Give the Ball to the Poet Ed. Georgie Horrel, Aisha Spencer and Morag Styles, illus Jane Ray, Commonwealth Education Trust, 978-1909931008


This anthology brings together many well-known and loved Caribbean voices like Derek Walcott, Olive Senior, Grace Nichols, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard and James Berry, and introduces some vibrant new voices, including the 2014 Forward Prize winner Kei Miller. The collection emphasises the music in the

languages of the Caribbean and the range of poems include the light and lyrical, the thought-provoking, serious and moving. The human struggles, conflicts, and achievements are here celebrated through the theme of sport and includes some outstanding poetry that will delight older children, parents and teachers.

Poems to perform Julia Donaldson, illus Clare Melinsky, Macmillan Children’s Books, 978-1447243397, £6.99 pbk

For a while, learning poetry by heart had been a largely lost art in this country, but the proliferation of performance poets and the Poetry Archive’s Poetry By Heart initiative have gone some way to reviving this art and ensured that more and more children are being encouraged to learn and perform poems. Poems to Perform, collected by Julia Donaldson is a timely

and welcome publication. There are classical entries by Edward Lear, W H Auden etc. but also work by contemporary writers including Julia herself, all of which provide ample material for memorisation and performance. Illustrated with exquisite lino-cuts by Clare Melinsky, this is a book not just for children, but anyone who loves great poetry.

The Language of Cat Rachel Rooney, illus Ellie Jenkins, Francis Lincoln

This is a delicious collection of wonderfully inventive poems. There seems to be a surprise on every page and there’s no predicting what will come next, each piece is sparkling and fresh and new. You’ll not be able to resist turning the pages to find out what the next offering is. Enjoy the unexpected secret in the Russian Doll, the food for thought served up by She Said and the humorous ending of Three

Monkeys. One of my favourite pieces, and there are quite a few, is the deceptively simple, but so clever shape poem, O the Wonderful Shape of an O. As Carol Ann Duffy says on the cover, ‘A box of delights’.

Under the Moon and Over the Sea Ed John Agard and Grace Nichols, Walker Books, 978-1406334487, £6.99 pbk Here is a book that pulsates with the rhythms and sounds of the Caribbean, invitingly show-casing the food, the songs, the language and proverbs, the flora and fauna, the

music and games – the whole

life of the Islands. The poems are divided into five sections, each unusually illustrated by a different artist, which could have resulted in a clash of styles, but somehow

seems to work, appropriately underlining the diversity both in the region and in the poems themselves. This collection is not just for poetry lessons but can be a valuable addition to social, cultural and geography curriculums as well.

Plum Tony Mitton, illustrator Peter Bailey, Scholastic Press, 978-1903015858, £5.99 pbk Tony Mitton’s debut collection has been an enduring favourite with children and has rightfully become a classic, in the tradition of English lyric children’s poetry. Plum is composed of 49 heterogenous poems, narrative,

lyrical, longer poems and

snapshots, contemporary and traditional; poems to suit every mood – quirky, fantastical, thoughtful like Child from the Future or just joyfully silly such as Mrs.

Bhattacharya’s Chapati Zap Machine. Tony Mitton’s extraordinary use of language is captivating, skilfully drawing the reader into the book, so that if you don’t heed the WARNING. KEEP OUT in Forbidden Poem, you’ll find yourself, as in Secret Passage, trapped inside long after the book is shut.

I Like That Stuff Morag Styles, illustrators Joanne Smith and Bernard Georges, Cambridge University Press, 978-0521276375

My copy of this book is well thumbed and though published so many years ago, still gives so much pleasure for the fact that it was such a trail-blazer. As well as the usual well-known names, there are less well known but equally brilliant poets. There are poems from many different cultures – Afro-Caribbean, Asian, African, European,

American … in different forms, from haiku to free verse, traditional and modern. In short there’s something here for everyone. Sadly, this little gem may no longer be in print but it’s one to treasure if you do own a copy.

Books for Keeps National Poetry Day 2020 5

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