For our Book launch, we asked a few young people to read some of the poems from Being Me, which they did beautifully. Here is The Quiet Child, by me, read by Polly, from Being Me, Poems About Thoughts Worries and Feelings, Otter Barry Books.
Are you a teacher? Do you have a class you’d like to introduce to female and male historical heroes – via shape poems?
Are you free at 9:30 am on the 22nd of April?
Are you a shape poem fan?
If so. come and find out how penicillin was discovered (by being messy!), why Shakespeare is so loved, who invented the first sliced loaf of bread, or the system known as the Socratic method still used to solve crime today, and hear why Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat on that bus!
There are 20 female and 20 male heroes in the book, and many of the poems will be read by their authors – me, Matt Goodfellow, Roger Stevens, John Dougherty, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Jan Dean, Cheryl Moskowitz, Chitra Soundar, Dom Conlon, Shauna Darling Robertson, Kate Wakeling, Laura Mucha, Myles McLeod, Suzy Levinson, and Penny Kent – all hosted by Gaby Morgan, Editorial Director at Macmillan Children’s Books
At the same time as the readings, you will also see the wonderful shape poems themselves!
Opportunities to ask the poets questions included, FREE!
In fact the whole event is free, get your tickets here:
Yes, today is the day this book arrives in the shops!
I can’t thank the poets who sent poems and shapes and ideas for shapes enough – or Gaby Morgan at Macmillan who is always so brilliantly helpful.
I’m really pleased with the resulting book – it has a fabulous, shiny cover, and 40 hero poems inside, twenty women and twenty men who helped shape the world, in a variety of voices and all the poems are shaped to represent the people, an aspect of their lives or life’s work.
Here’s an example from the book – Penny Kent’s fabulous poem about Ravi Shankar. Each poem has a mini-biography alongside the shape:
Shaping the World is available at all good bookstores of course!
I thought I’d post some poems about books – this one is inspired by Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay. I hope it makes you want to read it and then recommend it to others!
How do you view pandas? As chubby cute bears that chomp bamboo all day? Well, prepare to be surprised:
This poem is about a leafy sea dragon!
Hello again! It is still National Poetry Day – if you haven’t seen the video of the poem I wrote especially for NPD, as I am a National Poetry Day Ambassador – see the entry before this on the home page!
I was also asked to choose a poem to go with mine, and this is the one I picked. The magical The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House, by Thomas Hardy.
The day of deliciousness for poets is nigh and getting nigher. National Poetry Day’s theme this year is vision, and I have a few poetry films to share up until the day.
In fact they are all bird poems.
Today it is the Curlew – the curlew is a rare and getting rarer sight, in fact it has just been declared endangered in the UK.
Hope you enjoyed that.
The National Poetry Day website is FULL of poets and poems and lesson plans and posters and general poetic delightfulness if you’d like to visit and find something to see or use on National Poetry Day.
On International Poetry Day I produced a video of films about animals for a school – here’s one of the poems from that!
Aged 9, Severn Suzuki founded the Children’s Environmental Organisation. In 1992, long before Greta Thunberg, aged 12, she and three friends raised the money to travel from Canada to speak at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, to fight for their future and give a young person’s perspective on environmental issues. In 1993, she was honoured in the United Nation’s Environment Programme’s Global 500 Roll of Honour. Sill fighting for the environment, she is now also a speaker, television host and author.
A Child Speaks
like my breath on a windowpane
you would think
this clear view
would help them see
maybe the last, gentle orangutan?
perhaps the ocean
lapping with plastic bottles?
possibly the last bee?
we save the rights
of those with a voice
but we are the undefended
the last tiger walking
and all the adults do is talk
© Liz Brownlee
I’m posting lots of empathy poems today! Here is one about snow, and small gifts. This poem is in Be the Change, Poems to Help You Save the World, written with Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens, Macmillan.
in lilting flight,
as cold as stars,
the soundless white
of drifting feathers
to sing the songs
that snowflakes sing,
of how small gifts
of peace and light
can change the world
in just one night.
© Liz Brownlee
This poem is in The Same Inside, Poems about Empathy and Friendship by me, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens, Macmillan
After the bombing
and all are lost
I can carry only
my father’s pride
my mother’s longing
my brother’s blood
my sister’s hope
and my dreams
but my father’s pride
cannot be carried
as a refugee
so I lay it down
when I sleep
my mother’s longing
is too painful to hold
so I lay it down
until my shoes
fall off my feet
and I leave
my brother’s blood
and my own
on the road
as if it is worthless
and I walk
so far and
sleep so little
I cannot remember
so I lay them down
I can carry only
my sister’s hope
which is light
in my heart
© Liz Brownlee
It’s empathy day! Here’s another poem about empathy. This is from Reach the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan, Macmillan.
Helen Keller lost both her sight and hearing as a baby. She became very frustrated as a child, living in silence and darkness until her family employed Anne Sullivan. Despite being partially blind herself, she cleverly found ways to help Helen communicate. Anne was Helen’s teacher, support and companion for the next 49 years until she died – by then, she had enabled Helen get to college, learn to type, speak, get married, tackle social and political issues, including women’s suffrage, and write a book.
Anne Sullivan, Teacher to Helen Keller
I started with the word for ‘doll’,
finger-spelling on her hand.
This child could neither hear, nor see –
how could I help her understand?
To fill the space for song and bird,
all that sound and light explain;
out of reach did not exist
and dark and silence had no name.
Until I spelled into her hand
under a pump – though deaf and blind,
the word for water and the water
flowed together in her mind.
That living word grew in her hands,
gave her ways to hear and see,
let in hope and joy and love
with words that set her free.
© Liz Brownlee
I love making paper chains and thought it would be fun to do one with a poem on.
This poem will be all about ADVERBS. Adverbs answer questions like, how, when, where, etc. Adverbs often end in ‘ly’, but not always. We are going to use adverbs to describe how a frog is croaking.
You will write the poem first and then you will make a paper chain frog to write your poem on!
The first line of the poem is ‘The frog is croaking’ and so the first frog in the paper chain will have the words ‘The frog is croaking’ on it.
The last line of the poem is ‘on his log’, which will be written the last frog.
You will need to choose six adverbs to poetically describe how the frog is croaking, to write in on the frogs between the first frog and the last frog.
Maybe you want to describe how the frog is feeling – you might want to say he is croaking sadly, happily, or grumpily. You could draw your frogs expression to match how it is feeling!
Or perhaps you want to choose some rhyming words. You would need three pairs of rhyming words. ‘Sadly’ rhymes with ‘badly’ and ‘madly’ . ‘Grumpily’ rhymes with jumpily. Jumpily isn’t a real word, but in a poem, you can use words that aren’t real, as long as people can understand what you mean and they fit!
You could use your six words to describe a real frog. It’s up to you.
Here is my adverb frog poem:
The frog is croaking:
on his log.
Here is how to make the frog chain – read all the instructions before starting:
Start with one piece of A4 paper.
Fold it in half along the long side:
Cut along your fold so you have two identical strips:
Then stick the strips together with sticky tape so you have one long strip – make sure you tape both sides. (It’s best to do all this with clean hands, and no crumbs of chocolate on your top which drop off as you lean over your paper… not that this happened to me. Oh, no.)
It should look like this:
Then fold each side into the middle.
Until it looks like this:
Then fold each side into the middle again. Make sure all these creases are pressed down nicely.
You now have all the paper folded into the right number of pieces, but they need to be folded in the right way. Open the paper up:
And starting from one end fold the paper into a zigzag:
Some of your creases will be the wrong way round. Just change the way they go as you fold.
You should end up with a piece of paper that looks like this:
Turn your folded paper round the correct way – with an open flap to the left. Now you can draw your frog! Make sure the frogs cheeks and legs go off of the side of the paper. When you cut your frog out, you must make sure you do not cut round the cheeks the whole way or the legs the whole way, because this is where the frog is attached to its neighbour in the chain:
This is where you must not cut:
Cut your frog out!
And unfurl him – can you see why you must not cut the whole way round his cheeks and legs?
How exciting! Now you can write your poem on him. Because he has two sides, you could write two poems!
Look at your poem and decide if you are happy with it. Do you still like your words? Do you want to edit it? When you are ready, write the poem on your frog, in pencil.
Remember, on the first frog you write ‘The frog is croaking’ and on the last frog, ‘on his log’.
You can of course change the words in any way you like! But check they fit first and make sense. Get someone else to read it. Then go over your pencilled poem in thin felt tip or another type of permanent pen.
Then you can use a pencil to put the expressions on your frogs’ faces! When you are happy, go over these in ink, too. Then you can colour in your frogs with coloured pencils – remember, not all frogs are green! They come in ALL colours!
I hope you enjoy this adverb poem frog chain challenge! Send me pictures if you make one!
*Update* Look! The Red Bubble from Farfield Primary and Nursery School, Bradford, have made some smashing poetry paper chains! Well, done, Red Bubble!
The British Library has issued a challenge to young people to make a tiny book to read to their toys; their instructions are here.
I’ve often made tiny books, sometimes in a workshop after young people have written their own poems, and they are great fun to make!
Here is an easy way to make your own book – all you need is a piece of A4 paper, some scissors or a craft knife, and someone old enough to use the craft knife! If you wish to make a harder cover, you will also need some card, and elastic bands or a stapler.
Start off with your piece of A4 paper – I suggest making two of these folding books, I’ll explain why later!
Fold the paper in half along the long side; every one of these folds you make must be accurate – make sure the corners meet the corners exactly, and press the crease with your thumb to make sure it is nice and crisp:
Then open the paper up and fold it the other way:
Unfold the paper again and fold both short sides in to meet the middle crease:
When you open up the paper after it should look like this:
Each little square is a page of your book. (YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WRITE IN YOUR BOOK NOW, but if you want to do it at this stage, and you are not making a card cover for your book, this next image shows which direction each page will face. The numbers show where the page each square will be in the finished book. So the square at the top left will end up on the outside at the front and will be the cover. The next square though will end up as the back!)
Next comes the cutting bit!
Next stand your paper up like this:
And open up the slit and press the sides into a book shape:
This is your little book. If you are not making a cover, now you can start writing in your poem or story book.
Write the poem/poems first! Remember, whatever you write cannot be very long. You might want to write a line or two on every page. Each two pages when opened up is called a ‘spread’. You could write a poem on one half and illustrate it on the other half.
When you have written your book, you can design your front cover, and write a ‘blurb’ for it on the back. The ‘blurb’ is what publishers call the description of what is inside the book. Make it sound as exciting as you can!
Can you remember I suggested making two little paper books? That is because you can plan on one book, and do a neat copy when you have got it right!
If you are making a book with a cover, this is the plan for the inside of the book:
As you can see, you can write on every page, and you have two more pages.
Now you must make your cover. The cover will need to be made of card, and must be a little bigger all round than your book.
Cut it out and fold it in half:
Don’t put the cover on until you have written in your book. And also when you have decorated or drawn your cover and ‘blurb’ on the back! If you make a mistake you don’t want to have to take it apart.
When your book is finished, lie your book on the opened cover, with the book opened to the middle – you can fix it together using a rubber band if the card is very strong, or staples along the crease if not – staple it from the outside in:
You have written your first book! Congratulations!
Here is my little book of poems that I made yesterday – I have used some wonderful illustrations drawn by the great illustrator Gordy Wright to go with my poems – maybe you know someone who can draw really well who might like to decorate your book, if you don’t want to?
As you can see, I didn’t get the circle of printing quite right when I did the inside line of the poem.
Pygmy shrew and ladybird!
Pufferfish and fairy fly:
Leveret and hedgehog:
And last poem, narwhal.
Here is my blurb!
Hope you like it! Do send your book to the British Library, they want to see them!
Here is my book when it was just one piece of paper – I printed it out on a printer which was a bit fiddly – you could also draw your book on your computer, print it and cut the drawings out to stick them in your book, if that is easier!