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New and Collected Poems for Children.

New and Collected Poems for Children

Carol Ann Duffy

Faber and Faber 2009

ISBN 978 05712 19681

Hardback 16.99 [pounds sterling]


At 270 pages containing 150+ poems, this has to be good value--even if the hardback is 16.99 [pounds sterling]. (I make that 11.5p per poem--and from a living poet laureate at that!) Is Carol Ann the first P-L to write a collection of children's poems? There's a research project for your class.

However, it's the quality not the amount, I hear you saying and here--for all that I am a fan of Carol Ann--I have a problem. It's not so much that the quality is variable but that in defining the audience as 'for children' the book is liable to fall between a number of stools.

It's true (as the cover blurb from the TES tell us) that she does not talk down to children. That's admirable but it doesn't follow that everything you write for adults is therefore appropriate for children or likely to be understood or appreciated by them. The collection is interesting, playful, whimsical, odd--but not necessarily something one would give to a child. The Good Child's Guide to Rock n Roll appealed to me, for example, but then I know who Bo Diddley and Fats Domino were.

Different poems will appeal to different age groups: Red Skeleton or Cuddling Skeletons, for example, should go down well with lower secondary pupils, while younger ones will like F is for Fox or Boo! to a Goose. Older readers (including teachers) should enjoy The Song Collector or Chocs, and everyone will appreciate A Worry which begins,

   It's come to live in my room--a worry.
   I asked it when was it planning to leave?
   It said it was in no particular hurry.

However, it will take a particular kind of reader to enjoy the very long poem The Fruits, the Vegetables, the Flowers and the Trees from which I quote:

   Which is the most intelligent of the vegetables?
   Is it asparagus?
   No, for the asparagus is the most aloof of the vegetables
   Is it green beans?
   No, for green beans are the most parochial of the vegetables
   ... and so on, reminding me of some early surrealist poetry
   which was quite fun for a while, but could pall.

This is a book to have in the English Department collection, or perhaps in the school library, into which to dip from time to time. If you do that dipping with eyes closed, you really never know what you might find clinging to your fingers when you look ...

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Author:Millum, Trevor
Publication:NATE Classroom
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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