Poetry to make children’s hearts sing by various artists – children’s book reviews –

As Christmas looms on the horizon, introduce your youngsters to a lifelong love of poetry with a super selection of anthologies, brimming with words, wonders and magical illustrations, and the perfect gifts to amaze, inform and inspire.
The Big Amazing Poetry Book  by Gaby Morgan and Chris RiddellThe Big Amazing Poetry Book  by Gaby Morgan and Chris Riddell
The Big Amazing Poetry Book by Gaby Morgan and Chris Riddell

Age 8 plus:

The Big Amazing Poetry Book

Gaby Morgan and Chris Riddell

Big really is beautiful – and amazing! – in a gorgeous anthology, filled with wondrous words, inspirational ideas and illuminating illustrations, from the top team of editor Gaby Morgan and award-winning illustrator Chris Riddell.

The Big Amazing Poetry Book is a warm, funny and imaginative celebration of verse, and the ideal introduction to a mix of diverse poets, from famous names of the past like Lewis Carroll and Charles Causley, to well-loved poets of today including Nikita Gill and the new Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho.

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With Riddell’s superbly detailed and luminous black and white illustrations throughout, plus an insightful foreword from Liverpool poet Roger McGough, this perfect gift book is a rich and dazzling collection of poets and poetry.

Morgan, who has compiled many bestselling poetry anthologies over nearly thirty years, has chosen the ideal pick’n’mix of poems that will intrigue and delight young readers, but also sometimes challenge and puzzle them.

‘Writing a poem,’ says McGough, can be ‘a way of telling others our real lives, our fears and problems, a way of reaching out to somebody.’

And this book is certainly one to treasure with its words of wisdom and emotional intelligence. The Big Amazing Poetry Book features seven poems (one for each day of the week) by fifty-two poets (one for each week of the year) and a biography to showcase each poet. Readers cans simply dip in and out of the book as the time or the mood takes them.

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Packed with different styles of poetry – including ballads, riddles, tongue-twisters, shape poems, haiku (a short form of poetry originally from Japan), sonnets and raps – and featuring poems about seasons, festivals, animals, birds, love, war, food, fish and football and much more, every page is filled with Riddell’s stunning line artwork.

From John Agard, Clare Bevan, Valerie Bloom, Steven Camden, Pie Corbett, Shauna Darling Robertson, Jan Dean, Peter Dixon, Julia Donaldson, Eleanor Farjeon and John Foster to Sue Hardy-Dawson, A.F. Harrold, Michaela Morgan, Brian Moses, Kate Wakeling and Zaro Weil, this is an unmissable feast of visual and verbal delights!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £16.99)

Age 6 plus:

And Everything Will Be Glad to See You: Poems by Women and Girls

Ella Risbridger and Anna Shepeta

‘Poetry is art’ and ‘art shows us what it is to be a person; it explains feelings and ideas you never knew there were words for.’

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These thought-provoking words, from author Ella Risbridger, speak loudly and powerfully in a beautiful, bumper poetry book from Nosy Crow, part of their dazzling Poetry Collections series which has included I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree and Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright.

Lovingly curated by Risbridger, and spectacularly illustrated throughout by artist and ceramicist Anna Shepeta, this thoughtful and inspiring anthology features over one hundred resonant, passionate and uplifting poems by women and girls.

In her introduction to the book, Risbridger explains to young readers why she chose to collect together only the poems of women and girls, citing the long and unfair history of anthologies that included only men’s poetry and the lack of opportunities over the centuries for women to turn their thoughts ‘into something beautiful.’

And so, in the interests of fairness, this sumptuously produced gift book – with its cloth binding, stunning colour illustrations, textured paper jacket, ribbon marker, and head and tail bands – is packed full of the work of women and girls, including some as young as six and seven.

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From well-loved poets like Maya Angelou, Wendy Cope, Lucille Clifton and Christina Rossetti, to newer voices such as Amanda Gorman, Yrsa Daley-Ward and Ada Limón, this outstanding collection has poems for every mood and every moment.

Bursting with colour, imaginative power, and inspirational words and ideas, these carefully chosen poems are fully accessible for all age groups and guaranteed to inspire, delight and empower.

And as Risbridger reminds us in her Introduction to the book, when you read a poem, ‘you get to see the world like someone else sees it. You get to see what they see and feel what they feel.’ And simply knowing that your feelings are shared is a magical experience.

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £20)

Age 6 plus:

When Poems Fall From the Sky

Zaro Weil and Junli Song

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew – with their wild and wonderful array of plants – provided the inspiration for a beautiful, illustrated poetry book billed as ‘a tender and thoughtful love-letter to Earth.’

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Original, life-enhancing and wonderfully intimate, When Poems Fall From the Sky blends natural science and poetry to create a child-friendly riot of imagination, humour and joy... a veritable garden of delight and the perfect book to engage and enlighten young readers.

The collection of poems, which includes raps and haiku, is written by France-based Zaro Weil and is lavishly illustrated in full colour by artist Junli Song, an outstanding partnership which won the 2020 CLiPPA children’s poetry prize for their anthology Cherry Moon.

In collaboration with Kew – renowned for its remarkable plant collections and scientific expertise – this gorgeous book features a wonderland of trees, birds, animals, rivers, flowers, mountains and insects, with each sharing their own magical stories. And the stories they tell, the ‘poems’ that fall from the sky, subtly and powerfully illuminate humanity’s hope and collective role as guardians of the earth.

Weil spent time connecting with nature in Kew Gardens while writing the collection, spotting gum-drop flowers, listening to bird song, following tiny sun glints and smelling the deep-down earth pulsing its wild mysteries under her feet.

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The result is an exquisite, fantastical and eye-popping anthology, featuring 28 poems in which Mother Nature shares dazzling verse, hilarious rhymes, timeless story-poems and heart-warming little plays. From rapping fungi and magical seeds to flying wizards and ten quintillion parading bugs, every page bursts with colour, mystery and the sheer delight of the natural world.

‘I believe that science and poetry are simply meant for each other and that our particularly human appreciation of the natural world is, at heart, poetic,’ says Weil... and who can argue with that?

The perfect poetry book for readers of every age!

(Welbeck Editions, paperback, £9.99)

Age 5 plus:

Things that Should be in a Poem

Coral Rumble and Shih-Yu Lin

‘A weekend of time/ A wide space to play/ I think I’ll collect/ A poem today.’

Poetry should entertain as well as make you think and that’s just what this vibrant collection of poetry does from Coral Rumble, a popular, award-winning poet who has worked as a poet and performer for many years, and now specialises in writing and performing for children.

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‘Did you know, you can bump into a poem anywhere? You find them in houses, fields, oceans, cities, trees...the list is endless! I’ve even found poems in people’s faces, when they laugh or cry, or get excited,’ says Rumble, and there is plenty of inspiration for budding poets in the pages of Things that Should be in a Poem.

The book is stunningly illustrated in full colour by Shih-Yu Lin who was born in Taipei in Taiwan but grew up in a village surrounded by mountains and would often see snow-covered peaks with the sun shining on them.

Using this natural world as his inspiration, he brings young readers a gallery of expressive colour and tone illustrations that perfectly complement Rumble’s warm and exciting range of poems – from funny to thought-provoking – and help deliver a magical blend of words and pictures that is guaranteed to fire up young imaginations, spark discussions and inspire a lifelong love of poetry.

So what are you waiting for... the hunt for a poem starts here!

(Troika Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 6 plus:

Courage in a Poem

Various authors and various illustrators

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Courage grows when it’s shared! That’s the message that speaks loud, colourfully and resonantly in this beautiful collection of verse which showcases original poems alongside existing works.

Courage in a Poem – a book of empowering poetry from a diverse range of authors and illustrators – had been thoughtfully created to inspire young minds and encourage children to take joy in their identities.

Courage in a Poem features poetry by Cecilia Knapp, Debjani Chatterjee, Valerie Bloom, Mandy Coe, Naomi Shihab Nye, Kate Wakeling, Elizabeth Acevedo, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Joe Cook, Jason Reynolds, Nikita Gill, Laura Mucha, Janet Wong, Nikki Grimes, Mahogany L. Browne, Matt Goodfellow, Sophia Thakur, Rachel Plummer, Jay Hulme and Chief Dan George, and awe-inspiring artwork from Annalise Barber, Mariana Roldan, Masha Manapov and Nabila Adani.

The wide range of voices share their unique perspectives on the topic of empowerment. From body positivity and facing fear to celebrating heritage and individuality, the contemporary poets take readers on a journey through the different ways we can feel empowered.

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And the rich, colourful and vibrant illustrations give extra life and meaning to youngsters as they read the text and enjoy the visual representation of words on the page. Youngsters can read the poems aloud or simply curl up with them in a quiet corner.

A book to share and cherish... and an invaluable starter for a lifelong love of poetry.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)