The Waggiest Tails- Poems Written by Dogs with help from Brian Moses and Roger Stevens

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Who doesn’t love a dog? Who doesn’t love these two amazing poets? Mix them together and you get a wonderful collection of poems about precious pooches which are full of personality, pathos and humour!

With the final of ‘Strictly’ on tonight, it would be rude not to mention ‘My Dancing Friends’! This poem introduces a whole range of breeds of dogs and the dances at which they shine. Lots of alliterative word play and ticklish rhymes make the poem great fun to read aloud! It could inspire poems about breeds of other animals and their favourite pursuits- cats and their crafts perhaps!

‘Rescue Dog’, on the other hand, is deeply moving. Exploring the former life of a rescue dog, it would be an excellent poem to use for an assembly or PSHE lesson encouraging empathy and understanding. This need for patience and support could equally apply to humans. Brian Moses offers hope for the rescued dog if time, space and warmth are given.

Using kennings, ‘What I Am’ is a wonderful exploration of the perfect canine companion! This format is great for having fun and exploring the essence of something. There is so much to discuss and enjoy here- and children love describing their pets, friends or family members using this style!

Full of wonderful illustrations, this is a fabulous, fun collection of poems with something for everyone!

The Waggiest Tails Brian Moses and Roger Stevens, illustrated by Ed Boxall

Otter-Barry ISBN: 978-1910959893

The Restless Girls

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Inspired by ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’, ‘The Restless Girls’ is a wonderful re-telling, flooding the original with new life. The Grimm’s tale - also known as ‘The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces’- tells of nameless princesses ‘each one more beautiful than the others’, but lacking any individuality, apart from the youngest who notices things are not quite as they should be as the poor soldier follows them.

In this version, each sister is carefully portrayed and bubbling with personality. Each is talented- with genuine talents, not beauty, grace and so on as so often happens in traditional tales. After their mother’s death, these attributes and skills are cruelly suppressed by their father who reduces their lives to a locked room. Driven mad by frustration and boredom, they find a secret door which leads them to a magical place where they can feast and dance to their hearts’ content.

Determined to find out what is going on, the King takes action as in the original story. However, this version does not have the expected ending…and I won’t spoil it for anyone!

This is such a beautifully written, vivacious story which has so much to offer. The illustrations are joyous- full of colour and life- and complement the text perfectly. I would love to use this as a key text with upper KS2 children to inspire writing, drama, artwork and so much more! Just brilliant!!

The Restless Girls Jessie Burton, illustrated by Angela Barrett
Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1408886915

The Lazy Friend

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High in the canopy, Sloth, Snake, Frog and Toucan live together, but whilst the others amuse themselves by playing cards, Sloth sleeps! Even when a lumberjack fells the tree they live in, Sloth sleeps on to the horror of his friends who make a hasty retreat. Snake slithers to the rescue, sneaking aboard the truck carrying his friend and his erstwhile home in it. Can Snake rescue Sloth and get them both safely back home?

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I bought this beautiful, wordless picture book when I went to the South Ken Kids Fest a few weeks ago and completely fell in love with Sloth and his friends. Having my book signed by Ronan Badel was also a huge treat and I was stunned by the amazing picture that he drew/ painted for me. It was an absolute delight to watch the skill with which he worked!

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The story is a simple one and the lack of words is perfect for encouraging children to notice details and elaborate on the tale for themselves. The humour of Sloth calmly sleeping through all the adventures he and Snake encounter on their way back home is underlined by the wonderful range of expressions shown on Snake’s face as he alone is aware of the perils they face from the angry crocodiles, the plummeting waterfalls and rickety rope bridge. Even when their tree disappears, Snake is there to act as a branch for his friend to cling to.

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As well as offering the perfect opportunity for collaborative story telling, developing vocabulary, describing settings and developing ideas about characters, ‘The Lazy Friend’ also lends itself to practising some grammar skills (particularly the use of capital letters for names!). Speech bubbles could be added to the pictures and these then be ‘translated’ into punctuated speech. Considered choice of speech verbs/ adverbs could be encouraged by role play to explore how and why things might be said.

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The illustrations could also be used to encourage artwork- for developing characters and settings- as well as enjoying exploring pen and ink. Toucan and Frog’s looks of sorrow as their friends go off into the unknown and their joy on their return are beautifully captured!

Discussions about loss of habitat could also stem from enjoying this story. It could also encourage research about animals which might be less generally well known. Poaching and the cutting down of the red mangrove trees in which the pygmy three toed sloth live make it hard for these sloths to survive and the story might encourage awareness of their plight and lead children to take action.

‘The Lazy Friend’ is a lovely book and one to be enjoyed again and again!

The Lazy Friend Ronan Badel

Gecko Press ISBN: 978-1927271414