By Kelli Drummer-Avendano
April is National Poetry Month, and it’s never too early to introduce children to the auditory beauty that rhyme and rhythm can create together. Poetry often invites us to look at the world in a different, more playful way⎯an idea that young readers embrace with eagerness and joy. Two Spanish-language books that capture this playfulness are Cuáles animales and Rock de la momia y otros versos diversos.
Kids who love learning about animals will delight in author-illustrator Juan Gedovius’s book Cuáles animales. The short verses and endearing illustrations make this book approachable for young readers. Each animal is described in a clever, rhyming riddle that’s revealed in the accompanying illustration. Adults can take turns reading the riddles with kids while the other tries to guess without peeking at the picture. See if you can correctly guess which animal this verse describes: “Tintero de mil ventosas / ocho manos talentosas.”
A fun activity to do after reading a poem from a book is to have students create a concrete poem in small groups or as a class. They can choose an animal described in one of the rhymes and then write their own poem in the shape of the animal they are describing. Students can design posters with their concrete poems and the short rhyme from Cuáles animals.
Cuban author Antonio Orlando Rodríguez helps even reluctant readers see that poetry can be fun and entertaining with his witty rhymes in Rock de la momia y otros versos diversos. The first part of the book is dedicated to the monsters that bring spookiness and fright to our lives: werewolves, Dracula, mummies, Frankenstein, witches… and many more. The author employs classic verse forms from the days of Don Quijote, such as the lay, zéjel, and ovillejo, in a way that amuses young readers without overwhelming them. You can introduce students to another traditional verse form by asking students to write an ode to a monster based on one of the poems from the book. Be sure to tell students not to name the monsters in their odes so other students can guess which one it is.