CLiPPA Poetry Award 2018 (Shortlisted): The Rainmaker Danced – John Agard (Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura)


Today, I’m absolutely delighted to have been personally asked to celebrate this collection of poetry shortlisted for the CLiPPA, The Rainmaker Danced by John Agard in the run up to the winner’s announcement…

What is the CLiPPA?

Established in 2003, the CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) encourages and celebrates outstanding poetry published for children. This year sees the largest ever number of poetry book submissions following a bumper year for eligible poetry. This year has seen an increase in submissions of almost 70%, from 19 books from 9 publishers in 2017 to 32 books from 19 publishers in 2018.

Louise Johns-Shepherd, Chief Executive, CLPE said “CLiPPA is leading an essential movement to build on the current huge popularity of poetry and the growing poetry market to ensure that poetry for children is acknowledged as an essential part of this landscape. The shortlist recognises not just great children’s poets but great poets full stop. We want as many people as possible to know about these wonderful works and CLiPPA, the Shadowing Scheme and the resources we produce all come together to make sure that they receive the high profile they deserve.”

The Rainmaker Danced – John Agard

(Photo credit: Michael Thorn)

Title: The Rainmaker Danced
Author: John Agard
Illustrator: Satoshi Kitamura
Publisher: Hodder Children’s (@hodderchildrens/@HachetteKids)
Page count: 96
Date of publication: 21st September 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444932607

‘One of the most eloquent contemporary poets’
Helen Dunmore, Observer

‘A specialist in word trickery – Agard is one of our most consistent, culture-crossing spokesmen’
Graeme Wright, Poetry Review

‘With one eye on the past and the other on the present… readers – especially schoolteachers and their pupils – tend to love his work…’
Rory Waterman, Times Literary Supplement

John Agard’s poems display an intense integrity, never talking down to children, encouraging them to question, while being playful in tone, witty or satirical. They focus on social observations, play with ideas from mythology and traditional tales, consider new developments in technology and reflect on nature and humanity and their interaction. The bold black and white illustrations complement and counterpoint the ideas in the poems.


When Questions Are Bliss

One of my most favourite poems from The Rainmaker Danced is When Questions Are Bliss.
Here’s a video produced by CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) of John performing When Questions are Bliss.

You can view more videos of John Agard performing his poetry at the absolutely amazing Poetryline website produced by CLPE here.

You can also find a whole teaching sequence (scheme of work, lesson ideas and resources) for The Rainmaker Danced, including for When Questions Are Bliss by clicking here.

The Rainmaker Danced is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

CLiPPA Poetry Award 2018: The Shortlist


The winner will be announced at the CLiPPA 2018 Poetry Show on 22 June at the National Theatre, London.

The full shortlist is (with links to teaching resources):

  • John Agard: The Rainmaker Danced(Hodder) Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura – witty and satirical poems that focus on social observations, play with myths and traditional tales and reflect on the nature of humanity (Suggested for Year 4 and Year 5).
  • Ruth Awolola, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Abigail Cook, Jay Hulme, Amina Jama: Rising Stars (Otter-Barry Books) Illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, Elanor Chuah and Joe Manners – a showcase for five fresh and exciting emerging writer-performers (Suggested for Year 7 and Year 8).
  • Joseph Coelho: Overheard in a Tower Block(Otter-Barry Books) Illustrated by Kate Milner – a powerful collection, offering glimpses into the challenges of a boy’s life, ingeniously threaded through with fantasy, story, myth and magic (Suggested for Year 6 and Year 7).
  • Sarah Crossan: Moonrise(Bloomsbury) – a moving verse novel for young adults, seen from the viewpoint of a young man whose brother is on death row (Suggested for Upper Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4).
  • Sue Hardy-Dawson: Where Zebras Go(Otter-Barry Books) – a first solo collection uniting a variety of voices with a wide range of poetic forms (Suggested for Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4).
  • Karl Nova: Rhythm and Poetry (Caboodle Books) Illustrated by Joseph Witchall – the first published collection from a Hip Hop poet, demonstrating the currency and significance of rap as a form, especially for young people (Suggested for Year 4 and Year 5).

The 2018 shortlist celebrates and highlights the diversity of voices in the UK poetry scene. From debut collections Sue Hardy-Dawson’s Where Do Zebras Go and Karl Nova’s Rhythm and Poetry, to the legendary John Agard’s The Rainmaker Danced. From books already receiving recognition – Sarah Crossan’s Moonrise and Joseph Coelho’s Overheard in a Tower Block – to the Rising Stars collection celebrating under-represented voices publishing their poems for the first time. The shortlist is evenly split between 3 previous winners and 3 debut collections, with 3 out of the 6 shortlisted books coming from independent publisher Otter-Barry Books.

The winner of the 2018 Award will be announced on 22nd June in the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre in London. This will be the 4th year that CLPE has partnered with the National Theatre to deliver the Poetry Show which will include performances from children participating in the Shadowing Scheme and the shortlisted poets. The winner of the Award will receive £1000. Former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, will live draw the Award Ceremony.

The judging panel is chaired by much loved poet and CLiPPA 2003 winner, Grace Nichols along with Kate Wakeling, poet and CLiPPA 2017 winner for Moon Juice, Imogen Lycett Green, Director of the Betjeman Prize for Young Poets, Charlotte Hacking, CLPE Learning Programme Leader and Anthony Anaxagorou, poet, poetry educator and founder of Out-Spoken Press.

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 11.11.08

Big thanks to Liz for inviting me to celebrate this wonderful poetry collection and the CLiPPA award. It would be great to be involved in many more!

Mr E


Review: When the Mountains Roared – Jess Butterworth (Illustrated by Rob Biddulph)

‘A stunningly compelling & evocative tale that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: When the Mountains Roared
Author: Jess Butterworth (@J_T_Butterworth)
Illustrator (Cover): Rob Biddulph (@RobBiddulph)
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books (@the_orionstar) / Hachette Kids (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1510102118

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

1. Evocative 😥
2. Stirring ☺️
3. Conservation 🐾

When Ruby’s dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India, Ruby is devastated. Not only are they living in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home – not without her mum there. 

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up. 

But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. Ruby vows to do all she can to protect them – if only she can overcome her fears…

The first line:

I duck low to the ground and creep forwards, following the two men and the boy ahead. / I know something’s wrong as soon as I step through the front door.

Review: Following the very much deserved success of Jess’ richly atmospheric and accomplished debut Running on the Roof of the World (which I reviewed here as my fiction choice for Books for Topics’ Best Books of 2017), she returns on familiar ground this year with what I’m sure will be another roaring success, When the Mountains Roared.

Heralding her Himalayan heritage, real-life inspirations and childhood experiences, Jess once again vibrantly and beautifully realises the lush, mountain landscapes complete with their soaring scenery and diverse range of flora and fauna but this story starts itself in a wholly contrasting way…

My fingers come away deep red.
My breath catches.
I wipe my shaky hands on my trousers. There’s a leopard out there, injured.
And I have to find it before they do.

After a sudden flashback – later on reencountered in the story – we meet Ruby; a lost soul reeling from the sudden death of her mother, with no control over where she’ll find herself living in the world from one minute to the next and wishing for some stability, some routine, some normality and somewhere to call home.

Unfortunately or maybe fortunately for her, she finds herself having absolutely none of that. As facing yet more domestic and homely upheaval, the whole family – that’s Ruby, Dad, Grandma and Polly (her dog) along with an altogether unexpected animal companion – have to leave Australia in the dead of night whilst evading Dad’s ‘friends’ whom he owes money to.

Another new start. Another new country. A new hotel?

Another new start for Ruby this time leads the family this time to the dizzying heights of the Indian mountains where Dad has taken over the running of a hotel but things aren’t quite what they first imagined. A dilapidated building that only serves to exacerbate Ruby’s fears and the surrounding wildlife is even more on the scary side as snakes and scorpions scuttle around her and a bear banging on her door in the middle of the night suggests.  But all is not lost as Ruby makes an important discovery that could change her life forever…

The unseen, unscrupulous and often unknown world to many of us of the fight against poaching is highlighted and brought immediately into focus. This is where this book helps to provide a subtle and empathetic exploration in to the endless and immeasurable myriad of problems associated with it, whilst also providing the reader with more than a glimmer of hope in its resolution. This tale also has lots of educational potential and could be used in schools as a starting point for discussions on animal rights, endangered animals and the risk of extinction which is particularly relevant at this recent time of the death of the last male northern white rhinoceros in Kenya.

Ruby is most definitely her grandmother’s granddaughter all over. It’s her grandmother’s curiosity, stubbornness and willpower that’s been instilled within her that really makes Ruby take charge of the situation that she finds herself living in and to try her utmost, with her grandmother’s help, to seek a resolution. Ruby must not only fight her fears but stand up for what she truly believes in even when it appears that most around her, including her nearest and dearest, don’t. The future of these animals rests on Ruby’s shoulders.

Meeting Ruby at the beginning, she’s very much a different girl to how she started. She was subdued: a shadow of herself, pulled from pillar to post and fearing the utmost worst of every situation. However by the end of WtMR, she has begun to overcome her deepest fears and developed into someone who’s mother’s steely determination and spirit lives on within her.

Jess’ books are fast becoming favourites for many and she is ensuring that she is seen as a stand-out talent with her incredibly original style of writing. Culturally enriching, she really imbues her story writing with her own life experiences as somebody who’s been brought up in the UK but is still very much rooted in the Himalayas as well. I really gain the sense that writing a book – particularly this one – for Jess is increasingly more than just writing a book. Not only is it a way of highlighting a vitally important issue or a message but it is also about reliving the magic of moments that have become memories, of which I think your grandmother would be immensely proud, Jess.

That’s why it is such a stunningly compelling & evocative read that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that I hope will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.

If you’re not already a huge fan of Jess and her books, then I can guarantee that you certainly will be after this one!

‘A stunningly compelling & evocative tale that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.’

Big thanks to Jess and her team at Orion Children’s Books and Hachette for sending me an advance copy of this beautifully written book!

This book is out in the wild today on the 5th April!

When the Mountains Roared is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E