The Magic of Children’s Poetry

22 03 2010

Children’s author, Sally Murphy, has a variety of people visiting her blog in March to talk about poetry and verse novels. This is all to celebrate the launch of her new verse novel, Toppling.

Toppling, like Sally’s first verse novel – Pearl Verses the World – is published by Walker Books.  It’s about John, a boy who is obsessed with toppling dominoes. When his friend gets sick and is diagnosed with cancer, John and his friends wonder how they can comfort Dom, and support him. Is Dom still the same friend? Can they laugh and joke together? It is sad. But it’s also funny and honest, and kept me turning pages until the end!

The following is my guest post that is up on her blog today. I’ve discovered verse novels only recently. Since I’ve only read three (Sally’s two, and Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust), I don’t feel qualified to hold forth on the subject of verse novels in general just yet! And so,  since I love children’s poetry, I thought I would talk briefly about sharing poetry with children.

I am excited to be here to celebrate the launch of Toppling, and I would like to share a story about children and poetry.

Last year I was asked to start a Writers Club for five 6 year olds who were prolific story-writers. The teacher thought they might enjoy getting together once a week, so they could share their stories with each other and talk about books, how to improve their writing, and … well … write more stories.

They were enthusiastic writers, but as the end of term approached, everyone was quite tired. I thought it might be a good idea to change tack for the last few weeks, and so I brought along a book of Michael Rosen’s poetry (which my own children love). I couldn’t say our five budding writers were thrilled when I announced that we would be reading poems, but they sat down ready to listen.

I had chosen his poem ‘Why’, and it’s a bit like a mini play—so I suggested they could do the little boy’s repeated ‘why’s. We practised that a bit and then we read the poem all the way through. While we were reading it, it was clear that they weren’t getting into it.

When we finished, there was silence. They stared at me.

Then one boy gave a surprised laugh, and leapt up like someone had pinched him. All five suddenly fell on me, stole the book, and went off to huddle on the other side of the room—where they took it in turns to be the adult in the poem. Each time, they flung their heads back and cackled. Then someone else would have a turn.

They had forgotten I was even there.

At the end of the session, they called out the lines to ‘Why,’ all the way back to the classroom. And they were still cackling.

That night I said to my mum, Michael Rosen has magical powers.

They began to write poems. And they were fabulous poems, too. I would not be at all surprised if they published their own books of poetry—and a verse novel or two—some day.

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