Recommended: Three Haiku Books for Young Readers

I’ve written about my own haiku journey of late, how the past few years have seen me writing increasingly in that short form. The deeper I get into it, the more I learn — but also, the more I realize I have yet to learn. It’s a deep, deep well and I love diving into it.

In children’s books, which is my home as an author, there’s a great many haiku collections available. I’ve read a great number of them recently and wanted to highlight a few that I felt were particularly worthy of your attention. My apologies if I’ve overlooked some worthy additions; I didn’t try to be comprehensive. Feel free to leave a comment if you’d like to mention one of your favorites.

 

ONE LEAF RIDES THE WIND

by Celeste Davidson Mannis

illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

 

This book is essential for anyone who wishes to explore the origins, depth, and sensibility of the haiku. Written in a conventional 5-7-5 format, the haiku here are easy to read and accessible, while showing a far deeper sophistication and appreciation of nature than most children’s haiku collections. The poems are set in a Japanese garden and do much to honor the origins of this beautiful art form. “Just as each element of a Japanese garden contributes to a calming, satisfying whole, the elements of this work . . . all meld together into a lovely whole that both entertains and educates.” — Kirkus Reviews.

One leaf rides the wind.

Quick as I am, it’s quicker!

Just beyond my grasp. 

 

 

COOL MELONS — TURN TO FROGS!

The Life and Poems of Issa

by Matthew Gollus

illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone

 

This book is a marvel, and a magnificient next step for any young reader wishing to learn more about haiku. Matthew Gollub masterfully blends a picture book biography on the Japanese haiku poet, Issa, juxtaposed alongside side a number of Issa’s own poems, translated by Gollub. Here we gain an insight into the sense and sensibility of a haiku poet. The illustrations deserve special mention for they convey the culture and lyricism of traditional Japanese artwork. Gollub demonstrates a rock-solid knowledge of the haiku and its history. His translations, like most these days, do not adhere to the conventional 5-7-5 syllable scheme.

A withered tree

blooms once again —

butterflies holding fast.

 

GUYKU

A Year of Haiku for Boys

by Bob Raczka

illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

 

This third book is not at all like the others. For starters, this 2010 collection hinges on a dubious conceit, that the haiku here is “for boys.” Whatever that means. Moreover, the haiku here are senryo (SEN-ree-yoo), a poem that is structurally similar to haiku, that highlights the foibles of human nature, usually in a humorous way. A more formal haiku is almost always written in the present tense, focuses strictly on nature, contains a kigo or seasonal word, and includes a pause or grammatical break (often between lines 2 and 3). As always, Peter Reynolds’ illustrations are warm and inviting; and Raczka writes with wit and whimsy and lightness, completely winning me over by the end of the book. It pairs nicely with the above titles.

Lying on the lawn,

we study the blackboard sky,

connecting the dots.

James Preller is the author of All Welcome Here,  a book of linked haiku that celebrates the diversity, kindness and community of the open classroom. It is written in traditional 5-7-5 format, mostly in senryu, and illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winning Mary GrandPre. 

 

 

“Caldecott Honoree Grandpré captures the day’s variable moods in pictures of absorbed, interacting kids of various skin tones and abilities. … a cheery take on the joys of camaraderie.”Publishers Weekly

Lively haiku pairs with vibrant art to showcase various facets of the first day of school. Cartoonlike, expressive mixed-media illustrations are an eye-catching blend of bright colors, patterns, and perspectives; the multicultural kids and adults further the sense of inclusiveness. With its reassuring and upbeat elements, this may also help alleviate first-day fears as it highlights the many positive opportunities that await.”― Booklist

“This is a back to school book, during a year when back-to-school is anything but normal. However, this year is the exception. Next year, or the year after that, back to school will be the same with dozens of eager young five-year-olds nervously getting on the bus, going to school and wondering the same things. This book is for them and it’ll still help them this year as they go into the dining room or living room.”―Daddymojo.net

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