Top Heart Books: Poetry About Feelings

…we have an interior life…without that interior life, we are shells, we have nothing. And we have to remember it, honor and, occasionally, listen to it. –Rita Dove

Poetry can help make a space for children to know and express how they feel. Identifying emotions – and having the ability to recognize what actions and experiences cause particular feelings – is important and one of the essential skills for life success. I like to call these special poetry books Heart Books. These poetry books can help nurture emotionally intelligent kids but also build self-awareness as children begin to recognize how their feelings affect others. The poetry books I’ve selected are suitable for different grades, ranging from elementary to middle school.


You are the Loveliest by Hans Monique Hagen

This poetic story has been translated from the original Dutch into English, using a blend of rhyming lines and free verse to craft each heartfelt poem. The short poems give young readers insights into the complexities of emotions and give a thought-provoking look at how one child expresses feelings through poetry.

Poetry Prompt: In one of the poems in the book, “For You,” the speaker writes about finding a new word that describes how wonderful a person is, like “loveliest wonderflest sweetismost…” Poets love to make up words. As a collaborative poem or independently, invite students to make a list of words — new words, combination words — to describe how wonderful someone is.


I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni

For a child, feeling loved is everything. This collection of poems by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan, emphasizes this most essential message for everyone—kids, adults, parents, grandparents, and friends: You are loved.

Poetry Prompt: This is a perfect book to read to inspire students to write poems from their Heart Maps using Nikki Giovanni’s poems and Ashley Bryan’s illustrations as inspiration.



What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings by Joyce Sidman

 What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings is a collection of poems that offer comfort, courage, and humor during challenging moments. These poems encompass ancient forms like spells, invocations, and chants, addressing various aspects of life such as repairing friendships, seeking transformation, and bravely facing adversity. The book serves as a source of solace, inspiration, and reflection, complemented by captivating artwork from Caldecott Honor-winning artist Pamela Zagarenski.

Poetry Prompt: Using the title, What the Heart Knows, as inspiration, invite students to write a list (it could be a list poem) of those things their hearts know to be true.


Courage Out Loud: 25 Poems of Power by Joseph Coelho

Each of the 15 poems in this collection serves as a kind of personal pep talk that will help children discover their strength and face their fears.

Poetry Prompt: Invite students to write a poem about what gives them courage and helps them to face their fears.


A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart by Zetta Elliott

In this powerful, affirming poem by author Zetta Elliott, a Black child explores his shifting emotions throughout the year. This affirming poem can help readers talk about all their feelings hiding deep inside.

Heart Map Prompt: Read A Place Inside of Me, then invite students to make Heart Maps describing what feelings they have hidden deep inside their hearts. After, they can write a poem about those feelings.


Sometimes I Feel Like a River by Danielle Daniel

Sometimes it’s easier for children to talk about how they feel by using metaphors especially those in nature for example, the bright sun to represent happiness or a tall tree to signify strength. These next two poetry books use metaphors of the natural world nature to express inner feelings. Pair these books, and notice how the poems in each book express feelings in similar and different ways through nature. Within this collection of twelve short poems, the speaker expresses emotions through metaphoric connections to natural elements such as the sun, river, mountain, cloud, rain, and forest, embodying a sense of unity within themselves and in the world around them.



Today I Am A River by Kate Coombs

Beautiful poems that will inspire young readers to celebrate their emotions and the natural world through imagination and play as they pretend they are a skunk, sunlight or a stone.

Poetry Prompts: Drawing inspiration from both books, encourage students to select an element from nature that symbolizes how they feel inside and then write a poem. They might want to use the inspirational first line Sometimes I feel like a ____ to begin their poems.


Things We Feel edited by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong

In this ABC book, you’ll discover poems from A to Z, paired with colorful photos. These poems help children talk about lots of different feelings like being amazed, brave, curious, excited, frustrated, grateful, happy, inspired, jealous, lonely, mad, nervous, and more.

Poetry Prompt: Together, create your very own class alphabet book of feelings, where each student chooses a feeling for a different letter and writes a short poem about it using Things We Feel as inspiration.


In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek

These next two heart books are wonderful to read for inspiration and ideas as students make Heart Maps. Both books explore a variety of feelings that will help children understand and talk about their emotions as they map what’s on their hearts. In My Heart poetically explores a variety of feelings that fill our hearts like happiness, sadness, and bravery and helps readers understand and recognize their feelings. This book helps children understand and talk about their emotions.



My Heart by Corinna Luyken

Through poetic language and metaphor, My Heart expresses an array of emotions and “heart states” and encourages children to follow their inner wisdom in a celebration of love and self-acceptance.

Poetry Prompt: Using In My Heart: A Book of Feelings and My Heart as inspiration, invite children to share and write about what’s in their hearts.


My Heart Fills with Happiness/Nijiikendam by Monique Gray Smith

This poetic picture book captures the essence of happiness through simple pleasures like sunlit warmth, bannock baking in the oven, and the touch of a loved one’s hand. My Heart Fills with Happiness invites both children and adults to contemplate and cherish joyful moments. Author Monique Gray Smith wrote My Heart Fills with Happiness to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families by encouraging young children to reflect on what makes them happy.

Heart Map Prompt: Invite students to create a Heart Map focused specifically on what fills their hearts with happiness using this beautiful and poetic picture book as inspiration.

If I may, I’ll share two more of my own heart books.


My Thoughts Are Clouds by Georgia Heard

Poets are mindful observers who show us the beauty around and inside us, helping us see the world in fresh ways. I’ve practiced meditation for many years, and in my book I use poetry to teach what mindfulness is, and give kids, parents, and teachers easy ways to learn what it is.

Poetry Prompt: Read the poems in this book to start a mindfulness program in your classroom.


Heart Maps: Helping Students Create and Craft Authentic Writing by Georgia Heard

Filled with full-color student heart maps, examples of the resulting writing, along with online access to 20 different uniquely designed reproducible heart map templates, Heart Maps will be a practical tool for awakening new writing possibilities and engaging and motivating your students throughout the year.

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