Book Review: Welcome to my Crazy Life, Joshua Seigal

Welcome to my Crazy Life, Joshua Seigal, illustrated by Chris Piascik, Pub. Bloomsbury.

Full of jokes, great fun! Some nice poems about reading, writing and poetry in here, perfect for the classroom, to instigate discussion. Lots of familiar situations, not-so-familiar situations, and darned ridiculous situations, this book is bound to please. Recommended.

Book Review: How Many Points for a Panda?, Hilda Offen

How Many Points for a Panda?, Hilda Offen, Pub. Troika.

This is a book of delightful  poems, charmingly and richly illustrated by the author herself, who was CLiPPA shortlisted in 2015. Fantasy and magical poems jostle with the real world wistful and humorous (I laughed out loud several times). Contains poems to please and poems to stretch – recommended.

Book Review: There’s a Crocodile in the House, Paul Cookson

There’s a Crocodile in the House, Paul Cookson, pictures by Liz Million, Pub. Otter-Barry.

Paul Cookson is renowned for his audience-snaring participation poetry performances, and fittingly, these are mostly poems with a purpose – to read out loud with young children, complete with actions and sound effects. Some of them come complete with handy performance suggestions, perfect for use with little ones in the classroom.

Book Review: The Magic of Mums, Justin Coe

The Magic of Mums, Justin Coe, Illustrator Steve Wells, Pub. Otter-Barry.

Mums to admire, mums to entrance, mums who fuss and some football-mum chants – every type of mum, even a dad who’s a part-time mum, is within these poems from Justin Coe.

This lovely book is the partner to his popular Dictionary of Dads, published by Otter-Barry in 2017.

Children will enjoy finding the poetry version of their own mum in these pages, and schools will certainly never be without a great poem for Mothers’ Day – there’s a good range of styles, personalities and aspects of motherhood covered!

Recommended. Here’s a taster:

 

Itchy Mum

 

Mum gave me fun and gave me laughter.

She gave me all the things I asked for,

tasty sweets

and trips and treats.

I gave her… nits for Christmas.

 

When I felt scared she helped me flourish,

when I was ill she gave me courage.

When I had troubles

she gave me cuddles.

I gave her nits for Christmas.

 

So  while she gave without a limit,

her heart and everything within it,

I brought the louse

into the house.

I gave her nits for Christmas.

 

The advice she gave she gave with love.

I gave her lice that sucked her blood,

eggs that hatched

and made her scratch.

I gave her nits for Christmas.

 

There were other gifts. I gave her germs

and once I gave her bottom worms.

She thanked me – not,

but to top the lot,

I gave her nits. FOR CHRISTMAS.

 

© Justin Coe

 

 

 

 

Review: Bright Bursts of Colour, Matt Goodfellow

Bright Bursts of Colour, Matt Goodfellow, Illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, pub. Bloomsbury.

I knew I’d love this book, having seen a few sneak peeks, and I did. I didn’t want to start reading because then I knew I’d get to the end and would regret not being able to read it for the first time again. 

Matt has provided a book with bright bursts of his ability to illustrate the essential with the everyday, his sense of humour with the absurd and poignancy with poems that contain a planet-full of empathy.

Many moods, many colours, many laughs – everything you could possibly want in a poetry book, in a range of styles. I enjoyed every single poem. This book is very much recommended. I insist you buy it right now.

Two poems to illustrate Matt’s range below – one that made me laugh, and one that made me cry!

 

A Special Badger

 

I’m a special kind of badger

in a special badger den

writing special badger poems

with my special badger pen

learning special badger lessons

in a special badger school

earning special badger kudos

for my special badger cool

wearing special badger badges

saying badgers are the best

passing special badger interviews

and special badger tests

drinking special badger coffee

from a special badger mug

but my special badger problem:

 

I am actually a slug

© Matt Goodfellow

 

Strest

 

Charlie never cries

 

not even

when he came down the slide

too fast in Year 5

and broke his wrist.

Miss couldn’t believe it;

he even smiled and waved

to our class across the playground

when Mr Smith drove him off

to hospital.

 

Charlie never cries

 

not even

when his gran died –

he was back in school

the next day

said he was fine,

he’d survive –

but you could see it

in the shadows

of his eyes.

 

Charlie never cries

 

but when it was time

for the reading paper

we’d

revised

revised

revised

for,

Charlie sighed

flicked through the pages

for ages

put his pen down.

Miss appeared at his side

saying try your best, Charlie

it’s just a test, Charlie

and he looked over at me

and I swear I could see

right inside his mind

and it was dark

and he was hiding

shoulders shaking

and he knew

he couldn’t do

what they wanted

him to do

however hard he tried.

 

And I’ll never forget

the day of the test,

 

the day

Charlie

cried.

 

© Matt Goodfellow

Charles Ghigna’s Dear Poet

Dear Poet, Notes to a Young Writer by Charles Ghigna – a Poetic Journey into the Creative Process for Readers, Writers, Artists & Dreamers popped through my letterbox just before National Poetry Day/Week.

The book takes the form of short numbered poems on all aspects of writing poetry – set out on a double page spread, the left-hand side the number title, the right-hand side, the poem. I love the feeling of light and space this gives for each poem to breathe inside your head. Here is one of my favourites:

 

1V

 

When in need

of the poem,

go write it.

 

But do not think

you are

needed.

 

There is no

need

for the poet.

 

There is only

need

for the poem.

 

© Charles Ghigna

 

I love this. The poet as an observer, recorder, describer. What you feel, see, understand, remember will be personal to you, the reader. There are many such observations throughout the book, the sum of a life well-lived in poetry. Recommended!

More information can be read in the spotlight on Charles Ghigna, here. His website is here.

I Bet I Can Make You Laugh, Poems by Joshua Seigal and Friends

 

There’s something in this anthology collected by Joshua Seigal to tickle all funnybones – young or old!

Joshua Seigal is an award-winning poet, performer and educator who uses poetry to develop literacy skills and inspire confidence and creativity in communication

My favourite poem was my dog, Lola’s, favourite poem. Joshua once wrote a great poem for Lola. She is one of his fans.

 

DogMatic

 

I’ve got a new DogMatic

she’s my automatic pet.

Of all the beasts I’ve ever bought

she is the best one yet.

She likes to play outside with me

but sometimes she gets wet,

and then she blows her circuitry

and ends up at the vet.

 

I’ve got a new DogMatic,

she’s my high-perfomance mate.

Of all the cronies I could own

it’s her I really rate.

I simply click a button

and she starts to calculate

the distance to the park, in metres,

from our garden gate.

 

I’ve got a new DogMatic –

she’s my electronic chum.

She’s smarter than my sister,

more efficient than my mum.

She has a byte at dinner time

and then, when she is done,

a tiny little microchip

comes plopping out her bum…

 

© Joshua Seigal

You can buy I Bet I Can Make you Laugh, humorously illustrated by Tim Wesson, here.

Posted in Poetry Book Parade

Everything all at Once, by Steven (aka PolarBear) Camden

 

How FABULOUS to be able to review a young people’s poetry book written for above primary age.

These poems speak directly in an authentic teenage voice, with humour and insight, giving voice to the complex, anxious, insecure and serious feelings that face all teenagers. And the exciting ones, too! Steven Camden, AKA Polarbear is by reputation (I regret that I have not seen him!) an excellent spoken-word poet, but these poems live on the page as well as they would in the mouth.

Some of the poems are almost unbearably poignant. As I read it I could feel myself going hot and cold with remembered angst; but also sadness at many of the new challenges our young people face nowadays.

It also made me laugh out loud. This book and these poems are well overdue, there is so little that is pertinent and specifically for this age-group. Very much recommended, teachers.

Once Upon a Star: A Poetic Journey Through Space, by James Carter

 

Once Upon a Star, a poetic journey through space, by James Carter, illustrated graphically and wonderfully by Mar Hernández, is published by Caterpillar Books, and is available here.

Having recently read all about how the Universe started because I was writing poems about space, I know just how hard it is to condense the journey of our beginnings from extraordinarily complicated and immense and beautiful into a poem so simple and immense and beautiful, but James has done it.

If you have young people, do buy this, it’s wonderful.

Wish a Wish, Poems by Moira Andrew

I’ve always liked Moira Andrew‘s clarity of expression, and this collection (Poetry Space), illustrated by Anna Popescu, is no exception. She captures moments wonderfully and although this is a collection for young people, addressing many childhood concerns, there are no concessions as to language, and there is much in here for those of us who remember what it’s like to be young! There’s only one thing I don’t like about it and that’s the font – Comic Sans. Here’s a sample poem:

 

Halloween

 

There’s always that shiver –

a catch of breath at the first taste

……of frost

and a slick of fear… what if?

 

What if that billowing shadow

is not what it seems, the yellow

……street light

a monster’s searching eyes?

 

And those menacing pumpkins…

what if they were to widen  their

……toothy grins

and spit out a stream of curses?

 

There’s always that dread…

what if the undead wrap up

……in darkness

and follow Trick-Treaters home?

 

Halloween’s an in-between…

ghosts and ghoulies, apples

……silver coins,

autumn’s end, winter’s start-up.

 

© Moira Andrew

Yuck and Yum by Joshua Seigal and Neal Zetter

 

A feast of funny food poems, accompanied by some really very dodgy laugh-out-loud facts, except for the ones that are clearly true, such as 99.4% of children say they would prefer Brussel sprouts to chocolate if they had to choose one or the other for a snack.

These are read-out-loud poems, and having heard the one reproduced below performed by Neal, extremely effective and great fun.

.

Ba nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana

 

What’s the longest fruit you’ve seen?

Found in milkshake, yoghurt and ice cream

When they’re on my plate I lick it clean

A tremendous taste

Too good to waste

Ba nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana

.

You’ll slip upon their slimy skin

So put the peel into the bin

What word doesn’t stop after it begins?

Simply unending

I’m always bending my

Ba nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana

.

You can mash them

You can squash them

You can squish them

You can gulp them

You can fry them

You can spread them

You can pound them

You can pulp them

When I ask what food you’ve had today

I’m hoping that you’re going to say

Ba nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana

.

Monkeys eat them at the zoo

They’re yellow and black not orange and blue

Ideal in soup or in a stew

They’re versatile

Shaped like a smile

Ba nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana

.

Buy them by the kilo, pound or bunch

Stick them in your sandwich box for lunch

They’re the ideal snack when it comes to the crunch

Travelling all the way from Jamaica

What fruit’s got a name that’s a record breaker?

Ba nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana

.

Before you get some from the store

Shout out this poem’s title once more

Ba nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana

.

© Neal Zetter

.

My favourite poem by Joshua Seigal is By Royal Appointment. I’m pretty sure she does like a certain dark brown spread for toast. Who doesn’t?

.

Yuck and Yum, a Feast of Funny Food Poems by Joshua Seigal and Neal Zetter, Troika, is available here.

 

 

 

Posted in Poetry Book Parade

Here Come the Superheroes, by Neal Zetter, illustrated by Chris White

Neal Zetter is a London-based comedy performance poet, author and entertainer who uses poetry writing and performance to develop literacy, confidence, self-expression, creativity and presentation skills in 3 to 103 year olds.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’m certain any young person will as well. The illustrations by Chris White, writer, illustrator and performer, match the fun and energetic raps and rhymes perfectly.

Each poem comes with additional secret data about each Superhero character.

In fact I was moved to write my review as a poem straight after reading it, which must also be a sign that it will inspire youngsters to try a superhero poem of their own. Here is my pale imitation of a superhero poem…

Here Come the Superheroes

the name is very apt,

superhero girls and boys

read and you’ll be rapt

I tried to tear my eyes away

but I was truly trapped

read all through the book and then

rapped till my eyeballs snapped

.

Yes, well, I am not a rapper. But Neal is… here’s an example snippet from the first verse of Here Comes Sister Speed:

 

Here Comes Sister Speed

.

Faster than a flash

She’s a raging rocket

She’s a white-hot wire

An electric socket

She’s a lightning bolt

She’s a rampant cheetah

plot and plan a crime

and she will defeat you

.

Whizzing to the rescue

in your hour of need

Here comes sister Speed!

.

© Neal Zetter

.

I read all the poems out loud and they are real performance poems – I suspect they make a wonderful set in schools.  The whole book is beautifully produced with lovely quality paper and printing. Recommended for Superhero fans everywhere.

.

Published by Troika Books, available here.

 

 

Posted in Poetry Book Parade

#Suffragette100 Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls

Poems from the collection by Michaela Morgan and Liz Brownlee.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of SOME women getting the right to vote in the UK. Although things are much improved, amazingly, the struggle for equality (notably, and recently in the press, wage equality) is still going on.

Written to mark the suffragette anniversaries in the past year and this, Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls has proved extremely popular, particularly with teachers, in fact it recently won the N. Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards for poetry.

It celebrates the lives of women through history who have made a difference to humanity in a myriad of ways – not just those women we have all heard of (From Boudica, through Anne Bonny the pirate, to Frida Khalo, Marie Curie, and Helen Keller to Malala Yousafzai and Hilary Clinton) but those that are much less known, or overlooked, or written out of history, or who will never be known… such as the ‘Unknown Worriers’, who kept the home fires burning. It also includes poems about feminism, and some modern young women who have made a difference in their communities.

Of course, there are a poems about the suffragettes – but, perhaps not surprisingly, many of women in the book (whilst they weren’t and were fighting the system to become doctors, scientists, fashion-reformers) also supported women’s suffrage.

Each poem is proceeded by a short biography of the person in the poem.

It seems the right day for sharing part of Jan Dean’s poem, Suffragette.

.

Part of ‘Suffragette’

.

I want to make my own choice.

I need to use my own voice

I won’t be silent, won’t ignore important things –

the world has queens as well as kings.

.

And so I march, protest and claim my right

to take part in my country’s life.

I want what’s fair – to have my say

on who makes laws and who holds sway.

.

© Jan Dean

Prometheus Unplugged by Alan Murphy

 

Alan Murphy originally trained as a fine artist, but now describes himself as a ‘wacky rhymester’. He  lives in Ireland and has given many public readings at the Electric Picnic, the West Cork Literary Festival, the Mountains To Sea Festival, Poetry Now, Ireland’s Children’s Book Festival (2010, 2011 and 2012), Waterford Writers Weekend, Lismore’s Immrama festival and Phizzfest.

Prometheus Unplugged was published in 2014, but poetry books written for older teenagers are few and far between.

In children’s poetry I’ve never read anything quite like this before and suspect for this reason alone it will appeal to teenagers from 14 on.

Music is the theme… and the poems, from those incorporating thinly-disguised, heavy metal hero Ozzie Osborne or Greek Gods in a stadium in an Elysium field to cows fed up with cud watching rooks, parrots and robins at the hottest thicket in town are hip hopping with energy and surrealism.

It’s a beautifully produced book with Alan’s own artwork the perfect foil – which perhaps explains why its a bit pricey for a teenage budget at £11. However – there is much to enjoy for those of older than that!

It’s available here.

Here’s a taster:

.

MOBIUS AND HIS BAND

.

The coolest cats in the land?

Mathematicians you understand,

And the hippest of all

At the geometry ball

Was Mobius and his band.

.

Those dudes sure had real flair,

Their sum was not a square

And they did insist

That you dance the twist

To their looped groove wild and rare!

.

© Alan Murphy