National Poetry Month begins with April Fools’ Day. Coincidence? Perhaps not. These three books for young readers goof, spoof and are rarely, if ever, aloof. They make poetry and reading as easy as breathing, and also a lot of fun.
“My sister likes to sing a lot, / but some, like me, prefer she not.” Outside the Box (ages 7 to 10) dots comical couplets like this one among longer works, covering such topics as school, holidays, superstitions and how great salad would taste if you could just leave out all the vegetables (so true!). Author Karma Wilson’s verses are illustrated with black-and-white art from Diane Goode, and the pictures grace the words with additional humor. (In one illustration, a Good Samaritan certificate is drawn to indicate it was a free Internet download.) Outside the Box is dedicated to Shel Silverstein, and a streak of gentle subversion—much like in his poems—runs through it. Thoughtful, funny and sometimes gross, these poems have solid kid appeal.

Jon J Muth’s Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons (ages 4 to 8) is a beautiful introduction to haiku, following a panda and two human friends through the four seasons. From outdoor play to spending the winter watching too much TV (“my eyes are square”), each poem is accompanied by a watercolor illustration of Koo or his friends. The images are largely joyful, but there are pensive moments as well (“killing a bug / afterward / feeling alone and Sad”), which allow for discussion of difficult emotions. Muth capitalizes one letter in each poem, so there’s an A-to-Z sequence readers can follow. The calming sounds, short poems and paintings set in nature make this an ideal bedtime book.

“You thought the dinosaurs were dead?! / The cars behind our school / Are big Tyrannosaurus wrecks / That run on fossil fuel.” The wild rides in Poem-mobiles: Crazy Car Poems (ages 4 to 8) include a rubber band car, an egg car and a hot dog car with the value-added feature that it runs on sauerkraut and “when you’re done / You simply eat it.” That sure saves on parking. J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian wrote the lively and humorous poems, and artist Jeremy Holmes brings them to vibrant life with paintings full of visual puns, lush colors and retro styling. Read the poems aloud—they’re snappy as bubblegum—then spend 10 minutes spotting all the visual treats that accompany them. Poem-mobiles will win over any reluctant reader who lights up at the sound of an engine, after which they’ll delight in dreaming up new cars from the stuff of daily life. It’s a clever way to jump-start young imaginations.