14 Canadian poetry books for kids to read during National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month! Celebrate by reading some great Canadian poetry written for younger readers.

April is National Poetry Month! Celebrate by reading some great Canadian poetry for children and young adults.

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Loveis Wise

A children's book of poetry by Zetta Elliott. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Bianca Cordova)

Say Her Name is a poetic call-to-action for older children. Inspired by the U.S.-founded #SayHerName campaign, Zetta Elliott wrote 49 poems that highlight historical names such as Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde and Nikki Giovanni to celebrate the creativity, resilience and courage of black women and girls.

Say Her Name is for ages 12 and up.

Elliott is a feminist writer and children's author from Ajax, Ont. Her work includes the middle-grade fantasy book series Dragons in a Bag, the poetry books A Place Inside of Me and Say Her Name, inspired by the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum. She has been living in the United States for the past 20 years.

Loveis Wise is an artist and illustrator based in Philadelphia.

Zetta Elliott talks to Shelagh Rogers about the latest installment of her Dragons in a Bag series, The Witch's Apprentice.

Explosion at the Poem Factory by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Mark Hoffmann

A picture book by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Mark Hoffmann. (Groundwood Books, Charles Ludeke, Mark Hoffman)

Explosion at the Poem Factory is a humorous book for young readers about a piano teacher named Kilmer Watts who finds himself unemployed when automatic pianos arrive in town. One day, upon seeing a "Help Wanted" sign at the poem factory, he soon finds out all about how poems are manufactured and assembled. Explosion at the Poem Factory uses rhymes and creative wordplay while deconstructing all that goes into a poem. 

Explosion at the Poem Factory is for ages 6-9.

Kyle Lukoff is a children's book author, school librarian and former bookseller based in Brooklyn, New York.

Mark Hoffman is an American children's book author/illustrator, editorial illustrator and fine artist.

A Very Silly Alphabet by Jeannie Hillman, illustrated by Sarah Shortliffe

A Very Silly Alphabet is a picture book by Jeannie Hillman (left), illustrated by Sarah Shortliffe. (Nimbus, Jack Hillman)

A Very Silly Alphabet is a poetic picture book featuring 26 read-aloud poems, each one representing a letter of the alphabet. With bright, silly characters and lyrics, A Very Silly Alphabet highlights the fact that reading and learning can be fun. 

A Very Silly Alphabet is for ages 4 to 8.

Jeannie Hillman is an author of children's books based in Nova Scotia.

Sarah Shortliffe is an artist, born and raised in the Maritimes. 

I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Michaela Goade

I Sang You Down from the Stars is a picture book by Tasha Spillett-Sumner (pictured) and illustrated by Michaela Goade. (Leonard Sumner, Submitted by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, Owlkids)

I Sang You Down from the Stars is a story of birth and creation for younger readers. Using poetic language and watercolours, the picture book uses Indigenous creation stories and traditional teachings to celebrate nature and the bond behind mother and child.

I Sang You Down from the Stars is for ages 2 to 5.

Tasha Spillett-Sumner is an educator, poet and scholar of Nehiyaw and Trinidadian descent.  She is also the author of graphic novel Surviving the Citywhich won the $2,000 Indigenous Voices Award for works in an alternative format in 2019.

Michaela Goade is an American-born illustrator from the Tlingit and Haida tribes. Goade won the 2021 Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in the book We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom.

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know by Brittany Luby, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere & Alan Corbiere

This Is How I Know is a picture book by Brittany Luby (left) and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley. (Groundwood Books)

This Is How I Know is a vibrant story poem about an Anishinaabe child, her grandmother and a look at the wonders and beauty of the natural world. This Is How I Know was a finalist for the 2021 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustrated books.

This Is How I Know is for ages 3 to 7.

Brittany Luby is an academic and children's book author. She is the great-granddaughter of Chief Kawitaskung, an Anishinaabe leader who signed the North-West Angle Treaty of 1873. 

Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley is an Ojibway multidisciplinary artist from Ontario, whose family is from Wasauksing First Nation.

Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere are Anishinaabe from M'Chigeeng First Nation. The father and son duo translated the Anishinaabemowin text for the book.

My Love is For You by Susan Musgrave, illustrated by Marilyn Faucher

A 2019 Canadian picture book by Susan Musgrave and Marilyn Faucher. (Orca Book Publishers)

My Love is For You is a poetic look at love and the four seasons of nature. Featuring detailed illustrations of all the joys that the natural world brings, My Love is For You is designed to be a literary and visual treat for small children. 

My Love is For You is for ages 0-2.

B.C.-based Susan Musgrave has written poetry, fiction, nonfiction, personal essay and children's writing. Her many books include Love You MoreMore Blueberries and Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug

Marilyn Faucher is an illustrator based in Montreal. 

Sockeye Silver, Saltchuck Blue by Roy Henry Vickers & Robert Budd

Sockeye Silver, Saltchuck Blue is a picture book by Roy Henry Vickers & Robert Budd. (ZG Communications, Harbour Publishing)

Sockeye Silver, Saltchuck Blue introduces young readers to iconic sounds of the West Coast, like roaring sea lions, rustling cedar branches in the wind, sacred drumming of a potlatch and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. It's the fourth board book in The First West Coast Book series, which includes Hello Humpback!, One Eagle Soaring and Sockeye Silver Saltchuck Blue.

Sockeye Silver, Saltchuck Blue is for ages 0-3.

Roy Henry Vickers is a renowned carver, painter and printmaker from British Columbia. He is the co-author of the popular children's Northwest Coast Legends series, which includes Raven Brings the Light, CloudwalkerOrca Chief and Peace Dancer.

Robert "Lucky" Budd is the co-author of the Northwest Coast Legends series and the author of Voices of British Columbia and its sequel, Echoes of British Columbia.

In the Sky at Nighttime by Laura Deal, illustrated by Tamara Campeau

In the Sky at Nighttime is a picture book by Laura Deal (above) and illustrated by Tamara Campeau. (Inhabit Media)

In the Sky at Nighttime is an illustrated bedtime poem about the Arctic night sky. This lyrical poem sends readers sailing through the Arctic night sky to see and hear the unique beauty of a Northern night. In the sky at nighttime, the northern lights dance, a mother's song sways on the breeze and a raven roosts atop a tall building, bathed in the light of the moon.

In the Sky at Nighttime is for ages 0-3.

Originally from Nova Scotia, Laura Deal has been living in Nunavut since 2005. This is her second book.

This is the Rink Where Jack Plays by Stella Partheniou Grasso, illustrated by Chris Jones

A Canadian picture book by Stella Partheniou Grasso and Chris Jones. (Scholastic Canada)

The vibrant nature of ice hockey is on full display by Ontario-raised writer Stella Partheniou Grasso. Created for hockey fans of all ages, This is the Rink Where Jack Plays is a poetic ode to Canada's national sport and the classic nursery rhyme This is the House That Jack Built with colourful images by illustrator Chris Jones.

This is the Rink Where Jack Plays is for ages 3-8.

Stella Partheniou Grasso is an Ontario-based author. Her previous books for children include Take Me Out to the Ice RinkThere Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Puck and Five Busy Beavers. 

Chris Jones is a Toronto-based artist, graphic designer and illustrator. 

Tree Song by Tiffany Stone, illustrated by Holly Hatam

Tree Song is a children's book by B.C.-based writer Tiffany Stone. (Annick Press)

Tree Song uses poetic language and phrasing to explore the life cycle of a tree, from a tiny seed, to sapling and fully grown. The book looks at the tree in different seasons, from birds in spring, picnics in summer and leaves in fall. Tree Song is a read-aloud celebration of the venerable tree for small children while serving as the ideal introduction to nature's life cycles.

Tree Song is for ages 4-7.

Tiffany Stone is a Quebec-born and B.C.-based children's poet, picture book author and editor. 

Holly Hatam is an illustrator and author. She is known for her whimsical, quirky mixed-media art style. She is the illustrator-author of Mermaids Are Real! and has illustrated various children's books including the New York Times Bestseller Dear Girl by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal.

Be You! by Peter H. Reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds is a Ontario-born writer and illustrator. (Orchard Books/Scholastic Canada)

Be You!  is a celebration of the notion that each child is special and unique in their own enduring way. With words designed to inspire, empower and educate — Be You! is in the vein of Oh, the Places You'll Go!, reminding young children that they have the power to be who they want to be. 

Be You! is for ages 4 to 8.

Peter H. Reynolds is an Ontario-raised and Mass.-based writer and illustrator of children's books. His bestselling books include The DotI Am HumanHappy DreamerThe Word Collector and Say Something!

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe & I'm Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas, both illustrated by Pauline Young

Pauline Young with the two books she was asked to illustrate, I Lost My Talk and I'm Finding My Talk. (Gail Harding/CBC)

This children's book shares Rita Joe's iconic poem I Lost My Talk with a new generation. I Lost My Talk is about how Joe, a Mi'kmaw elder and poet, lost her language and culture after she was sent to residential school. 

I'm Finding My Talk is Rebecca Thomas's response to Rita Joe's poem I Lost My Talk. Thomas is a poet and a second-generation residential school survivor. In I'm Finding My Talk, she celebrates reconnecting with her language and culture.

Both books are for readers aged 4-8.

Both books are illustrated by Pauline Young, a Mi'kmaw illustrator who lives in New Brunswick.

Climbing Shadows by Shannon Bramer, illustrated by Cindy Derby

A book of poetry for children by Shannon Bramer, illustrated by Cindy Derby. (Groundwood Books, Linda Marie Stella)

Inspired by kindergarten children, Climbing Shadows features poems for children to spread the love, joy and wonder of poetry. Poet and playwright Shannon Bramer was inspired to develop this anthology that is a sensitive look at all the emotions that young children experience: happiness, sorrow, worry, fear and humour. 

Climbing Shadows is for ages 6 and up.

Shannon Bramer is a Toronto author of poems, plays and short fiction. She has published a number of poetry collections and chapbooks and won the Hamilton and Region Best Book Award for 1999 book suitcases and other poems

Cindy Derby is a San Francisco-based writer, illustrator and puppeteer. Derby has illustrated many picture books, including Climbing Shadows by Shannon Bramer.


  • An earlier version of this story said Kyle Lukoff was based in Ontario. He is based in Brooklyn, New York.
    Apr 27, 2020 4:22 PM ET

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