At a live online event watched by thousands of school children across the UK, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) announced the shortlist for the 2024 CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Poetry Award), the UK’s leading award for published poetry for children.

In its 21st year, the CLiPPA shortlist is particularly rich and varied containing anthologies “full of treasures”; a verse novel; poetry in translation; and an authentic voice seldom heard.

Established 21 years ago, each year the CLiPPA highlights the best contemporary poetry for children. Past winners include Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard, Jackie Kay, Michael Rosen and Valerie Bloom as well as current Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho.

This year’s shortlist is particularly exciting, featuring outstanding new collections from both a past winner and frequently shortlisted poet; a carefully compiled anthology exploring the world of feelings; poems describing the everyday lives of young siblings in Guatemala, translated from Spanish; and an emotionally intense collection drawing on the poet’s experience as a wheelchair user after becoming paralysed following an accident.

The CLiPPA 2024 shortlist

A Dinosaur at the Bus Stop by Kate Wakeling, illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon

My Heart is a Poem, various poets, various illustrators

Balam and Lluvia’s House by Julio Serrano Echeverria, illustrated by Tolanda Mosquera, translated by Lawrence Schimel

The Final Year by Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton

And I Climbed And I Climbed by Stephen Lightbown, illustrated by Shih-Yu Lin

Award-winning poet Liz Berry is chair of the 2024 judges and says, “We're so excited to share this year's CLiPPA shortlist with the world: five brilliant and very different books to enchant and transport young readers, listeners and dreamers. Each book on the shortlist is unique and offers something special: there are poems full of feeling, poems to make us laugh and dance, poems to help us see into the hearts and lives of others and feel changed. It's wonderful to see poetry for children flourishing and to discover such diverse and inspiring voices at work. Here, children are equals and collaborators in the poetry magic-making, invited to keep poems as friends for the rest of their lives.”

The CLiPPA encourages schools to explore the shortlist with their pupils through its unique Shadowing Scheme, which each year prompts poetry performances in hundreds of classrooms. In keeping with its aim of fully involving children in the CLiPPA, the shortlist was announced at an online event beamed live into schools at 2.15pm today, 8 May. Shortlisted poets gave readings at the event, including Matt Goodfellow, Stephen Lightbown and Kate Wakeling. Children will now choose their favourite poems from the collections and create their own poetry performances, either solo or in groups. The best of these will be celebrated at the CLiPPA award ceremony at the National Theatre.

Rebecca Eaves, Chief Executive, CLPE said “At CLPE, we know how important poetry is in the classroom and how much teachers and their pupils enjoy the experience of reading poetry, hearing it read, and performing it themselves. Full of joy and magic, this year’s shortlist reminds us what poetry for children is for: that it enables children to understand themselves and the world and to express their feelings. We are delighted that schools will now explore these five superb poetry books and can’t wait to see the poetry performances that they create. We’re already looking forward to the CLiPPA award ceremony at the National Theatre in July.”

The Shadowing Scheme is free for schools and launches on 8 May 2024. Schools can register their interest to take part now.

The winner will be announced at the CLiPPA Poetry Show, live onstage at the National Theatre, Friday 12 July and receives £1,000.

The event will feature live poet readings from each shortlisted collection and the winning Shadowing performances too. Long-time CLiPPA supporter, former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell will live draw the event.

The shortlist in more detail:

A Dinosaur at the Bus Stop by Kate Wakeling, illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon, is a typically witty and captivating collection by a poet who won the CLiPPA with her collection Moon Juice and was shortlisted in 2022 with Cloud Soup. Using the simplest vocabulary, these musical poems celebrate imagination and the world’s variousness and encourage readers and listeners to do the same. The judges loved its ‘performability’ and the way the poet invites children to participate. It’s ‘funny but not facetious’ they said, and ‘full of poems that only this poet could have written’.

There are contemporary classics and brand-new poems in My Heart is a Poem which features poems by 20 different poets, including past CLiPPA winners John Agard, Valerie Bloom, Joseph Coelho and Karl Nova, as well as stars from the US and exciting new voices. The diversity is reflected in choice of illustrators too. The poems explore the world of feelings, from the depth of sadness to the heights of joy and everywhere in between. The judges loved the way it explores children’s emotional landscapes without a trace of didacticism and described it as ‘a pick and mix full of treasures’.

Balam and Lluvia’s House by Julio Serrano Echeverria, illustrated by Tolanda Mosquera and translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel is full of lively, playful but reflective poems, that invite the reader to run alongside Balam and his sister Lluvia as they go about their lives and through their house. The judges found the book fresh and distinctive, beautifully translated with an intensely poetic quality. It brought to their minds Shirley Hughes’ Lucy and Tom series in the warm way it presents the child’s eye view of the world. It’s also a window into a different culture.

The Final Year is a verse novel from Matt Goodfellow, who has been shortlisted for the CLiPPA four times in the last three years: for Bright Bursts of Colour in 2021, for Being Me and Caterpillar Cake in 2022, and for Let’s Chase Stars Together in 2023. With illustrations by Joe Todd-Stanton, and full of references to David Almond’s 1998 classic Skellig, it’s the story of Nate as he navigates the final year of primary school, facing particular challenges at home. His life is one not often represented in children’s books. The judges found this moving and thought-provoking with real emotional depth and loved its use of vernacular and poetic techniques, ‘it captures the voice of the classroom’. A book that is a love-letter to poetry and what it has to offer.

And I Climbed And I Climbed is Stephen Lightbown’s first poetry collection for children and draws on his experience as a wheelchair user after becoming paralysed following an accident. Written mostly in the voice of 8-year-old Cosmo who is unable to walk after falling from a tree, and illustrated by Shih-Yu Lin, the poems are angry, questioning, resigned, determined as he describes his feelings to the tree. The judges found it emotionally intense, an authentic representation of children who are not heard and a clear expression of difficult feelings, ‘there’s lots that’s interesting and beautiful, and I haven’t read anything like it before.’ | #CLiPPA2024| @clpe1