on through all the day

At home among my friends I stay,

But every night I go abroad

Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,

With none to tell me what to do--

All alone beside the streams

And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are these for me,

Both things to eat and things to see,

And many frightening sights abroad

Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,

I never can get back by day,

Nor can remember plain and clear

The curious music that I hear.

“Bed in Summer”

In winter I get up at night

And dress by yellow candle-light.

In summer, quite the other way,

I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see

The birds still hopping on the tree,

Or hear the grown-up people's feet

Still going past me in the street


And does it not seem hard to you,

When all the sky is clear and blue,

And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Christina Rossetti:


White sheep, white sheep,

On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,

You all stand still.

When the wind blows,

You walk away slow.

White sheep, white sheep,

Where do you go?

Laura E. Richards


Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant--
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone--
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee--
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Catherine Al-Meten:

Silly, Frilly, Filly

Where it is you’ve been?

‘Cross fields
into the Wind.

What it is, you do
all day
among the clover
the bees
the birds,
and you?


So beautiful and new
to life in fields
and pastures
to streams
and hills
and you.

How find you, life so far?
life upon a farm?

What wish you, on a star?
A friendly hand,
An apple sweet,
a friend dapple mare
rolls a bucket
for you to chase,
who nestles beside you
near a pile of hay
when comes the end of day.

Inspired by my darling Granddaughter, Lola.

copyright@Catherine Al-Meten, 2013

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