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Children love poetry. Perfect for sharing at bedtime, fun time and for children to read alone. Always inspirational; collections of poetry will take the reader into another world.
Reena and Luke’s lives change forever and in completely unexpected ways when they move from New York City to live in Maine. The surroundings and lifestyle are completely different, but the biggest drivers of change are their encounters with a cow called Zora. Sent by their parents to help Zora’s owner Mrs Falala, one of the most doughty and memorable eccentrics in fiction, they are pushed and pummelled (often literally) into becoming proficient cow handlers. There is so much more to learn too, not least about Mrs Falala. The story is told in a blend of poems and prose that is perfect for the story, conjuring up unforgettable images of the characters and the setting. Sharon Creech won the Carnegie Medal for Ruby Holler and Moo is just as original and heart-warming. Congratulations to new independent publisher Guppy Books for bringing it to readers in this country.
March 2021 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | A wonderful introduction to how a modern place somewhere in the UK will have been created over the centuries, this beautiful picture book cleverly records the history of a place as it would look from the perspective of an oak tree. Oaks are famous for the exceptional number of years that they live and their permanence makes an interesting contrast to how frequently humans change the landscape. “I first was an acorn, so tiny and round,/I fell from a branch and sank into the ground./ Then as I grew up, I turned into a tree…/ over hundreds of years! So, what did I see?” Taken together, the simple rhyming text matched by beautiful and carefully detailed illustrations offer a delightful history lesson. The book ends with a useful timeline: "What was happening in the world while the oak tree grew?". It comes right up to the present with the spreading of the Covid-19 virus!
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | From the author of Fall Out, Gut Feelings is a powerful autobiographical novel-in-verse charting a boy’s life-changing operation at the age of eleven through to his hopeful young adulthood as a gay man. Sure to be enjoyed by fans of Sarah Crossan and Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo, it’s both beautifully written and easy to read, with an impactful, unsentimental voice. There’s no self-pity here, despite the harrowing nature of what he endures. Diagnosed with FAP (Familial adenomatous polyposis, a rare genetic condition in which a person develops precancerous polyps in the large intestine), Chris must have a total colectomy. His state of fear, isolation and loneliness is palpable as he describes the enemas and bedsores, and the morphine which evaporates his “maelstrom of fears, failures, social pressures”. Recovering in hospital, well-meaning visitors “have no idea what it’s like/To be confined to this prison, Bars lining the windows, Double glazing boxing me in - These familiar faces have/No idea how to reach me”. Then, once home, he feels abandoned: “The surgery has fixed me - I’m no longer worthy/Of attention and support.” And this isn’t the first time Chris has experienced adversity, for alongside the direct, detached exposition of his present-day existence, we learn of Chris’s troubled background - the father who had a debilitating stroke, the school peers who bullied him. Then, in time, through the darkest of days, comes a turning point when he realises that “Some will accept me, Some will reject me/But I must learn to love myself Because I am done with fitting in” and he shifts towards renewal and hope - “I’ll keep writing, Keep learning/Until I am/Free to embrace Who I am.” Illuminating on living with chronic invisible illness, this story lingers long in the soul, and special mention must go to the book’s design and layout, with letters and words perfectly positioned as visual markers of emotional states. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019, Jason Reynolds’s original Long Way Down novel-in-verse (stunningly illustrated by Chris Priestley) has here been adapted into a glorious graphic novel. The story is as gripping and moving as ever, its atmosphere perhaps even more poignant courtesy of Danica Novgorodoff’s impactful watercolour illustrations. It’s an incredibly poignant story about breaking the cycles of brutal gang culture that will surely now find an even bigger audience. Two days ago fifteen-year-old Will witnessed the fatal shooting of his big brother. The initial smart of his grief is evoked with characteristic cut-to-the-point lyricism, hauntingly portrayed in a murky, lilac-hued street scene: “When bad things happen, we can usually look up and see the moon, big and bright, shining over us. But when Shawn died, the moon was off.” Tragically, Will knows the drill in these situations - no crying, no snitching, take revenge. “The Rules weren’t meant to be broken. They were meant for the broken to follow,” so Will gets his brother’s gun and heads into the elevator to exact revenge on Shawn’s murderer. But at each level Will encounters figures from his past, among them his friend Buck who died last year, Dani who was shot in a playground, his Uncle Mark, his father. So many lives lost to violence, and their reappearance causes Will to think; to question his plans and question the rules.
The duo that produced the cultural phenomenon that took the publishing world by storm in 2017, winning awards and sparking dozens of fundraising campaigns to get The Lost Words into every primary school, have now produced a book very different in form, but absolutely kindred in spirit and every bit as essential a purchase. This is a pocket-sized treasure containing twenty-one new ‘spells’- poems inspired by the natural world around us. These animals, birds, trees and flowers may be relatively common but are often underappreciated and ignored. Whereas The Lost Words had a formal triptych structure to its spells, this collection is freer and ranges from celebratory to elegiac and sorrowful. As the introduction says “Loss is the tune of our age, hard to miss and hard to bear.... But there has always been singing in dark times—and wonder is needed now more than ever.” Acrostic poems with the letters picked out in gold, feature most in this collection, as does the poet’s amazing facility with kennings and descriptive word play shown to great comic effect in Woodpecker “Chisel-gouger, head-banger, bark-stripper, nerve-shredder” Structured as a dialogue with badger one can see how much this lends itself to reading and performing aloud as indeed is the author’s intention with all the collection. The lyrical consonant tones or staccato beats of these beautiful spells is absolutely matched by the harmonious fluidity of the watercolour images that grace each page. From the challenging gaze of the red fox to the eyelike whorls of silver birch bark to the balletic wings of the swift wrapping around the words, the images fix the words indelibly into your mind. Lockdown saw a widespread recognition of the necessity for contact with the natural world to maintain health and well-being. This book is the perfect walking companion with a glossary identifying each species depicted, allowing this small but powerful book to do double-duty as an artful field guide. As Macfarlane writes In Goldfinch, apparently composed while sitting at his grandmother’s deathbed, "God knows the world needs all the good it can get right now“.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Katherine Rundell’s brief introduction which explains why hope is so important and why we should look for it in stories and illustrations sets a context for the wonderful range of very short stories, poems, thoughts and illustrations which will certainly give hope as well as laughs and surprises to readers of all ages. Perfect for dipping into, the anthology is a treasure trove of story treats starting with Michael Morpurgo’s uplifting ‘A Song of Gladness’ and ending with Rundell’s own ‘The Young Bird-Catcher’. Lauren Child, Axel Scheffler, Chris Riddell and Jackie Morris are just some of the wonderful artists whose black and white illustrations light up the pages of this hand this handsome volume. Dedicated to all the workers in the NHS and with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together, The Book of Hopes will certainly bring hope to all.
Magical Poems Chosen by Paul Cookson | Loads of fun, this is a light-hearted and crackling collection of poems which touches on magic of all kinds. Mostly newly written, but interspersed with well-known verses from Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and Tennyson, the poems are bursting with energy and humour which makes them fun to read and also an easy introduction to writing verse to anyone who wants to give it a try. Dragons, wizards, wands and how to look after them, unicorns and enchantments. All this and more come alive in this anthology.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Beautifully presented, this is a fabulous anthology of poems greatly enhanced by wonderful illustrations and a sumptuous binding – including a very useful marker ribbon! Subtitled “An animal poem for every day of the year”, it includes poems which introduce a huge range of animals from around the world. Some are familiar but most are refreshingly new. Some examples I loved are: May 1st, Song about the Reindeer, Musk Oxen, Women, and Men who want to show off, an Innuit song and September 7th The Manatee by Jack Prelutsky – “I’m partial to the manatee,/ which emanates no vanity./ It swims amidst anemones/ and hasn’t any enemies.” This anthology really does include something for everyone!
Two phenomenally talented people are united in this book, and it is hard to know which of them – poet A.F. Harrold or illustrator Mini Grey – had the most fun creating it. Either way, the end product is glorious, an entirely essential collection of poems offering unforgettable advice on an extraordinary range of subjects. Scanning through the index will give you an idea of the topics covered, and how: the entry for banana, for example, reads how to identify a … while that for pencil case is why you shouldn’t muddle one up with a lunchbox … There are three entries for tiger, referring you to very useful poems, including the one that explains just how many tigers it takes to spoil a picnic. Harrold is a master of the absurd, taking ideas or phrases and turning them quite round about and Mini Grey illustrates his poems with an equal delight in the possibilities he conjures up. Most of the poems are wonderfully comic, but there’s space for quiet, thoughtful verse too. It’s a book to fire the imagination and to make you see things in a whole new way, like a poet in fact.
The Post-Pandemic Poem That Has Captured the Hearts of Millions | Written in the form of a bedtime story, The Great Realisation is a celebration of the many things - from simple acts of kindness, to applauding the heroic efforts of our key workers - that have brought us together at a time of global crisis. It has captured, with magical resonance, the thoughts and feelings of millions in lockdown, as we adapt to a new way of life, find joy in unexpected places, cast aside old habits and reflect on what truly matters to us.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Co-written by award-winning novelist Ibi Zoboi and Dr Yusef Salaam, a prison reform activist, poet and one of the Exonerated Five, Punching the Air is a timely, heartachingly powerful free verse novel. Through its shatteringly succinct lyricism, Amal’s story is a mighty call to action that rouses readers to question the deep-rooted and damaging consequences of racially biased societal systems, while radiating the light and hope of art and Amal himself. Sixteen-year-old Amal is a talented poet and artist, but even at his liberal arts college, he’s victimised by destructive preconceptions, deemed disruptive by people who “made themselves a whole other boy in their minds and replaced me with him.” Amal’s budding life careers off-course when he’s wrongfully convicted of a crime in a gentrified area. Even in the courtroom it feels to him “like everything that I am, that I’ve ever been, counts as being guilty”. Standing before judgemental eyes in his specially chosen grey suit, he’s aware that “no matter how many marches or Twitter hashtags or Justice for So-and-So our mind’s eyes and our eyes’ minds see the world as they want to/Everything already illustrated in black and white.” In the detention centre, Amal considers his African ancestry: “I am shackled again,” he says. “Maybe these are the same chains that bind me to my ancestors. Maybe these are the same chains that bind me to my father and my father’s father and all the men that came before.” He expresses society’s double standards with searing clarity too - Black boys are “a mob/a gang ghetto/a pack of wolves animals/thugs hoodlums men” while white boys “were kids having fun home loved supported protected full of potential boys.” But through the beatings and despair, through anger and frustration, Amal finds solace in the supportive letters he receives from a girl in his school, and his “poet, educator and activist” teacher. By turns soul-stirring and inspiring, this sharp exposure of injustice and testament to the transformative power of art comes highly recommended for readers who love the work of Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo. Find a selection of recommended books that celebrate difference in our blog, Diverse Voices.