Haiku is a great way to introduce poetry to kids. Haiku's three line, five-seven-five syllable structure is quick to read and kids gain a sense of how poetry captures fleeting moments and as well as provoking and emotional response. The writing of haiku began in thirteenth century Japan. Although traditional subjects of haiku focus on the natural world, the haiku books on this list run the gamut from haiku about birds, seasons, life in Harlem and boyhood.
After you dive into these fun haiku poems for kids, your children won't be able to resist writing a few haiku for themselves!
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Nature Haiku Books
As haiku is traditionally about nature, start out with these wonderful poems about the miraculous beauty of the natural word!
BEAUTIFUL DAY!: PETITE POEMS FOR ALL SEASONS by Rodoula Pappa, illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Come for the haiku, stay for the gorgeous illustrations. Scenes of nature are adorned with traditional Japanese washi patterns, taking readers on a tour of the seasons through the eyes of a child.
RAIN by Anders Holmer
This unique collection of short poems translated from Swedish do not strictly follow the rules of haiku. Precipitation in all its forms provide the narrative through-line for scenes that cross cultural boundaries. Exquisite.
OUT OF THIS WORLD by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Young science fans will revel in these space-themed poems. Trueman's celestial illustrations spread across the page, inviting poetry loves to traverse the cosmos. Each of Walker's poems evokes stunning visual imagery with occasional whimsy. A haiku about Mars reads, cold, barren mountain/ Olympus Mons volcano/ an extinct dragon. The endnotes, offer further scientific facts and explanations about the subject of the haiku. Also read Walker's Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up
HI, KOO! A YEAR OF SEASONS by Jon J. Muth
Find it: Your Library | Amazon
The author of Zen Ties, tries his hand at haiku and his signature watercolor style illustrations make the perfect accompaniment. The words on the page engage in a waltz with the illustrations as with the poem, too much TV this winter / my eyes are square / let’s go Out and play is coupled with an illustration of children wide-eyed in front of the television.
ONE LEAF RIDES THE WIND by Celeste Mannis, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
A child’s love of the Japanese Garden is the inspiration behind this collection of haiku poetry, which is also a counting book. Cleverly, the poems follow the girl’s journey through the garden as she discovers and admires its delights.
COOL MELONS TURN TO FROGS by Matthew Gollub, illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone
Author and translator, Matthew Gollub tells the story of Kobayashi Issa, an 18th-century Japanese poet. Issa's original (in translation) haiku are woven into the story of his journey from his difficult childhood to that of celebrated artist Stone's illustrations are a delight and wonderfully reflect Issa's thoughtful, short poems.
MY FIRST BOOK OF HAIKU POETRY: A PICTURE, A POEM AND A DREAM; CLASSIC POEMS BY JAPANESE HAIKU MASTERS translated by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen, illustrated by Tracy Gallup
The title may mislead you to believe this is a collection of haiku that is only suitable for beginners. Not so, not so. Traditionally, haiku poetry invites reflection upon the natural world and readers of all ages will love this short poems, written in both English and Japanese. The absolutely gorgeous and evocative illustrations beg your children to open up their powers of imagination. At the conclusion, the author asks the readers to write their own haiku and the accompanying drawing is of a child opening a door to the outdoors. Magical.
LION OF THE SKY: HAIKU FOR ALL SEASONS by Laura Purdie Salas
I am a a fan of Laura Purdie Salas's books and I encourage you to seek out her other collections. As you will have guessed from the title, this is a collection of haiku celebrating the seasons. But there is a twist! These are "riddle-ku," which ask the reader to identify the narrator of each short poem. You may think you will be able to confine yourself to reading only the corresponding haiku for whatever season you are in. But you won't!
Animal Haiku Books
Children can't resist a poem about their favorite animals, especially if the verse is funny or contains a secret! These animal haiku books are just the thing to read while snuggled up with a furry friend.
DOGKU by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Tim Bowers
I bet you didn't know the author of Frindle wrote haiku! Nor did I. Sixteen short poems narrate the life of stray dog, Mooch, as he is invited into a new home. This is a nice addition to your haiku picture book reading as it demonstrates how poems can sustain a longer narrative rather than only being separate, self contained phenomena.
IF NOT FOR THE CAT by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Ted Rand
Find it: Your Library | Amazon
If you need an animal haiku book then you should definitely check out this offering from Jack Prelutsky. Each poem is not just a haiku but a riddle to be solved. The answer to each riddle-haiku is revealed in Ted Rand’s exquisite illustrations.
MORE: Animal Poems
THE CUCKOO'S HAIKU by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows
Find it: Your Library | Amazon
The observant birdwatcher may describe their hobby as obtaining fleeting moments of nature in progress. The same description also captures the essential nature of haiku. Fellow's watercolor illustrations also fall into this category! The bird haiku are divided into season.
Also read Rosen's The Maine Coon's Haiku
WABI SABI by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young
A cat named Wabi Sabi sets off on a journey to find the meaning of her name and along the way discovers ways of seeing beauty in simplicity, an important concept in Zen Buddhism and also the meaning of his name. The story is accompanied by haikus that act as both punctuation marks in the story as well as moments in which the cat learns how to see beauty in simplicity. The illustrations are decorated with haiku in Japanese calligraphy, with an explanation in the endnotes.
WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Find it: Amazon | Your Library
An entire story told in haiku? Awesome! This is the story of a shelter cat and his new adopted life. With bold illustrations, this is a wonderful, funny and unique book. After you've read this one, be sure to catch the sequel, Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku.
SPI-KU: A CLUTTER OF SHORT VERSE ON EIGHT LEGS by Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Robert Meganck
I'm not going to lie, even in children's picture books, spiders creep me out. One of my kids, when they were little, loved a book with photographs of spiders in it. I finally had to secretly get rid of it because I couldn't take it anymore. But even I can't resist a good haiku collection, even if it is about spiders! This collection also features excellent information with notes on the poetic form, a glossary of scientific names, sidebar notes and more.
Novelty Haiku Books
KIYOSHI'S WALK by Mark Karlins, illustrated by Nicole Wong
This is an essential read! Kiyoshi watches his grandfather, Eto, write poetry and asks, "Where do poems come from?" Eto and Kiyoshi then go for a walk and as they observe their surroundings, Eto composes haiku and Kiyoshi discovers how poems originate in sensory and emotional experiences. Simply wonderful.
SEEING INTO TOMORROW by Richard Wright, illustrated by Nina Crews
Richard Wright was an important 20th century African-American writer and this collection of some of the haiku he wrote late in life are republished as a collection for children. Crews' photographs, along with the haiku, take readers on a journey through the landscape from the point of view of a young boy. Exquisite.
A POCKETFUL OF POEMS by Nikki Grimes
Young Tiana has pocketful of words and each word inspires two delightful short poems - one in free verse, one as a haiku. This delightful book is a nice tool for children to explore how inspiration can take many forms! Grimes writes that she thought it would be "...fun to read haiku poetry with contemporary images that I could relate to as a Harlem-born city girl." I think she succeeds marvelously.
GUYKU: A YEAR OF HAIKU FOR BOYS by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
I truly adore this book, partly because being a mom of two boys I recognize the spirited and mischievous nature of boys so aptly translated to the haiku form. (That’s not to say girls are spirited and mischievous; girls will also enjoy these haiku!) We often think of haiku as peaceful, calming meditations but they can just as deftly depict moments of action!
IF IT RAINS PANCAKES by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Andy Rowland
Look at that cover! I love it! If you are just about getting haiku-ed out, try mixing it up with another Japanese poetry form: the lantern poem. A lantern poem is written in a form of cinquain in which the shape of the poem on the page resembles a lantern. The verse in this collection are silly, rowdy and very witty!