Bookstore and library shelves overflow with poetry collections for children, each of varying quality from the truly excellent to the merely mediocre. Compiled by author and Britain’s 2007-2009 Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, Classic Poetry, An Illustrated Collection is a child-friendly introduction to some of the West’s great masters.
In his introduction Rosen says, “This is a book of classic poetry—poems that have lasted for many years, sometimes several hundreds of years. In that time, they’ve remained popular; they’ve gone on mattering to people; many people have thought these poems say important things in an exciting and memorable way.”
Classic Poetry presents the works of familiar names such as William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Emily Bronte, Lewis Carroll, and Walt Whitman.
Beginning with the Shakespeare’s All the World’s a Stage from As You Like It and ending with Judith Wright’s Full Moon Rhyme, the collection impresses in its variety and comprehensive sampling of literature’s greats.
As remarkable as the quality of its selections is the organization of the book, presenting its content by author in order of time, beginning with Shakespeare who lived from 1564-1616. Accompanying each poet are snippets about his or her life, adding context to the work and food for the curious appetite. To further illustrate this, the table of contents itself is presented in a timeline format. This provides a greater overall perspective of the collection.
Adding to the value of the book are the notes in the back. One appendix further elaborates on each poem, providing additional, background information. There is also a glossary of poetry terms, rounding out this informative work.
Paul Howard’s illustrations vary quite widely in composition and style throughout the book and lend themselves well to helping the reader along in grasping the poem before him or her. He illustrates both the poems and a portrait of each poet. What he has accomplished in this volume is quite impressive.
Howard notes in the beginning of the book, “I lived and breathed poetry for months, collecting many images of each poet. I wanted the portraits to reflect the period in which the poets lived, and countless visits to museums and libraries and a mountain of research lies behind the pictures.”
A great primer on poetry and poets, Classic Poetry, An Illustrated Collection is an educational and enjoyable choice for children of all ages.