Today is launch day for this lovely book and, although teaching commitments have meant this blog has been much neglected, I had to write about this (and hooray, it’s the summer hols!).
I first came across Chrissie’s work a few years ago when I was asked to review ‘The Humpback Wail’ for Write4Children, the International Journal for the Practice and Theories of Writing for Children and Children’s Literature based at Winchester University. Here’s that review (on page 34 if you care to look!):
Two years ago, Chrissie just happened to pop into the Children’s Department at Heffers in Cambridge on one of my shifts. It was lovely to meet her and find about ‘Stars in Jars ‘, her latest offering at the time. I have always read poetry to the children, but they particularly like Chrissie’s work (High-Chair is still their firm favourite).
Poetry is brilliant for children because you can dip in and out of them, a huge range of topics are covered and different emotions can be conveyed, all in the same book. And of course they are heaps of fun to read out loud. Jess especially likes reading poetry because it helps her think of ideas for songs. Toby likes the sound of them when you read them out.
‘Adder, Bluebell, Lobster’ is particularly special because it was written in reaction to the discovery by Lisa Saunders that words – particularly nature words – were disappearing from the Junior Oxford Dictionary in favour of words like blog and broadband. My kids always dropping words like hashtag and vlog, and of course they have their place, but it is sad that other words are vanishing from the dictionary they are most likely to turn to at school. When I was their age, the school nurse (we still had one) used witch hazel to cure all ails (only 30 years ago but seems so alien now) and I learnt that willow bark was natural aspirin and that people used to chew on it during labour (bet that helped). Words like hazel and willow are important to me, and I’m so glad they are being celebrated in this way – such a positive thing to do. I love that they are being preserved in this way – like a bumper crop of blackberries turned into jam that sees you through winter. And unlike the jam, this will happily sit on your shelf for the rest of your life. I also love that the publisher’s name includes one of the words in the collection! And it is also wonderful to have Paul Bommer’s illustrations in this – he illustrated ‘The Humpback’s Wail’, so it’s nice to see the pair reunited.
The kids and I really loved reading these poems and I wanted to thank Chrissie for writing them. So they’ve read a few that they really love (with me reading the first line of ‘Blackberry’ because Jess couldn’t quite pronounce ‘globule’ and wanted it to be perfect!). I hope you can hear them! And do, do buy this book – children need poetry, and this book is especially lovely (and important).
For further info about Chrissie, this is her website: http://www.chrissiegittins.co.uk/
This is Paul Bommers’ website: http://www.paulbommer.com/7
And to find out more about the disappearing words, please to go http://www.naturemusicpoetry.com