Today at a live online event watched by thousands of school children in the UK, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) announces the shortlist for the 2023 CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Poetry Award).

Celebrating its twentieth anniversary, the CLiPPA is the UK’s leading award for published poetry for children and past winners include Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard, Jackie Kay and Michael Rosen. Valerie Bloom won in 2022 with her collection Stars with Flaming Tails.

In its twentieth year, the 2023 shortlist epitomises the best in poetry publishing for children. Here are books to share as gifts, to explore in class, for families to enjoy together, for young people to take to their hearts; and many poems that will become lifelong companions.

Current Children’s Laureate and former CLiPPA winner, Joseph Coelho, is included, alongside celebrated US poets Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek. Matt Goodfellow makes his third consecutive appearance on the CLiPPA shortlist, and Nikita Gill features for the second time in three years. Nicola Davies’ powerful examination of the refugee experience has also been selected.

The shortlist in full is:

Blow a Kiss, Catch a Kiss by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Nicola Killen.

‘A well-written, carefully considered first collection for the very young, full of poems which catch and reflect their emotions’, said the judges, who also praised its moments of sophistication.

Choose Love by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček.

Choose Love provides insight into the real-life experiences of refugees forced to leave their homes to face an unknown future. In the judges’ words, it is ‘Angry, compassionate, campaigning and written from the heart’. They also describe it as ‘humane and uplifting – what poetry is for’.

These are the Words by Nikita Gill.

Nikita Gill’s collection features poems of rage, consolation, solidarity, hope and love and is ‘a book that readers will hold to their hearts’, say the judges, who highlight the way it connects so strongly with its audience.

Let’s Chase Stars Together by Matt Goodfellow.

‘This is also a book that fully considers its intended audience’ say the judges, ‘Matt Goodfellow explores the power of poetry to make sense of their experiences in poems that are heartfelt and moving, alongside others that are simply very funny.’

Marshmallow Clouds by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek, illustrated by Richard Jones.

The judges said, ‘Marshmallow Clouds is a beautiful book and we loved the feel of it as much as the poetry. With its beautifully crafted verse, it’s a book that demonstrates that good poetry for children transcends age barriers.’

Illustrator, former Children’s Laureate and poetry anthologist Chris Riddell, who is chair of the judges, said, “Judging the CLIPPA this year was both fascinating and uplifting. The submissions reflected the wealth of talent in the field of children’s poetry and an increasing quality in design and production. The shortlist we have chosen is as broad as possible ranging from preschool to YA and beyond into beautiful books to gift to all ages.”

Chris Riddell is joined on the judging panel by 2022 CLiPPA winner poet Valerie Bloom, writer Indigo Williams, and Jay Bhadricha, Head of Programmes at the Forward Arts Foundation along with Charlotte Hacking, Learning and Programmes Director at CLPE. They are adamant that they want everyone to read all the books on this year’s shortlist.

Shortlisted poets join in first ever live online announcement of the shortlist

As well as celebrating outstanding poetry, 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 involving children in the CLiPPA celebrations, the shortlist was announced at an exclusive online event beamed live into schools at 2.00pm today 3rd May. All the poets on the shortlist gave a reading at the event, including Joseph Coelho. Children will now be choosing favourite poems from the collections and creating their own poetry performances, either solo or in groups. 

Louise Johns-Shepherd, Chief Executive, CLPE said “Our recent research project, The Big Amazing Poetry Project, reveals how much enthusiasm there is for including poetry in the classroom; teachers told us how much they and their pupils enjoy the experience of reading and hearing poetry read, and how many also enjoy performing it themselves. We were delighted therefore to be able to reveal the shortlist live for the first time with the special online event for schools and thrilled that the shortlisted poets were able to take part. These five superb poetry books will now be explored and enjoyed by children and young people across the country as they work up their CLiPPA poetry performances. We’re already looking forward to the award ceremony at the National Theatre in July; at twenty years old, we’re thrilled the CLiPPA goes from strength to strength.”

The Shadowing Scheme is free for schools and launches on 15th May 2023. Schools can register their interest to take part here.

The winner will be announced at the CLiPPA Poetry Show, live onstage at the Olivier, the largest of the National Theatre’s three theatres on Monday 10th July, before an audience 1,000-strong.

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