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.

Rhythm, Rhyme and Story Time

It’s been about a million years since the last blog on my page. Had so many thoughts and could write (or is that ramble) for hours on this topic…which it’s why it’s taken so long to publish this particular blog!

It started when I recently remembered listening to Peter and the Wolf when I was very young. We had it on cassette (yes that long ago! :-)) and had the book to accompany it. Each character has a different musical instrument attached to it. So I  looked for it on Spotify for the boys. Sure enough they had it on there too. It’s incredible – the boys loved the story and picking out the different noises and recollecting the bits of the story they’ve remembered. Music is amazing for the imagination and rouses so many emotions and memories. One of the ways we learn when we’re young (and sometimes now!) is through rhyme and songs. Think “Heads, Shoulders , Knees and Toes”…even my 15 month year old knows very vaguely where to point now. An example of music and learning – I had THE COOLEST times table cassette (I know an oxymoron!) when I was about 9… something along the lines of “Rock Your Tables” or “Times Tables Rock”..I learned most of my times tables through this (NB: I hated and was rubbish at maths). Then, when I nearly  knew them my parents gave the cassette to my friend’s parents as they mentioned their child was struggling. Not with my consent…Forget about helping others – I was devastated and cried so much that they got me a new one (this was a rare occurence…normally if I stamped my foot and cried a lot I’d get sent to my room of course but I think they consented as it was “educational”.) The new cassette was different, dull and not the same…I’ve only just about forgiven them for this.

Music helps understand patterns, language and develop sounds, vocabulary and memory. I can’t remember what I had to eat yesterday but I can remember where I was and what I was doing when I hear a certain song! Even memories of being at nursery singing “Do your ears hang low” (the clean version – not the rugby version…) My 3 year old is now coming home from nursery and is excited about numbers thanks to my wonderfully creative friend Gracie-May from DramEd. I’ve been trying for months to get him interested in numbers to no avail. A couple of sessions at the nursery with  songs, rhymes and Gracie-May and now numbers is one of his favourite topics of conversations!

An example music evoking recollection is when my little boy suddenly started singing Happy Birthday to his brother and then started talking  about caterpillar cakes, presents, Grandma and Grandpa coming…(it was his brother’s birthday in November!) He also recently borrowed the book “Wheels on the Bus” from the library and was “reading” through it by singing the lyrics. Of course to my knowledge he can’t read yet but anything that gets a kid to pick up a book or use imagination, in my books is a good thing.

Here’s a list of music (had lots of fun writing it!) that gets my imagination going and has memories of my childhood attached. Some of them I listen to with the boys now. That’s if I can get them away from Paw Patrol and PJ Masks!

  1. Peter and the Wolf– Sergei Prokofiev
  2. Fantasia Soundtrack – Walt Disney I remember when the film came out on VHS and I stayed over at my best friend’s house and watched it. Just genius.
  3. Bestiary – Flanders & Swann (a collection of songs that have animals in them) eg.  The Hippopotamus or The Gnu
  4. The Nut Cracker – Tchaikovsky
  5. Rachmaninoff – I have no idea where my fascination with him comes from but when I listen to him my imagination runs wild. Just incredible music.
  6. Scott Joplin – As a child I tried to learn the Entertainer on the piano and loved Maple Leaf Rag . Have no idea why but when I listen to some of his pieces I can’t help but think of Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin,
  7. Ralph Mctell – Alphabet Zoo (I was obsessed with this tape from the library and spent many car journeys listening to it. Over. And over. And over…am sure my parents must have been thrilled!)  Holly The Hedgehog and Impala were my favourite
  8. Evelyn Glennie – Evelyn Glennie is an incredible percussionist I went to see with my late father when I was a child. She’s profoundly deaf since the age of 12 and plays barefoot. At the concert I remember reading that the music was by someone (can’t remember who – think a Polish composer) who had based the music on tanks invading Poland in the World War 2. I sat there imagining these tanks and vividly picturing them in my head and the image has never left me.
  9. Now don’t laugh ( really mushy and oversentimental!) but this one was on the radio a lot and I imagined a train going over the bridge and for some reason made me feel quite emotional: The Seekers – Morningtown Ride At school years later we looked at the poem “Night Mail” by W.H. Auden and in my head for some unexplicable reason I can’t think of one without thinking of the other. This is the power of rhyme and music!
  10. Flight of the Bumble Bee Rimsky Korsakov – this one reminds me of doing homework. Or to be precise not doing homework…my father had a rocket computer game (press left to go left and right to go right, space bar to shoot) which I’d spend hours on pretending to do homework. Only heard the name of this years later. The computer version of this piece was much much more synthetic.

There are so many songs, pieces of music, nursery rhymes that I’ve got memories of and remember from school, I could go on forever.  What do you or what does your child think of when you hear certain songs and tunes? See if you can get your child to listen to a song/tune/noise and ask them what it reminds them of. Maybe bashing pots and pans can be elephants. Blowing bubbles in a glass filled with water could be fish…or hippos…is there anything in the house that can make a sound like a squeaky wheel? What stories are in the sounds? Get your children listening to music (anything at all – rock, rap (clean versions!), classical, jazz) Does it sound like an elephant? Can you hear thunder? Do they like the music why/why not? Can they draw a picture of what they’re hearing? Count the beats/taps/how many times they clap their hands. Play a game – make the first line of a song up then the next person has to continue it.

To finish, here are a couple of interesting articles which might be useful. Of course the main thing is that children enjoy the music and have fun…anything educational they get out of it is a bonus!

The Importance of Music – Toddler Development

Singing to children may help development of language skills – The Guardian

The science of why music improves our memory and verbal intelligence – Washington Post

How Music Feeds and Steers Your Imagination – Psychology Today

Been a while…

Firstly Happy New Year! It’s been ages since my last blog. Before Christmas we had about 6 weeks of household bugs then a crazy dash to get everything ready for the big day. However, I did manage to read a book during this period. Hope you enjoy the review!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This is a good but dark book about a boy whose family is murdered and through a sequence of events he ends being brought up by ghosts in a graveyard. He then makes it his mission to find out who murdered his parents. The books is aimed at 12year olds and older (it mentions divorce and suicide and obviously being set in a graveyard covers the topic of death a bit).

I have to be honest and say that I found the first couple of chapters a bit confusing but this could be due to trying to read it with little sleep as the kids had been ill. Once I got into it I couldn’t put it down!!!! If your 12+ year olds are into fantasy/horror I would definitely recommend it!

If your child has read this book or has any other suggestions for the 12+ readers, would love to hear from you!

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!

Imagination….

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Albert Einstein

It’s so true. They say that necessity is the mother of invention but I believe imagination plays a big part in there too. If we looked at only what we know without curiosity and “what ifs” then we would surely never develop further than our own surroundings? For children imagination is so important for development, learning and of course fun!

It’s interesting to see how a child’s mind works. To give you an example, when we went to a fish and chip restaurant my eldest very excitedly started making loud chicken clucking noises. I kept asking him where the chickens were as I just couldn’t see it no matter how much he pointed. Throughout the meal he sporadically made the clucking noises followed by “look at the chickens Mummy!” He does have a random imagination sometimes but even so by the end of the meal curiosity got the better of me. I picked him up and took him to where he was vaguely pointing. It was a clock. Of some sailing boats “Look Mummy! Chickens!!!” Took me a few seconds but then I saw it….there are 2 “chickens” 😂

<<<<<<<<
, that he will always have this imagination and that real life doesn't end up getting too much in the way.<<<<<<<<
d a lovely article on why imagination is so important and also a piece on how to encourage a healthy imagination in children. After all without imagination we may never have heard of amazing people such as Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, J.K Rowling, A.A. Milne, Julia Donaldson and many many more! What an emptier world that would be!

1. The Magic of Imagination and It’s importance for Kids<<< a href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/finance/family-matters/11393118/ways-encourage-child-imagination.html”>Five ways to encourage your child’s imagination

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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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.

©

Just had to review….

So it’s been a mad whirl of holidays, teething and 3 year old birthday parties. My youngest has been waking at 5am and then going back to sleep. Oliver then wakes up and while waiting for his younger brother we’ve had a lovely time cuddling and reading a a story before getting ready. He received some beautiful books as birthday gifts which he loves. Including this one which made me smile and he loved it. Can recommend it:

There’s No Dragon In This Story – by Lou Carter & Deborah Allwright

This story is about a dragon. He wants to be a hero….unfortunately for him Goldilocks, The Gingerbread Man, Hansel and Gretel plus others already have their stories. Surely someone needs a dragon to save the day……
This is a fun easy read story for 6years old and under. Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!!

On another note I came across this interesting article. I have to say, even as an adult I love bonding with people over books they’ve read. Chatting with friends about what they’ve been reading has opened up new genres for me which I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Also, my son loves telling me about stories that have been read at nursery. Children are never too young to be read to!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/11/09/how-to-bond-with-your-child-through-reading/

Half a book review…

It’s only half as am only part way through but really enjoying it! It’s a bit advanced for my 3 year old but I’m keen to review a variety of children’s books not just picture books. So taking one for the team I’m reading them myself (and loving it!!!) the one I’m currently reading is The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch.  Would say it’s aimed at 9-12 year olds (not as grim as it sounds but mentions death and divorce). It’s about a girl (Cass) and a boy (Max-Ernest) who stumble on adventure. A lady brings a box full of smells to the antique shop Cass is staying at until her mother returns from a business trip. The adventure leads to a magician’s notebook. I’m almost half way through and can’t put it down. Wonderfully woven into the story are little historical facts, and things to do (how to make a compass) and there’s an appendix with useful words and definitions. Please don’t give the end away as am still reading but would love to know if your child (or you!) have read this book and if they enjoyed it?