BOOKLISTS

A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young
Michael Rosen

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406373462

What a treat! This great BIG book of poems comes from the work of not one, but two children's laureates and is a delight from start to finish. There is everything that you could possibly ask for in a collection of poetry for young children: Rosen's beautifully judged poems set alongside and in amongst Riddell's bold (and BIG) illustrations, all complemented by BIG, colourful fonts. There's a counting rhyme: 'Party Time' (p.4) populated by animals (some real, some imaginary) and a robot making their way to a little girl's party: 'Ten ten / Where? When? / Nine nine? Are we on time? /...' As we would hope from any collection for young children, there are plentiful opportunities to develop their phonological awareness. From the opening 'Tippy-tappy' (p.1) to the voice percussion of 'Boing! Boing!' (p.8) and the musicality and fun of 'Music' (p.11): it's all here. I particularly like the way Riddell counterpoints his BIG cuddly, friendly animals with charming illustrations of small, young children. In 'Finger Story' (p.20) a huge orangutan on one page delicately extends his fingers to play finger games with the diminutive little girl opposite him: 'Fingers in bed / Fingers wake up / Fingers stretch / Fingers shake up...' Are all the creatures benign? In 'Lunchtime' (p.24) a huge, green dragon towers over a small boy as they munch on sweetcorn together: 'Time for lunch / Munch munch / Time for a munch / crunch crunch... '. The typeface diminishes as the cobs are consumed. The child has slight look of alarm in his face... the dragon looks predatory... Who knows?! There's a narrative thread in 'Once' (p.32) although it's sheer, delightful nonsense: a family of blue beasts - Gom, Flom and Chom - encounter the terrible Berrible who roars 'like the stormy sea' / "Out the way, Gom, / The Flom and the Chom! / Your mom is dinner for me!" This one definitely has a happy ending. A BIG like for this book! 80 pages / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young
A First Poetry Book (Macmillan Poetry)
Pie Corbett

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9780330543743

This is a lively and imaginative collection of poems for younger children at EYFS and KS1. The opening section - 'Fairies, Mermaids and Princesses' - includes some delightful poems by Clare Bevan which lend themselves beautifully as starting points for children to write their own list poems. What could they add to the princess's turret of treasures (p.2)? Can they think of a few more frightening things to add to a list of things a princess fears (p.8)? We already have 'Broken mirrors / Dragon tears / Poisoned apples / Wicked Wands', all of which will excite children as they make links to stories they know. Can they think of some fairy names (p.9)? and what would they keep in a mermaid's purse (Kate Sedgwick, p.14)? And if fairies and their like are not for some children, turn to some great pirate poems (p.148 - 166). David Harmer's 'How to be a pirate' (p.148) is just calling out to be illustrated: 'First you need a hat / One with three corners or perhaps / One like Nelson wears on his column / But add a skull and crossbones'. Similarly, Roger Stevens' colourful 'Pirates' (p.155) would be an incentive for a painting. Children could design invitations and menus for the party in John Foster's 'Shiver Me Timbers! Yo-Ho-Ho' (p.151). 'Speaking Pirate' (p.152) provides a rich opportunity for performance: 'Just shout Ahoy! / AHOY! / Shout Avast / AVAST!'. Other sections are equally rich. I loved the alliterative 'Space Station Countdown' (p.224) and was touched by John Rice's 'Dark Sky Lullaby' (p.228). This collection will be an invaluable classroom resource. It is well presented with a child-friendly font of a good size so it is both a source book for teachers but also one that will sit comfortably in the book corner. Reviewed by Alison Kelly, Consultant

A First Poetry Book (Macmillan Poetry)
I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree - A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year: National Trust
Fiona Waters

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857637703

Wow! This didn't so much slide through my letter box as arrive with a hefty thump. There's something very special about meeting the occasional book of this size and I think that children will be delighted by the book both in terms of content and but also as an artefact. I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree is published by Nosy Crow, in association with The National Trust. The poem from which the collection takes its title is 'Windsong' (p.234): 'I am the seed / that grew the tree / that gave the wood / to make the page / to fill the book / with poetry'. //. Fiona Waters has made an admirable selection of nature poems - one for every day of the year - and, unlike other recently published anthologies that claim to provide a poem for every day of the year, this is unified by its theme which makes it a much more coherent offering. She has also resisted the need to provide any kind of written commentary attached to the poems: indeed, you could argue that Frann Preston-Gannon's beautiful illustrations provide their own visual commentary. Look at 'Birch Trees' and 'Stopping by Woods' (p.14 and 15) - both set white print against a black background offsetting the silhouetted trees; a turn of the page takes us to a bleached out double page spread of snowy poems. Then move to the rich autumnal colours of a September landscape inhabited by Emily Dickinson's apt 'The Morns are Meeker than Ever' (p.237): 'The morns are meeker than they were, / The nuts are getting brown; / The berry's cheek is plumper, / The rose is out of town. / The anthology is commendable for the curation of such range of poems and the ease with which they sit alongside each other. Sara Coleridge's well known 'The Garden Year' (p.12) provides a fitting preface for all that follows. I received this on one of the hottest days of this summer and turned to the poems for August where I was instantly refreshed by the seascapes (p.190-191) and then the cooling 'Lake Isle of Innisfree' (p.192). Swallows pitch across a hot sun to accompany 'August Heat' (p. 196): 'In August when the days are hot, / I like to find a shady spot, / And hardly move a single bit -/ And sit - / And sit - / And sit - / And sit!//. And then how lovely to turn the page again, this time for refreshing rain with a Tigua Song and Grace Nichols' 'I am the rain' (p.199). Schools will, of course, make their own minds up about how best to position this very special anthology in their book collection. My hunch is that it is, perhaps, a book for the library which classes will choose to borrow from time to time. It's a hugely rich resource, not just in terms of the range of poems and poets but also the cross-curricular opportunities offered as it wends its steady, beautiful way through the seasons. 336 pages / Ages 6-11 years / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant

I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree - A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year: National Trust
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! - An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year: National Trust
Britta Teckentrup

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788005678

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! is a collection of animal poems. The 365 poems in this book have been selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. Published by Nosy Crow in conjunction with the National Trust, this book could be seen as a follow up from 'I am the Seed that Grew the Tree'. A clear, easy to navigate book, this is a stunning addition to any bookshelf. Waters has selected a range of animal poetry from classics to more contemporary offerings. All types of poems have been included here and care has been taken to offer traditional rhymes and poems from indigenous cultures. Poets featured include Carol Ann Duffy, Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Ted Hughes, Roger McGough, Grace Nichols, Jack Prelutsky and many many more. The months don't have themes as such, although poems about specific animals have been grouped together on beautiful double page spreads. January, for example, starts with three poems about polar bears and March contains a spread contains poetry about bears emerging from hibernation. Christmas Day is marked with Gertrude Hind's poem 'The Donkey' and Halloween is a celebration of Bats by Randall Jarrell. A collection of city dwellers, squirrels, bees and pigeons, feature in mid-May, reminding us that animals are all around us. Aside from the excellent range and collection of poems, the design of this book is incredible and brings the poems to life. Britta Teckentrup has used a range of techniques to give the animals depth and life. From the watercolour tiger emerging from the forest to a dragonfly resting by a busy pond, the clever design makes links and draws the reader in. The illustrations and design would make a great stimulus for classroom art work. A stunning collection of animal poetry to enjoy as a daily treat throughout the year. 336 pages / Ages 3-adult / Reviewed by Bryony Davies, teacher

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! - An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year: National Trust
How to be a Tiger: Poems
George Szirtes

Otter-Barry Books Ltd

ISBN 9781910959206

Possibly better known as a translator of poetry, fiction and drama and as a poet for adults, George Szirtes was the worthy 2013 winner of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education's Poetry Prize so the stakes are set high for his new collection. It does not disappoint. The title poem (heralded so well by Ellie Jenkin's cover illustration), calls out for children to engage physically: 'The scary tiger roars and roars, / it slinks through shadows on all fours / .... / Pretend this is the forest floor. / Pad, tiger, pad! Now children, ROAR!' (p.32). Equally satisfying is the rhythmic, nonsensical 'The Bear in the Bathroom' (p.34). It also includes direct enticements to the children: 'Let's pad quietly, pad-pad-pad... Let's play it safe. Let's hide in the shower'. There are poems here that could inspire the children's own writing. Take 'Moon Music' (p.19, with its steady repetition of 'is the moon' ('The song that the stars like to sing / is the moon.') Also rich in potential as a model, is a quartet of poems celebrate the different seasons: In the Park: Autumn / Winter / Spring / Summer (p.58 - 61). There are poems that play with language and poems about language. In the first category, 'Swing' (p. 14) playfully echoes the motion of a swing through layout and rhyme: The thing / about a swing / is the wing / and spring / of it as you cling... Flying on words' (p.47) directly addresses the child reader: 'As you grow taller / Your sentences grow and grow, / You're no longer satisfied with want, again, and no./' Towards the end of the anthology there's a section given over to poems that draw from traditional narratives. 'Rumpelstiltskin' (p.72) offers a list of Rumpeltstiltskin's brothers ('Dumplingstiltskin' etc). There is plenty of scope here for the children's own invented names. A rather protracted retelling of 'The Emperor's New Clothes' (p.74) is counterpointed by the pithy 'Sleeping Beauty' (p.81) 'Sleeping Beauty / (what a cutie!) / slept for a very long time / (far too long for this rhyme.) / Then came a prince. She's been awake since.' Fairy tale conventions are manipulated delightfully in 'The Princess and the Bad King' (p.68). Thoughtful and thought provoking, this anthology will be a welcome addition to any classroom's poetry collection. 96 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, teaching consultant.

How to be a Tiger: Poems
The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice
A.F. Harrold

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781526618016

What a treat! This substantial anthology with its vivid yellow cover features 'Spectacularly silly poems' by the wonderful AF Harrold, illustrations by the equally wonderful Mini Grey and a dedication to Roger McGough and Brian Patten. What's not to like? For some serious silliness you really don't need to look any further than this book.. There are four sections of 'Advice mainly relating to...: food, ducks and dessert; animals, giants and the natural world; school life, onions and general knowledge type stuff; the human condition, dreams and miscellaneous other subjects that didn't fit elsewhere. You get the idea?! The collection is prefaced with an hilarious 'Note for the Reader' reassuring us that even if you've read all the advice 'you still get eaten by a tiger in Bournemouth... Then I will happily, without quibbling, refund you the entire price of this book'. More such notes pop up through the book including a DIY Advice-a-Tron. Don't ask. Just get the book! The poems are gloriously and consistently silly, ably supported by Mini Grey's fabulous, full colour illustrations. We are warned about the 'Perils of Breakfast' (p.3). As if the poem wasn't emphatic enough ('Bears are dangerous. / Bears have big claws./ Bears are always hungry. / At breakfast time, doubly so./', Grey's illustration depicts a bear's paw emerging from the packet scattering corn flakes with her trademark startled animals watching aghast. Harrold himself is here; he makes many cameo appearances in the illustrations. If you want to know more about the secret life of cabbages (p.9) or the many uses of sausages when lost at sea (p.12), the answers are here. Note that the advice about 'How to Avoid a Giant who has escaped from a nearby fairy tale' (p.56) is non-existent because 'In fact there's nothing you can do / to alter the odds. / Nothing, no, nothing at all.//'. There's some great narrative potential here as children could speculate about which fairy tale he's escaped from and what might happen next. It's not all silly. There are lyrical, heart-warming moments as in 'Moon' (p.80) seen as a child leaves school: 'a chalk smudge / finger dab / of white on blue / You can see the sky through it / like / your mother's heart / through her frown.//'. There's a warmth that suffuses this book. A colour palette of yellows and greens dominates adding to its sunny disposition. 'Roots' (p. 20) is about a 'good picnic / to which you need carry no food,... you palm up your hands / and drink / the sunshine'//. And that's what this book is: a warm dose of sunshine. 160 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant

The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice
I'm Just No Good At Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
Chris Harris

Two Hoots

ISBN 9781509881048

From cover to cover, this book is full of fun, offering a very irreverent and appealing approach to poetry! Word play and nonsense sit alongside more reflective and thoughtful poems. All are gloriously illustrated. 'My Dessert Tummy' explains perfectly why so many of us can always find room for pudding. Harris and Smith playfully argue through poems like 'I Don't Like My Illustrator' and the picture which accompanies it or 'The Nursery Rhyme - Little Boy Blue' with some words replaced by delicious Greek Food! For a teacher, this collection offers endless possibilities for engaging their children with poetry. Many of these would be wonderful for performing, their bounce and humour making them easy to learn by heart. Using many different layouts and poetic styles, this is a collection everyone will enjoy! 192 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

I'm Just No Good At Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
THINKER: My Puppy Poet and Me
Eloise Greenfield

Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781910328330

It's not often that I get to review poetry collections written by a dog. It feels like no time ago that I was chuckling over Moses' and Stevens' Waggiest Dogs anthology and now the delightful Thinker has arrived. This unusual collection (Pub: Tiny Owl) opens with 'Naming me' in which a new puppy is unable to contain himself when he hears 'Let's call him something cute. / My eyes popped open, and I said, 'Uh-uh! No way! No way! / I'm deep and I'm a poet. No! / A cute name's not okay.' / So it is that the name 'Thinker' comes about, chosen by Jace who is also a poet. As the publisher, Tiny Owl, says, Thinker isn't just an average puppy. He's a poet. So is his owner, Jace, and together they turn the world around them into verse. The poem is propelled by a gentle narrative as Thinker interacts with the family, visits the park (where he coins a haiku or two) and, eventually, gets to accompany Jace to school on Pets' Day. Despite reminding himself of the rule: 'watch, think, bark. / No poems. No talk. /', he just can't help himself, 'And the next thing I know, / I'm jumping up and running, / running to the front / of the room, and I start / reciting a funny poem./' To the delight of Jace, the children and the teacher this precipitates a wave of un-pet like behaviour as 'the cat starts singing opera, / and the frog is walking upside down / and the three goldfish / are dancing in the fish tank, /.' The award-winning poet, Eloise Greenfield, offers authentic voices for Thinker and Jace. Writing about the collection she says: 'The characters grew on me, and I fell in love with them, with their love for each other, and especially with Thinker, this puppy who loves words.' She makes apt use of a range of forms, rhyming and free, finishing with a joyous final rap: 'Going to the house now, / going to close the door, / Got to say goodbye now, / please don't ask for more./ Going in the house now, / my good friend and I, / got to say goodbye now, / Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, / GOODBYE!' Tiny Owl is the first publisher of Greenfield's work in this country. Formed in 2015, they say of this collection that it forms part of its wider programme to promote under-represented voices and cultures in literature, and to produce beautiful picture books for everyone. And a beautiful book it is too! Eshan Abdollabi's vibrant illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the poems. Abdollabi's depiction of Thinker is charming (not cute!) and it is this representation as well as the stylised, collage like illustrations that are so distinctive and make this a very special book. The illustrations are boldly coloured in contrast to the pastel-pretty endpapers depicting Thinker running through blossom as a bird soars away in the sky. This is probably a book that teachers will want to introduce to children poem by poem before adding it to the class book collection. Once there, you can be sure that children will want to revisit it. 32 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

THINKER: My Puppy Poet and Me
Dear Ugly Sisters: Poems
Laura Mucha

Otter-Barry Books Ltd

ISBN 9781913074791

Laura Mucha is a well-established, prize-winning poet so this debut collection for children is long overdue. Thanks to the great Otter-Barry imprint for bringing it to us! With the accompaniments of Tania Rex's bold illustrations, this is a really lovely addition to a class poetry collection. In the poem of the title, 'Dear Ugly Sisters' (p. 8), Cinderella enumerates her completed jobs in a feisty farewell note to the sisters. In amongst mention of the cooking ('bread has been baked, veggies are chopped'), cleaning ('cleaned up the bathroom, cleaned up the sink') and other mundane jobs, she slips in that she's 'married a wonderful prince that I met'. It's a witty start and sets the tone for the rest of the collection. Set across a double-page spread, we see her striding away from the house (pumpkin duly noted!) about to follow a path to a splendid castle. Other poems touch on magic and traditional motifs. In 'Wanted: Wizard's Assistant' (p.88), some delightful alliterative 'Qualifications' ('potent potion pondering') sit alongside the daily 'Job Description' - 'wand wobbling on Wednesdays / thunder formation on Thursdays'. A poem such as this offers a strong model for children's own writing. Then there's a Roald Dahl-inspired take on 'Rapunzel' (p.50), full of distorting twists and turns on the original. Children will enjoy unravelling the three narrative voices in 'Did you Sleep well?' (p.55): the pea (I'm a pea, / not a pillow./), the prince and the princess. Here again there's scope for extending the idea to other stories (Daddy Bear, Daddy Bear's bed...). Another feature of the book that makes this special are poems where additional factual information is supplied to augment the child's enjoyment of the poem. 'The Lonely Side of the Moon' (p.20) draws attention to Michael Collins' role in the Apollo 11 mission: incommunicado for 48 minutes as he travelled behind the moon: '...But over / here, it's just me/ and radio/ silence.// Tania Rex's birds are scattered across the 'Listening to' double page spread (p.26), which brings different bird song to life through an acrostic form (BIRDSONG): 'Brrrrrrrrreeep Iiiip iiiip iiiip' A key denotes which bird matches which song. There's a rich opportunity here to introduce the poem using an audio of bird songs. 'Fleming's Petri Dish' (p.84) takes the form of a petri dish featuring some grumpy bacteria; whilst Pasteur's achievements are celebrated in a mesostic of RABIES (p.85). As an aside here, I wish more teachers would use the mesostic form - it's so much more versatile than the acrostic as replicating this poem in full demonstrates: 'Louise PasteuR / kept kennels of / mAd dogs / Bravely exploring vaccines whilst / Hounded by crItics, / Until a mother bEgged him to / Save her child. So he did.' ('RABIES') There is so much more: poems about family and feelings, food, and the obligatory dinosaur rap (which doesn't disappoint!). But to conclude, I want to focus on a highlight of the book: a poem written in collaboration with children around the world: 'Key Workers' (p.16). This really is a poet for these times and one that children could emulate with its gentle, repetitive structure: You sprint, lift and listen / to heartbeats, worries, / and the puff / and gasp / of ventilators. / You inject painkillers / and courage./ 96 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant

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

A & C Black Publishers Ltd

ISBN 9781408192948

Given the 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
Poems Aloud: An anthology of poems to read out loud
Joseph Coelho

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9780711247680

This vibrant book aims to get children performing poems, alone, with friends and in large groups. It's a fantastic introduction to a wide range of different poems - free verse, riddles, rhyming poems to name but a few. There are poems that personify, poems to be read by more than one person, each poem is designed to make you use your voice as an instrument and really think about the words. I absolutely love the idea of this book, and is well executed - it's written well to guide children through the poetry and exposes them to a great range of vocabulary. It would link really well to spoken verse strands of English, performance in Drama and to encourage group work/confidence. There are fantastic cross-curricular links to exploit, too, you could use the poems as a stimulus for a piece of artwork, write your own 'feelings' poem in PSHE, or investigate the life-cycles of the animals mentioned in science, just as a few starting ideas. 40 pages / Ages 5-10 years / Reviewed by Lizi Backhouse, teacher

Poems Aloud: An anthology of poems to read out loud
A Rocketful of Space Poems
John Foster

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847804860

This energetic collection of space poems has been compiled by experienced poetry anthologist John Foster who has teamed up with the talented illustrator Korky Paul (probably best known for his distinctive Winnie and Wilbur illustrations). Their choice of children's art work for the end pages is inspired. What great fun they must have had assembling and illustrating these poems and what fun their young readers will have with the book! There are narratives: what happens when a Martian meets an earthling (well, actually it's a petrol pump) in 'Dumb Earthling' (p.35)? And what do we think will happen to Percival Pettigrew who en route for Pluto: 'steered left at Saturn / roamed right at Uranus / but missed the last signpost, / got lost in the stars' ('A Space Odyssey', p.13)? There are games to be played. How about a game of 'Squibble-Ball' whose pitch 'must be at least four hundred swardblatz long / And at least twelve thousand / windycrunchwallops wide'? For sheer inter-galactic nonsense and word play (as well as appealing links with Quidditch), look no further. There is food to be had at Peter Pluto's Fast Food Superstore (p.18). Enjoy such delights 'Sixty-legged space squid / From the Galack Sea' washed down with 'Lazorade and Comet Cola'. The final double-page spread consists of mini-poems: a joke, a limerick and a riddle (which takes the form of a mesostic with the letters from 'pluto' embedded in each line). Word play abounds. David Harmer's 'The Worst Monster in the Universe' (p.24) is a lovely example with the reader being warned 'beware the giant ants of Nurdleskip' and 'The dreaded Drob of Droobie'. I have the smallest of reservations that maybe, sometimes, the colourful illustrations that sprawl all over the pages could overwhelm the text. But then, if they invite a reluctant reader in to pore over the book, maybe that's no bad thing. This will become a favourite in the book corner, a worthy companion to the many excellent picture books about space. In fact, maybe it could be recommended reading for Bob, man on the moon (Simon Bartram)! 42 pages / Ages 6-9 years / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

A Rocketful of Space Poems
Blast Off!
Carole Bromley

Smith/Doorstop Books

ISBN 9781910367766

This is Carole Bromley's first anthology for children (published by a new imprint Small Donkey Books) and a very welcome addition to the world of children's poetry it is too. It has children - their interests, their concerns, their sense of the ridiculous - firmly at its heart. The title poem, Blast Off! (p.28), has shades of Where the Wild Things Are although in this case it's the child's refusal to do sums that leads to I-Pad removal and resort to the fantasy world offered by the rocket in her (or is it a 'he'? I like the way the child's voice could be either in many of the poems) bedroom. Countdown to zero 'and I'm off, / heading straight for Mars, / steering with my frisbee wheel / past unfamiliar stars.' And, just as Max finds his fantasy world ultimately lonely, so it is for this child who finds 'I'm hungry and I'm small /' and returns to mum's countdown: 'What on earth are you up to? Right! / I'm counting. Eight. Nine. Ten.' There's an alien in my wardrobe (p.64) appeals to the age-old themes of both imaginary friends and something or somebody lurking in the bedroom: this time it's a friendly alien in the wardrobe who is, of course, known only to the child who nicks tin cans from the recycling with which to feed him. Risk of discovery lurks though because of the moonwalking lessons which leave 'green footprints / wherever he goes / and I have no idea / how I'll explain those.' The final and fitting realisation is that 'he'll leave me / I can't keep him forever. / I'll wake up and he'll be gone.' There are more bedroom secrets in Under my Bed (p.25), another powerful imaginative space for children. Here, it's what is to be found: 'the spider I didn't want to kill, / some fluff, my walkie-talkie doll./ The poem moves in and out of the familiar, ('plimsolls, slippers, outdoor shoes'), the unexpected ('a sleeping cat'), fantasy ('a ghost') and poignancy at the end: 'the lost key from my brother's train, / that friend I'll never see again'. School Dinners (p.30) bridges the gap between home and school. 'I wish I could go home for lunch / and eat a bowl of monster munch.' it starts, before a series of rhyming couplets bring us full circle to the monster munch wish again. There's a canny reference to the things that grown-up say (to no effect): 'Grandad says 'When I was small / we didn't have no lunch at all, / we just did sums and learnt to read / and then went home to boiled swede'. Still in school, 'Golden Time' (p41) offers a fanciful wish list. The repetition of 'I might...' is something children will enjoying using to create their own wish lists. There are other poems in the collection that provide opportunities for the children's own writing. Who is it? (p.20) uses simple repeated questions to structure a powerful three verse poem about an owl: 'Who is it, / I called. / There was no reply, / just a rush of wings as an owl flew by./' The repetition offers a structure that children could use for their own writing. There is a clever DIY Zoo Poem (p.22) which taps into children's sense of rhyme and rhythm as they are asked to supply the missing words: 'I went to the zoo and looked in a cage, / Beware of these tigers. They get in a ......./.' For cross-curricular fun, look at The Six Wives (p.38) which provides a pithy rhyming history lesson: 'Catherine Aragon was first to go; / he went to the Pope and the Pope said no / but Henry was a stubborn so and so.' There is a rich vein of poems running through the book which draw on intertextual knowledge and subvert traditional texts. Unsuitable Nursery Rhymes (p.54) offers well known opening lines which segue into an unconventional twist: 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary / how does your garden grow? / Same as everyone else's. / Who wants to know?' Then there's Snow White (p.67) who has 'nothing against little men / and there's safety in numbers' but nevertheless finds the accommodation a 'tad snug, / it was like living in a doll's house /.' Children will enjoy the complicity with SW when she confides in the final verse 'You know how it went. / The whole prince to the rescue scene. /' Cathy Benson's is a delightful depiction of the little men 'hi-hoeing down the path / with their shovels and picks. /' Equally engaging is her illustration of the three bears (p.70) humouring baby bear ('their spoilt wee brat') by swinging him as they take a walk in the woods while their porridge cools. But, of course, the real spoilt brat in this poem is Goldilocks having her little rant: 'just absurd / bears eating porridge, bears wearing frocks - / next time they're out 'm changing the locks. With its blast of myriad themes and forms, the anthology really does live up to its name! Reviewed by: Alison Kelly

Blast Off!
Vikings in the Supermarket
Nick Sharratt

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9781910200353

Nick Sharratt's unique illustrations will entice children into his first collection of poetry. They dominate the pages providing a wonderful scaffold into the poems themselves. Populated by a host of appealing characters (including the Vikings of the title, a mermaid, pirate, vampire bat and a royal family), there are poems to suit everyone here. 'Fangsalot' is a fabulous bit of rhythmic fun in which a naughty vampire bat sets of a nasty series of fang-growing and biting, only to get his just deserts in the end. In 'Posh Paint' the king and family just can't agree on what colour they should use to cheer up 'dull grey Crumbly castle' and finally settle on a multi-coloured solution, thus creating the 'funkiest fortress ever'. There's lots of scope here for children to design their own funky castles. Similarly, 'The Mermaid and the Shoe' offers rich opportunities for further talk, writing and drawing. The poem suggests the shoe could be used as a boat, a box for shells and rocks and a home for a family of sea-horses (amongst other things): what other possible uses can the children think of the shoe? (As an aside for older children, there are opportunities here for some playfulness with modal verbs: try substituting 'must' for 'could' - 'She could use it as a box...' and see what the impact on meaning is.) I have slight reservations, just occasionally, about the quality of the rhyme and the ease with which it can be read aloud. The delightful 'Vikings in the Supermarket' took me a few goes to get right - but it was worth the effort. Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Vikings in the Supermarket
A Kid in My Class: Poems
Rachel Rooney

Otter-Barry Books Ltd

ISBN 9781910959879

What a lovely collaboration between two acclaimed figures in the field of children's literature this is! CLIPPA prize-winner, Rachel Rooney, brings a whole school classroom to life (and I don't just mean its pupils), beautifully complemented by former Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell's witty and sympathetic illustrations. The collection gets off to a flying start (literally - Riddell pictures her on Pegasus) with 'First' (p.10). This is the annoying child who is always first. Enjoy the laugh-out-loud ending: 'Were she a poem, you'd know where to look: / she'd push her way past to the start of the book.//' New arrivals in school in school should be alerted to 'Tips for the New Boy' (p.14): 'On Fridays, we always bring in a box of Gummy Bears / to share with our friends./'. Endings are everything for Rooney, and here there's a challenge for the reader: that incites re-reading 'Don't believe everything you've been told. / Only one of these statements is true.// Everyone is here: the 'Teaching Assistant' (p.80), the 'Substitute Teacher' (p.78) and a 'Job Share' (p.76) which Rooney uses as a powerful vehicle to take a side-swipe at teaching styles: with Mr Rote the days are 'Got it all wrong days. Rotten and long days. / Days when I feel like I'm failing some test. // On the other hand, when Miss Muse takes over these are 'Soar in the sky days. Bursting with pride days. / Being alive days. Those days are best.'//. As well as the many rhyming poems, there are other forms too. Take 'Fidget' (p.26) which takes the form of a kenning: 'Nose fiddler. Desk drummer. / Tune hummer. Pencil twiddler./' Whilst much of the tone is humorous, the anthology is shot through with tenderness and empathy. 'Seeker' (p.32) is a touching, simply expressed poem about the experience of a refugee child: 'Eyes as wide as continents brim with the water between. / Seeks a different further. Looks back on what has been. /. 'Talking Hand's (p.62) is a dialogue between a non-hearing and hearing child: She cups her hand to her ear / as if holding an empty seashell against it. / I say Listen //, whilst 'Inscrutable' (p.50) is about a child is an elective mute. The poems would stand proudly on their own but the addition of Riddell's illustrations adds another rich dimension. Each poem includes a black and white mug-shot of the protagonist (and these also feature on the end-pages). These are expressive, sensitive portraits. Just look at the sideways glance the child in 'Dishonest' (p.74) is giving the reader, or the eye-popping child bursting to answer every question in 'The Questioner' (p.70). Alongside these, there's an illustration, often sprawling across the pages, in subtle shades of blue and grey. Some are realistic (look at the simplicity of the listening shell on p.63) and add a counterpoint to the poem: in 'Tough Kid' (p.57) the illustration has an imposing shadow of dad over the crouched child (even the hamster is cowed). Others feature the fabulous imaginative creatures who characterise so much of Riddell's work. The poor 'Substitute Teacher' (p.78) is confronted by a class of weird, not completely benign creatures - a not very subtle but suitably hilarious reminder of just how scary supply work can be! And then there's the hamster... without offering a spoiler, look out for the class hamster's escape in 'Accident Prone' (p.18) and his appearances thereafter. It is only right and proper that it's the hamster who has the final word: 'The Hamster Speaks' (p.82). 88 pages / Ages 7-11 years / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

A Kid in My Class: Poems