BOOK REVIEW: Classic Poems to Read Aloud Sel. by James Berry

Classic Poems to Read AloudClassic Poems to Read Aloud by James Berry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This anthology consists of about 160 poems arranged in eleven thematic chapters. As the title suggests, the theme of the collection is poems that have a beauty of sound about them. As one might expect, this means there are a lot of metered and rhymed poems. However, one would be wrong to think that no free verse works were included. One might also assume that “classic poems” means that none of them were written by poets living from the latter half of the 20th century onwards. But, in addition to the pieces by the anthologist, Berry, there are a number of such authors, including: Shel Silverstein, Kit Wright, and Sylvia Plath. Most of the poems are short form poems that range from less than a page to two pages. Of the the longer poems, those that are more than a few pages are excerpted.

This is a great collection to introduce children to poetry, though it was clearly meant for all ages. It has a number of poems that have the requisite silliness to appeal to youngsters written by poets such as Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne, Hilaire Belloc, and others. And, of course, the selected poems are pleasing to the ear for reading aloud. Furthermore, it has line drawn illustrations, though not linked to every poem.

Some of my favorites that are included in this collection are: Blake’s “The Tiger,” Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty,” Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Kipling’s “If,” Carroll’s “The Mad Gardener’s Song” and “Jabberwocky,” Shakespeare’s “St. Crispin’s Day Speech” [from “Henry V,”] and Whitman’s “Oh Captain! My Captain!” However, it was also pleasing to find many poems that I hadn’t read a hundred times (or even once) before in the anthology as well.

I highly recommend this book for poetry readers, especially those who are interested in the sound quality of poems or those who are looking to introduce a child to poetry.

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