British poet, Judith Nicholls, has compiled a wonderful book of poems for children called Someone I Like: Poems About People (illustrated by Giovanni Manna.) I discovered Nicholls’ work through The Children’s Poetry Archive, a wonderful website chock-a-block with recommendations of poetry for children. In Someone I Like, Nicholls has assembled poems by various authors that look at human relationships in ways that children can identify with. There are poems about friendship and about one’s parents. There are poems about siblings, and about aunties and grandmothers. What I liked about the poems was how emotionally frank many of them were. In “Urgent Note to My Parents,” the child speaker says:
Don’t ask me to do what I can’t do
Only ask me to do what I can
Don’t ask me to be what I can’t be
Only ask me to be what I am
The accompanying illustration of a fed-up looking girl in overalls with a pencil in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other is very fitting! In reading this book to my daughter, we were able to explore terrains of emotion that were new and sometimes surprising. Poems, for example, about broken friendships and about a girl who tells her granny “you’ll have to be dying soon” were arresting and provocative. Such poems engage the reader and require a response, and that is what good poetry should do for parent and child alike. Compiler Nicholl understands this notion deeply and brings her experience as a poet, parent and grandparent to bear on her lively selections.
Someone I Like is published by an innovative press called Barefoot Books. Their vision is to produce books that “celebrate the world’s diversity, encourage children’s independent spirits, and build their enthusiasm for reading, creativity and discovery.” Someone I Like certainly fulfills that vision!
Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Anastasia Suen’s Picture Book of the Day.