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

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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


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(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.

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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

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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.

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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
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Review: The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane (Illustrated by Jackie Morris)

‘I would go as far to describe The Lost Words as one-of-a-kind; a six-star book. It’s a book that should find itself in to the hands, hearts and minds of everyone… The Lost Words will now be rightfully found again.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Lost Words
Author: Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane)
Illustrator: Jackie Morris (@JackieMorrisArt)
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (@HamishH1931)
Page count: 128
Date of publication: 5th October 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0241253588

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Exquisite 😍
2. Magical ✨
3. Awe-inspiring 😲


Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – until one day, they were gone.

But there is an old kind of magic for finding what is missing, and for summoning what has vanished. If the right spells are spoken, the lost words might return…


The first line(s):

Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone.


Review: The Lost Words is a complete visual joy to behold; spectacular and outstanding in all its resplendent and ‘oversized’ glory. The Lost Words reminds us to stop, stare and marvel at the natural wonders of our world all around us whilst also reconnecting us with ‘common words [and species] that are falling from common usage’ (Jackie Morris).

Gloriously illustrated by Jackie, this book combines her stunning watercolours with Robert Macfarlane’s richly captivating and evocative acrostic ‘spells’, which remind me of similar semantics and wordplay to my own favourite poet Dylan Thomas’, that are just asking to be read aloud for readers of all ages to lose themselves in the power of his words.

It’s such a landmark book, as it not only talks about environmental sustainability but about the sustainability of the words we keep in use to describe them, that’ll have a legacy which will inspire many a generation. Arguably, there’s no other book quite like this and I would go as far as to describe this book as one-of-a-kind; a six-star book.

After you’ve read and longingly explored its pages, it will be exceedingly difficult not to compare all books to the exquisite quality of The Lost Words because without a doubt, this will be one of the most beautiful books you will ever have the pleasure of holding in your hands. I hope this truly awe-inspiring, breathtaking and special book finds its way in to the hands, hearts and minds of every child, every parent, every teacher, every classroom and every school up and down the country because not having the chance for all to devour this would be a disservice to the future of society.

Owing to the incredible and harmonious collaboration between Robert & Jackie, The Lost Words will now be rightfully found again.


The Lost Words is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

This review can also be found as my nomination for Books for Topics’ ‘Recommended Books about Environmental Sustainability‘ collection.

Mr E
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‘I would go as far to describe The Lost Words as one-of-a-kind; a six-star book. It’s a book that should find itself in to the hands, hearts and minds of everyone… The Lost Words will now be rightfully found again.’

Review: The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship – Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens (Illustrated by Debbie Powell)

‘Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… a must-have poetry collection not just for every classroom but also for use across the whole school carrying far-reaching messages and morals that everyone should take home with them to live life by.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship
Poets: Liz Brownlee (@lizpoet), Matt Goodfellow (@EarlyTrain) & Roger Stevens (@PoetryZone)
Illustrator (Cover): Debbie Powell (Website)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillianKidsUK)
Page count: 96
Date of publication: 11th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509854509

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Uplifting 😊
2. Understanding 😃
3. Thought-provoking 💭


A gentle and thoughtful anthology of poems about empathy and friendship.

The Same Inside
Red perfumed apples
and crunchy, crisp green
used straight from the tree
or in tasty cuisine,
like honey nut charoset
and pies with ice cream.

In Fujis from Co-ops
and Cox’s from Spar
or Java apples
from far Zanzibar;
look inside any apple
and there is a star!
Liz Brownlee


Review: The Same Inside is a true celebration of diversity, difference and tolerance that reflects all that makes us the humans that we are, warts and all. As Jo Cox said, ‘We have far more in common than that which divides us’ and this message really permeates through the pages of this collection of beautifully-written, perceptive and lasting poems.

When the world sometimes appears grey and lifeless and blackened by anger, fear and hate, these poems will bring hope, light and life to try to make sense of the wonderful world that we live in and of the equally wonderful variety of people whom we share our wonderful world with.

Rich in empathy and emotion that will make you think, make you laugh, make you smile and make you feel the whole range of emotions, The Same Inside would make a worthy and valuable addition to every classroom and school. The scope of poems housed in this collection could be used at any part of a lesson or assembly – especially those with a PSHE (personal, social, health education) element – as a springboard to start, a piece of poetry to pick apart and analyse or as an ending moment to reflect on. However, not only is it filled full of poems that can be used as learning opportunities but they should also be adopted as far-reaching messages and morals that everyone can take home with them to live life by.

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For instance, my particular personal favourites include such delights as ‘Fingerprints’ (MG) which at only eight lines long is a true embodiment of the old adage of quality over
quantity, packing a punch with every single word, especially during the last stanza ‘don’t try to understand what is unique‘. Equally, ‘Speaking and Listening’ (RS) and ‘Just Like Me’ (LB) stand out for their compassion, humility and warmth that will resonate with many. I can also really imagine ‘Judge Me’ (MG) being a good performance poem for children helping to highlight issues of equality, fairness and mutual respect in a lively, powerful and most of all, memorable way.

By touching on and providing a tender look at situations that children may find themselves experiencing within school – directly and indirectly – such as managing feelings, empathy, respect, courtesy, bullying, disability and responsibility in a naturally engaging and accessible way, sharing this collection could be rather life-affirming through changing perspectives and altering attitudes.

Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… it’s a gentle reminder that we all possess aspirations, fears, worries, hopes and dreams and so ultimately are all The Same Inside.

Where darkness, comes light.
Where actions often speak louder than words, sometimes words can be just as strong. Especially in ‘The Same Inside’.

Definitely one to feature in Empathy Lab‘s 2019 #ReadforEmpathy Book Collection.

‘Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… a must-have poetry collection not just for every classroom but also for use across the whole school carrying far-reaching messages and morals that everyone should take home with them to live life by.’


A big thank you to Matt Goodfellow and Macmillan for sending me a copy of this wonderful book!

The Same Inside is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Review: Brilliant Bundle of Books from Bloomsbury Education!

After requesting a review copy of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst from @KidsBloomsbury, Lizz Skelly kindly asked if I wanted to be put on the Bloomsbury Education mailing list, so I said a resounding YES please and look what arrived through my letterbox! I am so fortunate to receive ten (yes, TEN!) of their upcoming 2018 titles. You have done me so well and for that, a huge thank you to @LauraEmBev and @BloomsburyEd!

Here’s what I think…

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Apes to Zebras: An A-Z of Shape Poems by Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy-Dawson and Roger Stevens (Out 22nd March 2018)                             ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Shape poetry is always a popular choice in primary schools among teachers and children alike, particularly when introducing features of poetry to children in younger year groups, so this much-needed collection will no doubt provide the perfect range and repertoire of examples to read, share and use in the classroom. Featuring a full alphabetical array from the extraordinary and the exotic to the extinct and the non-existent from well-liked and recognised poets Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy-Dawson & Roger Stevens, this will amaze, amuse and appeal to classes throughout the primary school and have them eagerly wanting to write their own shape poems. My personal favourites include Emperor Penguin (LB), Turtle (SH-D) and Snail (RS). I know that this will become a staple resource among many teachers on their bookshelves as I’ll certainly be using it every year!

Apes to Zebras: An A-Z of Shape Poems is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


What’s Worrying You? by Molly Potter and illustrated by Sarah Jennings (Out 8th February 2018)                        ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
With schools now focussing upon mental health, wellbeing and mindfulness more in the curriculum, there is a pressing need for books like this which explain school and social situations (e.g. when you find something difficult or when you fall out with a friend etc.), and appropriate ways of dealing with them. Bright, visually appealing and emotionally accurate, this book will help promote resilience in children; improve self-awareness and communication skills through the development of vocabulary associated with a range of moods and feelings (in the ‘how you might feel’ boxes – e.g. angry, misunderstood, sad, disappointed, distrustful, lonely, confused, ignored) and would be perfect for use throughout the primary school in PSHE lessons and nurture-based intervention groups.

What’s Worrying You? is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Stone Age Tales: The Great Cave; The Great Flood; The Great Monster & The Great Storm by Terry Deary (Out 8th March 2018)        ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
From the master of historical non-fiction and fiction Terry Deary himself, well-known for writing the Horrible Histories series, comes the latest offering in his Tales series – Stone Age Tales. Mixing historical fact with fiction, these books provide both an insightful and informative read about these time periods whilst being strongly based on real historical and archaeological evidence. Travelling across the length and breadth of this time period and even branching in to the Bronze and Iron Ages, we visit Lascaux, France (17,300 years ago); Mespotamia (2,500 years ago) & Skara Brae (5,000 years ago). My personal favourite of these tales is The Great Cave as the story of the cave paintings of the setting of Lascaux that this story is based on still captivates me to this day, years after hearing it. Thoroughly enjoyable whilst providing a glimpse in to our past, they are the first choice of books I think about to complement any history topic in school.

Stone Age Tales: The Great Cave; The Great Flood; The Great Monster & The Great Storm are available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Skate Monkey: Demon Attack (High/Low) / Kidnap (High/Low) by Paul Mason (Out 11th January 2018)      ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Football Trials: Kick Off (High/Low) / Dangerous Play (High/Low) by John Hickman (Out 5th April 2018)   ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

Printed on tinted paper, these two series of short stories are part of Bloomsbury’s High/Low range and intended to help readers who are developing their confidence, fluency and accuracy. This is achieved through a mix of whole-page illustrations; linear plots, simple sentences and paragraphs on each page and increased font sizes.

Loosely inspired by a 16th Century Chinese folk tale, Skate Monkey and his friends, Zu and Sandy, used to live in the Emperor’s Cloud Palace. But after playing all sorts of tricks on people up there with their magical powers, the Jade Emperor had had enough and so sent them down to Earth. In Demon Attack and Kidnap, the gang are called to investigate the strange goings-on happening at school and in their neighbourhood. Can the group of friends use their magical powers for good and overcome what’s causing everyone chaos…? A light and enjoyable read that’s packed full of adventure, action and the appearance of some downright creepy demons, I can see this series being very much enjoyed in schools whilst also adding a spot of variety to traditional guided reading and intervention sessions for developing readers.

The Football Trials tells of the transformation of a boy used to playing football on Sunday league pitches and growing up in a high-rise tower block as he adjusts to joining the elite of a Premier League football academy. In Kick Off, when a scout from United notices Jackson’s talent in the park, it looks like he’s off to make it by earning mega bucks playing in the Premier League. But all may be not as it appears as he seems to encounter some kind of trouble in the form of losing his friends, a new crush (in Dangerous Games), worrying about not fitting in and his temper all getting in the way of his ultimate dream. Can he manage all of these to become the superstar that his talent deserves…? This series will interest older readers towards the end of primary school or beginning of secondary school and any football fan.

A little more about what Bloomsbury say about their High Low books:
‘Bloomsbury High Low books encourage and support reading practice by providing gripping, age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers, those with dyslexia, or those with English as an additional language. Printed on tinted paper and with a dyslexia friendly font, Skate Monkey is aimed at readers aged 8+ and has a manageable length (72 pages) and reading age (7+). This collection of stories can be read in any order.

Produced in association with reading experts at CatchUp, a charity which aims to address underachievement caused by literacy and numeracy difficulties.’

Skate Monkey: Demon Attack  / Kidnap (High/Low) and The Football Trials: Kick Off  / Dangerous Play are available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Mr E
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A big thank you again to all at @BloomsburyEd and @KidsBloomsbury!
I look forward to using more of your books in the classroom!