Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Justin Coe: Favourite Poetry Books

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 bookA 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.

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Pie Corbett: Favourite Poetry Books

Seventh in my series where I ask a well-known poet to choose some of their favourite poetry books is Pie Corbett. He was asked to choose 5-8 books, one of which could be an adult collection, one of which had to be his own. Pie is an English educational trainer, writer, author, anthologist and poet who has written over two hundred books. He is now best known for creating Talk for Writing which is a teaching programme that supports children as storytellers and writers. Pie is a wonderful and dedicated supporter of children’s writing and children’s poets.

Favourite Poetry books

The Magic Box by Kit Wright brings together all of his beautifully crafted poems for children. He is just at home being funny as he is when dealing with deeper emotions. It contains his classic poem ‘The Magic Box’ which always works as a catalyst for children’s writing. A must for every Key Stage 2 classroom.

Manifold Manor by Philip Gross is one of the finest poetry books written for children in the last 50 years. Each poem is a game and invites children into writing. Wonderfully crafted and richly imagined. Enter the Manor and play.

Poetry in the Making by Ted Hughes is an anthology of poems with extensive notes about teaching writing. As a teacher, this book helped me to understand how to teach children to closely observe the truth of experience and use words to capture and preserve their lives. Read this alongside his powerful Collected Poems for Children.

Collected Poems for Children by Charles Causley is rich with wonderful pickings. No one else writes quite like Causley, the master balladeer whose poems sound as if they are ancient folk songs sprung his own mythical world.

England – poems from a school edited by Kate Clanchy contains poems by secondary children from one school in a ‘challenging’ area. It shows just what should be bread and butter in every English department. This is the real thing – beautifully evocative poetry and should inspire every teacher.

Evidence of Dragons contains my own poems, many of which arose from writing with, alongside and for children. I hope that any teacher could take this book and find poetic ideas to use as a springboard into children’s own poetic responses.

The Mersey Sound has poems by Brian Patten, Adrian Henri and Roger McGough being playful, political and romantic. It was the book that first gave me the idea that I could write. It is of its time but I am grateful to the poems for helping me begin to find my own writing voice.

© Pie Corbett 2019

 

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Liz Brownlee: Favourite Poetry Books

 

Sixth in the series where I ask people to choose their favourite poetry books. I realised last week that I have a list of poets to ask, but I am not on it. So I have added myself, today! Like everyone else, I can choose 5-8 books, one of which can be an adult collection, one of which must be my own. I may cheat. It’s easier for me than everyone else. 

Here are my choices! These are my sticky poetry books. The ones that have have poetry glue in their pages that keep me reading. The ones I go back to again and again. At least, some of them, the ones not by my close poetry friends whose books are impossible for me to choose between!

One. This is the oldest! The Birds and the Beasts Were There, Animal Poems Selected by William Cole, 1963, The World Publishing Company. William Cole was an American poet and anthologist. The illustrations are fabulous wood cuts by Helen Siegl. The poems have great variety, many I had not heard before, lots to love in here, by poets such as E. V. Rieu. The whole book is delightful.

Two. My second choice is the next oldest; the first book of poems and illustrations by Colin West, Out of the Blue From Nowhere, 1976, Dobson Books Ltd. I don’t think there is another edition of this, so feel very blessed to have this book. I suspect that publishers immediately realised his talent for charming absurdity and humour in both words and illustrations and snapped him up immediately. These are no early, naive beginnings. Colin West clearly sprang out of the blue from nowhere himself and has remained somewhere ever since. Still producing wonderfulness which you can enjoy on Twitter.

Three. In 1999 I went to Canada for a couple of months while my husband was editing a film about grizzly bears, in the mountains. We were in the mountains, as well as the grizzly bears for 6 weeks but then we went to Vancouver for a holiday. I was taken to Vancouver children’s books store. It had an excellent collection of children’s books, and this was one of them. Here I learned to love Naomi Shihab Nye’s poems, and her choices for this collection. The voices in this book are so redolent with the language and culture of the poets, it’s like stepping into a new world and life with each poem. Up with the best, ever. This Same Sky, A collection of Poems from Around the World, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1992, Aladdin Paperbacks.

Four. Gerard Benson. An actor, speech lecturer at the Central School for Speech and Drama, Barrow Poet, Quaker… and as I knew him, children’s poet. We met more than yearly for many years for a week’s poetry retreat in the country. Gerard’s poems are perfect. They speak plainly but sing, and every one is rounded for me with his rich and resonant voice. Thank goodness he is still here, in these books. Evidence of Elephants, Poems by Gerard Benson, 1995, Viking.

Five. Tony Mitton. Tony’s poems are a dreamy journey that surround you with a story and bring you along, much like the title of this lovely book. Atmospheric and full of word play and fun. Come into this Poem, Poems by Tony Mitton, 2011, Otter-Barry.

Six. I’m not sure if this book is for adults or children, but it is certainly accessible to both, which I like. The title of this book is the title of my all-time favourite poem – Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Munro. Read as a child, it sent goosebumps up my arms then and still does – and I still don’t really know why. The strangeness of the situation, the speakers, the desire, the danger, the atmosphere? It is a poem that does not leave you. A poem I’m sure every poet would like to write. Overheard on a Saltmarsh, Poets’ Favourite Poems, edited by Carol Ann Duffy, 2003, Picador.

Seven. My last choice of other people’s books. This book is also American but is my favourite anthology of all time. These poems are delicious. The illustrations are perfect, hard to achieve with poetry. They fill each page with excitement, delicacy, place, life and the character of each animal, whilst still leaving space for and enhancing the poems. This is my PERFECT anthology. The Beauty of the Beast, Poems from the Animal Kingdom, selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Meilo So, Alfred A Knopf. 

Eight. Serendipitously, today I received my latest book. This is my heart book, the book I’ve always wanted to do. Be the Change, Poems to Help you Save the World, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow, Roger Stevens, Macmillan. Sustainability poems, with ‘how to help’ tips for young people to feel empowered. It’s out on September 5th.

That’s my lot! There are so many more… but they’ll have to wait until next time. Perhaps a series of choices on particular subjects?

Liz

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Brian Moses’ Favourite Poetry Books

Fifth in the series where I ask children’s poets for their favourite poetry books! They can choose 5-8 books, one of which can be an adult collection, one of which must be their own. This week it’s thank you to wonderful, percussionist and poet and big supporter of all children’s poets and poetry, Brian Moses. Brian published my first ever poem.

A Desert Island Discs invitation from Liz Brownlee but children’s poetry books, not discs. Where to begin? What to select from the vast collection I’ve built up over the years. Well, this is how it stands at the moment.

Late Home by Brian Lee (Kestrel Books imprint of Penguin in 1976)… It’s an evocation of childhood, the sort of childhood that I had. The title poem looks at how time flies when you’re deeply involved in some childhood activity and then suddenly, you’re late, two hours late home.

I wondered just what had happened

To Time, for three hours in June:

If all my life is as happy –

Will it all be over as soon?

Walking On Air by Berlie Doherty (Lions Poetry, 1993) Berlie’s first (& only I think) collection of poetry and like Brian Lee’s book, it looks at childhood. Some classic first lines ‘Playgrounds are such gobby places’, ‘I went to school a day too soon.’ ‘Fishes are stars’. These are lines that intrigue and the poems that follow are wonderful observations. No filler here! A gem of a book.

Please Mrs Butler by Alan Ahlberg (Puffin 1983) Should be required reading for anyone starting to write poetry. The poems are a master class in how to use rhyme effectively & unexpectedly. ‘Dog in the Playground’ is a perfect read aloud.

The Flag of Childhood: Poems from the Middle East. selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, (Aladdin paperbacks, 1998). Couldn’t put it better than Karen Hesse in her introduction: ‘Under the ancient cadences, under the vibrant imagery lies a contemporary tension that flashes to the surface, bringing a strong, Middle Eastern light to shine upon the rubble wrought by today’s conflicts.” One I return to again and again.

Rabbiting On by Kit Wright (Lions, 1978). One of the first poetry books I used in the classroom. ‘Dad, the Cat & the Tree’ & ‘The Party’ (Dave Dirt’s poem) were requested over and over again.

Morning Break & Other Poems by Wes Magee (Cambridge University Press, 1989). Pie Corbett and I were big fans of Wes’s adult poetry collections and were excited when his first two collections for children were published. This is the one for older readers. Some wonderfully spooky stuff and also more sensitive material such as ‘Until Gran Died’ and ‘Tracey’s Tree’.

The Journal of Danny Chaucer (Poet) by Roger Stevens (Dolphin Paperbacks 2002). Must have been one of the first verse novels for children/young adults. Danny’s dreams of girls, guitars and rock ’n’ roll. Was also a radio play for BBC Radio 4 I believe. Great fun.

I was going to choose If I Were In Charge of the World by Judith Viorst too, but Eric Ode bagged that one first.

And I’m supposed to mention one of mine. Think it has to be Lost MagicThe poems that I consider to be the best ones I’ve written over the past 25 years. Published by Macmillan 2016. Believe in what you write, it’s advice I’m always handing out.

Thanks Liz, for making me think.

Brian Moses

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Eric Ode; My Favourite Poetry Books

Today is the fourth in the series where I ask children’s poets what their favourite poetry books are – they choose 5-8 books, one of their own, and they can if they wish choose a book of poems for adults, too. A big British welcome to Eric Ode, American poet and musician and a lovely person as well. 

List some of my favorite (or “favourite”) poetry books? What a fun invitation! Thanks so much, Liz. As Sue Hardy-Dawson did last week, I’m also going to shy away from including any collections from poet friends. Once you start, where do you stop?

1) Small Poems by Valerie Worth is easily my first choice. These are poems I love sharing with students. The observations enter the room quietly. The metaphors are flawless, unexpected, and always good for “Of course!” moments.

2) Is A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson too obvious? Well, so be it. I still remember my mother reading from this collection to me. Poems about haylofts and swings and little toy sailboats written with perfect meter, perfect rhyme, and always with a child’s heart.

3) Sing a Song of Popcorn, selected by Mary Michaels White, Eva Moore, Beatrice Schenk De Regniers, and Jan Carr is a beautiful, wide-ranging anthology. The poems are grouped by theme, each section wonderfully illustrated by such notables as Marcia Brown, Maurice Sendak, and Arnold Lobel.

I first came upon this collection while teaching elementary school. My copy is dog-eared and page-worn.

4) Judith Viorst’s If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries is a slim collection packed with the sly wit and heartstrings-tugging thoughts for which Viorst is so well known. An especially fun collection for that ages 8 to 11 group.

5) And I suppose Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends is another obvious choice (at least on this side of the pond), but can it be topped? From the opening “Invitation” to the closing “The Search,” I’ve always appreciated how Silverstein could move from the goofiest of themes to the most tender while never letting his collections lose cohesion.

6) The truth is, I don’t often read poetry written for adults. I’ll pick up a collection with optimistic energy from time to time only to wind up feeling beaten and frustrated—like a poet imposter—as I realize I am missing too much of what the poet is sharing. (That says far more about me than the poets, by the way.) And so I am thankful for poets like Billy Collins and titles like Sailing Alone Around the Room, a collection written with the inviting, conversational language that has me curling up into the pages.

7) And I still need to choose one of my own? Then let’s go with my newest collection, Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails, published by Kane Miller Books and beautifully illustrated by Ruth Harper. I love a walk in a healthy wetland ecosystem and hope this collection helps others find magic there as well.

Peace and joy,

Eric Ode

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Sue Hardy-Dawson; My Favourite Poetry Books

My Favourite Books of Poems

Here is the third in a series where I ask children’s poets what their favourite poetry books are – they must choose 5-8 books, one of their own, and they can if they wish choose a book of poems for adults, too. Welcome this week to lovely Sue Hardy-Dawson!

My house is full of books, far more than my long suffering family think anyone should have. Of those I suspect roughly two thirds are poetry. I thought I would enjoy doing this and I did, but oh dear choosing eight, that was agony. I have many talented poet friends, far more than eight. So I elected not to choose from them, an impossible choice. Instead I’ve gone with poets either dear and departed, or books that had a profound effect on me.

I’m going to start at the very beginning with A A Milne, I’m cheating a bit because I have a book with both When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six in. I might as well because a friend stole my individual copies so I feel exonerated in this. My dad at bedtime used to act out The Dormouse and the Doctor and The King’s Breakfast. I could go on. I loved them the whole experience was so sensory, so loved and cuddly. Definitely the beginning of my lifelong love of poetry.

My next choice is 4 O’CLOCK on Friday. John Foster just somehow put together a wonderful anthology. I could write a whole article on John’s anthologies. I give mention to the First Book, 2nd Book etc series. I love them so.

Manifold Manor, Philip Gross, is my next choice. I love everything about it. Again sensory and there’s something wonderful about Chris Riddell’s understated yet mystical ravens.

My next choice is The Best of Ted Hughes, I fell in love with his Thought Fox when I was fourteen. It’s an indelible memory of a sticky hot June class room from which I escaped into a midnight snowy garden and the hot stink of fox. I confess my copy is stained and has loose pages. It has traveled with me on almost every holiday I’ve ever been on.

My next choice is The Oldest Girl in the World, Carol Anne Duffy. Again wonderfully synaesthetic poetry. It encapsulates myths and fairytales, one I often return to.

My next is a book that I think deserved much more recognition than it got, The RSPB Anthology of Wildlife Poetry. This is just gorgeous, the full stunning illustrations alone are enough to merit its inclusion. But Celia Warren has created a beautifully balanced collection here. One for all the family to enjoy for years.

My next is To Catch an Elephant, by the late great Bradford Laureate, Gerard Benson. What can I say about these beautiful, fun and poignant poems. I hear his river voice in all of them. If you haven’t come across him it’s well worth a look. His poetry for both adults and children is just joyous.

So these are just a few of the books that I keep by my bed, that I often dip into. I count myself very lucky to do what I do, my child self would never have thought it possible. Where Zebras Go, my first collection, was published by Otter-Barry Books in 2017. But I’m conscious I owe almost all of this to the wonderful legacy of poets I was introduced to by my father, by enthusiastic teachers and by wonderful, kind and talented poet friends who also encouraged and championed me.

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Coral Rumble; My Favourite Poetry Books

Here is the second in the series where I’m asking children’s poets what their favourite poetry books are – they must choose one of their own, and they can if they wish choose a book of poems for adults, too. This week, it’s Coral Rumble!

I could list so many books, so I’ve decided to avoid listing any by my personal friends, as I wouldn’t be able to stop! (Not just because they’re my friends, but because they’re all ridiculously talented.) Instead, I’ve thought further afield and back in time; it’s been quite a journey!

I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree (Nosy Crow) Ed Fiona Waters

Hooray, hooray! In 2018 something unusual happened. A publisher spent a lot of money on producing a poetry book that was beautiful and inviting. With full colour illustrations throughout, the richness of text is matched by the extravagance of visual interpretation. What a breath of fresh air! Bravo Nosy Crow!

The Magic Box (Macmillan) Kit Wright

Okay, this might seem a blast from the past, but we’re only travelling back to 2010. Are there many schools where children have not been inspired to write their own version of the famous title poem? Playful language, a light touch, totally delightful.

Grandad’s Tree (Barefoot Books) Ed. Jill Bennett

First published in 2003, this book is bold in its treatment of sad subjects that children need to talk about. With poems from the likes of Grace Nichols, Berlie Doherty and Carl Sandburg, you know you’re in for a treat. ‘Always Remembering Eloise’ by Lindsay MacRae renders me speechless.

The Utter Nutters (Puffin) Brian Patten

I’m going to take you back a little further in time. In 1994 this fantastic collection of Brian’s poems delighted more visual learners, who responded to text and illustration working together. I remain still as fond of this innovative book based on the various wacky neighbours all living on one imagined street.

Something Big Has Been Here (HarperCollins) Jack Prelutsky

We’re still time travelling, this time back to 1990. I love Jack Prelutsky! He’s such a master of scansion; there are no untidy ends to tie. I want to skip through the pages of this book, not in the sense of haste, but in the sense of spirit.

When We Were Very Young (Methuen) A.A. Milne

First published in 1924! I’m not just being sentimental, I just love this book, containing classics like ‘Halfway Down’ and ‘Buckingham Palace’. It’s where my love of words started. On top of that, it’s full of wonderful illustrations by E.H. Shepherd!

And my own book?

Riding a Lion (Troika Books) Coral Rumble

Well, it’s kind of back to the future now, because this book doesn’t yet exist! I think most poets feel that their latest work is their best, and I’m very excited about this collection. Anyway, you can never start marketing too early!

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry, Poetry Book Parade

Bonkers Ballads by Colin West

A fair while ago, although it seems like yesterday, Colin West’s picture books were real favourites with my two children. His poems, found in anthologies, were a favourite with me, too.

Many years later, when I had also become a poet, we met on Facebook – where the author turns out to be every bit as charming and delightful as his work.

You can recognise a Colin West poem even if it is unattributed – probably one of the highest recommendations it is possible to give. They are by turns surreal, nonsensical, entertaining and hilarious, and all are clever and fun.

And the tradition carries on! His latest hysterical, historical book of ‘bonkers ballads’ is populated with mischievous miscreants, including a dispirited spook, a natty knight and a young King Cole. All the ballads make you laugh out loud, and the wonderful full-colour illustrations complement and conflate with the poems to make every page a masterpiece of humorous verse.

You don’t get colour illustrations in a book of modern poetry very often, particularly one guaranteed to tickle your tonsils all the way through.

Available here.

National Poetry Day Release List of Poetry Books to Inspire Children!

.Poetry is booming – and in the case of poetry for children, it should be – Pie Corbett‘s article, below, explains just why!

Here is the entire list of poetry being promoted in the run up to National Poetry Day by the Forward Arts Foundation -congratulations to the children’s poets included!

Jelly Boots, Smelly Boots Rosen/Tazzyman, Bloomsbury children’s:

Reaching the Stars Brownlee/Dean/Morgan, Macmillan:

It’s Not My Fault Stevens/Withrow, Bloomsbury Children’s:

The World’s Greatest Space Cadet James Carter, Bloomsbury Children’s:

Little Lemur Laughing Joshua Seigal, Bloomsbury Children’s:

Overheard in a Tower Block Joseph Coelho, Otter-Barry Books:

A Poem for Every Day of the Year Ed. Allie Esiri, Macmillan:

The Noisy Classroom Ieva Flamingo, The Emma Press:

Moonrise Sarah Crossan, Bloomsbury:

Five Nonsense Poems Candlestick Press:

 

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Gerard Benson – does W trouble you?

Yesterday it was #favechildrenspoetry day on Twitter, organised by the wonderful Brian Moses – the results of which will be on his blog, soon. His own favourite children’s poetry books are already there.

I tweeted some of my own favourites – but most of my children’s poetry books have poems in that I love.

A few of the books I tweeted yesterday were written by Gerard Benson. Gerard Benson was an excellent poet, story-teller, singer and teacher (and friend) who died in 2014. I have all his poetry books, but the two following books which he edited I would particularly recommend to any children who like writing, and anyone writing for children.

I take these out again and again – they are entertaining and useful, but they also contain a little slice of Gerardness which I miss.

‘this poem doesn’t rhyme’ won the Signal Poetry Award (and, incidentally, contains one of my favourite poems, What For, by Noel Petty). It was written because Gerard noticed children felt poems must rhyme, and added it to their own poems, even if the resulting rhymes meant their poems made no sense. So he chose a number of poems, accessible to children, that they enjoyed, that don’t rhyme. The poems chosen include work from all ages, cultures and countries. The book is packed with alliterative poems, concrete poems, imagist poems, sound poems, riddles and more. Published by Puffin, you can still buy it here.

‘does W trouble you?’ is the sister book of rhyming poems – it contains a riot of rhyming forms all explained with Gerard’s witty and engaging commentary. In the introduction Gerard talks to a ‘A. Poetry-Lover’ about the book. This is one of things he said:

Dear A Poetry-Lover,

The poets care how poems are made. What the poem is saying is, of course, important. But with poetry, the sound it makes can be just as important. Rhythm is even more telling than rhyme.  Many readers read with their ears as well as their eyes. In fact, it’s a good idea to read poetry aloud, whenever possible.

Yours sincerely,

Gerard Benson”

‘does W trouble you?’ is also published by Puffin, and available on Amazon, here.

If you’d like to hear some of Gerard’s poems read by himself, he is on the poetry archive here.