Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Colin West: Favourite Children’s Poetry

When my children were small they loved the absurdity of Colin West’s poems, and the words in his picture books, and the illustrations for both. In fact, we still have them, we kept all our favourites. Colin studied Graphic Design and Illustration at various art colleges. His first book, a slim volume of nonsense verse, Out of the Blue from Nowhere, was published by Dennis Dobson in 1976 – I am the proud owner of one of these! He went on to write and illustrate some sixty children’s books, and now lives in Sussex and writes and draws for his own amusement, mainly. However, he has published two rather wonderful recent collections The Funniest Stuff and Bonkers Ballads, both of which are stuffed with Colin’s delightful, witty poems and charming colour illustrations.

Thanks Liz, for inviting me to write a little about some of my favourite poetry books for children. I had to leave out so many! But here goes with some real faves …

Custard and Co (Kestrel, 1979)

Hooray for the editor who brought together Ogden Nash and Quentin Blake for this joyful book in 1979. Rarely has such a witty poet been served by such a witty illustrator (or vice versa).

Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls (William Collins, 1964)

This anthology (along with its three companion volumes) was a great inspiration to me back in the 1970s. Tomi Ungerer’s lively illustrations bring to vivid life many old and at-the-time-new poems. Cole was a great champion of Shel Silverstein and did much to popularise comic and also “serious” verse.

Stuff and Nonsense (Faber, 1927)

First published in 1927, then reissued with new illustrations by Margaret Wolpe, this book represents Walter de la Mare at his most playful. Words tumble, ever poetic, from his fertile imagination. Not one for avoiding “difficult” words, or even creating his own if they sound right — a stone is described as corusking in a ring — anyone heard of that word?!

Silly Verse for Kids (Dennis Dobson, 1959)

Being born in 1951, I was the perfect age for this book, which was quite unlike else published at the time. Unfortunately, no one bought it for me! Of course, I caught up with it later. The illustrations are far from slick, but no Royal Academician could better them. I  could use all the usual words to describe Spike — madcap, zany, anarchic etc., but in the end, Milligan is Milligan is Milligan, and we are all thankful for that.

Rhymes Without Reason (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1944)

Throughout his life Mervyn Peake wrote nonsense verse (he once said Nonsense is not the opposite of Sense, Nonsense is not the opposite of anything) and in this book he used his considerable painterly skills to illustrate these poems.  Wistful, sad, funny, nonsensical, lyrical — all the things one would expect of Peake.

Alphabicycle Order (Ondt & Gracehopper, 2001)

Christopher Reid’s little gem was published in a limited edition in 2001. Delightful wordplay reaches new heights here and it is accompanied by Sara Fanelli’s charmingly surreal illustrations. So refreshing to see something like this published in this century. (They also collaborated earlier in 1999, in  All Sorts, which is more easily available.)

Ann of Highwood Hall (Cassell, 1964)

Anyone who knows me knows I love the work of Edward Ardizzone, who in his time illustrated much poetry, and here he graces a collection by Robert Graves, whose verses have a timeless quality. The title poem concerns a young girl who escapes domestic violence and lives semi-ghostlike in a grand house. It’s eerie and sad, and perfectly pictured by Ardizzone.

Never Nudge a Budgie (Walker Books, 2015)

I assembled a book of my own poems in 2001, The Big Book of Nonsense, (Random House) and always hoped for a paperback edition. I produced a cut-down version of it with new illustrations, added some new rhymes and Walkers published it in paperback. Some of the poems still make me laugh!

Colin West

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 A to Z Challenge 2019

X is for XXX by Colin West

Colin West studied Graphic Design and Illustration at various art colleges. His first book, a slim volume of nonsense verse, Out of the Blue from Nowhere, was published by Dennis Dobson in 1976 – I am the proud owner of one of these! He went on to write and illustrate some sixty children’s books, some of which were favourites with my children, and now lives in Sussex and writes and draws for his own amusement, mainly.

However, he has published two rather wonderful recent collections The Funniest Stuff and Bonkers Ballads, both of which are stuffed with Colin’s delightfully witty poems and charming, colour illustrations.

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Here is the fun poem and wonderful illustration Colin sent for the poetry feast:

 

XXX

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© Colin West

If you’d like to blog hop to another A-Z Challenge, then follow this link.

Children’s Poets’ Climate Change Blog: Be the Change

Liz’s Blog: Liz Brownlee Poet

Liz’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizpoet

KidsPoets4Climate Twitter: https://twitter.com/poets4climate

Children’s Poetry Summit Twitter: https://twitter.com/kidspoetsummit

Posted in A to Z Blog Challenge 2018

W is for Colin West, Poet and Illustrator, #AtoZChallenge #ZtoA

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Colin West

Colin West was born in 1951 and studied Graphic Design and Illustration at various art colleges. His first book, a slim volume of nonsense verse, Out of the Blue from Nowhere, was published by Dennis Dobson in 1976. He went on to write and illustrate some sixty children’s books, and now lives in Sussex and writes and draws for his own amusement, mainly.

However, he has published two rather wonderful collections recently, The Funniest Stuff and Bonkers Ballads, both of which I love, and both of which are stuffed with Colin’s delightfully witty poems and charming, colour illustrations.

Here is one of the poems from The Funniest Stuff:

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My Vulture

I once had a little vulture,
But he didn’t care for Culture,
And to let the whole world know it,
He would peck at any poet.

Though I begged him not to do so,
He would squawk all through Caruso,
And what really seemed a scandal,
Hiccup all the way through Handel.


I once dragged him to a lecture
On Renaissance architecture,
But he found the subject boring,
So he spent the whole time snoring.


When at last I took my vulture
To a show of modern sculpture,
Twenty times he yawned, I counted,
So I had him stuffed and mounted.

Poem and illustrations © Colin West

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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 Illustration

Colin West – Children’s Poetry and Illustration

I was introduced into the witty world of Colin West when my children were little and we all enjoyed Pardon said the Giraffe and Not Me said the Monkey. We soon found Colin’s own charming, ridiculous and funny poems, illustrated in his unmistakably colourful and delightful style. I’ve never read anything or seen anything by Colin that hasn’t made me smile. Poetry illustration is a real skill – so I’m delighted he has sent this exploration of the history of poetry illustrators he loves.

Thanks, Liz, for inviting me to contribute to your blog. Where to start? Well, I’ve enjoyed making up rhymes since I was about ten (an excellent age to be!) and I’ve enjoyed drawing for even longer, so maybe it was natural for me to combine the two interests.

I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of poem and image. Let’s go back to when I was ten years old. There was a radio programme we listened to at school called Singing Together. The booklets that we sang from had wonderful illustrations accompanying the songs we sang. I studied the pictures (by top artists such as David Gentleman and Shirley Hughes) as much as I delighted in the words and music of those old folk songs.

Brian Wildsmith illustrates one of my favourite folk songs from Singing Together:


As a teenager, many of the poetry books I was beginning to collect had, at least, eye-catching, well-designed covers, if lacking in illustrations inside. I couldn’t resist these groovy covers!

A few, such as Ogden Nash’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself had illustrations by Maurice Sendak, and Stevie Smith added her own inimitable drawings to her books.

The unique talent of Stevie Smith:

Here, all round genius Mervyn Peake illustrates his own nonsense poem:

American phenomenon Shel Silverstein shows how it can be done …

Inimitable Milligan of course:

And Ogden Nash’s witty lines find a friend in Quentin Blake’s witty lines:

At art college, I hand-lettered my own little collection of  nonsense verse, Tomorrow I’ve Given up Hope:


As my interest in poetry broadened, I collected books from earlier times.

John Glashan lends his distinctive drawings to Alistair Sampson’s verse in the 1950s:

E. H. Shepard illustrated other poets than A. A. Milne. This book is by Jan Struther from 1932:

Overlooked illustrator Christopher Brooker charmingly illustrates poems by John Walsh:

A marriage made in Heaven: Ardizzone’s drawings grace the pages of a book by Robert Graves:

Back in the 1930s, during the heyday of humorous verse, many books by rhyming geniuses such as Harry Graham were appropriately illustrated. It wasn’t something exclusively for children.

Maurice Sendak for an adult collection by Ogden Nash:

Harold Jones delightfully decorates Shakespeare:

Sadly Gerard Hoffnung‘s final project, illustrating for Guinness in one of their poetic booklets for doctors. He died soon after at only 34:

Recently, the last years of the twentieth century gave us many well-illustrated children’s poetry books.

Satoshi Kitamura‘s thoughtful drawings suit Roger McGough’s funny and punny poems:

Like many of my generation of children’s writers, I was fortunate in having many of my poems anthologised and illustrated by a range of great illustrators.

This early illustration by Nick Sharratt from 1990 really captures (and adds to) the fun of my little rhyme:

The tradition continues to a lesser extent today.

Cobbling together a new book!

It would be interesting in schools if children illustrated each other’s poems. Or of course, do your own. You don’t have to be the greatest artist. No one could illustrate Spike Milligan’s madcap verse better than himself. And Roger McGough and John Hegley have both added their own quirky drawings to charming effect. So I’d say if you enjoy writing poems, try adding a drawing. And if you enjoy drawing, try adding a poem!

Colin’s book, published by Walker, can be bought here: Never Nudge a Budgie, and his latest book is available here: The Funniest Stuff.