Bilingual poetry for kids

Last week we listed 15 publishers of bilingual picture books for story time in bilingual and multilingual families, or for the linguistically curious of any age. Today we look at poetry collections that cater for young bilinguals.

Bilingual editions


rhymes of whimsyRhymes of Whimsy: The Complete Abol Tabol

by Sukumar Ray, English translations by Niladri Roy (Haton Cross Press, 2017)

Abol Tabol is a collection of fifty-three children’s poems by late author Sukumar Ray, whose nonsense verse has been compared by scholars to the likes of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. For the first time in more than one hundred years since the publication of the earliest poems in 1915, comes an English translation of the complete collection. Formatted to enable effortless at-a-glance comparison of each original line with its English translation, this edition offers twice the enjoyment, twice the fun, and is a fabulous learning tool for children.


Robert Desnos, Storysongs/Chantefables, with English translations by Timothy Adès and illustrations by Cat Zaza (Agenda Editions, 2014)

Fully bilingual, double–fronted book.

These little whimsies of the animal world have delighted generations of French children. Now at last they have been skilfully put into English by the translator-poet, Timothy Adès. This book is bilingual and is adorned with superb illustrations by the award-winning graphic artist Cat Zaza (Caterina Zandonella).


Are you an echo? The lost poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

by Misuzu Kaneko, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, foreword by Setsuo Yazaki, English translations by Sally Ito, David Jacobson and Michiko Tsuboi (Chin Music Press, 2016)

Beloved Japanese children’s poet Misuzu Kaneko wonders: What does snow feel in a drift? Where does day end and night begin? From her seaside home Kaneko writes, but as her fame grows, her family life becomes increasingly strained. In this double-sided, color-illustrated children’s book, new English translations of her poetry appear next to Japanese originals, interwoven with her life story.








Cooking poems/Poemas para cocinar by Ecuadorian poet Jorge Argueta, translated by Elisa Amado and illustrated by Fernando Vilela (Groundwood Books)

Playful and beautifully illustrated, these are each much more than just a simple recipe!

‘Readers will practically be able to taste the “sour river of lime” Argueta describes.’ ~ Publishers Weekly


Colors! Colores!

by Jorge Luján, illustrated by Piet Grobler, English translations by Rebecca Parfitt and John Simon (Groundwood Books, 2008)

Noted poet Jorge Lujan and South Africa’s illustrious illustrator Piet Grobler teamed up to produce this exquisite celebration of color. As day turns into night, we are given fleeting, evocative glimpses of the qualities inherent in a range of colors. An antelope and some children are pictured inhabiting this delicate world.


Dinosaur Name Poems/Poemas De Nombres De Dinosaurios

English poems by Steven C. Cunningham, Spanish translations by Myriam Gorospe, illustrated by Valeska M. Populoh (Three Conditions Press, 2009)

Have a budding paleontologist, poet or linguist on your hands? Then the bilingual Dinosaur Name Poems is the book for you! Author Steven C. Cunningham has written a clever book of poems describing dinosaur names and/or attributes. In some cases, the witty verses capture the literal meaning of the dinosaur’s name; in others, they paint a picture of how the dinosaur lived and died. ~ The Children’s Book Review


Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para Soñar Juntos by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Paula Barragán (Lee and Low, 2015)

In this collection of seventeen bilingual verses, Francisco X. Alarcón explores the role of dreams in terms of the hopes and aspirations of individuals, community, and humanity at large. The simple free verse poems celebrate childhood experiences, family, Mexican American culture, the environment, peace, and the future. Bold, stylized illustrations help to make the poet’s visions even more vivid.

The Lee and Low website has a teacher’s guide for exploring this poetry collection in the classroom.



Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds, in Spanish by Jorge Argueta, English translation by Elisa Amado, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano (Groundwood Books)

Why are young people leaving their country to walk to the United States to seek a new, safe home? Over 100,000 such children have left Central America. This book of poetry helps us to understand why and what it is like to be them.

This powerful book by award-winning Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta describes the terrible process that leads young people to undertake the extreme hardships and risks involved in the journey to what they hope will be a new life of safety and opportunity. A refugee from El Salvador’s war in the eighties, Argueta was born to explain the tragic choice confronting young Central Americans today who are saying goodbye to everything they know because they fear for their lives. This book brings home their situation and will help young people who are living in safety to understand those who are not.


Poetry for children, available in 2+ languages (separate editions)




Wordygurdyboom! The Nonsense World of Sukumar Ray by Sukumar Ray translated by Sampurna Chattarji (Puffin/Penguin Random House, 2016)

Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray by Sukumar Ray, translated by Sukanta Chaudhuri, with an introduction by Satyajit Ray (Oxford University Press, 1997)



Super Guppy: Poems for Children

Poems by Edward van de Vendel, illustrated by Fleur van de Weel, English translation by David Colmer (The Emma Press, 2019)

Dutch original edition Superguppie (Querido, 2014)

Have you ever had a pet? Or have you ever stopped to look at all of the small things in your home that make up your life? From wet socks to being tucked into bed at night, and strongly featuring one inspiring guppy fish with real staying power – Super Guppy stays close to home, but it’s a home full of fun, jokes, and surprising adventure.


Everyone’s the Smartest: Poems for children, by Contra, illustrated by Ulla Saar, English translations by Charlotte Geater, Kätlin Kaldmaa, Richard O’Brien (The Emma Press, 2018)

Estonian original: Kõik on kõige targemad

Everyone’s the Smartest is a collection of poems which tell strange new stories in familiar settings. From clever ducks who fly far away while children are stuck in school, to bathroom taps that are just one mistake away from turning the school into a great lake, this collection reminds its readers that there is wonder everywhere.

Packed with extra features, including interviews with the author and illustrator, notes from the translators, fun facts about Estonia, and ideas to help you write your own poems.



The Book of Clouds: Poems for Children Poems by Juris Kronbergs, illustrated by Anete Melece, English translations by Mara Rozitis & Richard O’Brien (The Emma Press, 2018)

Latvian original: Mākoņu grāmata (Liels un mazs, 2010)

A mix of dreamy fantasy and scientific fact, this is the perfect gift for any child with their head stuck in the clouds – and for anyone who has ever wondered what’s up there in the skies above. This book is ideal for children to use as a starting point for their own imaginative creative play. It is full of playful poems, inspiring, anarchic illustrations, and guides to all of the different aspects of clouds that you could want to know about.


The Noisy Classroom: Poems for Children, by Ieva Flamingo (Ieva Samauska), illustrated by Vivianna Maria Staņislavska, English translations by Žanete Vēvere Pasqualini, Sara Smith and Richard O’Brien (The Emma Press, 2017)

Latvian original: Skaļā klase

Ieva Flamingo’s children’s poems capture the emotional highs and lows of childhood with a sharp, surreal eye and a touching sympathy. The Noisy Classroom is a friend of a book: the poems here understand the pressures faced by children, but they also take in stressed parents, overworked teachers who dream of holidays in Iceland, and the fairies who clean the school at the end of the day. Not to mention the headmaster: after all, he was young once too…



A collectible series of six illustrated rhyming classics by Latvian authors, translated into English for the first time by Žanete Vēvere Pasqualini, Uldis Balodis, and Kate Wakeling, printed as postcard-shaped pocket-sized books.

The titles included in this set are:

  • Bicki Bucki, written by Janis Baltvilks and illustrated by Reinis Petersons
  • Calm Beasts, written by Herberts Dobre and illustrated by Gita Treice
  • Topsy-Turvy Tasks, written by Maija Laukmane and illustrated by Sabine Moore
  • The Door Wizard, written by Pēters Brūveris and illustrated by Paulis Liepa
  • Ice Cream, written by Arnolds Auziņš and illustrated by Līva Piterāne
  • Naughty Gnat, written by Valdis Grenkovs and illustrated by Zane Zlemeša

Publication date: 17 Jan 2019


little parsleyLITTLE PARSLEY by Inger Hagerup, illustrated by Paul René Gauguin, translated by Becky L. Crook (Enchanted Lion Books, September 2019)

Contemplate a hedgehog’s bristles, a crab’s bad mood, a pea who believes it was meant to be a butterfly, and other wonderful images in Inger Hagerup’s poems. The combination of informal verse and Paul René Gauguin’s avant garde illustrations has proven to be an irresistible and endlessly delightful combination for children and adults alike. Alive with sound, shape, and color, Hagerup’s children’s poems are still known by heart by every Norwegian child and collections of her poetry can be found on every child’s bookshelf.


Caravana al Norte: La larga caminata de Misael / Caravan to the North: Misael’s Long Walk

by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Manuel Monroy; English translation by Elizabeth Bell (Groundwood Books)

This novel in verse is a powerful first-person account of Misael Martínez, a Salvadoran boy whose family joins the caravan heading north to the United States. We learn all the different reasons why people feel the need to leave — the hope that lies behind their decision, but also the terrible sadness of leaving home. We learn about how far and hard the trip is, but also about the kindness of those along the way.


Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico! Americas’ Sproutings

by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael Lopez (Lee & Low Books, 2007)

“Mora’s first book of haiku poetry introduces 14 types of food native to the Americas. From vanilla to arándano rojo to chocolate, readers will relish Mora’s simple verse and López’s rich illustrations. Together they create a beautiful work of literary art. In addition to the haikus, a brief history accompanies each food, which lends an additional educational element to the book.” ~ Monica Olivera for NBC Latino


Poems the wind blew in: Poems for Children

by Karmelo C. Iribarren, English translation by Lawrence Schimel, illustrated by Riya Chowdhury (The Emma Press, 2019)

Spanish edition: Versos que el viento arrastra (Que Libroleo, 2010)


These poems focus on the everyday, small things around us – and they breathe new life into everything that children see around them. A plastic bag dreams of becoming a cloud, raindrops go on holiday to the sea, and hats fill up with thoughts. The book builds an immersive, tender world – and through its gentle sense of humour and striking images it teaches children to look closely at everything they come across.


sheep don'tSheep Don’t Go to School: Mad and Magical Children’s Poetry of Eastern Europe

edited by Andrew Peters, illustrated by Marketa Prachaticka (Bloodaxe Books, 1997)

Fantastic collection of silly and songful poems and rhymes translated from Albanian, Bielarus, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, German, Hungarian, Latvian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Siberian and Yugoslavian.

What I would give to see a multilingual edition! Bloodaxe Books, can we help you make an online version …?


What would you recommend in other language combinations? Do share in the comments below or tweet us with your favourite bilingual kids’ books @worldkidlit. You could also include the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative who will do their best to get them in US libraries.

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