Next week the UK organisation, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education will announce this year’s winner of their CLPE Poetry Award. One of the books on the shortlist is Goldilocks on CCTV by John Agard, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura (Frances Lincoln, 2011) – I haven’t actually seen it yet, but I’m working on it, since they have already shown themselves to be a first-class creative partnership. In fact, their previous collaboration, The Young Inferno won the CLPE Poetry Award in 2009. I blogged about The Young Inferno a couple of years ago (and I refer you to that post for a longer overview) but it’s just come out in paperback, which gives me the perfect excuse to revisit it!
It’s Agard’s Canto 3 that resonates most with me at the moment – as the “Hoodie Hero” steps through the door of the Gate Cinema aka the entrance to Hell, into the unknown – wanting to go forward, but dreading what he is about to discover:
THROUGH ME INTO THE CITY OF TEARS.
A LOVING ARCHITECT MADE ME.
ABANDON HOPE ALL WHO ENTER HERE.
When I saw these words above a gate
I felt a sad and weird sensation.
‘Can we turn back?’ I said. ‘Is it too late?’
My teacher [Aesop] smiled and said, ‘This is Hell, my son.
What do you expect? A red carpet
and bunches of flowers that say Welcome?’
Then holding my hand, he whispered to me,
‘Nothing is more fearsome than your fear.
Just think of Hell as a scary movie.’
And with these words of encouragement
he led me down starless winding stairs.
I could hear voices coming from a basement.
Tantalising? I hope so. Just as would have been the case for Dante’s contemporary audience, this 21st-century update is filled with a blend of characters and stories (many from Aesop’s Fables) that will be both well-known and unfamiliar to today’s young readers. Agard’s powerful, energetic verse and Satoshi Kitamura’s extraordinarily powerful illustrations together pack a rare punch. (Do take a look at our PaperTigers Gallery featuring some of Satoshi’s wonderful artwork) Now to seek out Goldilocks on CCTV …