There’s a Crocodile in the House / The Magic of Mums

Celebrating two smashing new Otter-Barry Books compilations of performance poets writing:

There’s a Crocodile in the House
Paul Cookson, illustrated by Liz Million

It’s great to see another book by performance poet Paul Cookson and it’s full of zany offerings to delight both adult readers aloud and primary school readers. Lots of the poems are absolute musts for classroom audience participation.

Take the very first poem that gives the book its title; it simply bounces along and with children chanting each line after you, it becomes a double bounce every time.

Then what about The Toilet Seat Has Teeth! What fun to have a whole class of 6/7 year olds yelling ‘OW!’ and bouncing up off their seats whenever you read that line, ( nine times by my reckoning).

This one seemed even more hilarious when I read it because the book arrived on the same day we’d had our new Japanese toilet installed. Now it may not have teeth but it does have all kinds of other interesting features.

As does Paul’s giggle-inducing book for not only is there a croc. but there are also such creatures as The T Rex That Rocks, The Warty Hog and The Porky Pine;

not forgetting the riot-rousing Bottoms! – “Bottoms that are twitching / Bottoms that are itching / Bottoms that are slipping / Bottoms that are tipping / Wobble Bottoms / Jelly bottoms / Wriggle bottoms / Smelly bottoms.’. How such a plethora of bottoms wriggled their way into Paul’s hilarious collection is his only to know.

What this erstwhile infant teacher, reviewer knows though is that your class will be reduced to hysterics, not to say any KS1 or nursery teacher that shares it.

I wouldn’t mind betting that Liz Millions had a good giggle creating the smashing illustrations for this cracking book.

The Magic of Mums
Justin Coe, illustrated by Steve Wells

With Mother’s Day coming up on 22 March, this is the ideal time to grab a copy of this super compilation celebrating The Magic of Mums, another terrific read aloud, and I’m pretty sure young readers will find their own particular special mother figure lurking somewhere within its covers: and to make life easier, Justin has penned a poem (or two or even three) for every letter of the alphabet.

So if you think your mum is let’s say, an Anxious Mum, there ‘s a poem ready and waiting; there’s also Action Mum and Adoptive Mum representing A.

Everyone knows how hard their mum works so there’s a One-Hundred- miles-an-Hour Mother as well as this special tribute to a Diamond Mum …

For me the Dad-Mum is also a true diamond: ‘ I know I do not have your mother’s magic. / I just cook the recipes / that keep her in our memories / and try to keep the house / as she would have it. // And because your mum / could never bear / to see you sad, / I do my best to love you / twice as much / for both of us / be both / your mum and dad.’

Not all the mums featured are of the human kind however; there’s Earth Mother, Queen-Bee Mum and the enormously moving Tree Mum too.

Steve Wells captures the spirit of every mum he’s illustrated (and that’s most of them) in his line drawings.

Altogether a super celebration of motherhood in all its shapes and forms for individual reading, or even better, reading aloud to that certain awesome mum, or perhaps Two Mums, for as a little girl narrator of Justin’s poem of that name says, ‘ I have two mums to love me / so there’s two mums I love.’

Poetry Bookshelf

If you want something to get your children enthusiastic about poetry then one of these (or all) will surely appeal …

DSCN4453 (600x800)

There’s a Monster in the Garden
David Harmer
Frances Lincoln pbk
This is a new edition from ex-headteacher, Harmer, re-illustrated and with an additional ten poems. Some of the poems feature school in its many aspects but the author covers a wide range of topics. Not schoolish unless you are thinking of Hogwarts or want your teacher to grow donkey’s ears is Harry Hobgoblin’s Superstore that sells all manner of spells, powders and potions; or Frosty Pinchface – what a wonderful name – with his ‘Fingers like icicles poking us to death,/Horrid hoarse whispers chill us to the core.” BRRR! And, if you’re out and about, watch out for Great Gran who is ‘manic on her motor bike.’ – a stunt-woman extraordinaire or that ghosty pirate of old Whitby Dock.
David Harmer is popular as a performance poet and it’s easy to see why. I too have had great fun sharing the contents of this book with primary school children on many occasions. (I did have to have a secret practice of Slick Nick’s Dog Tricks and Pasting Patsy’s Pasty Posters first though).

DSCN4456 (600x800)

Crazy Classrooms
Paul Cookson
Frances Lincoln pbk
This is a funny, schoolcentric collection of over sixty snippets of life all seemingly written by those in the thick of it. There are also some more serious poems such as First Day New Class Blues, Iqbal Doesn’t Really Like School and Mothers’ Day Cards all of which really pack a powerful punch.
All aspects of life in a primary school are covered from The First Day After the Holidays which celebrates what’s good about the start of term, the school photograph – always something of a nightmare in my experience, there’s a humorous look at what teachers wear on their feet (boring socks) and around their necks – The Ties That Blind, a look at the joys (and otherwise) of school trips the playful take on teachers and their subjects – ‘The music teacher with no rhythm – Mister Beet’, ‘The depressing French teacher … Miss Eree’, not forgetting ‘The supply teacher who teachers all the subjects – Miss Ellaneous’ – to name just three of the cast of Twenty Teachers at our School. We also visit the staff room, meet The Office Manager – a vital person in any school, bullies, friends and much more – animate and inanimate.
Every one herein cries out to be read aloud but make sure you don’t leave your copy lying around in a primary classroom; it’s bound to be nicked.

DSCN4454 (600x800)

My Life as a Goldfish
Rachel Rooney
Frances Lincoln pbk
This is the second of Rooney’s collections for children and she is the deserved winner of the CLPE Poetry Prize  Every one herein delights in its own way. Playful or thoughtful? Public or private? Long or short? Rhyming or not rhyming? You’ll find them all here whatever your taste. I’d find it very hard if not impossible to pick a favourite, but some I particularly love are Stone the first couplet of which is‘ Stone remembers sea: its salty lap./Sea remembers river’s winding map.’
Wide Open is also wonderful, managing in just 15 lines to capture much of the magnificence of our cosmos through a ‘magic eye’: an unhatched baby bird within its egg, sun, stars and a nameless planet in the galaxy, the vibrating hairs on the belly of an ant and finally, ‘Yesterday it spied on your nightmares/and tomorrow it will spy on your dreams.’ It makes one shiver and shudder inside. As does, for altogether different reasons, Wolf Girl who having lapped up hot pea soup is ‘curled in the lair of her robes,/howls for her brothers prowling the woods below.’
Then there’s two that (with my teacher’s hat on) really made me laugh Mrs Von Hugh – the teacher so fierce she could scare off the flu; and The Problem with Spelling which beautifully and succinctly sums up just that. And there’s the much more serious Liar wherein we are shown the alarming consequences of telling a single lie. It fed in the dark, grew fat on my shame/as I carried it with me. It whispered my name.
A book to draw readers in and then, I’m sure they’ll find themselves trapped within the covers for many hours relishing what they discover. It’s also one to share with a class and I suspect, like mine, your audiences will keep demanding, “Just one more.”

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2