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!
Yes, it’s National Kindness Day – so here’s a poem I prepared a little while ago. This poem will be in my new book coming out next May in Mental Health Week.
If you’d like to buy one of my books, you can do it from this page on my bookshop – I will receive a small amount of money for each book bought, which will help feed us hopefully at this time of no income!
This is such an excellent idea – in fact it is in my ideas book so jolly miffed I haven’t ever put it forward! Here are 60 engaging and funny poems ‘to boost reading and spelling’. Each poem is a rhyme that explains how to remember how to spell a word, or how to use the correct form of a homophone – for instance one poem deals with how to remember when to use to, too or two.
Using plenty of humour, repetition and playfulness, the rhymes really do work and I can imagine this being a very useful resource in schools and for parents; I can also imagine young people actually enjoying learning how and when to use these words!
Tor Freeman’s illustrations are wonderfully colourful, clear, and make a fabulous pairing with these clever, educational poems.
Excellent, highly recommended. I hope these rhymes enter every teacher’s lexicon! Published by Francis Lincoln , you can buy the book here.
How do you view pandas? As chubby cute bears that chomp bamboo all day? Well, prepare to be surprised:
Here’s another poem for National Poetry Day, on the theme of visions.
This poem was inspired by the book ‘Skellig’ by David Almond
This is a challenge to write about a living creature in the first person – as if you were that creature. I am going to be a bird – but you could also be a dolphin, a pig, a fish, a dog, or a frog. It does need to be something you can draw, because later, if you want to, you will make your poem into a mobile!
Keep your lines as short as possible.
The first line of your poem will say what you are.
I am a bird!
For your next line, think about what your choice has on the outside – mine has feathers, but yours might have scales, skin, fur or spines. Describe what these things can feel, but instead of saying ‘feel’ say ‘SEE’. My second line is:
my feathers can see the wind
In your third line, describe the way your choice moves- I have chosen fly, but it could be swim, race, jump, run, or hop, any movement your creature makes.
You are going to describe your creature moving ‘through the dreams of’:
I fly through the dreams of
Then you need to think of whose dreams they move though – grass, sea, waves, a stream? My bird flies over trees. So I have decided on:
I fly through the dreams of trees
Next, choose an adjective to describe your subject. It could be a word that describes appearance or movement or emotion. I could say ‘leafy green’ or ‘swaying’ trees. But I have decided on:
I fly through the dreams of lonely trees
That is your third line finished.
This next line is your last line. You will use the noise your creature makes, and say why they make that sound – using another part of the animal. So if it is a dog, your line might be ‘I bark to make my legs run faster’ or if it is a fish, which cannot make a sound, use whisper – you might say ‘I whisper to tell my scales to shine’. My last line is:
I sing to fill my hollow bones.
So now you have a poem – this is mine:
I am a bird!
My feathers can see the wind
I fly through the dreams of lonely trees
I sing to fill my hollow bones.
Hooray! You might want to put your poem to one side for a day and see if any other ideas come to you. When you next look at it and read it out you might ‘hear’ something that doesn’t sound quite right which you can change. Read your poem to another person – that always helps.
When you are happy with your poem – this is the next step! You are going to make a poem mobile. You will need some fairly stiff A4 paper or card.
Take your paper and fold it in half.
Then fold it in half again:
Open it up and cut along the creases you have made so you have four pieces of paper – if you have large writing or think you will need more space, use two pieces of A4 cut in half.
Now you need to draw your animal four times!
Because I’m drawing a bird, I am using my card sideways on because it is a better shape for drawing a bird. Make sure that whatever you draw, you make it as big as possible on the card. Remember, you need space to write your poem line on each animal! Here is how I drew my bird:
Next, cut your animal out:
And use it as a template by drawing round it for all the other animals:
Then cut the rest out – you should now have 4 creatures, all the same:
Now to write your poem on your animals! Write it in pencil first. One line on each creature. Decide where your writing looks best on your shape. Experiment until it looks right. Try writing with felt tip on a separate piece of paper like the one you have used, to see if the pen shows though. If it does, use a black crayon to go over your writing. If it does not show through, use felt tip. This is because you are going to write on both sides of your creature. When the felt tip is dry, rub out the pencil lines.
Then colour in your animals, both sides! Use coloured crayons if possible so the writing on your animals shows up.
Next you thread the animals together so they can hang from the ceiling or a window. Thread a thick needle with thick thread. This is embroidery thread. You could use thin ribbon or string and make holes with something else – put the holes near the edge but but be careful not to put the holes too near the edge.
I have threaded the needle and thread through the middle top of the bottom animal. I have knotted the end of the thread.
Then I have come back through the bottom middle of the next animal up and knotted the thread when I have decided how long I want it to be – a couple of inches is enough:
Then I attached the next bird up in the same way:
When you get to the top bird thread a needle through and knot and leave the end loose for hanging where you want it to be.
Then you are read to put it up! Here is mine – because it is two sided, it doesn’t matter which way the birds turn, you can still read the poem!
I hope you enjoyed making your poem mobile! Of course, you don’t need to make the mobile, you can just write the poem – I’d love to see any poems and any mobiles you make!
So a slight change in direction -we will still have funny poems posted but also – a rainbow of poems, starting with this great funny and red poem by Jan Dean! Thank you, Jan!
Shauna Darling Robertson is 12th in my series of children’s poets asked to give a selection of their favourite children’s poetry books. Every poet is allowed 5-8 choices, one of which can be a book of poetry for adults, and one of which has to be their own. Shauna lives in Somerset. Her poems for adults and children have been set to music, performed by actors, displayed on buses, turned into short films, made into comic art, hung on a pub wall and published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Shauna also makes artwork and loves working with other writers, artists, musicians and film-makers to explore and play with poetry in different ways. Her website is here.
I usually try to side-step favourites questions because I find it really hard to narrow things down. So let’s just say that these books are a few, but by no means all, of my favourites. (I’ve deliberately left out books by my poet friends, otherwise things could get a tad awkward – like, Hey, how come you put their book on your list and not mine?).
The Book of Clouds by Juris Kronbergs, illustrator Anete Melece, translators Mara Rozīte and Richard O’Brien (The Emma Press)
This is a gorgeously quirky book with wonderful artwork. Translated from the original Latvian, it’s philosophical, playful and refreshingly original. These poems suggest that clouds have quite a lot in common with us humans and our thoughts and feelings. Then again, sometimes clouds are “summoned to discuss / things that have nothing to do with us.” Quite right too.
A Book of Nonsense by Mervyn Peake (Peter Owen)
Mervyn Peake had an extraordinary imagination, which he expressed in poems, stories, novels and illustrations. I love this collection because it’s both hilarious and deeply thought provoking. It’s also packed with absurd characters and bizarre scenarios, from aunts who live on moss to toast that’s far too full of bread.
New & Collected Poems for Children by Carol Ann Duffy (Faber)
I’ve always loved Carol Ann Duffy’s poems for adults but it was a while before I discovered her children’s poems. When I did, it was a revelation. These poems are complex and varied and intelligent and spirited and musical and touching and technically excellent and they gave me permission to try to write the kinds of poems for children I really wanted to write, the kind that don’t talk down to anyone and instead consider children as the sharp thinkers and deep feelers they are.
A Children’s Treasury of Milligan: Classic Stories and Poems by Spike Milligan (Virgin Books)
Spike’s a master at writing poems which, on the surface, seem light and funny, but dig deeper and there are some complex observations and ideas there. He’s also rebel and questions things that need to be questioned – but in a gentle way, not aggressively. And, while he’s famous for his zany humour, some of his writing is incredibly sad and tender too.
Everything On It: Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein (Particular Books)
I would love to have met Shel, but sadly he’s no longer with us. He strikes me as an adult who could think like a child. Not childish, but child-like. He really knew how to inhabit a child’s perspective. His poems are boundlessly playful and I love the way he combines them with his own artwork so that they dance a dance together in tandem, rather than starting with a poem and then illustrating it.
Just one favourite poetry book for adults to choose? Oh boy, now that’s tough. There are so many, but I’m going to go with…
Velocities by Stephen Dobyns (Penguin)
I love, love, love the American poet Stephen Dobyns but not many people in the UK know him so I’m on a one-woman mission to change that! When I do poetry performances I often read out one of his poems. This book includes one of my all-time favourites, called How To Like It. It’s about getting older and dealing with life’s changes and longings, and it had such a big impact on me that I copied the whole thing out (it’s quite long) in marker pen across my kitchen wall where it stayed for several years (it was a permanent marker). I loved having it up there because it became a real talking point every time friends came over (or the plumber).
And one of my own – well that’s easy since right now I only have one book of children’s poems (though I’m working on the second).
Saturdays at the Imaginarium by Shauna Darling Robertson (Troika)
My first book of poems for children will be published in spring/summer 2020. The writer Mark Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” That’s kind of the focus of the book. It’s about championing the imagination, celebrating creative thinking, saying yes to curiosity (which I don’t believe kills cats) and revelling in the pleasure of looking at things ever so slightly slant. It’s also about daring to think for yourself – even if that means standing out from the crowd and feeling a bit different.
Shauna Darling Robertson
The Caterpillar Poetry Prize is for a single unpublished poem written by an adult for children. Anyone can enter the competition – from anywhere in the world – as long as the poem is original.
This year the judge is children’s poet Chrissie Gittins.
Details here: Caterpillar Poetry Prize
Chrissie Gittins will judge The 2018 Caterpillar Poetry Prize.