By Author / Illustrator
Matt Goodfellow, Aleksei Bitskoff
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Paperback / softback
What if cats had flavoured fur or if you swallowed the sun? What if you were a special kind of badger or if you found a map to the stars? And what if your home was split during the week: one half at Mum's, the other half at Dad's?
'Those who love poetry should snap up Matt Goodfellow's rich and vivid new collection...' (The Guardian)
'Matt Goodfellow is a fresh voice on the children's poetry scene.' (Pie Corbett)
Packed with brilliant poems that explore a whole range of themes from the downright silly to the sensitive, this collection will delight, enthuse and resonate with children and adults alike. Winner of the 2020 North Somerset Teachers' Book Award for best children's poetry book
What could be better than some Bright Bursts of Colour in these difficult times? Matt Goodfellow's latest publication is a much needed pallet of colour and emotion. There's a wonderful poem towards the end of the collection celebrating story time: 'Still Aloud' (p.92). In a prescient image, Aleksei Bitskoff's illustration shows a small group of children socially distanced around a clock face listening raptly to their teacher as she reads a story. The poem is worth quoting in full: 'the magical minutes / that finish our day: /gather together / Miss Davies will say / lessons are over / now what we need / is freedom / and wonder / sit down / I will read //.
The wonder of reading features in an early poem 'Poetry' (p.10) which could arguably be seen as a contents page for the anthology. For its first verse, 'poetry in motion: /elegant and smooth/', look no further than 'The Clouded House' (p. 64). This beautifully shaped poem takes the reader into different weather themed rooms: 'the room of snow / sparkles / takes you in its arms / settle down beneath the stars / far away from harm /'. And the optimism at the end of the final room really does make this a poem for our times: 'one more door / is all that's left / I'm waiting there for you / through the gloom / my favourite room:/ sunlight breaking through//'
'poetry commotion: / noisy, loud, rude' could be the heading for 'Nuts' (p.71) in which a squirrel noisily declares its need for NUTS! NUTS! NUTS!. This is a poem yearning to be performed! Then there's 'poetry promotion: / words are going up'. There's so much zany, fun word play that it's hard to choose. I loved the hilarious, tongue twisting 'A Special Badger' (p.21) and the more reflective 'just words' (p.22): I toasted a word: fiery, hot / loosened a word from a fisherman's knot /.'
At the risk of over-contriving this 'contents page', I'll let the next two verses speak for themselves: 'poetry in ocean:/ salty, cold, drippy/ poetry in lotion:/ dangerously slippy'.
But 'poetry emotion: pull yourself together' is captured in so many poems in the collection which opens with the poignant 'The Sometimes Song' with its subtle, suggestive use of the past tense: 'sometimes when it seems like / darkness might have won / we sometimes sing the sometimes song / the one we sang with Mum //'.
In 'Missing Lessons' (p. 11), there are undertones of worry cut through by a child's acute observations of the ordinary as she makes her way to what seems to be worrying doctor's appointment. The celebration of a 10th birthday in 'Ten' (p.15) surrounded by family members is particularly poignant at this time of lockdown. And the last verse 'poetry devotion: / in our hearts forever//', whilst being about the resonance and persistence of the poetic voice, also chimes with 'David' (p.32), a beautiful poem about a friend who moves away, the initial loss and then resolution and 'Granpa's Shoes' (p.46) with its simple narrative and the stark, telling illustration.
There's more, so much more in this wonderful collection. Go grab yourself a burst of colour!
96 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant
Suggested Reading Age 7+