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Poems to Learn by Heart

This widely appealing collection of poetry – beautifully illustrated with paintings by Jon J Muth – was edited by Caroline Kennedy.

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Poems to Learn by Heart
Edited by Caroline Kennedy
Disney-Hyperion Books
191 pp.

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Poems to Learn by Heart is a gorgeous collection that will appeal to both children and adults. Edited by Caroline Kennedy, with paintings by Jon J Muth, the book features more than 100 poems that are meant to engage, delight, and challenge readers – and to be memorized. As Kennedy explains in the introduction, “If we learn poems by heart, we will always have their wisdom to draw on, and we gain understanding that no one can take away.” The collection opens with Rita Dove’s lovely “The First Book,” which nudges readers to “Open it./ Go ahead, it won’t bite./ Well ... maybe a little.” By the end of the poem, Dove assures readers that the journey they’ve embarked on, “It’s not like it’s the end of the world –/ just the world as you think/ you know it.”

Nine sections cover a wide range of topics – including family, friendship, the self, school, and sports – and feature poems from writers as diverse as Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, and Ogden Nash. Silly rhymes mix seamlessly with classic poems, lines from the Bible, and contemporary humor. Evocative illustrations and Kennedy’s lively, insightful commentary really bring the book to life. One of the biggest surprises is Kennedy’s presentation of the “Gettysburg Address,” which she has broken into stanzas, to help readers learn the text.

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