Imagine you wake up one sunny morning and someone brings you a plate, only instead of holding scrambled eggs, you are served up a dish piled high with more than sixy little presents to unwrap, each one more lovely and surprising than the last. That's what's being served up in this oversized collection of bright spots in a young child's life. From a traditional British Street Rhyme ("Happy birthday to you!/Squashed tomatoes and stew!/Bread and butter/In the gutter/Happy birthday to you!") to my new favorite poem by Andrew Fusek Peters, "The NO-NO Bird" ("I'm the no-no bird,/that's right, that's me. /I live up in/The Tantrum tree") the selections are seasoned generously with flavors both silly and sweet. The illustrations are every bit as delightful as the verse, from the perfectly pregnant mommy whose midsection seems to be sticking out three feet to the grandpa with adoring children coming out of his pockets to the family making music together that practically sings off the page. Children riding choo-choos! Playing in puddles! Getting snuggly bedtime cuddles! Babies in baths, toddlers swinging from trees! Children in teacups! Climbing up knees! You'll find the spirit of poetry contagious in this most recitable preschool collection since Mother Goose, and yes, I know that's saying a lot, but how often do you find a book that makes you hold your breath just a little bit before you turn the page? Though the themes may not be new, the exuberance is fresh as fruit. Polly Dunbar's figures all take on the rosy, contented glow of children who have just come in from hard play; I'd even hazard to say that Dunbar's broad happiness emotionally achieves a level comparable to the legendary Rosemary Wells (Wells herself gets a nod with the inclusion of her delightful poem, "Your Birthday Cake"). Exceptional selections in an order so perfect it's rivaled only perhaps by the Beatles' White Album go far to underscore not only the art of the poem, but the art of the anthology. This one belongs in every nursery, on every baby shower gift list, and certainly on the shelf of anyone who loves great children's poetry and great illustration. (3 and up) Also of interest: More poems for the very young! Remember, big brothers and sisters like to read these aloud, too. Rhyme time is a family affair! THE LLAMA WHO HAD NO PAJAMA: 100 FAVORITE POEMS by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Betty Fraser (Humorous and plentiful poems from a very gifted author are a perfect introduction to the form.) MY VERY FIRST MOTHER GOOSE and HERE COMES MOTHER GOOSE edited by Iona Opie, ilustrated by Rosemary Wells. (As a duo, these are my all-time favorite collections of Mother Goose. Don't you want to really know what little boys are made of?) WELCOME, BABY!: BABY RHYMES FOR BABY TIMES and GOOD FOR YOU!: TODDLER RHYMES FOR TODDLER TIMES, both by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Collections that celebrate recognizable early childhood moments, and if you like Polly Dunbar's illustrations style, you'll enjoy Sweet's as well. Great gifts/collection additions for an early childhood educator.) TALKING LIKE THE RAIN: A READ-TO-ME BOOK OF POEMS by X.J. and Dorothy Kennedy, illustrated very gracefully by Jane Dyer (This well-organized collection contains work by many classic poets that are accessible to the very young. X.J. Kennedy is such a talented poet hemiself, and it's exciting to see the kind of poems that might have inspired him. Paying it forward in the most beautiful way!) You may also want to do a little legwork to the library or used bookstore to get some out-of-print treasures, like Clyde and Wendy Watson's unusually cozy and original collection FATHER FOX'S PENNYRHYMES that actually deserves to be in print forever, or the collection decorated by nine Caldecott artists, SING A SONG OF POPCORN, which includes poetry for both younger and older children. Sharing poetry early on is a great way to introduce the lovely, musical qualities of language, making laptime or storytime all the more fun. Feel free to share your favorite "first" poetry books in the comments section!