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Winner for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Highly Commended in the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Winner of the 2018 National Book Award | Xiomara Batista is a Harlem teenager whose parents moved to the US from the Dominican Republic. She has plenty of thoughts, plenty to say, but she’s been rendered voiceless by her domineering mother, by religion, and by the boys and men who objectify her body. She gets “all this attention from guys/but it’s like a sancocho of emotions… partly flattered they think I’m attractive, partly scared they’re only interested in my ass and boobs”. Such is the experience of many young women, but for Xiomara this is exacerbated by racism and her judgmental religious community, and powerfully expressed in her inimitable narrative voice. Talking of which, through the sexual insults, and despite her mother’s meting of cruel punishments, Xiomara does find her voice. She keeps a secret notebook of poems, and dreams of joining a slam poetry club. And she finds love too, with Trinidad-born Aman, a compassionate young man with family heartache of his own. Xiomara’s descriptions of their burgeoning relationship are stunning, evoking first love and passion in all its visceral beauty. Somehow, Xiomara pulls herself free from a mire of obstacles. She stands tall, she burns bright - a wondrously authentic character who finds her own faith through writing poetry. Highly recommended for fans of Nicola Yoon, Angie Thomas and Sarah Crossan, this is a dazzlingly affecting feat.
April 2018 Book of the Month Beautifully illustrated by Jo Riddell, this collection of poems and stories is a perfect gift book. It’s ideal for dipping into, for quiet reading and for reading aloud; indeed, unusually amongst the stories, haikus and poems, there are a couple of rhyming plays too, great fun for the family or a group of friends. Single collections of poems are relatively rare these days, and it’s lovely to find one that gives the poet the space and time to explore ideas and return to themes. Poetry speaks to children directly, and this should become a real favourite, a book, to quote Rachel Rooney’s review, ‘to spark the imagination’. Other recommended anthologies for children include A Poem for Every Day of the Year edited by Allie Esiri, and Kate Wakeling’s CLiPPA winner Moon Juice.
Poetry is possibly the best way to convey the wonder of space and our own place in it, and James Carter’s text for this picture book is both precise and inspiring: ‘A sea of stars at last were born/gradually they fired and formed/out of clouds of dust and gas/each a mighty sparky mass’. The artwork by Mar Hernandez is equally beautiful, illustrating the development of life from the big bang to the world as we know it. The last image is of a jumping child – ‘You’re a Star’ – and there’s a page of science facts to end, taking us five billion years into the future. ~ Andrea Reece
This collection features poems by three of our best-known and best-loved children’s poets, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens. Between them, using a range of poetic styles and voices, they cover lots of topics – friendship and togetherness, difference, tolerance, bullying. Some of the poems make their point through humour while others, particularly those about the refugee experience, are necessarily bleaker; some even contain direct advice about where to go or who to turn to in specific situations. All do what poetry does best, that is they will make readers think, engage and look at things, even situations or feelings that may be really familiar, with new eyes. An excellent collection that will be read and read again. ~ Andrea Reece
AND THEN THERE WERE SHOTS. Everybody ran, ducked, hid, tucked themselves tight. Pressed our lips to the pavement and prayed the boom, followed by the buzz of a bullet, didn't meet us. After Will's brother is shot in a gang crime, he knows the next steps. Don't cry. Don't snitch. Get revenge. So he gets in the lift with Shawn's gun, determined to follow The Rules. Only when the lift door opens, Buck walks in, Will's friend who died years ago. And Dani, who was shot years before that. As more people from his past arrive, Will has to ask himself if he really knows what he's doing. This haunting, lyrical, powerful verse novel will blow you away.
A completely refreshing and exciting collection of poetry that will encourage even the most determined poetry avoiders to have a peek and maybe get involved. It’s beautifully packaged and filled with close to a hundred illustrations from award winning illustrator, Lane Smith. I adored reading ‘The Island Where Everyone’s Toby’ out loud as fast as I could. So much fun. ‘The One-Eyed Orr’ was deliciously full of oozy pus and gore and ‘If You Ever Have To Memorize A Poem Of Twenty Lines Or Longer and Deliver It To Your Class, Then This Is A Pretty good Choice’ is fantastic for those who worry about forgetting their lines (and actually so much fun to read), and kids everywhere will just LOVE hearing mums and dads read ‘Hey, Kids! Get Your Parents To Read You This Poem!’ I could go on and on, there are so many wonderful, funny, disgusting, and positively joyful poems filling the pages of this book. But even better than that, it’s also full of bonus surprises including the mystery of the misnumbered pages that can only be deciphered by a certain code-cracking poem. Intrigued? Well you’ll have to read it to find out more. And I urge you too. Teachers, parents, grandparents, and kids young and old should have this book. It’s superb and I couldn’t recommend it more. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.
December 2017 Book of the Month A series of twelve short, funny poems, one for every month of the year, written with brio by John Yeoman and illustrated by Quentin Blake with all his characteristic vitality and joie de vivre, make this a book to treasure all year round. Indeed, it’s rare to find books in which the words and pictures work together as perfectly as they do here: not a word is wasted, each poem creates a real and vivid sense of the month in questions and builds up with seemingly effortless economy to a comic or surprise final couplet. Illustrations too contain only what is absolutely necessary to capture the action but still fizz with character, personality and humour. A must-have. ~ Andrea Reece
A brand-new anthology of poems by winner of the Queens Medal and the Eleanor Farjeon Award, John Agard Do triangles ever get into a tangle when their sides meet their angles? In this brand new collection of poems, John Agard draws on themes from nature and science to identity and inclusion, to inspire every reader. Here, we become transported by words and form on a journey through past and present. We are invited to answer life's questions, while having a great deal of fun at the same time ...Answers are folly when questions are bliss? Without questions, do I exist?
Winner for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | A book to make you think and feel, this is an important, beautiful, spellbinding treasure. Words from nature are disappearing, being removed, left to one side to be forgotten. Some words are in real danger of being lost forever, this book reveals those words, sings them, shows them, reminds us how to love them. Spell-weavers Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris have created a bewitching ode to nature, reminding us of the danger of absence, highlighting beauty, whispering to our soul. It feels as though the words, the poems, and vividly beautiful pictures are as one, the essence of the word, of the being, escapes the page to wrap itself around you. ‘The Lost Words’ is suitable for all ages, and should find a special place in all homes, all libraries, all schools, all hearts. Do read the spell-poems out loud, listen, look, feel, touch, allow your awareness to open and receive these gifts. I found myself entranced, I fell completely under the spell of ‘The Lost Words’, I simply can’t recommend it highly enough.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2017 | Joint Winner of the CLiPPA 2016 (CLPE Children’s Poetry Award). | Children’s Laureates Chris Riddell and Michael Rosen combine here to create a beautiful collection of ebullient poems for the very young. Michael Rosen’s close and affectionate observation of small children and the way they think is brilliantly captured in poems such as You Can’t See Me and Let Me Do It. There are also plenty of opportunities for the very young to join in with poems such as Tippy-Tappy and The Button Bop which they are guaranteed to want to hear again and again! Chris Riddell’s illustrations created an equally warm-hearted view of the early years and capture the spirit of the poems perfectly.