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.

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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

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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

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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

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© Neal Zetter

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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?

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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

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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!

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© Neal Zetter

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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.

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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.

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Part of ‘Suffragette’

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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:

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MOBIUS AND HIS BAND

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The coolest cats in the land?

Mathematicians you understand,

And the hippest of all

At the geometry ball

Was Mobius and his band.

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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

Astro Poetica by Dom Conlon

Astro Poetica, written by Dom Conlon, and beautifully illustrated in full colour throughout by Jools Wilson, is a book that sparkles with poems about the skies, the planets, the stars, the universe, and everything.

I found myself contemplating afterwards about some of these poems, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with memories or trains of thought they had inspired; a sign of good writing.

Some of the poems are perfect to share with children – some of them seem aimed at an older audience, but there is plenty in here for all age groups.

Here is one of my favourites:

 

Space Sound

 

In space you hear nothing

when wonders happen

like a star exploding

or asteroids crashing

or a black hole sucking

or a rocket zooming

or galaxies colliding.

 

But if we look up

at the right moment

and stand beside the right person

and listen at the right time

we might hear the sound

of someone whispering

“You mean more to me

than all of this.”

 

© Dom Conlon

 

Available here.

 

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.

Posted in Poetry Book Parade

Blast Off!

From a new imprint of Smith/Doorstop for children’s poetry, Small Donkey, Blast off is by newcomer Carole Bromley.

It is illustrated by the detailed and charming ink drawings of Cathy Benson, who illustrated most of the children’s poetry published by the late Gerard Benson.

There’s a poem for every mood in this book – warm, funny, exploring many of the concerns pertaining to primary children, it feels like a hug.

Suitable for younger readers round the fire with mum and dad or for older primary readers on their own.

Here’s poem from the mix to judge for yourselves!

 

DIY Zoo Poem

 

I went to the zoo and looked in a cage,

Beware of these tigers. They get in a  —-

 

I went to the zoo and looked in the pool.

Not a fish in sight, I felt such a —-

 

I went to visit the elephant house.

nothing in there, just a little grey —–

 

I followed a sign This way to the apes.

not a monkey around to eat my ——

 

I nagged and nagged to see a giraffe

but my father said You’re having a —–

 

they’re all fast asleep like the chimpanzees

and the sloths and koalas up in the —–

 

and the Emperor Penguins in their box

but the owls and the bats and the arctic —

 

are all wide awake cos they think it’s night,

so whatever you do, don’t switch on the —–

 

 

© Carole Bromley 2017