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:
I tried. Can’t do it. Brain’s empty
and gradually finds himself enjoying it:
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. Ravager Savager Devil cat, fiend Sly 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, Relieved. ‘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?