Reflections

Children's poetry picks for National Poetry Day

There are so many incredible children’s poetry books and verse novels out there and I am OBSESSED with them. OBSESSED. So I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share my top picks for National Poetry Day! In no particular order:

Poetry collections

  • Everything All At Once by Steven Camden (AKA Polar Bear) - this year’s CLiPPA children’s poetry award winner. I carried it around with me for weeks in the run-up to the awards show. There was something about it. I have never read anything so TRUE if that makes sense. It was just so completely authentic and perfect in its execution. People thought it was a novel and asked if it’s any good. Good? It’s amazing.

  • Rhythm and Poetry by Karl Nova. This Hip-Hop-influenced collection was a CLiPPA winner in 2018. It’s a journey from childhood to adulthood and each piece is accompanied by some thoughts from Karl. Reading this was like being right there with him. So real.

  • Poems Out Loud! anthology from Ladybird Books, illustrated by Laurie Stansfield - a gorgeous, gorgeous collection. I had a sneak peek at the Penguin Presents showcase and haven't stopped thinking about it.

  • Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg. I had to sneak in this absolute classic. So good that many of these poems have stuck in my head from when I was positively tiny. Sometimes you go back to a thing and wonder what it ever did for you. Not this. It’s as good a collection as it always was. Better, in fact!

  • Zim Zam Zoom by James Carter, illustrated by Nicola Colton. Ok, James gets THREE spots here so brace yourself. This one’s a collection of poems - a fun mix and great as an early pick for a young reader (or listener).

  • I am the seed that grew the tree - an anthology from Nosy Crow with artwork by Frann-Preston-Gannon. This collection has something for every day of the year. We picked it up just before National Poetry Day a year ago now and my children adore it. It’s a firm fixture in our bedtime routine.

  • The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. Two words: SPELL SONGS. This is an enchanting book and an important one in a world where we risk losing touch with nature. Is it a collection? I don’t know what to call it. It’s in a category of its own. You’ll love the feel of it and the magic inside.

(I don’t have a picture up in the collage but I’m slipping in Rachel Rooney’s A Kid in My Class - another CLiPPA 2019 shortlisted collection. You’re bound to find someone you recognise in this one and there’s one poem that really brought a tear to my eye. Tell me if you find it!)

Picture Books

  • Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron. I was late to this party and only recently discovered this one. The rhythm is just right. And the VOICE. For me, with this one, it’s all about the voice. You forget Rosen entirely. And gosh, I could relate to this child. SO MUCH.

  • How to read a book by Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet. This lyrical picture book is bursting with colour and is all about a love of reading.

  • The Night Box by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay. Louise’s command over language and rhythm is really something and Ashling’s illustrations give the book such a soft and dream-like quality. A real treat for the senses, this one.

  • If all the world were by Joseph Coelho and Allison Collpoys. Another lyrical picture book - this one’s about the loss of a loved one and the grandparent-grandchild relationship. I cried actual tears reading this. It’s so tender and strikes right at the heart.

  • Once Upon a Raindrop: The Story of Water by James Carter, illustrated by Nomoco. The artwork in this one is just beautiful. It has such a light and fluid and wondrous feel to it, perfect for a book about rain and water. The poetry itself is, of course, just wonderful.

  • Once Upon a Star: The Story of Our Sun by James Carter, illustrated by Mar Hernandez. I love how the publisher has paired James with different illustrators for every book in the series. Every single one is a joy to leaf through. This is the first one we got hold of and it’s about the origins of the universe - a big idea captured with glorious simplicity.

Verse novels

  • Rebound by Kwame Alexander. Kwame gets two spots on my list. I only discovered him because of this year’s CLiPPA shortlist and I am so glad I did. This coming-of-age verse novel packs a real punch. At turns funny and sad, it’s a book about family and being true to yourself.

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - Carnegie medal winner 2019. I was rooting for this brilliant book. It was my very, very first verse novel and I was hooked from page 1. A powerful, game changing book.

  • Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi - this was a CLiPPA 2019 runner-up and it’s the youngest verse novel I’ve come across. A real treat from the wonderful Tiny Owl. I still remember the primary school children who performed a poem out of the book at the CLiPPA awards. They were fantastic!

Those are my favourites! If you haven’t read them yet, go find them at your library or at your local bookstore. I promise you they’ll be worth it! And if you have any anthologies, lyrical picture books, picture book poems, or verse novels that you adore, please flag them in the comments! I’m always on the look out for more! Verse novels especially as that’s a whole new world for me and one I’m falling in love with! Next on my list are:

  • For Every One by Jason Reynolds

  • Gloves Off by Louisa Reid

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

  • The Firefly Letters OR The Poet Slave of Cuba by MS Margarita Engle

How about you? What are you reading?

A year of saying YES to EVERYTHING

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This past year has been a whirlwind. It was my year of saying yes to EVERYTHING. So much has happened. I did the Penguin Random House WriteNow mentoring programme, signed with my amazing agent, Lydia Silver, found a critique group I can call home, signed a number of book deals, and wrote LOTS of very different things. *BREATHES*. ‘Yes to everything’ has worked out quite well. So far. But with 1st August (publication day for my very first book) just around the corner, I’ve realised that, going forward, I’m going to need a new approach.

‘Yes to everything’ is great when you’re starting out. At that stage, you take every tiny opportunity because you never know where it might lead you. My year of YES has opened so many doors. Possibly a few too many doors. Now, as the diary fills up (which is a happy problem to have!), I’ve decided to do things differently. See, I share a birthday with my book. So this u-turn is really a bit like a personal New Year’s resolution. Saying yes to everything just isn’t feasible anymore. Now, it has to be a ‘GREAT BIG YES’ - something so exciting, so irresistable. Otherwise, it’s a ‘no’.

Thanks to the WriteNow programme and my rock of an agent, I’ve had a very lucky start to publishing. I’ve worked my socks off - I still work my socks off - and I’m always learning, always looking to get better at what I do. But LUCK is so important and I’ve had truckloads of the stuff. I’ve found writing buddies, editors, and an agent who I really connect with. We work well together. And the timing has somehow been just right. It’s a tough industry but this luck piece has meant that I have lots of plates spinning.

It’s all very exciting but it also means I have to be careful not to overcommit. I need to do the best job I can for the people I’ve promised my work to. I need to do the best job I can for future readers. And I need to take care of myself so I’m on form for my young children. So I’ve revisted my wishlist of projects I’d love to do. I’ve tightened it up and left space for a few surprises. There are always surprises. I’ve had to let go of a few things too (for now). I’m actually surprisingly okay about that. As I step into a new chapter of my life, it feels like the right thing to do.

So here I am. Almost at the end of my year of yes. Moving into a year where it’s either a ‘GREAT BIG YES’ or it’s a ‘no’. Or maybe just a ‘not yet’.

Independent Children's Bookstores (and bookstores that champion children's books)

It’s Independent Bookshop Week and I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a big shoutout to independent children’s bookstores and other independent bookstores that champion children’s books. Thank you to everyone on Twitter who told me about their favourite spots! You are amazing.

I’m in the middle of various deadlines, summer term mayhem, and a countdown to an India trip but I’ll put this in a more sensible order at some point and hope to add some details over time. I’d love to SOMEHOW visit all of these over the next couple of years. I hope you’ll keep them in mind on your travels too and pop in when you can. Independent bookstores do some fantastic work in connecting books to readers and they’re a lifeline for underrepresented writers and illustrators whose books aren’t always very visible. But bookselling is a tough business and these bookstores need our support. So show them some love, will you?

THE ALLIGATOR’S MOUTH, Richmond (@alligatorsmouth)

2a Church Court, Richmond, TW9 1JL

PICKLED PEPPER BOOKS, Crouch End, London (@pickledbooks)

10 Middle Lane, Crouch End, London, N8 8PL

THE CHILDREN’S BOOKSHOP, Muswell Hill, London (@childrensbkshop)

29 Fortis Green Rd, London, N10 3HP

STOKE NEWINGTON BOOKSHOP, Stoke Newington (@StokeyBookshop)

159 Stoke Newington High Street, London, N16 0NY

WEST END LANE BOOKS, West Hampstead, London (@WELBooks)

277 West End Lane, London, NW6 1QS

THE BARNES BOOKSHOP, Barnes, London, (@BookshopBarnes)

60 Church Road, SW13 0DQ

MOON LANE BOOKS, London (@moonlaneink)

300 Stanstead Road, London SE23 1DE

SMALL PRINT BOOKS, Forest Hill, London (@Smallprintbks)

37 Davids Road, London, SE23 3EP

TALES ON MOON LANE, London (@talesonmoonlane)

25 Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, London, SE24 9JU

ROUND TABLE BOOKS, Brixton, London (@BooksRound)

Brixton Village, 97 Granville Arcade, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PS

CLAPHAM BOOKS, Clapham, London (@claphambooks)

26 The Pavement, Clapham Common, SW4 0JA

NOMAD BOOKS, Fulham, London (@nomadbooks)

781 Fulham Road, London, SW6 5HA

SOUTH KENSINGTON BOOKS, South Kensington, London (@SouthKenBooks)

22 Thurloe St, London SW7 2LT

OTTIE AND THE BEA, London (@ottieandthebea)

12 Old Dover Road, Blackheath Royal Standard, SE3 7BT

KIRKDALE BOOKSHOP, Sydenham, London (@KirkdaleBooks)

272 Kirkdale, Sydenham, SE26 4RS

SWAN BOOKS, Upminster (@SwanBooks)

27 Corbets They Road, Upminster, RM14 2AR

REGENCY BOOKSHOP, Surbiton (@RegencyBookshop)

45 Victoria Road, Surbiton, KT6 4JL

CHENER BOOKS, East Dulwich (@chenerbooks)

14-16 Lordship Lane, London, SE22 8HN

BrOOK’s PINNER, Pinner (@BrOOKSPinner)

44-46 Bridge St, Pinner, Middlesex, HA5 3JF

GERRARDS CROSS BOOKS, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire (@gxbooks)

12a Packhorse Road, Gerrards Cross, SL9 7QE

THE BELL BOOKSHOP, Henley (@TheBellBookshop)

52 Bell Street, Henley-On-Thames, RG9 2BL

MOSTLY BOOKS, Abingdon (@MostlyReading)

36 Stert Street, Abingdon-on-Thames, OX14 3JP

THE BOOK HOUSE, Thame (@the_book_house)

93 High Street, Thame, Oxfordshire, OX9 3HJ

THE STORY MUSEUM, Oxford (@TheStoryMuseum)

Rochester House, 42 Pembroke St, Oxford OX1 1BP

THE WOODSTOCK BOOKSHOP, Woodstock (@WoodstockBooks)

23 Oxford Street, Woodstock, Oxon, OX20 1TH

JAFFE & NEALE, Chipping Norton (@Jaffeandneale)

1 Middle Row, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 5NH

BOOKS & INK BOOKSHOP, Banbury (@booksinkbook)

4 White Lion Walk, Banbury, OX16 5UD

HEFFERS, Cambridge (@childrenheffers)

20 Trinity Street, Cambridge, CB2 1TY

THE COBHAM BOOKSHOP, Surrey (@CobhamBookshop)

12A Anyards Road, Cobham, Surrey, KT11 2JZ

TOP HAT & TALES, Faversham (@FavHatshop)

110 West Street, Faversham, Kent ME13 7JB

A BUNDLE OF BOOKS, Herne Bay, Kent (@ABundleofBooks)

6 Bank St, Herne Bay CT6 5EY

CHICKEN AND FROG, Brentwood, Essex (@chickenandfrog)

7 Security House, Ongar Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 9AT

HARTS BOOKS, Saffron Walden, Essex (@hartsbooks)

26 Kings Street, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 1ES

WOODBRIDGE EMPORIUM, Woodbridge (@WoodbridgeEmpor)

66 Thoroughfare, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 1AL

ALDEBURGH BOOKSHOP, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (@AldeBooks)

42 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5AB

THE BOOK NOOK, Brighton (@booknookhove)

1st Avenue, Hove, BN3 2FL

BAGS OF BOOKS, Lewes (@BagsofBooks)

1 South St, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2BT

STEYNING BOOKSHOP, Steyning, West Sussex (@steyningbooks)

106 High Street, Steyning, West Sussex, BN44 3RD

OCTOBER BOOKS, Southampton (@OctoberBooks)

189 Portswood Rd, Southampton SO17 2NF

P&G WELLS, Winchester (@PGWells)

11 College Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23, 9LZ

MR B’s EMPORIUM, Bath (@mrbsemporium)

14-15 John Street, Bath, BA1 2JL

THE OLDFIELD PARK BOOKSHOP, Bath (@OldfieldBooks)

43 Moorland Road, Bath, BA2 3PN

TOPPING & COMPANY BOOKSELLERS, Bath (@ToppingsBath)

The Paragon, Bath, BA1 5LS

MAX MINERVAS, Bristol (@maxminervas)

39 North View, Bristol, BS6 7PY

STORYSMITH BOOKS, Bristol (@StorysmithBooks)

49 North Street, Bristol, BS3 1EN

WHITE HORSE BOOKSHOP, Marlborough (@whitehorsebooks)

136 High Street, Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN8 1HW

BAILEY HILL BOOKSHOP, Somerset (@bailhill)

Fore Street, Castle Cary, Somerset, BA7 7BG

HARBOUR BOOKSHOP, Devon (@HarbourBookshop)

2 Mill Street, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 1ED

DARTMOUTH BOOKSELLER, Devon (@Dartmouth_Books)

3 Foss Street, Dartmouth, Devon, TQ6 9DW

CREDITON COMMUNITY BOOKSHOP, Devon (@Credbooks)

21 High Street, Crediton, EX17 3AH

FALMOUTH BOOKSELLER, Falmouth, Cornwall (@falmouthbooks)

21 Church Street, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3EG, UK

ST IVES BOOKSELLER, St Ives, Cornall (@stivesbooks)

2 Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall. TR26 1AB

SPENCER THORN, Bude, Cornwall (@spencer_thorn)

Belle Vue, Bude, EX23 8JS

YELLOW-LIGHTED BOOKSHOPS, Tetbury and Nailsworth (@YLBookshop)

21 Church St, Tetbury, GL8 8JG and 17 Fountain St, Nailsworth, GL6 0BL

CORSHAM BOOKSHOP, Corsham, (@CorshamBookshop)

16 Martingate, Corsham, Wiltshire, SN13 0HL

OCTAVIA’S BOOKSHOP, Cirencester (@octaviabookshop)

24 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, GL7 2AA

LEDBURY BOOKS, Ledbury (@LedburyBooks)

20 High Street, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1DS

ROGANS BOOKS, Bedford (@RogansBooks)

26 Castle Lane, Bedford, MK40 3US

NORFOLK CHILDREN’S BOOK CENTRE, Norfolk (@NorfolkCBC)

Church Lane, Alby, Norwich NR11 7HB

THE BOOK HIVE, Norwich (@bookhive)

53 London Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1HL

KENILWORTH BOOKS, Kenilworth, West Midlands (@KenilworthBook)

12 Talisman Square, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 1JB

WARWICK BOOKS, Warwick, West Midlands (@warwick_books)

24 Market Place, Warwick, CV34 4SL

BUTTON AND BEAR BOOKS, Shrewsbury (@buttonbearbooks)

3 Thornes Hall27/28 Castle StreetSHR SY1 2BQ

BOOKA BOOKSHOP, Owestry (@BookaBookshop)

26-28 Church Street, Owestry, Shropshire, SY11 2SP

LINGHAMS BOOKS, Wirral (@LinghamsBooks)

248 Telegraph Road, Heswall, Wirral, Merseyside, CH60 7SG

RHYME AND REASON, Sheffield (@RhymeAndReas)

681 Ecclesall Road, S11 8TG

THE BARRISTER’S BOOK CHAMBER, Retford (@BBookChamber)

33 Churchgate, Retford DN22 6PA

THE RABBIT HOLE, Brigg (@Therabbits21)

21 Market Place, Brigg, North Lincolnshire, DN208LD

SIMPLY BOOKS, Bramhall (@simplybooksNo1)

228 Moss Lane, Bramhall, Cheshire, SK7 1BD

READ. HOLMFIRTH, Holmfirth (@read_holmfirth)

Ground Floor, 41 Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth, HD9 3JH

CHILDREN’S BOOKSHOP, Huddersfield (@Lindley_Books)

37-39 Lidget Street, Lindley, Huddersfield, HD3 3JF

THE BOOK CORNER, Halifax (@BookCornerHX)

The Piece Hall, HX1 1RE

THE LITTLE BOOKSHOP, Chapel Allerton, Leeds (@littlebookleeds)

47 Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, LS7 3PD

IMAGINED THINGS, Harrogate (@ImaginedThings)

4 Westminster Arcade, Parliament Street, Harrogate, HG1 2RN

THE BOOK CASE, Hebden Bridge, W. Yorkshire (@bookcasehebden)

29 Market Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 6EU

THROUGH THE WARDROBE BOOKS, Mirfield, West Yorkshire (@WardrobeBooks)

2 Nettleton Road, Mirfield, W. Yorkshire, WF14 9AA

THE LITTLE APPLE BOOKSHOP, York (@LittleAppleBook)

13 High Petergate, York, YO1 7EN

WHITE ROSE BOOKS, York (@whiterosebooks)

79-81 Market Place, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, YO7 1ET

BOOK CORNER, Saltburn, North Yorkshire (@BookCornerShop)

24 Milton Street, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, TS12 1DG

THE WHITBY BOOKSHOP, Whitby (@whitbybookshop)

88 Church Street, Whitby, YO22 4BH

DRAKE THE BOOKSHOP, Stockton-on-Tees (@drakebookshop)

27 Silver St, Stockton-on-Tees, TS18, 1SX

SEVEN STORIES, Newcastle Upon Tyne (@7StoriesBooks)

30 Lime Street, Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 2PQ

FORUM BOOKS, Northumberland (@ForumBooks)

The Chapel, Market Place, Corbridge, Northumberland, NE45 5AW

SAM READ BOOKS, Grasmere (@SReadBooks)

Broadgate House, Grasmere, Ambleside, LA22 9SY

THE HEDGEHOG BOOKSHOP, Penrith, Cumbria

19 Little Dockray, Penrith, CA11 7HL

THE NEW BOOKSHOP, Cockermouth, Cumbria (@TheNewBookshop)

42 - 44 Main Street, Cockermouth, CA13 9LQ

BOOKS CUMBRIA, Carlisle (@BookendsCarl)

19 Castle Street, Carlisle, CA3 8SY

BRIDGE BOOKSHOP, Isle of Man (@BookshopIOM)

Shore Road, Port Erin, IM9 6HL AND 62 Parliament Street, Ramsey, IM8 1AJ

THE EDINBURGH BOOKSHOP, Edinburgh (@EdinBookShop)

29 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4DH

GOLDEN HARE BOOKS, Edinburgh (@GoldenHareBooks)

68 Stephen Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5AQ

MAINSTREET TRADING BOOKS AND CAFE, St Boswells (@mainstreethare)

Mainstreet, St Boswells, Scottish Borders, TD6 0AT

GRIFFIN BOOKS, Penarth, South Wales (@GriffinBooksUK)

9A Windsor Road, Penarth, South Wales, CF64 1JB

CHEPSTOW BOOKS, Chepstow (@ChepstowBooks)

13 St Mary Street, Chepstow NP16 5EW

BOOK-ISH, Wales (@Bookishcrick)

18 High Street, Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1BD

BOOKS PAPER SCISSORS, Belfast (@BooksPaperSciss)

15 Stranmillis Rd, Belfast, BT9 5AF

NO ALIBIS BOOKSTORE, Belfast (@NOALIBISBOOKS)

83 Botanic Avenue, Belfast, BT7 1JL

Sneaky addition because they’re only online now but they’re doing some fantastic work so I couldn’t resist:

BIG GREEN BOOKSHOP, online (@Biggreenbooks)

Apologies for any broken links - I’ll review and fix soon. Typing in haste is always a bit dangerous but you’ll forgive me because I was so excited to see all these suggestions and wanted to get this list out into the world ASAP.

Any other favourites to add to the list? Let me know!

*Note to Bookstores - I wanted to put some photos in because WHO doesn’t love a peek into a bookstore(?!) but they ended up really S L O W I N G the website down (and me too!) so I’ve left them out for now!