Monday 22 February 2010

Can it be about me?

What a great title for this engaging and inspiring new book of poems for children, by Cheryl Moskowitz illustrated by Ros Asquith. This collection of 48 brand new original poems cover every aspect of the ordinary lives of children. The poems focus on the experiences of primary school kids and there is a special thanks to the children and teachers of Rhodes Avenue Primary School on the dedication page.

But personally I think the poems are suitable for any age!

Here is one of my favourites.

Cheryl Moskowitz writes poetry, plays and fiction for adults and children. She works regularly as a writer in schools. Her poetry for children has featured on BBC TV's 'A Bear Behind' and CBeebies' Poetry Pie Series. Her novel, WYOMING TRAIL is published by Granta and her stories and poems feature in several anthologies.

Cheryl's inspirations for many of these poems come straight from the horse's mouth.
"I asked the local school if I could come in and be a 'fly on the wall' to gather some ideas," she writes in the introduction. But she soon found how difficult it is to be invisible in the classroom. One boy called John was especially curious. "John asked me why I was sitting in the corner making notes. I told him that I was trying to get ideas for some poems. He suggested that the first poem be about him."

Can it be about me?
Are you writing a poem
will it be long
can it be about me?
My name is John.
I don't have any
trousers on.
I just wear shorts
for all the year
but don't write that
because it doesn't rhyme.

This collection brims with humour, inventiveness and the nitty gritty of being a kid in the modern primary school. But its real secret is how universal and timeless many of the experiences and ideas are in these poems.
How many of you recognise this from your schooldays? Today we'd call it 'throwing a sickie.'

The collection deals with all sort of issues, problems and experiences which will be so familiar to primary age kids - such as tests, wet play, the class hamster -

Our Class Hamster
Our class hamster was an onomatopoeia.
We called him

There are also poetic forms which are a gift to the busy teacher looking for fresh inspirations such as - villanelle, cinquain, sestina - Sestina for primary school kids!!
There are squabbles and friendships, lunchboxes and clapping games, the class genius - 'Harry is a genius/ he does algebra for fun' -
It was also great to see the good old 'my teacher's a witch' syndrome.
Cheryl writes wonderful little pieces to introduce each poem.
For the 'witch' poem she asks, "What do teachers get up to when we're not watching them? Where do they go at the end of the school day? Why are they so good at spelling? Some of us think we know...."
I taught for twenty-five years and its like an MI5 interrogation some days with kids trying to prise personal stuff from you. Hard to stick to just name, rank and serial number!

And of course, no respectable poetry book for kids is complete without an elephant.

The book is beautifully produced by Circle Time Press with fantastic illustrations by Ros Asquith. Ros is well-known to her Guardian readers for her strip cartoon, Doris, which ran for over ten years and her LINES cartoon. She is also a successful author and illustrator of children's books, notably the Letty Chubb Teenage Worrier series for teenagers published by Piccadilly and Transworld.

This is a book which will be loved by teachers, kids, parents, grandparents and anyone who loves good poetry. I thoroughly recommend it.
You can get your copy from Amazon.
Just click here Can in Be About Me?
Or direct from the press : Circle Time Press