Prolific poet and Newbery Medal-winning author Kwame Alexander releases a poetry gem, and a few other rhyming tales bring verse to springtime.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

By Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth; illustrated by Ekua Holmes; Candlewick Press; 56 pages; $16.99

Alexander’s novel told in verse, The Crossover, was awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal, and he’s penned 21 books for children and educators. The poet laureate of child literacy organization LitWorld celebrates 20 famed poets in Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, a must-have picture book collection.

With gorgeous, ethereal mixed media images from fine artist Ekua Holmes, Out of Wonder features poems from both those who lived centuries ago and those still alive. The authors make sure the poets highlighted are interesting people who wrote muse-worthy, amazing poetry with which they are in love.

Alexander acknowledges that a poem “is a small but powerful thing,” and that it “has the power to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in ways you never imagined.”

He presents intriguing verse that’s incredibly well-chosen. From “How Billy Collins Writes a Poem” by Billy Collins, to “For Our Children’s Children” celebrating Chief Dan George, to Nikki Giovanni’s “Snapshots” and Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Hue and Cry,” these poems are impactful and simply cool.

Holmes’ rich hues make the verses pop, resulting in a significant journey in pages every child should take. Enjoy.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes

By Julie Fogliano; pictures by Julie Morstad; A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press; 56 pages; $18.99

Arranged like a diary with date entries, When Green Becomes Tomatoes is a celebration of all things seasonal and natural. It’s sweet and whimsical, with folksy fun illustrations and the excitement of every season.

Beginning with March 20, “from a snow-covered tree/one bird singing/each tweet poking a tiny hole/through the edge of winter/and landing carefully/balancing gently on the tip of spring,” Julie Fogliano’s ode to all the joys of the outdoors makes floating in a river, pondering wildflowers’ names, welcoming a firefly, jumping in leaves and donning a favorite hat in the snow seem magical and serene.

Julie Morstad’s almost thumbprint-like characters are wide-eyed, innocent depictions of children and animals. A wonder-filled capture of life and childhood self-expression, When Green Becomes Tomatoes is simply lovely.

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

By Jane E. Clarke; illustrated by Migy Blanco; Nosy Crow/Candlewick Press; 32 pages; $15.99

Jane Clarke’s zesty, energetic picture book rhyme starts: “Old MacDonald had a farm. He loved things that go!”

With funny vintage-looking illustrations and hilarious farm animals zipping about on bikes, in 1950s sedans, purple tractors, speed boats and a turquoise crop duster, her sing-song rhyming is a hoot and a holler in Old MacDonald’s Things That Go.

There’s a “Wee-ooo here, wee-ooo there,” and a “Ding-ding here, ding-ding there,” and then finally the beginning refrain. Clarke’s barnyard vehicle read-aloud is a knee-slapping winner.

Funniest is Old MacDonald himself, with big round eyes and a full silver beard, always smiling and zooming about with his rambunctious animals.

Love Is

By Diane Adams; illustrated by Claire Keane; Chronicle Books; 28 pages; $15.99

Tender and funny, Diane Adams’ retro-tinged smaller picture book, Love Is, is the heartwarming story of a little African-American girl (for those searching for tales starring multicultural kids) and a personable duckling.

The girl learns that “Love is holding something fragile, tiny wings and downy head,” and “Love is waking up together, side by side and beak to nose.”

Eventually, though, as the duckling grows and runs amok in the house, “It’s sensing when the time is right to lift those wings, to travel on.” Though the girl is a bit sad after her duckling leaves the nest, she returns to the park and realizes “love is also watching, waving, wondering if love remembers you, and knowing in a happy instant that love has lasted ... and grown some, too.”

A precious book celebrating love, growing and even the importance of taking proper care of animals, Love Is is a perfect spring gift book for young children.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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