Reviews /

Things That Should Be in a Poem

Authored by Coral Rumble
Illustrated by Shih-Yu Lin
Published by Troika Books

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Last year’s collection of poems, Riding a Lion and her moving verse novel Little Light absolutely convinced me that Coral Rumble was at the very top of her game for KS2 and, knowing nothing at all before I opened the book, I was surprised and delighted to find this collection is for much younger children.

There are poems here in lots of different shapes, sizes and forms, ‘Sled’ works on the page to climb up a hill and slide down the other side, ‘Atchoo’ is driven, scattered across the page by an elephant’s sneeze. Other poems look conventional on the page and showcase the fun to be had with sound, rhythm and rhyme: ‘Stamp your feet and clap your hands, Dance to the beat, Of the Dinosaur band!’ The last poem in the collection ‘Ting’ is designed for a choral class performance.

You could enjoy reading these poems in class one a day after play but the clever touch with this collection is that many of the poems are set in pairs or threes giving us different poetic perspectives on the same subject. Two very different poems about ducks, two more about puddles. ‘There’s a Tiger Behind You’ chimes with ‘Amelia’s Wish’ on the following page – one about a child frustrated with a younger sibling who knows telling her ‘there’s a Tiger behind you’ will give her a scare – the other about a child who really has a tiger for a pet. Once children have spotted a couple of these linked poems, I think they will start to find more and to make their own connections – perhaps they’ll find links that Coral Rumble didn’t notice herself. Of course, almost every collection you pick will be making links between the poems, I think that this has been done particularly cleverly here to allow children to spot this as a feature of the book and to draw them into this deeper form of appreciation.

While many of these poems are there for the fun of rhythm and rhyme, or for the enjoyment of shape, there are some which go into really thoughtful and sensitive ground. I was moved by ‘Mustafa’s Jumper’ a child who had a place in our school community but who has gone – adult readers might think that he has been deported with his family – and the child left behind tries to make sense of the loss. This is beautifully drawn and would make sense on differing levels for children from Year Two upwards, I think.

The book is illustrated in a very approachable and informal style by Shih-Yu Lin. Don’t let the cartoony style and the accessibility of the poetry fool you into thinking this is not an expertly considered collection though. A huge amount of work has gone into assembling a set of poems and creating an attractive book which can be used to hook young children into poetry and draw them some way into understanding what makes a poem a poem and how readers can make enriching connections between them.

This is another real success for Troika books who seem at the moment to do no wrong.