When Creature Met Creature

When Creature Met Creature
John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura
Scallywag Press

As we discover in this superb collaboration between two multi-award winners, poet John Agard and illustrator Satoshi Kitamura, furry Creature-of-No-Words lives a happy, silent, ‘never in a hurry’ existence until one day, for no real reason he gets a feeling, ‘this feeling like the chill touch of ice’.
Nothing he tries, not self thumping nor groaning loudly or even cloud gazing, can shift his overwhelming feeling of sadness, even though sad isn’t a word he’s able to say.

Then along comes Creature-of-Words, another being, also happy with her furiness and ‘never in a hurry’, but altogether different with her vocal phrases that she loves to speak aloud. Empathetic soul that she is, she watches and senses her fellow creature’s utter despair.

What happens thereafter is enormously uplifting and powerfully portrayed in both words and wonderfully expressive, richly patterned vibrant scenes of the two characters’ interactions, be they silent and vocal.

Both humorous and poignant, this look at the importance and power of communication, is a thought-provoking, memorable ‘just-so’ kind of story. In addition to being a book that will resonate with listeners and readers, it’s a wonderful starting point for classroom explorations of ways of relating to, and expressing our feelings to our fellow creatures.

John Agard’s Windrush Child

John Agard’s Windrush Child
John Agard and Sophie Bass
Walker Books

With a final embrace from his Gran, Windrush child waves farewell to his Caribbean home, and with his parents, boards a ship to sail across the ocean to Britain and a new life. As the blue waters roll past, the boy’s parents remember ‘story time yard and mango mornings’ as they anticipate fresh beginnings in the hope that everything will turn out all right. 

The child recalls his grandmother’s parting entreaty to remember to write as she bestows that last fond hug.

On dry land at last, as the family walk away from the ship, they feel unsure on their feet. Then once ensconced in a new home, Windrush child keeps his word, telling his grandmother in a letter about ‘stepping into history, bringing your Caribbean eye to another horizon’ her words but now winging their way back.

Meanwhile the new arrivals have much to learn about this place where so much is different and where so many challenges await. For as poet John Agard writes in his author’s note, those from the Empire Windrush and many other ships brought with them ‘Caribbean culture’ that ‘had such a powerful and positive impact on British culture’ making Britain a much better place because of them.

The author’s hugely moving, lyrical and haunting evocation of the journey families of the Windrush generation made is rendered all the more powerful by Sophie Bass’ vibrant illustrations – a vibrancy that truly reflects the richness of the contribution made by those who came.

An important book that needs to be shared as widely as possible in homes and primary schools.

Coyote’s Soundbite

Coyote’s Soundbite
John Agard and Piet Grobler
Lantana Publishing

Planet Earth is in a terrible state on account of the thoughtless environmental damage caused by human actions. The earth-goddesses call a conference to which every female creature is invited to discuss what should be done.

When he learns that it’s a females only affair, Coyote is disappointed and an impulsive decision sees him borrowing his wife’s blue dress, sandals and bag. Thus attired, he manages to gain admission.

In turn each of the goddesses gives a speech about what they’ve contributed to life,

expressing their disappointment at how humanity has subsequently treated the planet, and then it’s time for questions.

Nothing is forthcoming so Coyote decides to put forward a suggestion, “Excuse me, ladies! / Forgive my interjection, / but from my study of the human breed, / I’ll say a soundbite is what you ladies need!”

Everyone is in total agreement and Coyote returns home.

Imagine his surprise to discover his wife clad in his suit. She explains that she’s just come from a males only earth-gods conference and guess what: she too made a soundbite suggestion, which goes to show that the way ahead is “Earth-lovers of the world unite! / Mother Nature is always right!”

With its diverse selection of mythological characters, John Agard’s engaging rhythmic narrative poem packs a powerful punch as it imparts its crucial environmental message. Brimming over with energy, Piet Grobler’s trademark scribbly, collage style mixed media illustrations are a spirited complement to the text, adding to the impact of this thought-provoking, picture book.

The Rainmaker Danced

The Rainmaker Danced
John Agard illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
Hodder Children’s Books

There’s always plenty to delight and to contemplate in any book of poetry from John Agard and so it is here in this new offering of some forty poems, beautifully illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

Embracing a wide variety of themes and topics from Mosquito …

to maths and marriage, the poet offers something to suit all moods.

Some such as Line really bring you up short with its final: ‘Then they sent him / to the frontline / where he learnt / of a thin line / between breathing / and not breathing.

As does Progress which concludes thus: ‘it takes a second / (maybe less) / to press / a button.

There are humorous offerings too. Take Homo Ambi-thumb-trous with its prod at mobile phone-obsessives; and Government Warning! wherein the powers that be issue notice of a tickle-free zone.

Like all Agard’s poetry books, this one has something for everyone and deserves to be shared and discussed in all upper primary and secondary classrooms, as well as being for all lovers of contemporary poetry.