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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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling | What an ingenious idea! The B on Your Thumb combines two seemingly unlikely bedfellows – grammar and poetry – and to excellent effect. Jolly verses, frequently comic and lots of fun to read aloud, are cleverly full of useful spelling and phonics tips. Struggle spelling ‘necessary’ or ‘separate’? (Shh – I do!) You won’t after you’ve read this book and the two little poems that make their spellings so memorable. Also made fun and simple via fun rhymes are letter sounds, sh, ee, ou, ch and so on. Tor Freeman’s illustrations are as bright and welcoming as the verses and it seems that this author illustrator duo have succeeded in making spelling fun.
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.
A Story Told in Poems | Joseph Coehlo is a poet who has been in the situation of ‘the one to watch’ because he has been producing lots of wonderful work that has made an impact from picture books to teen reads. This is his most ground-breaking and powerful exploration of poetry as a form and as a story-telling medium to date. Based on the legend of Daphne – she was a Naiad-nymph who was loved by the god Apollo who pursued her until she grew exhausted and called on Gaia for help. She was transformed into a laurel tree which Apollo then adopted as his sacred plant. This creates a clever and intriguing interweaving of the ancient legend with the reaction and feelings of a girl, also called Daphne, who is coping with the grief caused by the loss of her father. She turns to her phone for aid, and her local library as she tries to sort out the past and find a way to build connections again. The verse is heart-breaking, powerful, totally involving, and engrossing to read. The layers of meaning enlighten the story in this rich poetic exploration – a tour de force – full of energy and a rich palette of language. This is not to disregard the evocative and powerful illustrations from one of our most innovative and prize-winning illustrators to add stylish, edgy and thought-provoking illustrations. The whole package is an experience that will cause discussion and deep thought in every reader.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | From the multi-award-winning author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High comes Elizabeth Acevedo’s exceptional dual-voiced novel about loss, love and sisterhood across the sea, a story partly sparked by the fatal crash of a flight from NYC to Santo Domingo in 2001. Camino Rios has always lived in the Dominican Republic with her aunt Tia, “a woman who speaks to the dead, who negotiates with spirits”, a woman who’s like a mother to her: “Even when Mama was alive, Tia was the other mother of my heart.” Life’s not easy for them on the island, but they have it better than their neighbours as a result of Camino’s beloved Papi working in the US for most of year. To Camino, Papi is a “A king who built an empire so I’d have a throne to inherit”, and she lives for the summer months when he comes home to them. But all life is thrown into terrible disarray when she goes to meet Papi at the airport and learns that his plane has fallen from the sky, and then: “I am swallowed by this shark-toothed truth.” This story is blessed with such divinely piercing language throughout. At the same time, across the Atlantic, Yahaira Rios learns that her hero Papi has died in a plane crash. She already knew he had a wife on the island (but not of his secret daughter), and has always longed to reconcile her Dominican heritage with her American life: “Can you be from a place you have never been? You can find the island stamped all over me, but what would the island find if I was there? Can you claim a home that does not know you, much less claim you as its own?” When it emerges that Papi wishes to be buried back in DR, Yahaira’s Mami insists that she will never let her “touch foot on the sands of that tierra.” But Yahaira has other plans, not least when she’s contacted by a girl named Camino Rios who bears an undeniable resemblance to Papi, and to her too. As well as being exceptionally affecting on grief, forgiveness and family secrets, Clap When You Land is also devastatingly sharp on the exploitative tendencies of tourism. In Camino’s words: “I am from a playground place…Our land, lush and green, is bought and sold to foreign powers so they can build luxury hotels...Even the women, girls like me, our mothers and tias, our bodies are branded jungle gyms…Who reaps? Who eats? Not us. Not me.” Overflowing with truths of the heart, and truths about inequalities that need to be broken, while also addressing the complexities of what it means to be of a place, I can’t praise this highly enough.