Top Texts for June 2021

Laura Ovenden chooses some of her favourite poetry for Primary and Secondary.

Things You Find in a Poet's Beard

by A.F Harrold and Illustrated by Chris Riddell

Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard is a collection of poems which will never let you down.  My dog-eared copy is always lurking in my schoolbag, ready for those spare five minutes you find just before the bell.  It has a poem for everyone and children respond with their hearts and voices to poems about Jammy Dodgers, breakfast, socks or trolls.  A F Harrold’s poems are humorous and very clever.  They excite children with their playfulness and often lead to children wanting to create their own.  The illustrations by Chris Riddell are exquisite and add something special to the verse. The collection also contains the poem which makes me cry every time I read it: The Taste of a Biscuit. I warned you.

If you enjoy this collection, look for Werewolf Club Rules by Joseph Coelho, perfect for choral readings and exploring on your own.

Hot Like Fire and Other Poems

by Valerie Bloom

This collection contains the inimitable poem Sandwich (watch the video on the CLPE website) as well as Two Seasons and The Tall Ships. Valerie Bloom’s poems often have a direct connection to the reader when they are about family and food, yet others see this country through the eyes of the newly arrived and it is electric.  Some of Bloom’s poems are written in Jamaican patois while others are in standard English.  Listening to her reading them aloud is the gateway into a world of rhythm, rhyme and infectious musicality.  The poet uses many forms such as riddles, question and answer and raps which are immediately appealing to younger readers as they then explore the form.

If you enjoy Bloom’s poems, look out for John Agard and Karl Nova as many their performances are also on the CLPE website

The Poet X

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This verse novel is all about growing up and finding your voice in a hostile world.  Suitable for secondary, it follows the heroine, Xiomara, and how she negotiates her way through life in her Harlem neighbourhood.  Through friendship and mentoring, she flourishes as a slam poet. There will be many phases and imagery which you will want to savour and copy down.  Acevedo’s later verse novels, Clap When You Land and With The Fire On High, are equally brilliant and you can watch interviews and performances online.

My other favourite writer of verse prose is Sarah Crossan, from The Weight of Water to Toffee, each is unique and powerfully written.

Laura Ovenden

About this month's reviewer

Laura Ovenden is an English teacher who now teaches in two primary schools in West Yorkshire. She is also a tutor in SLCN for Elklan and a reviewer for Just Imagine as well as a TRG leader for the Open University. Her Twitter handle is @OvendenLaura