Tag Archives: Joseph Coelho

A Year of Nature Poems

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

Here’s the perfect book to start off 2019 and give us all something to look forward to other than the doom and gloom that issues forth whenever one turns on the TV or radio news and current affairs.

Award-winning performance poet Joseph Coelho has penned twelve poems about the natural world, one for every month of the year. Each is introduced with a brief prose paragraph to set the scene, and beautifully illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd in folk art style.

Joe is one for creating powerful images in his writing and it’s certainly so here.

There are reflective poems, several of which seemingly stem from the author’s own childhood, one such is April. ‘ When there was electricity in the sunset / I’d lay in the sky-hug of our balcony hammock / and swing. The rain was always welcome / each drop a cold thrill/ that relaxed and washed away.’

Reflective too and exquisitely expressed is his account of creating a pond and its visitation by mayflies in May.
‘They’re quick to shed their awkwardness. / The dead pond, I couldn’t bring myself to fill-in, / explodes into an exultation / of fairy dust / and angel light / of dancing tears / and sparkling goodbyes / as wild life fills / the hole we dug.’

In its final verse February laments the decline in amphibian numbers but before that we’re treated to a lyrical description of frogspawn: ‘Soft pond jewels are forming / in sunlit forest pools. // Expectation and hope / balled-up in clear jelly. Frog-baby crèche.’

Many of us as youngsters indulged in a spot of scrumping but my partner has never grown out of this activity and still enjoys liberating apparently unwanted fruit as summer gives way to autumn. So, I was amused to read Joe’s fruitful account of childhood exploits of so doing in his August poem.

You can almost smell smoke so vivid is the description of leaf fall and the autumnal hues enjoyed by a young Joseph with his mother one October: ‘The leaves were piled / bonfire high / whizzing russets, shooting oranges, exploding yellows /that she scooped in armfuls / and cascaded over me / in a dry-leaf firework display / of love.’

A year as seen through Joe Coelho’s poems offers a terrific sensory awakening to put us all in mindful mode, and perhaps inspire children to pen their own responses to the beauty of the natural world.

If all the world were …

If all the world were …
Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys
Lincoln Children’s Books, First Editions

Be prepared to shed tears when you read this first person narration by a little girl who takes readers on a journey through four seasons and a whole life’s experiences shared with her beloved Grandad.
Starting with spring, she talks of long exploratory walks hand in hand and then takes a seasonal flight of fancy: ‘If all the world were springtime, / I would replant my grandad’s birthdays / so that he would never get old.

In summer Grandad buys a wooden racing track (second hand with bits missing) and together they play, sometimes zooming the cars up into space. This action triggers the narrator’s second imagined scenario to make her granddad happy.

I love the notebook with handmade paper, bound with Indian-leather string Grandpa makes for his granddaughter in autumn, wherein to write and draw her dreams with a special rainbow pencil.

That suggestion leads to her third loving musing:
If all the world were dreams, / I would mix my bright Grandad feelings / and paint them over sad places.

Come winter it’s time for cosying up by the fire and listening to Grandad’s tales of his boyhood of Indian sweets and homemade toys, and hear him tell of ships, snakes and tigers. Now though Grandad is ailing and the little girl supposes a world of stories and making her grandad better merely by listening to his every tale.

One day though his chair is empty; Grandad is no more. From the ephemera she finds in his room, the narrator creates a beautiful mandala of memories; memories she wishes could be rooms where she could visit her granddad.

On Grandad’s chair she finds a brand new notebook made by him with her name on the cover, the perfect thing in which to record all her precious memories.

I’m sure that like me, you’ll find yourself reaching for that box of tissues as you read this beautiful, lyrical book. Joseph’s Coelho’s poignant text in combination with Allison Colpoy’s tender illustrations infused with nostalgia and love, are a celebration of life as well as a perfect starting point for a conversation about loss and dying.

Soul music in a picture book, this.

Luna Loves Library Day

Luna Loves Library Day
Joseph Coelho and Fiona Lumbers
Andersen Press

As a young child, Saturdays were always my favourite days; they were the days my Dad would take me to the local library to choose a bagful of books that we’d share together during the week. Much has changed since then; there certainly weren’t comfy chairs to relax in, nor were books checked in and out electronically; but libraries were still exciting places to visit and it’s thanks in no small way to those visits, that I have become a life-long reader.

Poet Joseph Coehlo has penned a wonderful picture book text – his first – extolling the virtues of libraries; magical places that he has described as ‘gateways into reading, into writing, into discovering a world beyond that in which we find ourselves.’
For Luna, library day is special; it’s the day she spends with her dad sharing in the delights their library offers. There are books of all kinds – mysteries,

magic, minibeasts and history …

several of which find their way into Luna’s book bag.
There’s one very special book though, one that seems as though it’s been written just for Luna and her Dad.

This is a fairytale for children whose parents, like Luna’s, have divorced or separated. It’s inherent message is that although family situations change, the parents’ love for their child remains the same.
Fiona Lumbers too has done a terrific job. Right from the cover picture, you’re drawn into Luna’s world and Luna herself is a delight. So too are the other characters who frequent the library, not least the little girl who pops into several spreads – peering round bookshelves or sprawling slantwise across an armchair.

Fiona’s illustrations really do complement the text and every spread is a joy with much to make you smile: you know just how the characters are feeling as you turn the pages.

Emmanuelle immersed in the story

From cover to cover, a winsome enterprise. Don’t miss the end-papers!

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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