Fun reads for National Poetry Month and Beyond

Sardines Swim High Across the Sky

Poetry just for the pun of it

Former Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky unleashes a menagerie of fantastical animals -- and witty wordplay -- in his rousing new collection Stardines Swim High Across the Sky. Illustrator Carin Berger captures the critters, including "panteaters" and "braindeer," in whimsical, zoology-inspired dioramas. Ages 4 and up Greenwillow Books, $17.99

Score a win for the national pastime, thanks to author-illustrator Douglas Florian's Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings. Elastic-limbed players stretch for balls and swing for the fences in the densely painted illustrations, while the snappy verses capture the ins -- and outs -- of the game. To wit: "First base is the worst base:/I never can sit still./First base is the worst base:/I never get to chill." Ages 6 to 9. Harcourt, $17

A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down is a feast of ingenuity as well as lyricism. Author Dana Jensen's poems, written in stacks of single words, are designed to be read either from top to bottom or vice versa. The subject of each offers a clue about where to start (bottom up for the poem about rockets, for instance), as do Tricia Tusa's charming, perspective-skewing ink and watercolor illustrations. Ages 4 to 8. Houghton Mifflin, $17

Jack Prelutsky showcases his usual mirth in verse with I've Lost My Hippopotamus. This light and loopy anthology combines clever wordplay, big emotions, and the unabashed silliness that's pure Prelutsky. "A centipede was thirsty,/But to satisfy its need,/It drank too much for it to hold?/And so the centipede." Jackie Urbanovic's energetic ink illustrations heighten the loose, playful vibe. Ages 5 to 10. Greenwillow Books, $19

-- Alicia Potter

Family Fun