World Poetry Day…

Wow what a week! Firstly, I’m so excited that after Easter I’ll be helping out a school book club to write book reviews for books that are on the The CILIP Carnegie Medal Shortlist for 2018 . Secondly, I’ve completed the manuscript for my first children’s book   and am in the middle of writing another one. Finally the icing on the cake  – today is World Poetry Day! I LOVE poetry and have done since I was little. Through poetry I learnt about alliteration, personification, onomatopoeias, haikus, rhyming but most of all I learnt that words and sounds can be fun.

Poems don’t have to rhyme (My favourite non-rhyming: Michael Rosen Eddie and The Birthday ) The words don’t even have to make sense (a great example: Spike Milligan On The Ning Nang Nong), they can be long or short, funny or sad, old or new…so much variety. It’s a fantastic fun way of developing children’s language. I often play a sort of rhyming game with my 3 year old. He says a word and I make one up and I say one back that rhymes…then he repeats one back to me. So for example, he might say “Fish” and I’ll say “dish” then he’ll say “bish” and I’ll say “mish” and so it goes on. Need to be a bit careful as of course there are some rhymes that 3 year olds are too innocent (thank goodness!) to understand…we were in the car and he heard someone with the name “Horn” on the radio and started shouting “Horn, torn, corn, born, p..,.”. I had to keep a straight face and I quickly started another rhyming  word with less embarrassing consequences! And on that note, here’s a great article highlighting the benefits of poetry for children: 5 Reasons to Teach Poetry

Writing this blog has brought back so many wonderful memories of some of my favourite poems and lessons. I thought I’d share some of the poetry I still remember reading as a child.

Favourite Poems

  1. The Guppy – Ogden Nash This was my first poetry love…I remember having to write it up and draw pictures for it in year one a very, very, long time ago. My sons’ nursery have been teaching about baby animals and I sent them this poem. It brought happy tears to my eyes to see it printed off and taped onto their fish tank when I went to collect them.
  2. A Tiger in the Zoo – Leslie Norris – This is the poem that taught me about personification. I think I was in year 9. We had an amazing English teacher. Firm but fair.  A lot of the poems we covered in the years with her really stuck with me.
  3. Night Mail – By W.H. Auden – I love this poem. To this day,  I can’t stand on the platform of a railway station without thinking of this poem when I hear the clickety clack of the rails. I think I must have been around 12years old when we covered this in school. Very special memories – at the time we studied this there was a national writing competition with the post office that our class entered and out of the whole class I won a little box of postcards. I was struggling at school so it meant (and still means!) a lot to me.
  4. Halfway-Down – A.A. Milne – A beautiful poem that really resonated with me. Growing up with an overactive imagination I had lots of “funny thoughts” running round in my head. Daydreaming was one of my favourite accidental past times….and still is!
  5. Who Killed Cock Robin? – not exactly the most cheerful one. It was in a nursery rhyme book I had. Some nursery rhymes and fairy tales are pretty grim…think it  the pictures of birds was probably why I read this one again and again…
  6. Limericks….there are so many of them and so much fun to try and make up. My favourite (Am from Leeds so probably biased)                                                           There once was a farmer from Leeds,
    Who swallowed a packet of seeds.
    It soon came to pass,
    He was covered with grass,
    But has all the tomatoes he needs
  7. I’ve still got “Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here” by Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake it’s a great book! This is the poem I used to read over and over again. Now, as a mum of 2 toddlers it really resonates even more with me!  Eddie and the Birthday – Michael Rosen
  8. An Imaginary Menagerie – Roger McGough So this is another book full of wonderful poems. Brilliantly imaginative with lots of plays on words my favourite was “The Allivator”.
  9. Who could not love Please Mrs Butler – Allan Ahlberg ? An absolute childhood classic! I think a lot of teachers could relate to this poem!
  10. For my final one I thought I’d include this one that we had to learn for a parents’ concert evening at primary school Matilda – Hillaire Belloc …think the school was trying to teach us something???
  11. Ok this is my final final poem and another one we had to learn for parents (I could write this list forever!)…I love the rhythm this one has and also remember learning the word “phosphorous”. Not a word I suppose you often hear in a poem. This is definitely the last one on the list I promise!! Colonel Fazackerley – Charles Causley

Would love to hear what your own or your children’s favourites are!

Here’s one of my own creations to finish off. Thanks for reading!

There’s A Crocodile in My Shoe – Kirsten Allen ©

There’s crocodile in my shoe! There’s a crocodile in my shoe!
I don’t know what to do! There’s a crocodile in my shoe!
If I tread on it’s nose, it might suppose
A meal might be made out of my dainty toes

There’s a crocodile in my shoe! There’s a crocodile in my shoe!
I don’t know what to do! There’s a crocodile in my shoe!
I’m not sure how it got there
And quite frankly I don’t much care!
I really can’t put my shoe on
Until that naughty crocodile’s gone

I’ve got so much to do today,
I really want to go out and play.
So, I’ll have to make a snap decision and wear my wellies instead.

My Favourite Female Children’s Authors…

Robert Southey once replied in a letter to Charlotte Bronte “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life and ought not to be”

Well Mr Southey – here’s a list of some of my favourite prove-you-wrong women in children’s literature…

  1. Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess
  2. Enid Blyton – too many books to mention! I loved her as a child
  3. Beatrix Potter – I think she needs no explanation
  4. Kate Greenaway – an incredible illustrator, growing up I had the book Kate Greenaway’s Book of Games and seem to remember lending it out when one of my friends at nursery had a Victorian themed party. Seriously if you’re kids are bored it has some great suggestions for games. It’s quite old fashioned (being Victorian and all) but some of the games children would still love today.
  5. J.K Rowling – So I’m not a die hard Harry Potter fan with capes and wands lurking around the house or a bolt of lightening tattooed across my forehead. I really enjoyed reading them though and I find the story of how her ideas came to her on a 4 hour delayed train truly inspirational.
  6. Judith Kerr – My boys still love her stories particularly of course The Tiger Who Came to Tea. When they’re older I’ll encourage them to read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. An incredible semi-autobiographical book about a Jewish family fleeing Nazi Germany.
  7. Kate Pankhurst – I couldn’t get away with writing a list of women in children’s literature without including Kate Pankhurst and her series of books. I think it’s fantastic for children (boys and girls!) to read about great women in history. She’s a distant-ish descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst but what a positive way to continue the family name! Fantastically Great Women Who Made History
  8. Johanna Spyri – I’ve only known her for writing Heidi but she is yet another inspirational woman. She wrote for adult and children’s books. Her first story  “A Note on Vrony’s Grave” was about a woman’s life of domestic violence.
  9. E. Nesbit – Author of Five Children and It and The Railway Children. What a complicated life she had! She met Hubert Bland a political activist, got pregnant, got engaged but lived in a separate homes, Then she found out he was having an affair with his mother’s paid companion (Maggie Doran) who he fathered a child with. Nesbit then moved in with her husband, his mother and became friends with Doran. She then became more involved with political activism. Then her close friend got pregnant with Bland’s child… Nesbit’s life story sounds like a novel in itself. She is often perceived to be “the first modern writer for children”.  This is a great article explaining how The Railway Children came to be How Did E Nesbit come to write the Railway Children? – The Guardian and it recommends this biography by Julia Briggs which I will certainly be reading A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit 1858-1924 – Julia Briggs
  10. Julia Donaldson – I could not write a list of inspirational authors without including this fabulous lady! It’s impossible to walk into a book shop or look for children’s books online without her name popping up. My boys love her and we read many of her books over and over again. Particularly “Toddle Waddle” – now when my 15month old wants us to read it…he makes quacking noises! I never realised the Gruffalo was based on a Chinese story about a girl and a tiger similar to this story . Personally, I always find it fascinating to find out where people get their inspirations from. It’s incredible to think that even a fleeting moment can change someone’s life or their perspective on things.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog and don’t think I’ll ever pick up another story or book without wondering about the person’s background and where their stories came from. I’d like to believe that if Mr Southey were alive today, he’d be eating his words and if he had children in today’s times, I would hope that he would be reading them some of these wonderful books written by wonderful women without a second thought…

 

 

 

 

Children’s Poetry…

Children’s rhymes and poems can shape the way we look at the world when we’re younger and bring back amazing memories when we’re older. To give you an example, I honestly can’t walk past a fish tank or see a kitten without fondly remembering sitting in a classroom (think it was Year 1) and learning, writing out and illustrating this one by Ogden Nash:

The Guppyby Ogden Nash

Whales have calves,
Cats have kittens,
Bears have cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.

A.A. Milne, Michael Rosen, Roger Mcgough, Spike Milligan all have special places in my heart and different meanings for me. I think the one that terrified me was one we had to learn for a school concert: Matilda – Hillaire Belloc it’s a bit like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” but much darker!

Children’s poetry is fantastic for repetition, vocabulary and according to one blog even physical coordination…

Why Reading Poetry is So Important for Children

It’s also great to create poems with children and get them thinking about how words can sound with rhythm. How they can be used to express thoughts and feelings or just fun noises!

A game that my 3 year old son loves it when I rhyme words and change the first letter to make new and sometimes nonsense words. He joins in which is fantastic (though we have to be a bit careful…listening to the radio he heard the name Jack Horn…he suddenly started shouting “Jack Horn! Jack Corn! Jack Forn!Jack Morn! Jack P…..” 😳 Luckily we were in the car so no one around and I managed to distract him by shouting frantically back “Jack Corn Jack Corn” and then change the topic which seemed to work)<<<<<<<<<<<<
y article that gives ideas for simple activities. I particularly love the suggestion of having a book around the house that kids can write in. I used to have my own blue notebook (would love to dig it out!) And poetry is educational, helps kids to read etc but most of all it's just good fun!

Children’s Poems <<<<<<<<<<<<
ouch and let me know – What was your or what is your child's favourite childhood poem?

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Weekend book review…

One of my favourite parts about writing this blog, (my other favourite is that I’ve started writing stories and poems again) is that I get to read kids’ books and have a legitimate excuse for it! I enjoy reading adult literature too but there is something comforting about reading things I remember from childhood. Seriously, if you’ve had a tough day pick up a children’s book and get lost in it. Try it – it really works! I love re-reading Spike Milligan’s children’s poems, Roald Dahl books, Enid Blyton, Roger Mcgough’s “An Imaginary Menagerie” and another childhood favourite (which is at my mum’s but I’ve put it on my kindle) Michael Rosen’s “Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here”. Some of my best-loved all time classic books are “The Secret Garden”, “The Little Princess” and “Tom’s Midnight Garden”. The blog in some ways has helped me re-visit fond memories and I also love reading more modern authors and seeing what children are currently reading. Pseudonymous Bosch, Julia Donaldson, David Williams, J.K Rowling (ok showing my age as lots of adults have her books as a childhood memory! New-ish for me though :-))…the list could go on – If you have any suggestions of books you or your children have read I’d love to hear about them!

Anyhow, thought I’d do a review on the latest I’ve read:

My Brother’s Famous BottomBy Jeremy Strong

This book is a great one for 7-9 year olds. I only realised after that it’s part of a series. It’s set in a slightly mad household. They’re struggling for cash as they have 3 children (the twins being the latest addition) and they audition the twins for a disposable nappy advert…it results in chaos! I loved the characters: There’s a boy called Nicholas, a set of twins, an angry neighbour and his wife, a motorbiking step-grandad, an outspoken grandma, a patient mum, a very funny dry humoured wind up-merchant dad and a goat. I found myself chuckling throughout. Short but sweet and I definitely want to read the next book in the series. Will be encouraging my boys (a baby and a toddler) to read it when they’re older. Very funny!

Baby’s Books…

…He’s still a baby if he’s turned one right? Well, think they’ll always be my babies no matter how old! Anyway, my youngest turned one and in spite of everyone in the house having winter lergies, we had a wonderful day of fish and chips and a visit to the aquarium. I think my son and his huge appetite would have tried to eat the fish there too, given half the chance!

He got a couple of books for his birthday – doesn’t matter how young children are. Reading is a great way to encourage their language and vocabulary. Personally for me, more importantly it’s a great way to bond and the happy shrieks and giggles we get from reading George’s favourites are priceless memories.

So what better way to celebrate the special day than a list of his top 5 books? (Certainly a much better way than eating cake out of the dustpan the second Daddy’s back was turned! 🤢)

1. Charlie Chick – by Nick Denchfield<<
pop-up book given to my eldest a couple of Easter's ago by a close friend. It's about a hungry little chick. George gets the giggles whenever the pop up beak tries to "peck" him. Very simple sentences and so much fun. I've also just seen apparently there are a series of books such as Charlie Learns to Fly and Charlie Chick Goes to School.

2. Toddle Waddle by Julia Donaldson<<
eviewed this before but it's still one of our favourites. A fantastic book that introduces children to noises. Beautifully illustrated and lots of fun.

3. Where’s Mr Lion? – by Ingela Arrhenius<
eorge loves this serious of lift the flap books. It was one of the first books I read to him. The flaps are made of felt and are so easy for little fingers to grab but not so easy for them to tear. We have Where’s Mr Lion? and Where’s Mrs Hen? Very colourful and really grab their attention!

4. Maisy’s Colours– by Lucy Cousins
A bright book, George was kindly given for his birthday, featuring Maisy Mouse. Teaches little ones colours and gives examples of each one. George has recently learned to point at objects that aren’t just food related and has great fun pointing at random things in the book.

5. Pop-Up Peekaboo! Bedtime- by DK (publishers)

Another birthday book, this one is full of peekaboo surprises. Have to be a bit careful that George doesn’t grab things too hard (my eldest has Woof! Woof! from this series and ripped the dog’s head off when he was about the same age as George). Such a sweet series particularly this bedtime book!

What’s your little one’s current favourite bedtime story? Would love to hear from you!

Curious world…..

My eldest is 3 and going through the question stage. “It’s dark Mummy! Why is it dark? What about the moon Mummy? Where is the moon? Pointing at a light in the car: What is that Mummy? Answering his own question: It’s a light! Why is the light on Mummy? Light goes off: Where has the light gone Mummy? The light has gone off….” etc. etc. All this within a 2minute journey from the nursery to the car. It doesn’t stop there. Some days we get what feels like a full day in question commentary. Exhausting but fun – unless you’re trying to get somewhere on time! It got me thinking “Why do they ask “why?”so much?”

I found a couple of interesting links which helped answer my question….and apparently kids can ask up to 300 questions a day!!!! I shouldn’t be surprised but still…Wow!

Mothers Are Asked Nearly 300 Questions a Day….

The article below has some great tips and also suggests reading books to your children to encourage the questions. I love books that give children the chance to ask and answer questions. One of my son’s favourite is a Thomas the Tank Engine book that asks questions along the lines of “What does Bertie need to continue his journey? A red light or a green light?”

Why do children ask “why?”

Such a lot for them to find out about and sometimes we learn new stuff along the way too! Thanks

Last but not least, hope you enjoy my latest poem. It’s about some of the things I’ve found myself saying…….No wonder they ask so many questions!

What a Confusing World! – by Kirsten Allen

I’m listening and watching and only three-But oh my! The world’s such a confusing place to be.
Mummy says “Stay where I can see you!”
But how would I know where that is?
Mummy says “Don’t talk to strangers!”
But “be polite and say ‘hello’ to this lady! Go on – give her a kiss”
“Don’t run – you’ll slip and fall in this dreadful rain!”
“Quick run or we’ll miss the very last train!”
“You must share toys – now give him your bat!”
But if I want something “No! She’s playing with it – you can’t take that!”
“Sit still! Slow down! Don’t just inhale the food on your plate!”
“Come on! Hurry and eat up or we’ll be late!”
However, I’m hopeful that by the time I’m four,
I’ll understand a little more!
©
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Party like it’s Friday….

Well I promised the book review of Kitchen Disco (by Clares Foges and Al Murphy) and what a book it is! It arrived on Friday and without exaggeration we have read it about 8 times already. It’s great for around 6/7 and under with so much colour, fantastic rhyming and a good beat. It almost feels like you’re at a party when you read it. It tells you to “Dance like you don’t care!” (Though my 3 year old keeps insisting “I do care Mummy!” – not sure if he means his dancing or mine! 😂)
It’s all about the party fruit have when everyone’s asleep. So “Swing your hips, shake your pips and let’s get all excited!” Such an enjoyable book that my son loves doing the moves to.

There’s also a website attached with a video  (link below) though if I’m honest the book is fun enough without it.

Kitchen Disco

Something for the weekend….

What a lovely week! I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to do a monthly blog for a wonderful charity, Motherwell Cheshire CIO so watch this space!

https://www.motherwellcheshirecio.com/services 

Also I’ve volunteered to do a regular storytime at Hanwell Library in London which starts on the 9th November. Very excited and looking forward to it!

We’ve also got a wonderful new addition to our book family (it was recommended by a lovely lady on a Facebook thread) It’s such a sweet amusing story I just had to share!!!

The Pout-Pout Fish – by Deborah Diesen

This is a story about a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face spreading his dreary-wearies all over the place! (Think we’ve all had those days! 😂) It’s not his fault…it’s the way he was born…or so he thinks! This has lots of repetition and rhyming, alongside colourful characters. It’s a great one for the under sixes. Really love this book and so did my 3 year old. Here’s the link below. Have a great weekend!

Pout-Pout Fish

Boo!

I know it’s not until next week but with all the pumpkins, skeletons and witches about it’s hard not to get into the Halloween “spirit” (see what I did there?!)
Hope you enjoy this Halloween Rhyme!

Witching For Beginners 
By Kirsten Allen 26.10.17

No one believes me,
When I say I’m a new witch 
And that it was my broomstick,
That knocked my sister in the ditch.

I couldn’t find a prince to turn into a frog
But I found a magic potion in the bathroom,
So tried it on the dog.
Instead of turning into a creature, from the murky pond,
Our poor, brown, furry, four-legged friend, 
Turned an orange shade of blond.

And I then I tried to tell Mum that it was my untrained super witch powers,
That accidentally whacked the heads off all her best most favourite flowers.

I’m new to this whole witching thing,
So I am at a loss,
And really don’t know the right spell
To make her stop being so cross!

©

Storytelling nerves…..

What are your favourite Autumn children’s books? 
This week Sandhurst Library have very kind in asking me to lead a storytelling session on Thursday and it’s Autumn themed. I’m so flattered that they would like to hear some bits that I’ve written alongside  some Autumn type books.

So here’s a little something I wrote for the occasion:

Autumn – by Kirsten Allen 

Mud squishing in my fingers 
Brown conkers all around
Golden leaves are falling. What a crunchy sound!!!
Furry squirrels playing hide and seek with the acorns that they find.
Lushes lovely berries!
Types of every kind.
These are the wonderful things I think of,
When Autumn springs to mind.

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