Justin Coe is not only a lovely chap, he is a poet, writer and spoken word theatre creator, specialising in work for young audiences. He has taken his act all over the world, including to a sitting room made entirely out of newspaper. He’s the author of The Dictionary of Dads illustrated by Steve Wells (Otter-Barry Books, published May 2017).
Justin Coe – My Favourite Books
Daft as a Doughnut by Adrian Mitchell (Orchard Books). I fell in love with Adrian Mitchell when I read his poem “Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people”. His children’s poetry is full of gentleness and joy. I often take this book on my travels to schools, sometimes I just need to wrap my hands around a piece of Adrian Mitchell’s heart!
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (Bloomsbury). A story about a boy who is initially confused by poetry, but when he begins to write about his relationship with his dog, he discovers a whole new way of expressing his feelings. This book introduced me to verse novels, but to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever read one as simple and as satisfying as this.
On My Way to School I Saw A Dinosaur by Roger Stevens (A&C Black). This is a funny and poignant book of poems aimed at young readers, loosely following a child through their year at school in Frog Class. I’m a big fan of Roger Stevens’ work for children.
I like This Poem edited by Kaye Webb (Puffin). Not being a prolific reader as a child, I was quietly devastated to receive this poetry anthology as a Christmas present. I would much rather my Aunty had given me a fun pack of Curly Wurlys. However, even then I found something to enjoy… in particular “From a Railway Carriage” by Robert Louis Stevenson. 40 years later, I still own this book, so it’s certainly lasted longer than the chocolate would have. (Today’s Aunties take note though, for the contemporary “Justin”, how about I Don’t Like Poetry by Joshua Seigal instead?)
A Kid in my Class by Rachel Rooney (Otter-Barry) My daughter is 11 and, like me at her age, not a great fan of reading. But when I introduced her to Kid in My Class, she loved it. With a poem for every member of the class (including the hamster), this is an easy to grasp concept that will encourage more children to the world of poetry. I get the same thrill reading Rachel Rooney as I do when I listen to Suzanne Vega’s songs, both have a pinpoint poetic precision I really admire.
For the adult book – A Lover Sings, Selected Lyrics, Billy Bragg. (Faber and Faber). Performers like Attila The Stockbroker, Benjamin Zephaniah and John Hegley re-ignited my passion for poetry that had very nearly died an analysing death in the classroom. But, before I discovered these guys, there was Billy Bragg. These days, I enjoy all sorts of poems. but no words have had a bigger impact on me than those of the Bard of Barking.
I had already been performing for twenty years before The Dictionary of Dads (Otter-Barry ) an A – Z of different Dad characters, was published, so I’m delighted it’s now on its second print and doing well. I’m looking forward to the seeing the sequel The Magic of Mums which is out in February next year.