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Here’s How You Make a Book Spine Poem with Your Students/Patrons

Poetry 003

April is here. April is National Poetry Month. April is the time for book spine centos (see above). Give one a try. Or try it with your students/patrons.

Here are my tips for creating a book spine cento:

  1. Check out the book spine poem gallery for inspiration. This is always a big help.
  2. Get to a place with plenty of books. A library works nicely. Or a large home collection.
  3. Start looking at titles, and see what strikes you. Arrange and rearrange in your head. The best part of this type of poetry is the fact that you don’t know where you’ll end up.
  4. Have a pencil and paper with you to write down titles that stand out – you can start arranging the poem on paper. This also helps so that you don’t have to take a bunch of books off the shelf before you have your poem set.
  5. Once your poem is close to finished, don’t be afraid to use the library catalog (if available) to look up titles with specific words or phrases that fit.
  6. Take the books off the shelf, stack ’em up, and take a picture. Amaze your friends.

Additional Resources:

What is a cento?

Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian

National Poetry Month website

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Oh, that one is brilliant!

  2. Dana Frank says:

    My students love these! Instead of writing down titles, they take pictures with their iPads. They crop them and then arrange the pictures in an app to plan the final poem. It is amazing!