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I Am a Poetato: An A-Z of Poems About People, Pets and Other Creatures

Authored by John Hegley
Published by Otter Barry Books

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John Hegley has produced a collection of surreal, comical poetry which is reminiscent of the nonsensical, playful styles of poets such as Spike Milligan or Edward Lear. The loose theme of ‘pets, people and other creatures’ offers us subjects ranging from ‘Ants’ and ‘A Mosquito’, via ‘Differences between Dogs and Deckchairs’ to ‘Zombie’ and ‘Zoe’. There are various forms and poetic structures, such as acrostics and shape poems. Each is combined with illustrations and typography to make the whole book a very engaging and visual experience.

This is a collection that delights in word play and is humorous, but occasionally invites deeper contemplation. One poem is about a child called Isabella who is turning nine years old and asks the poet to look at a ‘horsie’; there is a touch of melancholy while he considers that soon it will be referred to as a horse, a sure sign of growing up. Then there is the delightfully satisfying ‘Guillemot’ which is both silly and clever in its use of rhyme and typography, and demands to be read aloud.

This poetry collection is suitable for use in a variety of ways and across age groups. Younger children in Early Years and Key Stage 1 would delight in hearing some of the poems read aloud; they would find it gratifying to hear the twisting of familiar words, as well as the rhythm and rhyme within them. It would also be a great collection to inspire poetry writing in Key Stage 2. It provides an engaging stimulus to demonstrate the fun that we can have with words when we do not have to follow the usual rules and structures. It would also be wonderful to produce some illustration or collage to accompany the children’s own poems. The poems would be fun to perform for an assembly or simply just to share aloud in class.

I Am a Poetato is also one of Just Imagine’s Reading Gladiators Book Club choices for Year 3: