Martin West, director, Troika Books

In the past two years Troika has been working towards making our poetry books more eclectic, more challenging, and more sumptuous for the reader to enjoy. We think poetry is a literary gift and that the whole book should reflect this in cover presentation and interior design and format and production. So in our illustrated collections we’ve striven to find the right illustrator to suit the tone, nuance and imagination of the poet’s work.

In 2020 we published Dom Conlon’s quirky collection celebrating the mysterious and magical moon, This Rock, That Rock, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz who captures Dom’s lunar delight and infatuation perfectly.

Emma Wright of Birmingham based independent The Emma Press, is excited about Bicki-Books.

We published Bicki-Books at the start of 2020. The Bicki-Books are a really unique series, with almost too many interesting things about them to describe.

At first glance, they are little picture-books, about the size of a postcard. Each one contains a poem, spread out across pages and put into a picture-book format by the illustrator. But also, each one has a different illustrator, working in a very different style, from papercuts to colouring pencils to embroidery to digital collage. And they’re translated from Latvian!

So: they’re miniature, translated, beautifully-illustrated, poetry picture- books, and there are currently twelve of them (in Latvia there are 101, but we’re not quite there yet – The Emma Press published six last year and six this year). As a fun bit of background, they are the brainchild of Ruta Briede, a lecturer at the Art Academy of Latvia, as a way of sharing the classic poems of her childhood with her daughter. Many of the original books had gone out of print, so the Bicki-Books were a way of bringing these poems to a new generation of children – and now they are available to children in the UK too.

Dreamlike, inventive, and magical, Sue Hardy Dawson’s If I were Other than Myself, was published in April. It is beautifully illustrated by Sue herself, the soft gentle but always surprising images reflecting the language in Sue’s inimitable imagination.

Coral Rumble’s brilliant new collection, Riding a Lion, was published in August. Coral’s writing reflects on our ever-changing moods capturing a rich collage of experiences, emotions and thoughts and Emily Ford’s illustrations perfectly match the poetic exuberance and moods with their lightness, flightiness and unexpected imagery.

Shauna Darling Robertson’s first collection for children, Saturdays at the Imaginarium, was published in September. Shauna’s work celebrates creative thinking and encourages curiosity and revels in the pleasure of looking at things from a new perspective. Jude Wisdom’s illustrations evoke the characters and the worlds Shauna so inventively creates and adds an extra layer of pure imagination and surrealism to it all.

Everyone falls in love with the Bicki-Books when they see them and hold them in their hands – they’re an adorable size, and little children love sorting through them and poring over the detailed illustrations. They’re suitable for children aged 3+ because of the size and the artwork, but the poems themselves are pitched at slightly older children, so they work as gifts for 6+ too.

We are delighted to be releasing the first paperback edition of the widely praised and much lauded Firecrackers by Zaro Weil, illustrated by Jo Riddell. In October our Poetry Guide, A handbook for teachers and librarians, written by Bernard Young and Trevor Millum, will support the incredible efforts of school librarians, teachers and public librarians to teach and promote poetry to children.

Looking forward to spring 2021 we are very excited to be publishing, Little Light, a poetic novel by Coral Rumble. This is an inventive and evocative story of a young girl called Ava facing daily challenges in her life and how she overcomes them. In a seamless poetic narrative Coral creates a world peppered with utterly believable characters and feelings and highlights very sensitively the dilemmas and challenges some young people face as they grow up.

The Bicki-Books we published this year (numbers 7-12) feature translations by Kate Wakeling, author of CLiPPA-winning Moon Juice, Žanete Vevere Pasqualini and Kaija Straumanis, and the poems are wonderfully lively. For example, in Secret by Jazeps Osmanis – illustrated by Ingrida Picukane – a boy takes a long time to swear his mother to secrecy but ends up forgetting the big secret, and the illustrator has hidden a riddle throughout the illustrations.

A lot of people’s favourite is I want a little puppy dog by Ilmars Šlapins,

illustrated by Darta Stafecka and translated by Kaija

Straumanis. It stars a man who is desperate for a puppy and willing to go to any lengths to get one, including kidnapping, but in the end there’s a twist: he’s allergic. The poem is delightful, and the illustrations are extraordinary – incredibly intricate embroidery which was photographed for the book. It’s completely lovely.

You can buy them individually or in sets of six from The Emma Press website – these chunky packets make a lovely gift for friends with children and are perfect stocking-fillers.

Books for Keeps National Poetry Day 2020 9

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