Books for National Poetry Day October 2nd 2014

It’s National Poetry Day on Thursday 2nd October so celebrate by introducing a bit of poetry into your or your students’ lives. Poetry can be found in all sorts of children’s books from picture books to books for young adults. Julia Donaldson, for example, can’t seem to resist using rhyme in her picture books. And although these come in very handy for phonics teaching, I’m going to list a few recommended books which either play with the traditional idea of what poetry should look like or are just a pleasure to read and have tripping over your tongue.

Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

Love That Dog is a remarkable book for all ages. A mix of poetry, diary and novel, this book follows a boy called Jack and his experiences of reading and writing poetry.  He starts out hating it:

September 21

I tried.
Can’t do it.
Brain’s empty

and gradually finds himself enjoying it:

February 21

That was so great
those poems you showed us
where the words make the shape
of the thing
that the poem
is about-
like the one about an apple
that was shaped like an apple
and the one about the house
that was shaped like a house

The book also includes the poems that Jack learns in class and writes about in his diary. The story also follows Jack’s relationship with his dog who features (somewhat tragically) in his poetry. Highly recommended. Hate That Cat is the follow-up.


Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde by Joyce Dunbar

This is a beautiful picture book for ages 3+ acknowledging the dual personalities of cats. The text really rolls around in your mouth:

This is Puss Jekyll
Hear her purr
As she grooms
Her fur,
Or curls
On my lap
For a nap


Now comes Cat Hyde
A warning in her
Sharp-toothed yawning.
Devil cat, fiend
Schemer and spoiler
Of dreams.
Not for her the quick
Clean kill
But a long, lingering
Merciless thrill.

Goldilocks on CCTV by John Agard

This a collection of re-worked fairy tales by the wonderful John Agard with illustrations by Satoshi Kitamura for ages 11-14. Well-known tales and characters are brought starkly into the modern world with Agard’s trademark staccato style. The book would be a useful tool for showing students that poetry is playful and doesn’t need to be about rules:

Golidlocks on CCTV
How she vandalised a chair
in the nursery
then tried out their jacuzzi
not to mention the towels
marked His and Hers.
And everywhere a trail
of golden curls mixed with fur.
A forensic goldmine
It appears the police found her
in perfect slumber
at the scene of the crime-
which wasn’t very clever.

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

This is a highly orignal piece of fiction for ages 11+ which is written as a series of poems. The story revolves around 12 year old Kasienka, a Polish girl who has just arrived in England with her mother, and her struggles to adapt to her new life. The use of poetry to relay the story, rather than a flowing longer narrative, works to mirror the tentative, halting and often baffled voice of the narrator:

Mrs Warren asks, ‘Do you speak English, dear?’
Crouching down,
Resting her hands on her knees
As though summoning a spaniel.
Her voice is loud
And clear,
Her tongue pink
and rolling
I nod and Mrs Warren smiles,
Then sighs,
‘So what’s your name, dear?’ Mrs Warren asks,
And I’m glad, because I was afraid she had mistaken
Me for someone called Dear,
And that I would have to
Respond to that name
For ever.


Does anyone else have a book they would like to recommend for National Poetry Day?

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