Elli Woollard


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This year, we have decided to do a collective review post for each long list. As there are twelve long listed books in each category, apart from Picture Book where there are twenty, each category review will be in two parts! So this weekend, Poetry! And in no particular order…


The Big Beyond: The Story of Space Travel by James Carter, illustrated by Aaron Cushley

Caterpillar Books ISBN: 978-1848577978

Although very topical at the moment, space travel is something which constantly fascinates children and this picture book poem takes the reader on a rapid journey through space exploration from people’s early star gazing to current space exploration. Told in rhyming couplets, the poem touches on the names of stars, the use of telescopes and early flight before focusing on space travel. Carter ends the poem with posing a question about future astronauts- ‘could it be you?’- opening the possibility to the reader whoever they might be. Another poem- an acrostic- is included at the end about rockets.

With excellent illustrations which add additional information, this is a poem which could be used across the primary school. There are many places in the book which could be used as a starting point for further exploration and research. Children could create their own couplets or acrostics for any element of their investigations which appeal to them, making their own book about ‘the big beyond’. The poem is rich in ‘space related’ language and children could research these and create a glossary of terms to accompany the book. However, the poem’s biggest strength is in the opportunity it offers as a performance piece.


Poems to Live Your Life By chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell

Macmillan ISBN: 978-1509814374

This collection from Chris Riddell caused much debate and deliberation amongst the group. It contains poems from writers old and new on a whole range of subjects and is illustrated throughout. There are poems here which you would hope would be well known by teachers as well as less familiar works, some of which teachers might chose to use in primary settings, some not. The collection offers a wonderful starting point for dipping into and reading a poem at story time- or anytime- for pleasure, to enjoy the wonder that words can bring and the sheer joy of sharing their beauty. There are many that could be used as the basis for work in class. In addition to the perhaps obvious choices for this like ‘The Lady of Shalott’, ‘The Road not Taken’ and ‘Cargoes’, there are joys like Rachel Rooney’s ‘The Language of Cat’ or A. F. Harrold’s moving ‘I Miss You’. which matched to the right class could produce amazing results. Joyous!

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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!

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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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Spaced Out chosen by Brian Moses and James Carter

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472961150

Perfect for using to support the Y5 science programme of study, ‘Earth and Space’, this collection of space poems is arranged into six sections, each with a different focus. The first section, entitled ‘Looking Up’ is about the joy of looking at the night sky and the wonders it holds. ‘Don’t Just Google the Night Sky’ by Joan McLellan and ‘Tonight’ by David Harmer would make fantastic starting points for discussions and exploration of the night sky. The other sections are about the moon and the sun, the planets, black holes and other dark matters, alien life and space and space travel. You learn so much with so little effort!

Each section has a wealth of poems to choose from including haiku, shape poems, acrostics, riddles, kennings and free verse. There are thought-provoking poems, like ‘Space Dog’ by Brian Moses alongside light-hearted ones. There are poems about scientists, stars, astronauts, legends, planets- the collection really is a treasure trove of space themed verse from a wide range of poets.


Poetry for A Change A National Poetry Day Anthology

Otter-Barry Books ISBN: 978-1910959503

This is a wonderful collection of poems created especially for National Poetry Day in which poets have not only contributed a poem of their own on the theme of ‘Change’, but have also chosen a personal favourite. This is a wonderful model for creating a class anthology with children- and teachers- both writing their own and reflecting on the work of others.

It is a fascinating collection with each poet adding a comment with their contribution. Brian Moses, for example, writes about his childhood often being a source of inspiration for his poems- the one included here about the open fire in his home. Matt Goodfellow’s poem, Chameleon Kids’ would be an excellent one to explore with a class, perhaps as part of PSHE work. Cheryl Moskowitz’s own poem and the one she chose (Envy by Mary Lamb) challenge the reader to think about their true value. There are so many wonderful examples to look at in this anthology!

LONG LIST REVIEW: The Great Gran Plan

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When he realises that he can't get to the little pig who is safe in his brick house, the hungry bad wolf turns his attention to TOP SECRET PLOT 2 -'Gobble Red Riding Hood's Gran- nice and hot'. Having discovered this, Pig leaps to the wheel of his rusty old van, crying, 'Pig to the rescue...'

Fabulously funny, this lovely story links 'Little Red Riding Hood' and 'The Three Little Pigs' in a brilliant new tale. Told using carefully chosen vocabulary, the rhyming text is great for reading aloud with plenty of opportunities for children to join in as they become familiar with the story. The book also lends itself to children writing other adventures for Pig as he takes on other baddies from fairy tale land, creating maps and plans of Pig's journey, other places for him to visit- so many possibilities!

The illustrations are an absolute joy! Full of little details and plenty of references to other traditional tales, they will be enjoyed again and again! With little jokes like a family picture of the little pigs playing 'piggy-in-the-middle', 'PIG E' as Pig's number plate, the naked Emperor leaving the 'Emporium of New Clothes' and fairy powered street lamps, each spread has so much to explore. Many of these references may not be known as, sadly, many children are not familiar with traditional tales and nursery rhymes, making this an excellent way of exploring some of these. Steven's pictures will inspire children to create their own. 

Brilliant fun!

The Great Gran Plan by Elli Woollard, illustrated by Steven Lenton

Macmillan  ISBN: 978- 1447254799


Dinosaurs Don't Draw


Picassaur, a little dinosaur, can't stop drawing. He finds new drawing materials everywhere he goes, using them to create wonderful pictures. However, his mother, his father and the other dinosaurs are not impressed by his efforts. They remind him that dinosaurs gnash, bash, stamp, stomp... they do not ever draw. But when a terrifying T-Rex appears, they all come to appreciate the power of pictures!


When I met up with Steven Lenton at the Oxford Literary Festival, he was kind enough to give me a copy of his new picture book with Elli Woollard. Having loved 'The Great Gran Plan' which went down really well at our teachers' book group and is being enjoyed in classrooms, I was delighted to get my hands on it! 'Dinosaurs Don't Draw' does not disappoint and is another hit from this team.


The story is a lovely one- be yourself, enjoy what you enjoy and don't be put off by others! The focus on art and its importance is a fantastic message to spread at a time when art can easily be squeezed or seen as less important than other subjects. 

The rhyming text offers plenty of chances for joining in and is great for reading aloud. Rich and engaging vocabulary choices offer much to discuss and enjoy-  Picassaur's name, for example!


Each page bursts with colourful illustrations, full of fun and little details to explore. A book about enjoying art deserves nothing less than the engaging, vibrant pictures contained in these pages. The little pink lizard-like dinosaur ( we have called him Rodney!) is just delightful- so much personality comes through each of his expressions! 

'Dinosaurs Don't Draw' is a fantastic story, full of fabulous illustrations! 

Dinosaurs Don't Draw  by Elli Woollard, illustrated by Steven Lenton

Macmillan   ISBN: 978-1447254836