A Year of Nature Poems

National Poetry Day 2019

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What better way to celebrate National Poetry Day 2019 than with another look at our fabulous Poetry shortlist! We had a wonderful assembly today with lots of staff sharing their favourite poems- the children loved it and were really buzzing about poetry. The children will get their turn in another assembly where they can share their favourite poems if they would like to.

So here’s another look at each of the four poetry books on the 2019 shortlist- and our lovely pooches, Mungo and Lady. Each is perfect for using in school and will inspire lots of poetry fun and creation!

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A Year of Nature Poems by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd

Wide Eyed ISBN: 978-1786035820

This is a beautiful picture of nature through the year in poems.. Each of the twelve verses has a short introduction, commenting on the content. January’s poem is based on the legend of two murmurations of starlings which battle in the sky above the City of Cork. Others stem from personal memories- collecting tadpoles, of holidays, childhood games in the snow. Rich in imagery, the love of nature and its wonders shines through the collection which is complemented by Kelly Louise Judd’s lovely illustrations.

Any of these poems could be used as a starting point for work in the classroom, developing children’s responses to nature, encouraging them to explore the world around them and play with words.

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Perfectly Peculiar Pets by Elli Woollard, illustrated by Anja Boretzki

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472958464

This is a fun, light-hearted alphabet of poems celebrating a collection of unexpected pets. From the aardvark bought in Amarillo to the mighty fine zebra, there is a marvellous menagerie of creatures in this book. The poems offer plenty of wordplay and poetic devices to enjoy, discuss and imitate. Many of these poems lend themselves brilliantly to performing as a class or individually. They have a tongue-twisery feel to them which children truly enjoy; ‘S for slugs’ or ‘M for Millipede’ are great examples of this! Being an unusual collection of creatures allows children to find out about some lesser known animals like the quokka or the toucan, the yak or the kookaburra. They could create their own poems about creatures they consider to be ‘perfectly peculiar pets’- what about the pink lesser fairy armadillo or the numbat?

At the back of the book is a treasure trove of tips for writing poems of your own, explaining ideas clearly. Illustrated throughout, this is a very enjoyable, varied collection of poems.

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A Kid in My Class Rachel Rooney illustrated by Chris Riddell

Otter-Barry Books ISBN: 978-1910959879

This is a wonderful collection of poems about all the different ‘types’ of children that might make up a class- even a few adults and the class hamster are included. The poems seem to be told from the perspective of classmates and vary in styles, length and tone. Some are funny, others poignant, but each offers much to discuss. The author’s note reminds us that ‘We’re likely to be a mixture of several of them- and more besides.’ and children are sure to recognise themselves and others in these poems. Each poem is accompanied by a pencil sketch of the child and a cartoon illustrating the character depicted in the verse.

Perfect for sharing and enjoying, the book also contains poems which could be used as models for the children’s own. ‘Fidget’ is written in kennings and it could be great fun for children to reflect on themselves in this way. ’Talking Hands’ is a beautiful poem describing a conversation between a hearing and non-hearing child. As each teacher knows and understands their class, choices about which poems to use and how to use them can be made. An invaluable collection!

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I Am a Jigsaw: Puzzling Poems to Baffle Your Brain by Roger Stevens,

illustrated by Spike Gerrell

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472958198

A poetry book of two parts, ‘I Am a Jigsaw’ contains both a wonderful collection of ‘riddles in rhyme’ and advice on how to write puzzle poems. A wealth of different types of poems from a range of poets is included, many of which would be great fun to explore in class. ‘Find Me’ by Liz Brownlee, for example, is a great example of a traditional puzzle poem where the reader has to identify the letters needed to solve the puzzle. This would be an excellent model to use to inspire children to create their own examples. Catherine Benson’s ‘The Seashore’ leads the reader through a series of puzzles, each describing an element of the seaside- seaweed, a crab, a starfish… an excellent example of using descriptive language and choosing words carefully, this could produce some fabulous work in class, either as group or individual efforts. There are many examples to choose from in this invaluable selection!

The book has the additional benefit of part two which offers advice on how to write puzzle poems, acknowledging that for some this form sits ‘on the edge of what is and isn’t poetry’. This guidance is perfect for teacher, parent or child- anyone interested in having a go at penning a puzzle poem!

HAPPY POETRY DAY!

A Year of Nature Poems

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‘A Year of Nature Poems’ is a beautifully illustrated collection of seasonal poems, one for each month of the year. First observations of this collection of poems are that it has a traditional feel; on closer reflection, it is nostalgic celebration of the phases of life and the changing of the seasons.

Each of the twelve poem begins with an observation of the month, setting the scene. Some poems feature fascinating facts about nature, for example the murmurations of starlings, the lifespan of Mayflies or the varieties of daffodils. Other poems focus on environmental decline and climate change. The common theme in all of the poems is the conclusion that true beauty can be found in nature.

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Each poem reflects the changing landscape of the seasons: the skies; ponds and rivers; meadows; forests and woodlands and even a dive under the seas. Important messages about the wonder of nature are paired with personal connections with the environment, inviting the reader to reflect themselves. Figurative language and other poetic devices require the reader to draw on inference skills to make an emotional connection.

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Amongst the seasonal celebrations, Joesph Coelho also shares personal memories from his own childhood: the calming power of spring showers, enjoying his mother’s memories, holidays with grandma, heartache and love.

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Joseph Coelho is an award winning children’s author and poet best know for his poetry books, ‘Werewolf Club Rules’ and ‘Overheard in a Tower Block’. Kelly Louise Judd is an American artist who is inspired by flora and fauna. Her beautiful illustrations frame each poem, aiding the reader to imagine each changing season.

In the classroom, this book could be used as a reference for writers to create their own season poems; play with the language of the original poems or pair their own personal memories with the weather or changing seasons. It is a wonderful collection- a true celebration of the world we live in.

A Year of Nature Poems Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd

Wide Eyed ISBN: 9781786035820

Hay 2019: Joseph Coelho

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Full of enthusiasm and fun, Joseph Coelho’s sessions are always an excellent way of spending time! Driving to the festival, I spotted Poetry Joe, standing on the bridge into Hay, enjoying the view of the river and all its beauty, so when he told us all how he loved nature, it came as no surprise!

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Having grown up in a block of flats in Roehampton, he told us that he was lucky because he was surrounded by nature, places where he and his friends could explore and play. Recognising how well-being, space and nature are linked, he now lives by the sea and continues to enjoy the outdoors. He drew on his memories and experiences when writing his book, ‘A Year of Nature Poems’, combining this with research.

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January’s poem was inspired by a legend of two warring murmurations of starlings. Having read the poem, Joseph then encouraged the audience to explore collective nouns and create their own. Stimulating creativity and valuing each response, those present were soon creating wonderful images as they were asked to combined their ideas and create sentences. The results were so imaginative and surprising!

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February’s frog poem stemmed from Joseph’s memories of gathering frog spawn and watching the tadpoles form in an old fish tank at home before returning the frogs to the wild. He emphasised the importance of leaving frog spawn alone now and not interfering with nature, but celebrated the joy of watching nature transform. Using their own frog-related memories, children from the audience created a collective poem, coming on stage to share their ideas.

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Jellyfish in July, scrumping in August and snow in December each inspired poems, language and playing with words. Everyone left filled with Poetry Joe’s enthusiasm for nature and poetry, each determined to capture the ideas they had created and play with poetry. A magical session from a magical poet!

A review of ‘A Year of Nature Poems’ will follow soon.