A Poke in the I - A Collection of Concrete PoemsAs April is National Poetry Month, I’d like to highlight one of the more exciting sets of poetry books for children I’ve come across recently. Paul B. Janeczko and Chris Raschka have created a trilogy (or should I say tercet?) of picture books filled with selected poems and accompanying illustration that are both enjoyable to read and informative lessons about all things poetry. The first of these books (released in 2001) was A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems. If you’re not familiar with the term concrete poem, Janeczko describes them as “different from regular poems” where “the arrangement of letters or words on the page, the typefaces chosen, and the way space is used, add meaning to the poem beyond that contained in the actual words.”

A Poke in the I
A Collectoin of Concrete Poems

is rated
Buy Two!
(One for you and one for a friend)

Example #1: Stowaway by Robert Carola (from Page 9):


Example #2: I Need Contact Lenses by Jon Hegley (from Page 11)




L      E     N     S     E     S

like I need a poke in the eye

Most other poems in the book are written in such ways that it would be too difficult to put into a blog post, so I recommend you see the book yourself – not to mention, each page is flush with Raschka’s sensational illustrations accompanying, and in most cases enhancing, each poem.

Four years later (in 2005), Janeczko and Raschka paired up again to release A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms.

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms

This collection of poems is accompanied, of course with Raschka’s illustrations, but also with descriptions of each of the many exemplified poetic forms. From common forms (couplet, limerick, sonnet, haiku) to forms wasn’t previously familiar with (cinquain, double dactyl, aubade, villanelle), A Kick in the Head was incredibly instructional, as well as fun to read (of course, there were a couple of concrete poems in there, as well).

Then another four years later (in 2009), the duo of Janeczko and Raschka came out with A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout.

A Foot in the Mouth - Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout

Whereas A Poke in the I highlights the visual aspect on the page, this assemblage of selected poems highlights the sound of poetry. From rhyming to tongue twisters to poems for multiple voices and more, A Foot in the Mouth adds another terrific dimension to this trio of books.

As it is once again four years later (now 2013), let us hope that Janeczko and Raschka continue their timely periodic releases of illustrated poetry picture books. I have heard absolutely nothing to insist that a new book is on the horizon, nor have I done much research in an attempt to ascertain such information. But I can blindly hope.

In all three of these collections, Janeczko has done wonderful work in selecting quality poems from both well-known and lesser-known (and in my case sometimes unknown) poets. If a fourth book isn’t mustered up any time soon, there are hundreds of pages of poems and pictures to reread and review these three wonderful books already.


Borrow. Read. Return. Repeat.