Firecrackers: An Explosion of Poems, Raps, Haikus, Little Plays, Fairy Tales (and more) To Spark Imagination

Firecrackers: An Explosion of Poems, Raps, Haikus, Little Plays, Fairy Tales (and more) To Spark Imagination

Firecrackers: An Explosion of Poems, Raps, Haikus, Little Plays, Fairy Tales (and more) To Spark Imagination
Zaro Weil

Troika Books

ISBN 9781909991781

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Reviews

Firecrackers: An Explosion of Poems, Raps, Haikus, Little Plays, Fairy Tales (and more) To Spark Imagination5/5

Firecrackers: An Explosion of Poems, Raps, Haikus, Little Plays, Fairy Tales (and more) To Spark Imagination

Zaro Weil

Review

Firecrackers (Troika Books) is a magical and generous new collection of poems, stories and plays. It's beautifully presented and designed with Jo Riddell's wonderful illustrations enhancing the rich array of texts that Zaro Weil has composed.

The hefty hardback book opens with 'Long ages ago' (p.11), a sprightly and humorous take on how the animals first acquired their sounds: 'Long ages ago / in ancient earth time / creatures talked like us / but in wacky weird rhyme //'. So disruptive was their rhyming chatter that the world was driven to dismay: 'The sun roared 'PLEASE STOP' / the moon covered its ears / hid behind clouds / and burst into tears //. The sun (who features in several items in the book) comes up with a solution arguing that 'it's important to speak / in a voice that's your own // Now cats try to purr / pigeons coo-coo / dogs learn how to bark / and cows just say moo //

It was no surprise to learn that the esteemed Jill Bennet had chosen 'Wake up' (p.17) as an opener for an anthology: 'Wake up / morning / has / galloped / bareback / all night to / get here//'. This is one of many tiny poems - little starry fragments of verse - that children will remember and treasure ('Sunflowers', p.150; Shivering crickets, p.160; Winter, p.181 to name a few).

Recurring forms are a clever touch. The poetic duo 'When I was the sunrise' (p.86) and 'When I was the sunset' (p.87) are the first of several &'When I was' poems scattered through the book. Often taking an elongated form, these offer tiny, rich thoughts: 'When I was / a / mouse / darkness / circled / above / my / head / like / a / hawk //'. Children will enjoy emulating these in their own writing.

There are some long, lively, rhyming plays based on traditional stories ('The Three Little Pigs' p.132) is one and some short plays that fall into the category of mini Q and A jokes: 'Me and the Earthworm, a very very short play' (p. 233): 'Me: Where are you going, earthworm? Earthworm: Around the world Me How long will that take Earthworm A long stretch'.

Also drawing on traditional tales are two fairytales. With shades of Rumpelstiltskin, 'Four hundred sheep. A fairy tale' (p.32) tells of a shepherd who has chosen an appropriate name for each and every one of his 400 sheep. No spoilers here but this puts him in a very strong position when he comes to confront a demon who thinks he knows the answer to everything. Jo Riddell's art work is beautifully curated with its uncluttered juxtaposition of images and text. Look, for instance, at the two page spread given to 'Two cats' (p.114) playing in the snow 'arching / circling / rolling like it was / summer and / goldenrod had / flown in their noses //'. Cat paw prints work their way across the pages up to the two expressively tumbling cats in the top right.

Most of the illustrations are black and white on white pages but there's the occasional reverse effect as in 'Owl's haiku' where the haiku is suspended in a white moon in the black night sky: 'Waiting / stillness rules / will the moon appear / tonight / will my shadow soar //'. This is one of several wild life haikus which conform to the syllable count but have been stretched out over more than the conventional three lines.

You would think that there are already enough repetitive, list-like poems written for children but 'The Paper Bag' (p.54) is a fitting final note for this review. With the simple and powerful repetition of 'Fill up a paper bag with....' imaginative and thought-provoking ideas are assembled: ...spring sounds and / open it in December /'. 'Fill up a paper bag with / your favourite words and / shake it until a good story comes out / and finally... 'Fill up a paper bag with / velvet / just to have it //'.

I want to fill up my paper bag with even more of her poems.

240 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Reviewed by: Alison Kelly