When I was a child, one of my favourite books was a hard-backed collection of poems for children called Days Of Our Lives. It inspired me to write my own poems – something you’ll know I still do as an adult if you read Cardiff Mummy Says regularly. Thirty years on and the book is still at my parents’ house and I’m so pleased my own children like it now as much as I did back then. The first time I read the book with them I was amazed that I still knew a number of the verses off by heart; such is the power of words to stay etched in our memories forever.
Seeing how much my children enjoyed that book inspired me to look for a collection of poems for us to read at home. After much research and reading of reviews I decided on 100 Best Poems for Children.
The poems were chosen by children and teachers from 135 schools across the country and Roger McGough – nicknamed “the patron saint of poetry” – put the anthology together. Children were asked to nominate their favourites in three categories – contemporary; more than 25 years old; and more than 100 years old. The result is a substantial collection you can dip in and out of and which will grow with a child from pre-school age to teenage and beyond.
I love that the poems are printed alphabetically by author. There’s no sense of hierarchy or categorisation; just poems for poems’ sake. This means that the classics are juxtaposed with the lighter offerings, reminding us that all kinds of poems are accessible to us and we shouldn’t be put off by when it was written or because it’s deemed a literary great. There’s no snobbishness; we can like a seminal work of literature as much as we like a nonsense verse. Some are just four lines long; others four pages; and everything in between.
There are plenty of children’s classics – Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussy Cat; Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky; Macavity: The Mystery Cat from TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
Some of the poems make us laugh – The Day I Fell Down The Toilet by Steve Turner; Homework! Oh, homework! By Jack Prelutsky; When Betty Eats Spaghetti by Colin West.
There’s also a number of poetry classics that aren’t particularly aimed at children – but which are such famous works of literature everyone should know them. Lt Col. John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields; William Wordsworth’s The Daffodils; a section from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of The Ancient Mariner; Witches’ Chant from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The pages themselves are white and crisp with lovely clear big type and plenty of space between the words. The illustrations by Sheila Moxley on every page help to bring the words to life.
This is such a lovely collection of verses bringing together the classics and the contemporary. It’s a real treasury of delights… and perhaps one day my children will be reading it with their own children too.
100 Best Poems for Children. Chosen by children. Edited by Roger McGough. Illustrated by Sheila Moxley. Published by Puffin. RRP £12.99.
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