Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

James Carter: Favourite Children’s Poetry Books

James Carter is the 15th poet in my series of children’s poets asked to choose 5-8 favourite poetry books, one of which had to be his own, and one of which could be an adult collection. James is an award-winning children’s poet, non-fiction and educational writer and INSET provider. He travels all over the UK and abroad with his guitar (that’s Keth) and melodica (that’s Steve) to give very lively.poetry/music performances and workshops. The author of over 16 poetry titles, his poetry/non-fiction picture book, Once Upon A Star (Little Tiger Press) was BooksforKeeps’ Book of the Week March 2018. Spaced Out, an anthology of space poems, edited with Brian Moses, came out earlier this year. James’ website is here.

As 100% of my writing life is spent writing poetry – either as actual poems or non-fiction verse – as a reader I tend to head in other directions, though I often find poetry in the most unexpected places. Such as…

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Best picture book ever. No contest. The writer/illustrator Ian Beck once referred to its ‘strange poetry’ which made me return to it and re-re-re-read this deeply poetic and existential prose. I’m sure the first half of the book ‘The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief…’ has informed every single syllable I’ve written since.

Monkey Do! By Allan Ahlberg and Andre Amstutz

For me, Ahlberg is the godfather of all modern children’s poetry. He is ground zero, The Beatles of children’s verse, and this delight of a poem is soooooo slick, funky, funny, charming and has a real ahhh.. of an ending. My daughter Madeleine would point at the final spread and say ‘That’s me and Mummy.’ Happy 18th, Madeleine!

 

Don’t Put Mustard In The Custard by Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake

My eldest daughter Lauren demanded this book be read to her over and over and over and over and over again. It’s easy to see why: no poet writes about childhood with as much charm and insight as Rosen. Nuff said. Fabulously daft too. Blake too brings so much extra mischief and mayhem!

 

Plum by Tony Mitton

Best children’s poetry collection of the last 30 years, this book made me rethink my writing. Exquisitely nostalgia-glazed, this gem never hits a wrong note. This gorgeously crafted lyrical verse is a masterclass in verse for children. Perfectly harmonised by the mighty Peter Bailey’s illustrations. Teachers – get your class performing I Wanna Be A Star and discussing Child Of The Future. Unmissable.

 Orange Silver Sausage by Graham Denton and err me..

Narcissism or too many copies left in the warehouse? I absolutely loved putting this book together with my dear, dear poetry chum, and good egg, Graham Denton. It was my initial idea as I prefer reading free verse to anything else, but Graham brought easily more than 60% of the poems to the table. More than anything, a poem for me has to be a) uber-tight and b) actually say something new,  and every poem in here really delivers. Am I allowed to say it’s my favourite anthology ever as it has such glorious free verse poems from the likes of Carol Ann Duffy, Mary Oliver, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard – but nothing sadly by the bespectacled bard of Luton…?

Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley and Neal Layton

As a reader, comic verse is not my thing at all. BUT John Hegley is the one exception. He has to be the finest comic poet this country has ever produced. A true original. Genuinely LOL. Been to probably 15 of his gigs from 1985 onwards, and this picture book – an ode to the playful creativity of childhood – is perfectly brought to life by the wonder that is Neal Layton. Every EY/KS1 class should have one.

 3 Doz Poems, read/edited by Garrison Keillor

No, it’s not a book. It’s a CD. Everyone should have this in their car / on their iPod / phone / whatever as arguably no-one reads poetry with as much grace and majesty as GK. It’s a brilliant selection of verse too, from Lewis Carroll to Mary Oliver to the greatest living poet, Billy Collins.

Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes by Billy Collins

PLEASE don’t be put off by the title. It’s not whatever it may sound like. It’s the finest ‘best of’ by arguably the planet’s finest living poet – wise, erudite, clever and deliciously witty. Trust me – you will buy multiple copies for friends when you read it…

James Carter

Posted in My Favourite Poetry Books

Roger Stevens; My Favourite Poetry Books

My Favourite Books of Poems

Here is the first in a series where I’ll be 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. First to go is Roger Stevens, who idea this was!

Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here (Puffin) Michael Rosen. Michael reminds us what it’s like to be a child. The poems are funny, clever and full of heart.

The World’s Greatest Space Cadet (Bloomsbury) James Carter. There are so many brilliant books around to choose from but, well, I just really like this one.

The Dictionary of Dads (Otter-Barry Books) Justin Coe. This book is full of funny, sad and very thoughtful poems, brilliantly written. Every class should have one.

Picnic, Lightning (Random House) Billy Collins (for grown-ups). If you don’t know Billy Collins check him out. He has a very natural style, and is easy to read. But the way he tackles both big themes and small themes, is so skilful, it almost makes you gasp.

Apes to Zebras: an A – Z of Shape Poems (Bloomsbury) Liz Brownlee, Sue-Hardy Dawson and Roger Stevens. A tricky book to put together, but it turned out well in the end. It won an award you know.

Thank you, Roger! There will be more poet’ choices to come. Do you have a favourite book of children’s poems? Let me know what it is in the comments!

Posted in A to Z Challenge 2019

#AtoZ Challenge; J is for James Carter

James Carter is an award-winning children’s poet, non-fiction and educational writer and INSET provider. He is the author of over 16 popular and best-selling poetry titles. James travels all over the UK and abroad with his guitar (that’s Keith) and melodica (that’s Steve) to give very lively poetry/music performances and workshops. His latest poetry/non-fiction picture book, Once Upon A Star (Little Tiger Press) was BooksforKeeps’ Book of the Week March 2018. His new book, Spaced Out, an anthology of space poems, edited with Brian Moses, is just out on May 9th! James’ website is here.

Here is the great shape poem James sent:

© James Carter

 

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Posted in Poet's Piece

How to Engage KS1 and 2 – and, Are you a Poet or a Guitarist or a Comedian? By James Carter

As a child, James Carter had a very bad stutter, and flatly refused to take part in any school play because of it. He spoke very rarely in class. Nowadays he says he is a right chatterbox as he’s most passionate about what he does. He is a very experienced poet and excellent performer in schools (I know, I’ve seen him!) and uses his musical friends, Keith, his old acoustic guitar, and Steve, his melodica, to help engage the children. Here he explains the differences in his performances for Key Stage 1 and 2, and whether he is in fact a poet, musician, or comedian…

Are you a Poet or a Guitarist or a Comedian?

I get asked this question a lot. By children. At the end of my assemblies. This is the answer I’d give if there was time…

I’ve now been writing for over twenty years now. Writing books that is. I’ve written quite a few poetry books,  a handful of teachers’ creative writing manuals and now a series of verse non-fiction books with the brilliant Little Tiger Press. To be honest, I see myself as a non-fiction writer that happens to write in verse rather than prose. But actually, I’ve been writing things on and off since childhood.

I’ve been a roving poet in Primary and Prep schools all over the UK and abroad for the last 16 years. I must have visited over 1100 schools by now. I absolutely love my job. I love working with innovative, dynamic and responsive teachers and of course children – I so enjoy their vitality, their fresh, wide-eyed sense of wonder and lack of inhibition when it comes to creativity.

I write instrumental music pieces for guitar or piano – and I play these in assemblies or on the CDs I have recorded in the studio. Music I find is a great stimulant for creative writing. Children in the main respond to it very well. It takes the mind out of the here and now, gives you rich  mental imagery, and allows you to really take risks with your writing.

And humour? Though I don’t want to stand at the front of the hall just delivering ‘funny’ poems, I try and use a lot of humour. Anarchic, zany humour. Pythonesque as one Headteacher said. It’s essential the children warm to me quickly as I want them to respond to me in the workshop when we get writing. Plus, I relish the creative challenge of finding something amusing to say in any given moment during the day.

With KS1 I only ever do light-hearted material, and all interactive. I will start with a guitar piece and do all kinds of poems about bugs, aliens, funny faces, pirates, travelling the world. All the poems have actions which I teach the children through call and response. Then I do a bunch of animal riddle poems. To finish, I’ll do two more action rhymes, and then I play the melodica – maybe some jazzy stuff or Lady Gaga – and the children might have a boogie for a minute or so.

Schools often ask me to do whole school assemblies. I ALWAYS refuse. How on earth can you deliver age-appropriate material to rising 5s up to rising 11s? If time, I will do three assemblies – one for KS2 in the hall, one for KS1 in the hall, and another shorter one for Reception (sometimes Nursery come along too) in their classroom as they respond much better on the carpet, in an environment they are fully familiar with.

My delivery with KS2 is that of a zany, eccentric professor. With Early Years and KS1 I become a chirpy, avuncular figure. With Infants, I do call and response with every single poem as it keeps them with me. I have a very short attention span myself so I know that I need to keep them on track. I also do actions throughout most of my poems. This again keeps them engaged. One of many reasons I keep Infants and Juniors apart is that if you do anything slightly quirky with Infants, they get excited and giggly very quickly and it’s hard to bring them down again – and this can be annoying for the older children.

I write because I love words, love the whole process of writing individual poems as well as putting a poetry or non-fiction book together. I want children to love writing too – and to really enjoy and explore their creativities, and to want to pick up a pen/pencil and see where it will take them. I can’t go in cold into a workshop in a classroom and start writing on the board, as the children need firing up.

At KS2 in particular – especially Yrs 4 5 6 I want the children to write something incredible, something that will delight and surprise the children themselves as well as the teachers. This means they have to like and trust me. This is where the assembly comes in. After half an hour or so of poems and music (and hopefully having been inspired by that!) in the hall – they will then want to go on and do their writing. Poetry is all about finding new ways to explore and express the world around us, and that’s hard work and takes time.

Children always rise to the occasion. I love it when a child comes up to me and says either ‘Wow! I wrote this!’ or ‘Great, we haven’t done anyway work today’ – as it hasn’t felt like work, even though creative writing is very demanding. One of my favourite ever Finales in a school was in a Boy’s Prep school (though my favourite schools tend to be inner city, multicultural state school, obvs) – in which every member of staff – teachers/Totally Awesomes – were in tears as the boys wrote the most wonderful poems.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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.

Posted in A to Z Blog Challenge 2018

C is for Children’s Poet James Carter, #AtoZChallenge #ZtoA

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James Carter

James Carter is an award-winning children’s poet, non-fiction and educational writer and INSET provider. He is the author of over 16 popular and best-selling poetry titles. James travels all over the UK and abroad with his guitar (that’s Keith) and melodica (that’s Steve) to give very lively poetry/music performances and workshops In the last 16 years he has visited over 1000 Primary / Prep schools and performed at various prestigious festivals including Cheltenham, Hay and Edinburgh.

His latest poetry/non-fiction picture book, Once Upon A Star (Little Tiger Press) was BooksforKeeps’ Book of the Week March 2018 and his collections of children’s poems include The World’s Greatest Space Cadet (Bloomsbury), Zim Zam Zoom! (Otter-Barry Books). James’ website is here.

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Here is a fabulous shape poem of his:

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© James Carter

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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: