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By Michael Rosenthe 2008 Children’s Laureate

Celebrate the power of words with the 2008 Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen’s, selection of poetry books

Michael Rosen

Red, Cherry Red by Jackie Kay, illustrated by Rob Ryan (Bloomsbury, £6.99 PB)

Red, Cherry Red by Jackie Kay

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; read aloud.

What a delight to have another collection from Jackie Kay. It’s hard to find poems by women who talk to children about their childhood with seriousness and tenderness. When she says ‘I’, it really feels like ‘I’. Many of these poems are musical and suggestive, weaving mini myths as they unfold: ‘The moon was married last night/and nobody saw…’ The book is also daring: it deals with love and kissing as nice and important stuff. A CD is included. (As some of the poems deal with more adult themes, Bloomsbury cite this book as suitable for children aged 12+.)

The Carnival of the Animals: Poems Inspired by Saint-Saëns’ Music, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura (Walker, £6.99 PB)

The Carnival of the Animals poetry anthology

See our interactive poetry poster ‘Aquarian’ taken from The Carnival of the Animals.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

This ‘concept’ collection gives you the CD to listen to and responses from 13 poets. So, we explore the lion, the cocks and hens, horses, the tortoise, elephants, kangaroos, fish, donkeys, a cuckoo, an aviary of birds, the pianist (!), fossils and a swan. It’s a book full of humour, lyricism and satire along with some sumptuous artwork from Satoshi Kitamura. It’s a book made for imitating: grab this CD, or any other, get the children thinking, dreaming and finger-tapping. Ask them: What did they see? What or who was trying to talk to them through the music? What did they feel?

The Poetry Chest: A treasure trove of original poems by John Foster (Oxford University Press, £5.99 PB)

The Poetry Chest by John Foster

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

John Foster, the excellent OUP anthologiser, has been quietly amassing his own terrific set of poems and visiting schools by the score over the last 30 years. This is, in effect, his ‘Collected Poems’, considerately themed Family/Feelings/School/Bullying, and so on. John has turned his eye on a multitude of topics, from Dad shouting at him, to a powerful polemic against war and arms dealers. A section before the end is made up of poems that draw our attention to the form – cinquains, tanka, kennings and haiku among them. At the very end are some suggestions on how to write poems yourself.

The Hat by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrations by David Whittle (Faber and Faber, £9.99 HB)

The Hat by Carol Ann Duffy

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

I sense that Carol Ann Duffy is reaching out to a younger audience with this collection. Here, there’s a good deal of a riddling, super-playful frame of mind. There’s a nutty simile poem (you could sing it with your class) about a class laughing: (laughing like… ‘the horn of a bright red car’ ... like ‘the buzz of a honey bee’, and so on.) But between the fun and fireworks, we find something like: ‘I believe in sand/because of its thousand whispers/held in my hands’. Rich fare.

My Dog Is A Carrot: A book of poems by John Hegley (Walker, £4.99 PB)

My Dog is a Carrot by John Hegley

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

The cover of this collection is a wizzy, eye-catching bit of design and it does John a great service. His poems are jazzy fragments, fibs, anecdotes, feelings and songs. It’s a great help to have his voice in your ear as you read – a hysterically funny, leering, pausing, emphatic delivery. Every time you find a word that rhymes, give it a nice ‘chunk’ of vocal effort. This is a book that you should have lying about in your classroom as provocation. One moment you are hit by the absurd and the next by a heartfelt blow to the emotions.

Don’t forget, you can win these books in our Giveaways section!

There’s A Hamster In The Fast Lane chosen by Brian Moses, illustrated by Jan McCafferty (Macmillan, £3.99 PB)

There's a hamster in the fast lane

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

This is a jokey pet book, full of gags and laughs from a wide range of poets – including Valerie Bloom, David Harmer, Ian Souter, and many more.

_Blethertoun Braes: Manky Mingin Rhymes fae a Scottish Toun_ edited by Matthew Fitt and James Robertson, illustrated by Bob Dewar

Blethertoun braes

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; older readers; reading aloud.

The UK is full of languages, but we’re mostly pretty feeble at honouring the ones whose basis is English. Scots didn’t end with Robert Burns and here it is in fine fettle. I would have loved a CD and glossary.

How to Embarrass Teachers chosen by Paul Cookson, illustrated by David Parkins (Macmillan, £3.99 PB)

How to embarrass teachers

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

Tireless Paul Cookson has armed the children in your class with some terrible ammo: a girl notices that when teacher comes back from the loo, she had her skirt caught up in her knickers and a boy tells on his teacher to Mr Ofsted.

The Usborne Book of Poetry collected by Sam Taplin, illustrated by Kristina Swarner (Usborne, £14.99 HB)

The Usborne Book of Poetry

Suitable for: boys; girls;younger readers; older readers; reluctant readers; reading aloud.

Some people bemoan the lack of new books of classic children’s verse, but here’s one published with full-colour suggestive art work. It is not so good on representing cultural diversity, though.

Space Poems chosen by Gaby Morgan, illustrated by David Eccles (Macmillan, £3.99 PB)

Space Poems

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

This collection includes poems to chant and sing; concrete, visual poems to look at; occasional traditional pieces and even a letter to the Sun from Eric Finney.

The 2008 Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, is renowned for his work as a poet, performer, broadcaster and scriptwriter. Since writing his first poem at the age 12, he has been involved with over 140 books. The Children’s Laureate website www.childrenslaureate.org.uk includes Michael’s suggestions on how to make your classroom poetry friendly. Michael also asks teachers for suggestions of poems that work well in the classroom and invites them to share their experiences surrounding the teaching of poetry. (Click “here”: for Michael’s ideas on how to champion poetry in your classroom.)

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