Hello, John, and welcome. When were you born?
During the Second World War on 12 October 1941
Where did you grow up?
In a village called Scotby, just outside Carlisle and on a hill in Staffordshire, near a village called Denstone, where I went away to school. I now live in Standlake, near Witney in Oxfordshire
Do you share your house with anyone interesting?
My wife, Chris who always reads my poems and makes interesting comments about them – and an elderly cockateal called Chino.
Bedbug, bedbug, where have you been?
I’ve been up to London to visit the queen.
Bedbug, bedbug, what did you do?
I bit the queen’s bottom!
I bit the king’s too!
From “My Magic Anorak” (Oxford)
What were your favourite things when you were young?
A big Teddy Bear who was bald (because I cut off all his hair!) and my cricket bat with Jack Hobbs’s signature on it.
And what did you hate?
The medicines I had to take when I was ill and any football teams that beat Carlisle United.
What was your favourite story?
The poem about Albert who was eaten by a lion at Blackpool Zoo and the stories about a superhero called Wilson in a comic called The Wizard.
Tell us about your books
I write poetry for children and collect other people’s poems and put them in books called anthologies of poems. One of the most popular is Twinkle Twinkle Chocolate Bar – it came out top in a survey of the most borrowed book from primary school libraries. I write about things that have happened to me (like my poem Football Story about kicking a football through a window) and make up imaginary poems about dragons going to school and Dracula going to the dentist.
How did it all begin?
When I started to make up poems for my own children to keep them quiet on long car journeys.
Why do you do it?
To make children laugh and to make them think about what happens to them and about the world they live in. I enjoy playing with words and writing wordplay poems and making up jokes. I like writing tongue twisters, too. Try saying this out loud quickly.
Shaun Short’s Short Shorts
Shaun Short bought some shorts.
The shorts were shorter than Shaun Short thought.
Shaun Short’s short shorts were so short,
Shaun Short thought, “Shaun you ought
Not to have bought shorts so short!”
from “Climb Aboard the Poetry Plane” (Oxford)
What do you do when you’re stuck for an idea?
Go out for a walk round the garden or walk down to the village shop.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever written a poem?
On top of a snow-covered mountain in northern Italy.
Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
Roald Dahl. I went to his house and he showed me the shed where he wrote his books. But first I had to help him catch the goat.
Er… Of course you did. What did you do before you were a poet?
Haven’t you guessed? I was an English teacher!
How many schools have you visited?
I’ve lost count – it must be well over five hundred. I’ve been to schools in Germany, Cyprus, the West Indies and Oman as well as all over the UK.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve read your poems?
In the middle of a field, at lunch-time, to some children who were staying at a camp.
Of all the poems you’ve written which are your favourites?
“Ten Dancing Dinosaurs”, “Four O’Clock Friday”
and “The Schoolkids’ Rap”
You can find John’s website here.
Why not pay him a visit?