While I started reading this book with a reviewer’s eye, thinking of how it could benefit a child, I couldn’t help but be inspired to engage in some childlike whimsy myself.
Courage Out Loud: 25 Poems of Power by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett, Wide Eyed Editions
Kids are great. I’m lucky to have quite a few of them in my life, from a handful of nephews and a niece to the children of friends. What I admire most about them is that they’re living the best life, driven purely by instinct. The trappings of adulthood dictate that we be polite and not too weird and know how to engage in small talk without yawning. Kids are completely unburdened by any of this. They love who and what they love openly and earnestly. They’ll speak to you straight from the heart, which can be anything from hilarious to uplifting to humbling. Fancy degrees and job titles mean very little to them—they mostly ask that you be kind and willing to share in their interests with unbridled enthusiasm. Life would be far more colorful if we moved through it with a bit more childlike wonder.
Still, children need our guidance as much as we need their joy—the spectrum of emotions and experiences we adults have encountered is broader, and we have hard-earned knowledge to share. We know that sadness is an inevitable feeling. We’ve messed up too many times to count, and we’re forever learning how to right our wrongs. We’re called to be brave in the face of new adventures. We’ve lived through many of these experiences enough times that they feel like second nature to us—perhaps we’ve even forgotten the exact lessons we’ve learned from them—but to a child, a first encounter with the unknown can feel staggering. How do we pass down our wisdom in an age-appropriate, meaningful way?
For this task, I recommend the book Courage Out Loud: 25 Poems of Power by UK Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho. Each poem in this collection begins with a short description of the emotion or experience discussed in the poem, along with a related learning activity. The accompanying illustrations by Daniel Gray-Barnett are vivid and colorful and show a diverse group of children alongside whimsical characters and settings. While readers learn about trying new foods, making friends, establishing personal boundaries, or the power of a good cry, they’ll also learn about rhyme schemes and poem structures. Coelho encourages readers to build their confidence by reading poems aloud and experimenting with writing their own poems, too.
This book is as great for any children in your life as it is for your own inner child. Seriously. While I started reading this book with a reviewer’s eye, thinking of how it could benefit a child, I couldn’t help but be inspired to engage in some childlike whimsy myself. After all, when was the last time you stopped to think about the structure of a sestina or drew a picture of a dragon and a knight reading a book together? Do you swallow down your sad feelings and trudge on until you burn out, or do you sit with those feelings, name them, and find a creative outlet to process them? Have you ever in your adult life found the courage to tell someone, with unabashed sincerity, that you like them and enjoy their company? Reading the poems in Courage Out Loud reminded me of these simple joys and important lessons again.
When you’re done reading this review, I hope you’ll get off your devices, go outside, and read a happy poem. Find a playground, get on the swings, and dream of wondrous things that don’t exist. Tell your friends how grateful you are to have them in your life. All your adult worries can wait for now. Be a kid again. You’ll be so much better for it.