Tag Archives: James Carter

Once Upon a Raindrop

Once Upon a Raindrop
James Carter and Nomoco
Caterpillar Books

With his opening lines, ‘Do you know why the Moon’s so dry / and yet our world is wet?’ poet, James Carter invites readers to dive into a watery world of oceans, rivers, streams, snow and ice, clouds and steam.

How did it all begin, this wet stuff: was it a single raindrop, or flake of snow; or perhaps an enormous wave braking on the shore? Nobody can be certain, we’re told.

It might perhaps have come as huge blocks of ice from distant outer space, born by meteorites that crashed down to Earth …

and became liquid, then gas, then clouds that sent forth rain to form the oceans that preceded the land that contained rivers and lakes.
As in Earth’s eternal dance around the Sun, so it is with the endless water cycles:

it’s those that produce that amazing life-supporting, life giving element we all rely upon for keeping ourselves and our clothes clean, for cooking, to swim in, sail on and refesh ourselves; so it is too for plants and other creatures.

Our very survival depends on it as it drips, drops, gushes and pours, endless shape-shifting, sometimes flooding, sometimes a trickle, but always on the move.

Our planet Earth, so James reminds us, is the wettest of all and we all are a part of that “WORLD WIDE WET!’

Wellies on everyone. I’m just off to India to catch the tail end of the monsoon.

This verbal celebration of water and its story is made all the more wonderful by Japanese artist, Nomoco’s watercolour washes, swirls, meanders, blobs, drips, drops and splashes.
A beautiful seamless amalgam of words and watery inks, it’s a must have if you’re going to explore any water-related topic with a class, as well as for individual readers who will find the book immersive and informative.

Picture Book Poetry: One Upon A Star and Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night

Once Upon a Star
James Carter and Mar Hernández
Caterpillar Books

Here’s an opportunity to go on an amazing journey without moving from the comfort of your own sofa, courtesy of poet James Carter and illustrator Mar Hernández who take us on an awesome ‘poetry and art meet science’ trip through time and space with a focus on our Sun.
First we head back through history before this happened …

And after a long slow cooling period: ‘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 / and one of these became our Sun / our solar system had begun!’
Thereafter Carter’s compelling narrative verse touches upon the growth of our planets, in particular the Earth with its oceans and amazing life forms that rely upon the sun for their continuing existence. His final focus is each one of us, unique individuals – stars and stardust every one.

James Carter’s lucid poetic account of these awesome events, when integrated with Mar Hernández’s dramatic artwork, makes an exciting and impactful book.

Much more down to earth is:

Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night
Dee Leone and Bali Engel
Sterling
The sun is gone; the moon is out: bedtime is nigh.
The author draws listeners into a nocturnal world of fluttering moths, spinning spiders, chirping crickets, flowers closing their petals, floating seeds and swaying willow branches;

past moonlit lakes,

and down to the sea where dolphins cease their leaping and oysters shimmer from the depths, towards farmlands where the animals are beginning to slumber; through a forest and finally into a child’s bedroom with the repeated refrain, ‘Nature’s lullaby fills the night’ punctuating every sequence.

With her gentle, soporific verses Dee Leone transports little ones towards sleep. In tandem with Bali Engel’s tranquil scenes of the bedtime rituals of parent animals, large and small in their natural settings executed in a colour palette of dark blues, purples and greens creates, we have an engaging, calm-inducing bedtime book for little ones.

Zim Zam Zoom

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Zim Zam Zoom
James Carter and Nicola Colton
Otter-Barry Books
This corker of a book arrived during the holidays and I had to restrain myself from dashing out into the road, grabbing any child I could find and saying, ‘Come with me and listen.’ ‘Zappy poems to read aloud’ announces the cover by line; and every one of the sixteen included truly is a treat to do so. From fireworks to a farmyard Hullabaloo (do I detect a touch of Charley Causely here?)

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bedtime (with a teddy) to Billy Goats there’s something for all tastes; but I suspect re-reads of them all will be the order of the day. From a performance point of view, I think my favourite has to be Grump, Grump, Grump! (or … The Three Billy Goats Get Rough Rap), with verses such as this:
Says Goat, “Ohh, Trev – you don’t scare me-
cos my bruv’s tough, as you’ll soon see!”
So Goat number 1 trots off to the grass
As Goat number two pops up so fast.
“Yells, Oi, Goatie – off you squeal,
or I’m gonna scoff you as my meal!”
Grump, grump, grump!
If you’re in the mood for something altogether quieter then try this lullaby…

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Or, for maximum audience participation of the silent kind share this …

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I also love Hey, Let’s Go, a once upon a time invitation to participate in some fairytale frolics such as ’Let’s dress up in a riding hood./ Let’s take that shortcut though the wood.// let’s race that wolf to Granny’s door./ Let’s huff and puff that house of straw.
Assuredly, this is a book if ever there was one, to turn children on to poetry. It leads on perfectly from nursery rhymes and deserves a place in every early years setting and on every family bookshelf. So, do what James Carter suggests in his final offering and Take a Poem … 
Nicola Colton ‘s spirited illustrations allow the poems to take centre stage right where they should be – a tricky undertaking, deftly done.

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Poetry Potpourri

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A is Amazing
ed. Wendy Cooling, illustrated by Piet Grobler
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books pbk
There is so much variety in this collection of poems loosely about feelings and moods arranged alphabetically. The good thing – or one of them -about this lovely book is that the arrangement does not serve as it straightjacket, rather it is an imaginative way of presenting and organizing an exciting compilation. Thus we have a traditional Polish rhyme FiZzy to represent Z, Lemn Sissay’s rap-style, The Emperor’s Cat is eXtraordinary for X and Puddle-Wonderful for P. (Oops! Why have they used capitals for its author, e e cummings?) There are poems from all over the world and from a wide range of poets (almost another A to Z – anon to Zephaniah) in a range of styles and voices, mostly contemporary –among them Carol Ann Duffy, Roger McGough, and Wendy Cope, but also Keats and Robert Louis Stevenson. I particularly love the opening poem ‘Unfolding Bud’ showing how a poem gradually unfolds the richness at its heart. And richness there is a-plenty between the covers of this book. Assuredly it’s one to return to over and over, to ponder, to laugh (try Michael Rosen’s GHEAUGHTEIGHPTOUGH Spells Potato), to wonder over and to thrill. There’s something for everyone here and for all times. I can see it being oft used in schools but I hope it’s riches are not confined to PSHE sessions; this small treasure trove deserves much wider celebration than that.
The mainly watercolour illustrations complement but never overwhelm the poetry allowing the words to speak for themselves.
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Interestingly one of the contributors to the above has a brand new collection of his own:
I’m a Little Alien
James Carter
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books pbk
Cleverly arranged, the almost fifty poems herein take readers out into space for encounters with robots, aliens, rockets, the moon, stars and planets and back to earth to meet all manner of creatures large and small as well as other representatives of the natural world and much more, from hats and shoes to mums and friends.
A fun-filled little book to have on hand in infant classrooms and at home, for those odd moments when only a poem will do and it’s a great opportunity to begin to listen to the voice of an individual poet.
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So too, though for a slightly older audience, is the first solo collection from performance poet James Coelho
Werewolf Club Rules
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books pbk
Coelho takes the familiar primary school world and turns it into a place to generate a love of language and a delight in words for their own sake as he presents poems centering on teachers and lessons, pupils, parents and the numerous other items and small events that comprise the school day from getting there to going home. A few are very short – just three or four lines, others such as If all the world were paper, considerably longer and one or two such as Weights on a pole need to be seen on the page but I think it fair to say that all are best served by reading them aloud and there’s not a single dud among them.
The sensations brought out by Halloween’s crumble, the stifling of a child’s creativity in An A* from Miss Coo, the sights, sounds and speed of Skateboarding
are just some of the delights to savour in this exciting debut collection. If the poet continues thus, I can envisage his books becoming firm favourites alongside those of Michael Rosen, Kit Wright, Roger McGough, John Agard and Allan Ahlberg.
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Another book that will foster a love of words and language is:

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A is for Awesome
Dallas Clayton
Walker Books
Though not strictly a poetry book this is a rhyming alphabet packed with alliteration and, as the author/artist says, ‘a book about possibilties’. Thus we have for instance:
C is for CONFIDENT, COOL and COLLECTED
D is for DREAMING things never EXPECTED

It’s also about positiveness
G is For GREATNESS You’re Well on Your Way, L is for Living Life up to its fullest,
P is For PASSION PURSUING what’s Right

Others I really like are:
I is IMAGINE IDEAS all your own
K is for KIDS being Kids (that’s the coolest)
Q is For QUIET to Escape From the Madness
R is For READING But Also For Radness
V is For VALUES And Keeping Them True
W is For WISDOM Both Spoken and Written

Many of the items representing each letter not the ordinary, run-of-the-mill objects found in alphabet books, indeed some had me puzzling over them; and there are lots for every letter each depicted in Clayton’s quirky style. This is definitely not a first ABC but one full of talk potential in school or at home.
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