BOOKLISTS

Off By Heart: Poems for Children to Learn and Remember
Roger Stevens

A & C Black (Childrens books)

ISBN 9781408192948

Given the new national curriculum's insistence that children should be reciting poetry, Roger Stevens' anthology is a timely and welcome publication for both Key Stages 1 and 2. Here we have a rich store of 'Poems for YOU to Remember', cannily organised according to the number of lines per poem. So the anthology opens with Stevens' own one-line, one word poem (wittily prefaced with a lengthy title, p.9) and concludes with Edward Lear's 'The Jumblies' ('Now here's a challenge.' says Stevens, p.88). All chosen for their performance qualities, there is not a poem out of place here. There are poems from all eras with rhythm, repetition and rhyme ('I went to the animal fair', p.34); drama ('The Witch! The Witch!', p.12); humour ('Owl' p.18); narrative; sound effects ('ZimZam Zoom!' p.66). Some simply revel in their language, whether it is tongue twisting ('Eletelphony', p.45) or simply lyrical ('Weave me a Poem', p.32). Some poems are accompanied by performance tips and there's a useful section at the end for parents, teachers and carers with advice about how to help children remember poems. Reviewed by Alison Kelly, Consultant

Off By Heart: Poems for Children to Learn and Remember
Stars in Jars: New and Collected Poems by Chrissie Gittins
Chrissie Gittins

A & C Black (Childrens books)

ISBN 9781408196939

The lovely, rhythmic opening poem ('Sky-High' p. 9) in this collection gives the book its title: William's rocket trip to the moon and beyond sees him returning with a 'trail of stars' that he brings home to keep them 'safe in jars'. It's an appropriate metaphor for the poems in this book as they are indeed the stars in jars. Here's an opportunity for the imaginative teacher to set up 'poetry star jars' round the classroom into which children could insert their favourite poems. There are familiar themes here but often with unfamiliar twists. The whole gamut of family characters are represented but grandma - in a surprisingly touching poem - is a nun: 'My grandma is a fun nun / and apart from God's, she's mine' (p.23). There's a twist on the well known rhyme with 'Sam, Sam, Quite Contrary' (p.11) which, in common with so many others in the volume has a memorable, lolloping rhythm. If you're worried about the demands of having to learn poems off by heart, where better to start with the downright absurd fun of 'The Hysterical Tulip' (p.7) which simply requires repetition of the same line...? There are poems that invite exploration of language. 'Birds 1' (p.89) offers a rich opening into the wonderful world of collective nouns. There are poems here that could provide potential starting points for children to write their own versions: there are lists to be written: 'Possible Presents' (p.35); 'For Christmas' (p.136); 'Food Sense' (p.59); there are poems that could be extended ('Boxes at Chapel Street Market', p.60; 'The Listening Station', p.68). I love poems about poetry itself so I was delighted to discover the final poem in the book: 'What does poetry do?' (p.141). A poem such as this can help children feel the power of poetry: It nosedives from the top of the fridge / Into a bowl of rapids, / it crawls along the floor / and taps you on the knee, / it changes the colour of a room, / it puts great wheezing slices of life / into bun trays with or without punctuation./ It manages this all by itself. 144 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Alison Young, educational consultant

Stars in Jars: New and Collected Poems by Chrissie Gittins
The Monster Sale
Brian Moses

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847803665

Moses' characteristic blend of humour, rhythm and child-friendly content runs through The Monster Sale. Its topics and themes include giants, monsters, animals (with a LOT about dogs!) with appeal for all ages but predominantly for Years 2, 3 and 4. There are poems that address childhood fears ('I know I'm the only one awake in this house', p.16) and those that make the familiar strange ('Night School' p.14). Some of the poems lend themselves beautifully to performance: 'If I had ears the size of Satellite Dishes' (p. 32) and 'Travelling to the Beat of a Drum' (p86) are notable examples. A poem about Enid Blyton ('Big Ted, Enid Blyton and Me', p.18) sits rather uneasily in the collection; maybe its appeal is to the adult reader who is lucky enough to be sharing this volume with children. Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

The Monster Sale
101 Poems for Children Chosen by Carol Ann Duffy: A Laureate's Choice
Carol Ann Duffy

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447220268

My expectations for an anthology of poetry selected by the wonderful Carol Ann Duffy and illustrated by the equally wonderful Emily Gravett were high! And I was not disappointed. Here is a perfect balance of well-chosen poems and poets clustering around broad themes. In her introduction Duffy writes that she has 'tried to put together a poetry book that a child can live with for a long time - some poems here are lying in wait for future years'. I think that there are important lessons in this idea of poems 'lying in wait': it is a timely reminder of the different ways in which we read, receive and respond to poetry as our experience accrues over time. It reminds us too of the legitimacy of the different readings that poems offer up and the importance - for us as teachers - of being open to all of these and not shutting down a child's response to a poem because it does not chime with ours. Take Seamus Heaney's 'St Francis and the Birds' (p.40): a first reading might yield up images, movement and sounds. But the closing lines (And sang, like images too flight. / Which was the best poem Francis made, / His argument true, his tone light) offer a shift that may or may not be immediately accessible to the younger reader. The poem is all the better for it and children will relish returning to it over the years. On the subject of St Francis, there is a veritable menagerie of animals present in the volume: as well as birds (p.39, 41), there are mini-beasts (p.21 - 30) and foxes (31 - 33). Check out Duffy's glorious alliterative 'F for Fox'. Here is Ted Hughes' crow (p.34) offset by Duffy's love lament between a crow and scarecrow (p.36). It is the way in which Duffy pitches poems against each other that makes this collection so special: we move from Edwin Morgan's visceral evocation of 'Hyena' (p.42) to the gloriously funny 'Lion and Albert' (p.45) and, finally, to Causley's word play in 'Good morning, Mr Croco-Doco-Dile' (p.49). Poems about cats (p.51) segue into ones about mice and rats (60). Yeats' 'Song of the Wandering Aengus' (p.114) concluding with its 'golden apples of the sun' is followed by Patrick Kavanagh's 'The Long Garden' (p.116) whose opening line is 'It was the garden of the golden apples'. Poems for all the themes are beautifully chosen and it is good to find just the right blend of poetry old and new, funny and thought provoking, rhyming and non-rhyming. Gravett's illustrations are sparse and scattered aptly across the poems. They never intrude, leaving ample space for the reader's own images but adding tiny enhancing touches. For instance, two lightly drawn butterflies accompany Rossetti's 'What are heavy?' (p.142) and there's a small flower with Stevie Smith's 'Grave by a Holm-Oak' (p.136). Neither is mentioned in the poems. On the other hand, 'There was an Old Lady' (p.131) features the entire cast of animals viewing each other in a state of confused tension. Enjoy! Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

101 Poems for Children Chosen by Carol Ann Duffy: A Laureate's Choice
The Dragon with a Big Nose
Kathy Henderson

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847803658

The opening poem in this wonderful anthology sets the tone for a volume of poetry that's thought provoking and arresting. 'Today I read a bus stop' (p.8) offers a timely picture of all the reading opportunities that life offers because reading is amazing and all the world's a book. It is a poem that will open children's eyes to all the reading around them and empower them to realise what an all-pervasive activity reading is. Already an established and award winning children's author and illustrator, this debut collection of poetry has all the hallmarks of an accomplished poet well on her way to more awards. An urban landscape dominates the collection and another early poem ('This is the City', p.10) clearly signposts the theme. There are pavements (p.15) and kerb stones (p.16), a milkman (p.22), a street light (p.26) and even the 'Rush hour bus' (p.40). Alongside these poems, Henderson develops a theme of urban mythology: 'The dragon with a big nose' (p.18), a gutter creature (p.20) and the dustcart is metamporphosed into a 'Dustcart Dragon' (p.23). A powerful poem about an urban fox (p.34) poses a question about just whose territory the city is. Other topics abound in a collection that will have appeal for all (including, importantly, boys). Transport features - cars, diggers (what's not to like about the tongue twisting 'Digger Ditty', p.37) and trains. There are poems about childhood fears, families (including the arrival of a new baby), pets and insects. In fact, there is something for everyone. It is probably most suited to Key Stage 2 although teachers in Years 1 and 2 may well find it useful too. Another bonus of this book are Henderson's own illustrations. The rhythmic 'Look at the train!' (p.38) is bordered by a train whose carriages are represented by train tickets; a strong woodcut accompanies 'Fox' and skilful use is made of graphic skills to complement words as in 'Steel Birds' (p.24) where arcing cranes echo and merge with the layout of the words. Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

The Dragon with a Big Nose
The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
Brian Patten

Puffin

ISBN 9780140384215

If you want a really great anthology featuring some of the best contemporary poets writing for children, this is for you! Brian Patten presents poems by ten wonderful poets whose voices chime with the language and experience of children. Patten prefaces each section with a light-hearted interview with the poet. The book is illustrated - in colour - by talented artists who help to make this an accessible book for children and teachers alike. The anthology contains a tremendous range of poetry so there are poems that children may already know (e.g. Milligan's 'On the Ning Nang Nong', p.18) but plenty that will be new to them as well (e.g. 'I'm not Old Enough Yet' by Jackie Kay, p.109). There are poems to make children laugh ('Mum won't let me keep a rabbit', Brian Patten, p.98) and some that are touching (Kit Wright's 'Mercy', p.29). There are poems about recognisable 'childhood incidents (Michael Rosen's infamous 'Chocolate Cake', p.38). There is verse that rhymes and verse that doesn't; there's nonsense verse and verse that plays with words; there are haiku, shape poems and conversations. Each poet brings his or her distinctive voice to the collection. Spike Milligan's wit and nonsense verse launch the book and this is followed by Kit Wright's contributions, full of rhythm word play and moments that are both touching and hilarious. Michael Rosen's section focuses on family and childhood experiences. Charles Causley's poems are deeply rooted in his Cornish background and draw from traditional themes and rhythms. 'My Mother saw a Dancing Bear' (p.58) is a particularly powerful example of his ability to portray a moving memory: They paid a penny for the dance, / But what they saw was not the show; / Only, in the bruin's aching eyes, / Far distant forests, and the snow. Roger McGough plies the reader with his customary blend of rich and witty word play (note the fun he has with compound words in 'On and on...', p.68). Benjamin Zephaniah's poems cry out to be performed. His themes are wide-ranging including his famous plea on behalf of turkeys at Christmas ('Talking Turkeys', p.80) and racism in the poignant 'Walking Black Home' (p.90). Patten's own poems are a typical blend of funny family episodes and more complex material (see 'The Tree and the Pool', p. 104 for a thought provoking poem and the passing of time). Jackie Kay talks frankly about her experiences of racism as the black, adopted child of white parents; strong feelings about this and other childhood concerns underpin her powerful poetry. The Guyanese poet, John Agard, writes poetry that is lyrical and thought provoking; there are stories with unanswered questions as well as chants, spells and riddles. The final poet in the collection is Allan Ahlberg, whose award winning school poetry has made characters such as Derek Drew, Mrs Butler and Billy McBone part of the educational establishment: they are all here. Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
Sun Time Snow Time
Grace Nichols

A & C Black (Childrens books)

ISBN 9781408193006

This newly published anthology offers a welcome reprise for Grace Nichols' first two publications: Come into my Tropical Garden and Give Yourself a Hug, both of which were previously out of print. As the title suggests, this is a juxtaposition ofthe contrasting moods and colours of each original volume. So Nichols' 'bright hot 'floody' world' (her words from the foreword) of her childhood in Guyana is recreated in the Sun Time section, whilst the poems in Snow Time depict Nichols' response to life in England, a section marked with vivid poems about the seasons and weather (see how 'Weather-Moan' (p.91) captures so deftly mid-winter despair!). The anthology holds rich teaching opportunities for teachers at the top end of Key Stage 1 and in Key Stage 2. Running through the new National Curriculum is a strand of requirements for children to learn and recite poetry. Nichols has written mini poems that children will learn in no time at all ('Tree-Money', p. 82; 'Snowflake', p.86) and her distinctive and memorable rhythms ensure there are poems here begging to be performed and easily committed to memory. ('Sea Timeless Song', p.50; 'Crab Dance', p.51; 'In with the rhythm', p.68). For teachers seeking poems about the weather, they are here in abundance for all seasons ('Sun is Laughing', p.55; 'First Spring', p.58; 'Autumn Song', p.81; 'Storm Man', p.88; 'Hail Me!', p.90 to name only a few). It's hard to do justice to the range and scope of Nichols' work. She captures so much with her economical, dialect rich language and her themes are wide-ranging. This is a book to buy and have at the ready at all times! Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Sun Time Snow Time
Hello H2O
John Agard

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444917727

The blurb on this intriguing collection tells the reader that the poems 'will bring out the scientist in you!'; equally, you could argue that the collection will bring out the poet in the scientist. But whichever way you cut it, this is a delightful assembly of poems that bring together science and poetry in John Agard's inimitable style. The synergy between fact and imagination is deftly, often amusingly, handled. Take, for example, 'When it's Freezing' (p.6) whose first verse teaches us that ...it's my lungs / releasing water vapour, / clouding up my glasses / by what's called condensation. This is counterpointed in the second verse: But I like to think / my mouth / is an Aladdin's lamp / and from my throat / a genie of smoke / is soaring. Similarly, in 'It's sad when a kite's...' (p.16) the concept of aerodynamics is couched around the downward descent of a kite: Your flying dragon / now fully earthbound. / Your singing bird / has lost its tongue... And don't miss the wonderful 'Melting point' (p.27) which - extraordinarily in a poem about melting points - evokes humour and pathos in just 12 lines. Agard doesn't shy away from scientific issues: 'Two of one' (p.18), a gentle pastiche of 'Little Bo Peep' (Little Bo Peep / has lost her cloned sheep) and 'Radium and Madam Curie' (p.70) both make the reader pause for thought. 'Footsteps in my Lab' (p.76) is a touching tribute to American Indian medicinal traditions. Useful notes at the end of the book fill gaps for those of us who are less confident about the scientific content but none of the poems rely on pre-knowledge. They happily stand alone and could be read as an introduction to a topic. Try 'A Watt?' (p.20) as a great way into work on electricity. Kitamura's illustrations subtly complement the poems so a poem like 'Photosynthesis' (p.61) is enveloped with lightly drawn leaves. It would be easy for a book like this to take itself too seriously but Agard's touch is light and apt. Here is 'Photoysnthesis': When sunlight dances / on the tips / of leaves and plants for joy / open their lips / to drink it in and the breeze / makes a violin / of every tree and even weeds / one by one / cry out for a kiss of light and carbon - / a sheer spree of green. / Is this what they mean by photosynthesis?' In a similar vein, 'Einstein, The Girl who hated maths' takes on the world of mathematics. Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Hello H2O
The Poetry Store
Hachette Children's Books

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9780340893869

All student teachers and teachers need at least one really sound poetry anthology at their fingertips. For anyone feeling nervous about choosing the right poem for the right curriculum occasion, Paul Cookson's compilation will prove to be an invaluable ally. As the sub-title says, this is a 'one-stop shop for poems!'. The book is organised thematically with a usefully wide range of topics. As well as common subjects ('Brothers and sisters', 'Mums and Dads'), we also find 'Mythical beasts', 'Computers and Electronics' and 'Transport and Travel' (to name only a few). Such a range of themes offers exciting possibilities for integrating poetry across the curriculum. The poets are well-chosen with a good blend of old and new: so we have Emily Bronte and RL Stevenson as well as Agard, Zephaniah and other contemporary favourites. The addition of dates would have been helpful in this respect as would the inclusion of more translated works. As well as the usual indexes of poets and first lines, there is a really useful additional one for 'types of poem'. Similarly wide-ranging (from 'Chaucerian roundel' through 'conversation', 'elegy' to 'free verse), this provides another helpful short cut for the pressed teacher. I do have some reservations. Unlike anthologies such as The Utterly Brilliant Book of Puffin Poetry and 100 Best Poems, The Poetry Store is not illustrated and is printed on poor quality paper. Presumably this keeps the cost down as there are many more poems here than in either of the other two volumes. There is the occasional editing slip (RLS built a 'sip' rather than a 'ship' in 'A Good Play' p.73!) and, just occasionally, a weak poem seems to have edged its way in for the sake of the theme (e.g. 'Mr Flack', p.69). Also, whilst collections such as these are a great stand-by for teachers nothing really beats developing your repertoire of favourite poets and poems through reading single-authored collections (some of which are reviewed in this section of Reading Zone). Sometimes tracking down the right poem is part of the pleasure! Essentially, this is a resource book for teachers rather than an anthology for children to pore over. That said, Paul Cookson has done a wonderful job of capturing poems and poets for all occasions. Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

The Poetry Store
My Rhino Plays the Xylophone: Poems to Make You Giggle
Graham Denton

Featherstone

ISBN 9781472904560

For a collection of sheer silliness and rhyming fun you need look no further than this new anthology by Graham Denton. The title poem (p.8) heralds the tone and flavor of whats to come: My rhino plays the xylophone,/ my tiger plays the lute, / my lemur picks a lyre / and my llama plucks a lute... This anthology would sit happily in a Key Stage 2 book collection with poems for the more and less experienced reader. The teacher will only need to read a few out loud to whet the children's appetites and give them a feel for the range, particularly in terms of length. There are many poems that will easily be committed to memory ('On the Very First Valentine's Da...', p.82: 'What the caveman gave his missus - / lots and lots of ughs and kisses'.) and others that would be great to perform ('I'm Talented at Everything' p.32 and 'Fear of...' p.46 to name just two). Word play lies at the heart of many of the poems. In 'I've Pegged a Fried Egg to the Table' (p.21), it's the idea of bolting down food, revealed in the final line that drives the poem with its zany use of ideas and vocabulary that do not collocate: I've fastened the fruit and the fritters, / I've padlocked the peas and the pies. / I've jammed tight the jam tarts and jelly...Denton delights in final line impact giving many of the poems a satisfying narrative finale; in 'I'm Trying to Draw a Dinosaur', the difficulties encountered by the artist are explained in the final two lines: but what is more important is.../ your dinosaur keeps still! Many of the poems are rich with potentially new vocabulary, admirably scaffolded by the weight of the rhyme. Reading and re-reading poems like these leads children happily into the scrutiny of rhyming words thus enhancing their spelling prowess. Lots of laughter and lots of learning potential: what's not to like? Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

My Rhino Plays the Xylophone: Poems to Make You Giggle

ISBN 0000000000001

From their earliest years, children love the sounds, rhythms and patterns of poetic language that they meet in nursery rhymes, games and stories. From infancy, singing games provide the beat that makes us want to dance, nursery rhymes and stories offer familiar patterns of language grab our attention, lullabies give us the reassuring feelings of being warm, secure and loved while games such as Incy Wincy Spider or I'm a Little Teapot make us laugh as we join in with all the actions. Poetry engages, amuses and excites us, introduces a pleasure with words that can last a lifetime. Few other language experiences prepare us more effectively for future literacy learning and primary teachers who feed children's initial love of poetry will find that those early experiences develop as children become readers and writers themselves. However, not all teachers feel confident to teach poetry. Reading and writing poetry in the primary classroom should be rewarding experiences for all concerned, but too often, many colleagues are unsure how to include poetry in their planning. It is pleasing, therefore, to receive a copy of Poetry Train which is described as 'the essential guide to using poetry in the classroom at Key Stages 1 and 2'. This invaluable resource provides a straightforward and practical approach set of teaching ideas that can be used directly from the book. Compiled by poets, David Harmer and Roger Stevens, the ideas, activities and approaches they share are based on time spent working successfully with children. Any teacher could try out, or adapt, the many suggestions within their own classroom. Director of the Poetry Society, Judith Palmer, points out in her introduction that teachers are encouraged, once they feel more confident, to 'pull these activities apart, mix and match sections, scrap bits and add bits' and, most importantly, let the exploration of language be a pleasure for all. Download the resource for free at www.poetry society.org.uk/education, or contact: educationadmin@poetrysociety.org.uk for more information. Reviewed by Prue Goodwin, Literacy Consultant