After last week’s National Poetry Day, we still haven’t managed to get away from the addictive nature of writing poems. They are creations that Holly and I both like and, even if you think they’re difficult to write (like I do!), there’s still something quite irresistible about them when you get going.
Holly and I have been using a special educational book called Practise Writing and Punctuation, produced by WHSmith. The idea is to supplement what Holly is doing at school, particularly with punctuation, which can be quite hard to crack sometimes.
The first activity that we tried out the other day was entitled: Write a Poem (more specifically, a limerick). The book told us that Edward Lear was a great writer of limericks, so we had a look at a few. Here are a couple of favourites:
There was an old man of Tobago, Who lived on rice, gruel and sago Till, much to his bliss, His physician said this – To a leg, sir, of mutton you may go.
My new feature for Words for Life is out: literacy ideas for families, come rain or shine. And, if you’re in the UK, you just know it’s going to be rain! Well, at the rate we’ve been going at recently, anyway.
There’s been a lot of talk about shaking up literacy education in primary schools over here in the UK, as this article in the Independent shows, and one of the recommendations is that children as young as five should be able to learn and recite poetry. I don’t think we’re talking The Rime of the Ancient Mariner here or Don Juan but simple, short poems that are memorable.
I actually think it’s a good idea. With a lot of emphasis on systemic phonics these days, it can be difficult for children to get into the rhythm of English as they robotically spell out each sound. Most children love poetry, which is why many picture books are written in rhyme, so why not exploit this natural interest?
Holly and I intend to do some poetry reviews but, in order to be topical and newsworthy, we had some fun pulling together this little gem. Last week, we visited one of the Oxfam bookshops in Oxford, which have some lovely old books as well as more modern second-hand titles. Amongst the children’s books was this version of The Hums of Pooh by A.A. Milne.
Holly listens to an audiobook of Winnie the Pooh every night after storytime, to help her go to sleep, so she knows all the poems or ‘hums’ in here off by heart. However, she selected one of her favourites to share with you! You have to go onto You Tube to see this but hopefully you’ll think it’s worth it!
This is part two of my author/illustrator review from the Bookfeast Festival, held in Oxford last week. You can read the first – a talk by Ali Sparkes – here.
It was another hot day. Children in years 3 and 4 from primary schools around Oxford had gathered in the non-ventilated, non-air-conditioned lecture hall at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to hear illustrator Sarah McIntyre talk about her career and do a reading from one of her books. Everyone gasped in pleasure and concern when Ms McIntyre strode into the hall wearing a full pirate uniform, with impressive coat, skirt, stripey leggings, boots and a massive pirate hat. ‘Won’t she be hot in that, mummy?’ Holly asked me worriedly. Since I was on the verge of passing out in cool, loose linen, I agreed.
Photo of Sarah McIntyre from her website, taken at the Museum during the Bookfeast.
Not a haaarrrrd act to follow
Ms McIntyre had definite stage presence. She didn’t need a gimmicky pirate parrot on her shoulder to draw in her audience, who were keen to discover who this excitedly dressed lady was. The reason behind her maritime attire was because she was going to read from one of her books – You Can’t Scare a Princess – which she illustrated alongside the text of Gillian Rogerson. As she read through the story, she involved the children in looking at the drawings, asking them questions about what pirates were like, and getting them to shout a very impressive pirate ‘AAAARRRR!’ at key points during the story, which is about a group of pirates who don’t take orders from a princess… or do they?
One of the highlights for the children was a guided talk on how to draw a pirate in the style of Ms McIntyre. As the Bookfeast people handed out pencils and paper, children excitedly prepared themselves for their task. It was so quiet as she took us through the various stages of drawing eyes, nose, mouth, beard (with disgusting bits in it), whiskers, hat and anything else we felt like adding.
Pirate ahoy! An example of Sarah McIntyre’s drawing before you see our attempts.
The creative process
Ms McIntyre shared with us how she goes about illustrating a children’s book. It looked incredibly complicated to a lay person – if someone handed me several pieces of A4 types with a few lines per page I wouldn’t know where to start. Mind you, I can’t draw. This is her process:
1. She reads the manuscipt over and over.
2. Then the doodling starts as well as other ways of drawing.
3. In You Can’t Scare a Princess she started with pencil drawings, which then were brought to life with watercolours.
4. Adding the little details is great fun!
5. She sends in her artwork on watercolour paper to the publisher.
6. The publisher scans in the documents and then emails them to a massive printing house in China.
7. Once printed, the books are shipped back to the UK.
8. The books are ready for selling!
This was an excellent talk, activity session and guide to how to illustrate picture books and everyone (adults included) came away keen to keep trying to draw pirates. Ms McIntyre should beware… there may be mutiny afoot!