Poetry Annotated Bibliography
Dr. Ava L. McCall
Ada, A. F. (1997). Gathering the sun: An alphabet in Spanish and English. New York: Lothrop,
Lee & Shepard Books.
The text is written in both Spanish and English and uses the letters of the Spanish
alphabet to form 28 poems about aspects of farm workers’ lives. The poetry reflects an
appreciation for bountiful harvests, the hard work necessary to bring in the harvest, pride
in Mexican American farm workers’ families, and the inspirational leadership of Cesar
Adoff, A. (Ed.). (1994). My black me: A beginning book of Black poetry. New York: Dutton
This text is a collection of 50 poems affirming African Americans’ experiences suitable
for elementary and middle school students. Included are a number of poems by Langston
Hughes and Nikki Giovanni. One section of poems focuses on significant leaders in
African American history, including Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and
Martin Luther King.
Alarcon, F. X. (1997). Laughing tomatoes and other spring poems. San Francisco: Children’s
Written in both English and Spanish, the poems describe everyday life in a Mexican
American family as well as different foods planted and eaten. Most notable are the poems
honoring his grandmother in “My Grandma’s Songs,” Cesar Chavez in “A Tree for Cesar
Chavez,” the holiday Cinco de Mayo in “Cinco de Mayo,” the importance of corn in “Ode
to Corn,” and children who work in the fields in “Strawberries.”
Alarcon, F. X. (1998). From the bellybutton of the moon and other summer poems. San
Francisco: Children’s Books.
The author created bilingual poems (Spanish and English) to honor his childhood
memories of visiting Mexico and other summer activities. The title poem depicts Mexico-Tenochtitlan, founded by the Aztecs in 1325 on a small island in the middle of Lake
Texcoco. The Aztec name for the city means “bellybutton of the moon,” and the author’s
grandmother encourages him to remember his origins in Mexico. Other poems honor
Uncle Vicente who farms, Grandpa Pancho who taught his grandchildren Spanish letters,
and the family bilingual dog who barks in both Spanish and English.
Alarcon, F. X. (1999). Angels ride bikes and other fall poems. San Francisco: Children’s Books.
The author created poems in English and Spanish describing his childhood growing up in
Los Angeles. The poems depict the city as a place where people hope to make their
dreams come true and where the pollution keeps everyone inside. Family members are
lovingly described, including his mothers’ difficult physical labor in fields and canneries
and his aunt’s humor in her dentistry practice. Of special interest are the poems
illustrating his first day at school when he cannot understand English.
Alarcon, F. X. (2005). Poems to dream together. New York: Lee & Low Books.
The author’s bilingual Spanish and English poems affirm his family, their history
collected in a photo album, his mother’s hard work in caring for the family and working
for income, and everyone’s participation in growing the family garden. Other poems
acknowledge the old adobe homes in New Mexico, farmworkers who grow the fruits
many of us eat, and Cesar Chavez’s dream of a better life for farmworkers. “Dreaming up
the Future” focuses on dreaming what we will become in 20 years.
Anaya, R. (2000). Elegy on the death of Cesar Chavez. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
The text is an illustrated poem eulogizing the Mexican American labor activist Cesar
Chavez and his work in organizing migrant farm workers. It depicts some of the
oppressive conditions of farm workers, including working in fields sprayed with
pesticides and having their children’s educational opportunities limited by “propositions.”
The author encourages farm workers to rise against their oppressors “who take your sweat
and labor and sell it cheap” in memory of Chavez. The author’s note elaborates on ideas
portrayed in the poem and includes a timeline of significant events in Cesar Chavez’s life.
Argueta, J. (2001). A movie in my pillow = Una película en mi almohada. New York: Children’s
A renowned Salvadoran poet recalls his childhood experiences, dreams, and memories of
life in El Salvador and San Francisco.
Bruchac, J. & Locker, T. (1995). The earth under sky bear’s feet: Native American poems of the
land. New York: Putnam & Grosset.
Bruchac collected poems about Sky Bear or the Big Dipper from several different Native
nations, including the Mohawk, Missisquoi, Lenape, Winnebago (or Ho-Chunk),
Anishinabe, Lakota, Pawnee, Pima, Cochiti Pueblo, Chumash, Navajo, and Inuit. The
poems illustrate what Sky Bear might see at night on the earth and reflect aspects of each
Bruchac, J. & London, J. (1992). Thirteen moons on turtle’s back: A Native American year of
moons. New York: Philomel Books.
The collection of poems from 13 Native nations focus on 13 different moons to illustrate
the change in seasons over a year. The 13 large scales on a turtle’s back represent a type
of year-long calendar from the Northern Cheyenne’s “Moon of Popping Trees,” to the
Potawatomi’s “Baby Bear Moon, to the Anishinabe’s “Maple Sugar Moon,” to the
Menominee’s “Moon of Wild Rice,” to the Winnebago’s (or Ho-Chunk’s) “Moon When
Deer Drop Their Horns,” to the Abenaki’s “Big Moon.” The poems reflect the cultural
value of dependence on the natural world for survival and encourage readers to notice and
Carlson, L. M. (Ed.). (1994). Cool salsa: Bilingual poems on growing up Latino in the United
States. New York: Henry Holt.
Carlson collected poems about the experiences of Latino/a teenagers whose families
originally came from such countries as Cuba, Mexico, and Nicaragua. The poems are in
both Spanish and English to affirm the importance of first language for Latinos or Latinas
and to make them accessible to non-Spanish speaking readers. The “School Days” section
of poems is especially enlightening as teens describe some of their painful school
Clark, A. N. (Ed.). (1969). In my mother’s house. New York: Viking.
Clark collected poems written by Tewa children of Tesuque Pueblo near Santa Fe. The
first poem “In My Mother’s House” describes and celebrates one child’s home and his
parents’ work to create it. Other poems describe the close Tewa community, including
working and playing in the plaza around the homes, farming, caring for animals,
gathering plants, and appreciating their physical environment.
Clinton, C. (1998). I, too, sing America: Three centuries of African American poetry. Boston:
The text is a collection of 36 poems composed by 25 African American poets. The poems
are arranged chronologically, beginning with Lucy Terry’s poetry from the 1700s and
early 1800s through 20th century poets Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya
Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni, and concluding with the recent poet laureate Rita Dove.
The poems describe exclusion, discrimination, and racism present during slavery, legal
racial segregation, and the continuing racial inequalities in the U.S. as well as affirm
African Americans, hope for freedom, and the creation of a better world. The brief
biographies of the poets also document the racism that affected their abilities to write and
Driving Hawk Sneve, V. (Ed.). (1989). Dancing teepees: Poems of American Indian youth. New
York: Holiday House.
Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve explains that many of the poems included were passed on
orally from the old to the young and the power of this oral tradition. The poems’ authors
are mostly from the plains and southwest Native nations, such as the Dakota, Lakota,
Apache, Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi. They provide some insights into the beliefs and values
of each culture.
Driving Hawk Sneve, V. (Ed.). (2003). Enduring wisdom: Sayings from Native Americans. New
York: Holiday House.
The text is a collection of sayings from Native people’s prayers, songs, orations, and
conversations. She identifies the source for each saying, the time period, and organizes
them into categories of: mother earth, the people, war and peace, spirit life, and enduring
wisdom. The poems communicate powerful messages about Native people’s beliefs,
relationship with Whites, and their current lives and concerns.
Giovanni, N. (1985). Spin a soft Black song. New York: Sunburst.
Giovanni’s poems are written about and from African American children’s perspectives.
They are often humorous and provide some insight into how African American children
might perceive their family and community.
Giovanni, N. (1996). The genie in the jar. New York: Henry Holt.
This illustrated poem reflects the power of an African American mother protecting her
daughter as they together create trust, hope, and strength on the black loom of love. The
author explains that she originally dedicated this poem to the singer Nina Simone.
Grady, C. (2012). I lay my stitches down: Poems of American slavery. Grand Rapids, MI:
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
The poems reflect various aspects of slave life from slaves’ perspectives. “Basket”
illustrates the comforting effects of quilting while remembering one’s people and
motherland. “Underground Railroad” depicts how escaping slaves outwitted bounty
hunters while “Traditional Fish” and “Schoolhouse” portray how young slaves may fish
with the “master’s” children or walk them to school and stay to listen to the lessons.
“Anvil” and “Rail Fence” illustrate slaves’ skills in blacksmithing and racing horses
while “Tree of Life” and “Wagon Wheel” portray the agony of terrible slave whippings
and slave children being sold away from their parents. “North Star” shows how even
when slave owners educated their slaves, slaves still desired freedom from slavery above
all else, and “”Kaleidoscope” reflects the joy slaves could find in music during the little
time they were not working for their “masters.”
Greenfield, E. (1978). Honey, I love and other love poems. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
Greenfield has written 16 poems from an African American child’s perspective. She talks
about everyday life in families and with friends, always with an emphasis on loving
oneself and others. Her poem “Harriet Tubman” emphasizes Tubman’s courage and
strength in resisting slavery.
Greenfield, E. (2006). When the horses ride by: Children in the times of war. New York: Lee &
Greenfield wrote 17 poems depicting children’s perspectives and experiences of war at
different times and in various places around the world. Poems vary from “A Different
Land” portraying the displacement of Native people during the U.S. western expansion in
the 1700s and 1800s; to “Papa” depicting the American Revolution of 1775-1783; to
“When the Horses Ride By” responding to the American Civil War of 1861-1865; to “A
Child Like Me” portraying World War I from 1914-1918; to “The End of War”
describing World War II of 1939-1945; to “Great-Grandmother” responding to the
Vietnam War of 1954-1975; and “I Imagine” depicting an Iraqi child’s perspective of the
current war in Iraq. The author encourages children to hold on to their dreams and hopes
despite suffering from war.
Greenfield, E. (2011). The great migration: Journey to the North. New York: Amistad.
The nine poems depict different African American perspectives and experiences about the
"Great Migration" when African Americans left their homes in the South to seek a better
life in the North of the U.S. during 1915-1930. The racial oppression, violence, and
segregation in southern states often motivated families to move North to find better jobs,
nice homes, and escape the racial violence and legalized racial segregation in the South.
The poems portray African Americans' sadness to leave their land and friends, their joy in
leaving the low-paying jobs and racial segregation signs, their fear of what will happen,
their dreams of a better life, and their journey north on a train. The author portrays her
own family's experiences as part of the "Great Migration" in one of the poems.
Grimes, N. (1994). Meet Danitra Brown. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
In this excellent picture book, the author celebrates the friendship between two African
American girls with 13 poems. The poems are narrated by Zuri Jackson who introduces
readers to Danitra Brown and affirms her dark skin, writing talent, and her ability to cope
with boys’ put-downs. The poems are a powerful portrayal of the importance of
friendship among African American girls when society encourages them to devalue their
gender and race.
Grimes, N. (2001). Stepping out with Grandma Mac. New York: Orchard Books.
The author’s poems in this text portray the relationship between a nontraditional, gruff
African American grandmother and her spunky granddaughter. The poems are reassuring
for readers whose family members show love and affection subtly and can provoke
discussions about different methods of demonstrating love in families. “Grandma’s
Child” summarizes similarities between grandmother and granddaughter. “Fences”
depicts the subtle signs of Grandma Mac’s love despite the “chilly words.” “Homework”
portrays the hardships Grandma Mac experienced during the Great Depression.
Hamanaka, S. (1994). All the colors of the earth. New York: Morrow Junior Books.
This picture book provides beautiful visual images to accompany the poem. It celebrates
the cultural diversity among children as well as interracial families.
Hamanaka, S. (1999). I look like a girl. New York: Morrow Junior Books.
The author created both the poem and the illustrations to illustrate many qualities a girl
shares with wild animals. The poem seems to encourage girls to recognize their strengths
rather than wait to be validated by a “prince.”
Harrington, J. N. (2004). Going north. New York: Melanie Kroupa Books.
This book-length poem is based on the author’s family’s experience of moving from
Vernon, Alabama to Lincoln, Nebraska during the summer of 1964. The family moved
North to find better jobs and schools for their children and to escape racial segregation in
the South. The poetry depicts the family driving past the cotton fields and red sand as
well as their anxiety about finding a “Negro” gas station which will serve them during the
journey. Arriving in Nebraska, they are pioneers beginning a new life and hoping for a
Hirschfelder, A. & Singer, B. R. (Eds.) (1992). Rising voices: Writings of young Native
Americans. New York: Ivy.
The authors selected poems by Native American youth to correct misconceptions and
offer frank views on their identity, families, communities, rituals, histories, education,
and harsh realities. The authors are from many different Native nations, including
Ojibway, Navajo, Cheyenne, Crow, Pueblo, Lakota, and Cree writing during the period
Hoberman, M. A. (1991). Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers: A collection of family poems. New
The author has written 26 poems which portray different family structures, including
families with adopted children, blended families, and divorced families. The poems also
reflect children’s humorous views of family life, including sibling rivalry, parent
expectations, and family visits.
Hoberman, M. A. (Ed.). (1994). My song is beautiful: Poems and pictures in many voices.
Boston: Little, Brown.
This collection of 14 poems portrays children’s perspectives from different cultures,
including African American, Chippewa, Eskimo, European American, Mexican, and
Korean. Each poem is written in the first person and affirms the importance of children.
hooks, b. (1999). Happy to be nappy. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children.
The illustrated poem is an affirmation of African American girls, especially their hair.
Girls can choose to wear their hair many different ways, but it is always a crown and a
source of happiness and freedom. The poem also affirms the connection between young
girls and their mothers and other women relatives as the older women comb, brush, and
braid the young ones’ hair.
Hopkins, L. B. (Ed.). (1994). Hand in hand: An American history through poetry. New York:
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Hopkins’ collection provides more of a traditional view on American history through
poems with occasional portrayals of diverse perspectives. Many of the poems are by well-known poets such as Frost, Sandburg, Longfellow, and Whitman. The poetry is divided
into traditional historical periods, including the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving (1600s), the
American Revolution (1700s), European Americans’ westward expansion (early to late
1800s), the Civil War (late 1800s), European immigration and invention (late 1800s),
World War I and II, the labor movement, and the Great Depression (early 1900s),
developing suburbs and large cities, and McCarthyism (mid 1900s), assassinations of
Kennedy and King, homelessness, and Vietnam War (late 1900s), space exploration
(1900s and beyond).
Hopkinson, D. (2001). Under the quilt of night. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The author’s illustrated poetry describes an imagined journey of escaped slaves as they
travel to freedom in Canada on the Underground Railroad. “Running” explains why
slaves escaped from slavery’s unbearable labor and slave owners’ efforts to track and
capture runaway slaves. “Waiting” illustrates the necessity of hiding during daylight and
traveling only under the cover of night. “Watching” depicts the signals slaves look for in
finding friends or station masters who help them escape. One important signal is the
display of a log cabin quilt with blue centers in front of a house. “Hiding” portrays the
assistance station masters provide for escaping slaves through food, clothing, and a place
to sleep while “Traveling” shows how slaves were hidden in wagons as they move closer
to freedom. Finally, “Singing” illustrates the last stage of the journey and the celebration
of finding freedom in Canada.
Hudson, W. (Ed.). (1993). Pass it on: African-American poetry for children. New York:
Hudson collected poems for children by African American poets, including Langston
Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Eloise Greenfield, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Poems focus
on everyday life among African Americans as well as historical figures (Harriet Tubman),
and events such as encountering racism and escaping from slavery. The poems affirm the
importance of African American experiences.
Johnston, T. (1996). My Mexico ~ Mexico mio. New York: Penguin Putnam Books for Young
The poems, written in both English and Spanish, portray positive images of Mexico. The
people, houses, plants, animals, cities, transportation, and music of Mexico are depicted
in poetry. The author uses humor and warmth to inform readers about life in Mexico.
Kroll, V. (2001). Girl, you’re amazing! Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman.
This illustrated poem is written in rhyme and celebrates girls and many different things
they do and know. It describes art girls can create, music they can perform, sports they
can play, how they can help and show love to others, the power girls have to do what is
right, the roles they play now and what girls can consider becoming as women.
Lewis, C. (1987). Long ago in Oregon. New York: Harper & Row.
The text is a collection of poems written about the author’s experiences living in a small
town in Oregon during 1917. She describes engaging in many daily activities, observing
sawmill activities, visiting a farm, becoming acquainted with the store owners’ family,
attending school, and her father’s registration for the World War I draft. The poems
provide a glimpse of a European American girl’s life during this time period.
Lewis, J. P. (2005). Heroes and she-roes: Poems of amazing and everyday heroes. New York:
Dial Books for Young Readers.
The author wrote 21 poems about famous and ordinary women and men who have
contributed to the common good and the well-being of others. Famous people such as
Helen Keller, Lewis and Clark, Mohandas Gandhi, Roberto Clemente, Martin Luther
King, Jr., Mahalia Jackson, Cesar Chavez, Ida Wells-Barnett, and Rosa Parks and their
courageous actions are documented in poetry. In addition, poems celebrate such ordinary
people as Iqbal Masih, who fought against child labor, and Sister Jeannette Normandin,
who founded an assisted living center for women with AIDS, are included.
McKissack, P. C. (2008). Stitchin’ and pullin’: A Gee’s Bend quilt. New York: Random House.
The poetic text describes Gee’s Bend, an African American community in Wilcox,
Alabama which originated as part of the Gee’s Bend cotton plantation. The poems focus
on the women, their quilting, and their quilts, which became well known and were
exhibited in art museums around the country. The women descended from emancipated
slaves who became sharecroppers and farmers and learned to make quilts from used
clothing. Although the quilts were artistic and often told stories, they were made
primarily for warmth. One poem describes the Freedom Quilting Bee, which was formed
to make and sell quilts. These quilts provided much needed income, but the quilters were
restricted to traditional quilt designs and could no longer make their own patterns. Some
women chose not to participate in order to have the freedom to design their own quilts.
McLaughlin, T. P. (Ed.). (2012). Walking on earth & touching the sky: Poetry and prose by
Lakota youth at Red Cloud Indian School. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
The poems collected in the text are written by Lakota youth at the Red Cloud Indian
School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as a result of the editor’s
reading and writing classes for fifth through eighth graders during a three-year period.
The poems are organized by theme and focus on the natural world; misery due to the
poverty, short life expectancy, alcohol and drug use on the reservation; Native thoughts
which highlight cultural values, identity, and respect for animals; Lakota youth’s
experiences with silence and stillness; Native spirituality; family, youth, and dreams
illustrate the Lakota philosophy that all things are connected and families are a priority;
and the language theme symbolizes Lakota youth’s enjoyment of writing.
Medearis, A. S. (1991). Dancing with the Indians. New York: Holiday House.
The text is a poem portraying the author’s family experiences as African Americans who
became connected to the Seminoles through marriage. The author’s grandfather escaped
from slavery, was befriended by the Seminoles, and became a member of their tribe. In
subsequent generations, his family regularly visited the Seminoles in Okehema,
Oklahoma to participate in their powwow dances. The poem focuses on the author’s
family’s participation in and observations of these Seminole dances.
Medina, J. (1999). My name is Jorge: On both sides of the river, poems in English and Spanish.
Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
The author writes from the perspective of Jorge, a Mexican American boy who has
recently immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. Jorge tells of his struggles in school to
learn English, learn other subjects, teach others to pronounce his name correctly, and
make friends. Readers are invited to develop some understanding of how children of
color may be very bright in their first language, but can’t always demonstrate their
abilities as they learn a second language.
Meltzer, M. (Ed.). (2003). Hour of freedom: American history in poetry. Honesdale, PA:
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Meltzer collected 59 poems by various American writers which illustrate important ideas
during different historical periods in U.S. history, including: the colonial era; the struggle
for independence, young America; from slavery to freedom; the expansion of the nation;
wars; and changing America. He introduces each era with a brief narrative highlighting
significant events and changes. In addition to poems about “famous” Americans such as
Lincoln and Jefferson, Meltzer includes poems about Native Americans, African
Americans, Japanese interned during World War II, women, farmers, mill workers,
immigrants, and the poor. Only a few poems are appropriate for elementary students.
Mora, P. (Ed.). (2001). Love to mama: A tribute to mothers. New York: Lee & Low Books.
The editor collected 13 poems from Latina/o authors who celebrate their Puerto Rican,
Cuban, Venezuelan, and Mexican American backgrounds and the influence of their
mothers and grandmothers. “My Grandmother Had One Good Coat” honors a
grandmother’s generosity in giving her only “good” coat to a homeless woman, “The
Race” acknowledges a Grandmother’s encouragement to her granddaughter to enter a
horse race, “My Tongue is Like a Map” recognizes the wealth in being able to speak two
languages, and “Mi mama cubana” honors a mother’s cooking, singing, and dancing to
create Cuba in a New York kitchen.
Morrison, L. (2001). More spice than sugar: Poems about feisty females. Boston: Houghton
The author collected poems celebrating women’s achievements and ambitions. Most
notable are “Pioneer Girl Driving West” which describes the challenges of driving a team
of oxen during European American women’s movement west, “Girl with Sampler” which
portrays girls’ traditional endeavor of learning to sew, and “Women” which depicts
mothers’ efforts to provide more opportunities for their daughters. Poems also highlight
the historical achievements of Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa
Parks, Elizabeth Blackwell, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Sojourner Truth, and Molly
Myers, W. D. (2002). Patrol: An American soldier in Vietnam. New York: HarperCollins.
The text is a story-poem portraying a soldier’s description of his experiences one day
during the Vietnam War. It provides a personal examination of war when soldiers
regularly face death, but can still see the humanity of their “enemies.” The soldier and his
squad of nine men move through the forest on the way to capture an “enemy” village. He
feels fear and fatigue; hears planes, choppers, bombs, and gun shots; and finds the village
occupied only by old women, men, and babies. When the soldier sees a young “enemy”
soldier through the tall grass, the two share a look of common humanity. Rather than
firing their rifles, the “enemy” turns away.
N.A. (1997). In daddy’s arms I am tall: African Americans celebrating fathers. New York: Lee
The twelve poems, written by 12 different African American poets, honor their fathers
and grandfathers. They speak of their fathers’ and grandfathers’ love, playfulness, talents,
hard work, and unfulfilled dreams. The poems reflect the authors’ love for their fathers
and grandfathers and the influence these men have had on their lives.
National Museum of the American Indian. (1999). When the rain sings: Poems by young Native
Americans. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
The 37 poems are written by Native American youth from age 7 to 17 who were
participants in a mentoring program for new Native writers conducted by the Wordcraft
Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Most of the poems in the book were written in
response to images from the National Museum of the American Indian collection
showing objects from the writers’ culture groups. The poems affirm Native cultures and
document hardships and injustice.
Nikola-Lisa, W. (1994). Bein’ with you this way. New York: Lee & Low Books.
This book-length poem affirms human diversity in facial features, hair, body size, and
skin color. The illustrations reinforce the theme that human diversity does not prevent
many different children and adults from playing together and enjoying one another’s
Norman, L. (2006). My feet are laughing. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.
The author composed 16 poems in the voice of a young Dominican American girl named
Sadie who lives in Harlem with her mother and younger sister Julie. Her poems tell about
her love of writing poetry in “The Coolest Job in the World;” her desire to let her hair be
free of brushing, straightening, and ribbons so it can sing in “Something About My Hair;”
and her love of her grandmother Mama Didi and living in her house in “Mama Didi’s
House” and “Heaven is Where Grandma Lives.” Poems also express the good
relationship between her parents despite their divorce in “Mami and Pop are Good
Friends” and the fun they have when she, her mother, and sister clean while dancing to
merengue music from the Dominican Republic in “Dancing Merengue with Mami.”
Ochoa, A. P., Franco, B. & Gourdine, T. L. (2003). Night is gone, day is still coming: Stories and
poems by American Indian teens and young adults. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
The collection of 78 poems and stories from 58 Native children and youth ages 11 to 22
describe many different life experiences in small towns, on reservations, and in large
cities throughout North America. The poem “Whispers” encourages readers to listen to
the voices of the new generation while the poem “Subway Mourning” documents a young
Cochiti woman’s longing for her reservation home amidst New York City’s ethnic
diversity. “Red Girls” asserts the importance and pride of Native girls and women
whereas “Who Am I?” and “Not ndn Enough” reveal youths’ struggle for identity. Many
of the poems and stories honor family members and depict Native youth today continuing
cultural traditions and remaining hopeful for the future. Others describe the pain of
alcohol and drug addiction and the loss of Native people’s rights and traditions.
Panzer, N. (Ed.). (1994). Celebrate America in poetry and art. New York: Hyperion.
The editor collected poems by Maya Angelou, Gloria Anzaldua, Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul
Laurence Dunbar, Robert Frost, and Langston Hughes and organized them into five
themes. One theme focuses on the physical environment of the U.S., another with
people’s diverse heritages, a third with moving west and building farms, towns, and
cities, another with historical efforts for liberty and shortcomings due to racism, and the
final theme concentrates on examples of recreation.
Paul, A. W. (1999). All by herself: 14 girls who made a difference. San Diego, CA: Browndeer.
The author wrote original poems to commemorate brave actions taken by 14 famous and
ordinary women when they were young. The courageous acts of such well-known women
as Amelia Earhart, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rachel Carson, Sacajawea, Wilma Rudolph,
Pocahontas, Maria Mitchell, and Golda Meir are portrayed. At the end of the text, the
author described the specific incident for each young woman which formed the basis for
the poem. Additional resources about each woman are also listed.
Perdomo, W. (2002). Visiting Langston. New York: Henry Holt.
The text is an African American girl’s poem expressing her excitement and anticipation
in visiting Langston Hughes’ house. Through her poem, readers are introduced to the
varied topics of Hughes’ poetry and his home in Harlem, New York. The author provides
background information on Langston Hughes and lists some of the many poems he wrote.
Philip, N. (Ed.). (2001). Weave little stars into my sleep: Native American lullabies. New York:
The editor collected and adapted lullabies from different Native nations illustrating how
parents soothed their babies to sleep. The lullabies come from the Northeast and Great
Lakes Area (Ojibwa), the Plains (Arapaho, Kiowa, Pawnee, Crow), the Southwest (Hopi,
Acoma, Yuma), and the Northwest (Kwakuitl, Haida, Tsimshian), and the Arctic (Inuit).
The editor provides the sources for each poem, which primarily came from European
American anthropologists. Photographs from the text The North American Indian
illustrate the poems. These poems should be compared to those collected and published
by Native people themselves.
Robb, L. (1997). Music and drum: Voices of war and peace, hope and dreams. New York:
Picture book, upper elementary level. The author collected poems from well known poets
such as Lucille Clifton, Carl Sandburg, and Langston Hughes as well as those written by
children and adults who lived through wars in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.
Poems reflect children’s pain at being robbed of their childhood due to war and of
running from war, but they also portray the hope for peace. As one Jewish child so clearly
declares, wars lead only to monuments and wreaths.
Rochelle, B. (Ed.). (2001). Words with wings: A treasury of African American poetry and art.
New York: HarperCollins.
The text is a collection of 20 poems by African American poets paired with 20 works of
art by African American artists. The poems illustrate African American history and
culture, including slavery, racism, poverty, conflicts, women’s strength, African
American pride and survival, family love and stories, growing up, hope for broader
horizons, and similarities and differences among the “Human Family.” The text contains
brief biographical sketches of each artist and poet.
Rollins, C. (Ed.). (1965). Famous American Negro poets. New York: Dodd, Mead.
The author provides a short biographical sketch for 12 African American poets and
explains the context which contributed to the creation of poetry for each individual. A
few samples of each poet’s work is also incorporated. Some of the African American
poets included are Phyllis Wheatley, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, James Weldon
Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes, and Gwendolyn
Shore, D. Z. & Alexander, J. (2006). This is the dream. New York: HarperCollins.
The book-length poem documents racial inequalities in public facilities, transportation,
restaurants, libraries, and schools, and actions people took to achieve equality. African
American students integrated schools, African Americans boycotted buses, sat at “Whites
only” lunch counters, and marched to protest racial inequalities. The poem also offers a
vision of racial equality in public facilities, such as transportation, libraries, restaurants,
Smith, C. R. (2002). Perfect harmony: A musical journey with the boys choir of Harlem. New
The collection of poems clarifies such musical concepts as tenor, bass, alto, soprano,
tempo, rhythm, and harmony embellished with photographs of the Boys Choir of Harlem.
The author carefully selects words as well as poetic forms, including haiku, couplets, or
free verse to illustrate the concepts. The text also contains a glossary of poetic and
musical terms. The closing poem “One Mighty Voice” celebrates the power of one and
many voices to evoke emotions.
Smith, H. A. (2003). The way a door closes. New York: Henry Holt.
A series of poems from the perspective of a 13-year-old African American boy about his
family, including his younger brother and sister, grandmother, mother, and father. Several
of the poems describe the pain among family members when C. J.’s father loses his job
and leaves. However, the majority of the poems portray a loving, strong, and very close
Soto, G. (1995). Canto familiar. San Diego: Harcourt Brace.
The 25 poems describe aspects of everyday life from the perspective of a Mexican
American youth. Spanish words are integrated throughout the poems. The author
comments on speaking Spanish in “Spanish,” on making different shapes of tortillas in
“Tortillas Like Africa,” growing nopales or cacti to eat in “Nopales,” and washing the
dishes after a traditional meal in “Doing Dishes.”
Stavans, I. (2001). Wachale! Poetry and prose about growing up Latino in America. Chicago:
Wachale is Spanglish (integration of Spanish and English) for “watch out” or “listen up.”
The editor collected poems, memoirs, and stories from Latinas/os. “Mexicans Begin
Jogging” portrays the mistreatment of Mexican illegal workers in the United States while
“Deportee” describes the deportation of Mexican illegal workers after they harvested
crops. “Life, Trial, and Death of Aurelio Pompa” raises questions of fair treatment for
Mexican workers within the U.S. justice system. “Mi Problema” depicts the rejection
Mexican Americans face when they do not speak Spanish well. “Twas the Night”
integrates Spanish with English in the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” “Child
of the Americas” is a powerful poem about a Latina’s identity formed by many different
Steele, S. & Styles, M. (Eds.). 1991). Mother gave a shout: Poems by women and girls. Volcano,
CA: Volcano Press.
The editors collected poems written by women and girls from all over the world. Many of
the poems affirm women’s everyday activities, such as sewing, washing dishes, cleaning,
and taking care of children. Poems also include dreams for the future, including giving
birth to children who do not know what war is.
Strickland, D. S. & Strickland, M. R. (Eds.). (1994). Families: Poems celebrating the African
American experience. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills.
The text is a collection of poems which celebrates the diversity of African American
families. Poems reveal love among family members, the pain of a mother’s death, and
being part of two families. The story telling tradition which passes along African
American history is wonderfully portrayed in “Aunt Sue’s Stories” by Langston Hughes.
Weisman, L.& Wright, E. S. (Eds.). (1971). Black poetry for all Americans. New York: Globe.
Weisman and Wright collected poems written by African Americans. They divided them
into three sections: poems of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Yesterday’s poems focus
on historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington,
W. E. De Bois, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King and such important events as the
freedom rides. Poems from the present focus on life in cities and the pain of racism. The
last section offers a hopeful tone for a better life for African American youth.
Whipple, L. (Ed.). (1994). Celebrating America: A collection of poems and images of the
American spirit. New York: Philomel.
This text is a collection of poems focusing on the United States and illustrated by
photographs of art from the Art Institute of Chicago. The poems are categorized into the
themes of land, stories, heart, people, and spirit with the diverse voices of poets
addressing these themes. Land focuses on the physical environment of the U.S. while
stories concentrate on famous people (Andrew Jackson, Paul Revere, and Abraham
Lincoln) and Native American and European American perspectives on immigration and
the westward movement. The poems in the heart section highlight holidays, work,
recreation, and the building of cities whereas the poems in people focus on children,
African American music, oral traditions among the Toltec and Native Americans. The
last section, spirit, includes poems dealing with such diverse topics as dreams, dance, and
Williams, V. B. (2001). Amber was brave, Essie was smart. New York: Greenwillow Books.
The author created several poems showing the closeness of two sisters, Amber and Essie,
who provide support and encouragement for each other while their mother works long
hours and their father is in jail. The poems illustrate older sister Essie’s intelligence,
academic achievements, maturity, and care of her younger sister Amber when they were
left alone. Amber’s courage and persistence in asking for help when they have no money
for food or to pay the phone bill are also shown in poems. The poems clarify why their
father is jailed, the resulting economic hardships, and the family’s happiness when he
Wong, J. S. (1994). Good luck gold and other poems. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Upper elementary level. In this text the author uses poetry to express some of the racism
she has experienced in the United States. As a daughter of Chinese and Korean immigrant
parents, she has been ignored in restaurants, ridiculed for her physical appearance by
other children, witnessed the disparagement of other Asian Americans at sporting events,
and encountered a teacher’s stereotypes of Asian American students. The author’s first
person poems are a powerful, credible portrayal of current racism directed toward Asian
Americans in the U. S.
Yep, L. (Ed.). (1993). American dragons: Twenty-five Asian American voices. New York:
For this text Laurence Yet collected short stories, poems, and excerpts from plays in
which 25 Asian Americans explore their identity, relationships with parents and
grandparents, love, and growing up in California’s detention camps during World War II.
The authors’ families came from China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Vietnam, and Thailand to
the United States at different times to help their families survive. The poems reflect some
of Asian Americans’ experiences with trying to survive in a new country.
Annotated bibliography list