The best children’s poetry collections about animals

Matt Forrest Esenwine Author Of Once Upon Another Time
By Matt Forrest Esenwine

The Books I Picked & Why

In the Wild

By David Elliott, Holly Meade

Book cover of In the Wild

Why this book?

This book proves that poetry is thoughtful, succinct, and beautiful to read – and most importantly, accessible to all. From elephants and cheetahs to American bison and polar bears, David distills the essence of each animal into short poems that are brimming with insight and wit. While all of David’s books in this series are wonderful, In the Wild was one of the first and remains one of the best.


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The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!

By J. Lewis

Book cover of The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!

Why this book?

When it comes to animal photography, National Geographic set the standard for excellence – and when one pairs 200 of their best photographs with poetry from some of the country's finest poets, you end up with a beautiful, coffee table book that deserves to be in every house.

From classic poets like Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Rudyard Kipling to contemporary writers including Naomi Shihab Nye, Jack Prelutsky, and Jane Yolen (and even a few from anthologist and former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis) this is a book you will want to take time to peruse read, and ponder.


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A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build

By David L. Harrison, Giles Laroche

Book cover of A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build

Why this book?

Given poet David L. Harrison’s background and interests (he holds science degrees from both Drury and Emory Universities), it should not be surprising to see his books show up on two of my lists. While he has published numerous poetry collections about animals, A Place to Start a Family stands out because of its tight focus – poems about animals that build nests, hives, and other types of homes – and the writer’s incredible talent for wordplay.

From ingenious internal rhyme to intriguing back matter to Giles Laroche’s masterful cut-paper illustrations, this work of creative nonfiction is equally at home in libraries and classrooms as it is on children’s bookshelves.


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At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems

By Leslie Bulion, Leslie Evans

Book cover of At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems

Why this book?

Leslie Bulion combines her love of science and poetry to create fascinating, fun, and memorable books. While she has published several animal poetry collections, At the Sea Floor Café stands out for its exceptional balance of science fact and literary value.

Leslie is extremely skilled at finding the perfect poetic forms and phrases to do her subjects justice while never veering off into overt didacticism. Fun and surprising, this book is perfect for the nature science lover in the family.


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Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

By Joyce Sidman, Rick Allen

Book cover of Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

Why this book?

If you wonder why Joyce Sidman is considered one of the preeminent children’s poets of our time, this Newbury Award-winning book should be all you need. From bats and crickets to moths and salamanders – and yes, even the Dark Emperor himself, the great horned owl – Joyce utilizes powerful imagery, delicate wordplay, and a poet’s insight to bring these mysterious creatures out of the dark and into our homes.

From formal rhyme structures to free verse, Joyce combines magnificent poetry with nonfiction sidebars to create a perfect book that enlightens, enthralls, and educates.


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