Reviews are by The Undercover Critic (an independent reviewer who wishes to protect his/her anonymity).

Werewolf Club Rules by Joseph Coelho (Frances Lincoln)

The joy of this collection is the author’s ability to paint pictures with words. Each poem describes a person or a situation or a landscape that immediately appears in the reader’s mind’s eye. A first solo collection that introduces a talented new performance poet, who has already worked with CBeebies, whose work is often funny, but now and again quite thought provoking. TUC

My Life as a Goldfish by Rachel Rooney (Frances Lincoln)

Lovely. A good follow up to the delightful, award-winning Language of Cat, this book features poems short and long, sometimes rhyming, sometimes not. I can’t find a poem I don’t like in here. Some of them are light hearted, but some are quite serious; most will appeal to adults as well as children. Sadly, I didn’t like the illustrations. I didn’t think they were ingenious or well done enough for this poet’s clever style. TUC

Over the Hills and Far Away collected by Elizabeth Hammill (Frances Lincoln)

Now when you say nursery rhymes, you might think familiar and old hat, but Wow. There is nothing common place about this big book which really does take us far away – around the world on a most colourful and interesting journey. There are several old favourites here, but also some fascinating rhymes that tell tales I have never heard before. And each poem is accompanied by a full size picture in the appropriate cultural style. A collection that will last throughout a child’s life. TUC

My Rhino Plays the Xylophone by Graham Denton (A&C Black)

I like this book. It is chock full of groaningly awful puns that are so bad they’re brilliant – and they make really good fun reading for children. Many of the poems are funny – which bears out the ‘poems to make you giggle’ strapline on the cover. But, most importantly, the writing is literate and clever and a fine example of how to encourage children to enjoy and participate in word play.
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To Catch An Elephant by Gerard Benson (Smith/Doorstep Books)

Some lovely new poems and the best from his two acclaimed books for children from the late Gerard Benson, a truly accomplished poet and performer. He has left a valuable legacy. His poems for younger readers are full of quirky humour, amazingly grand ideas, beautiful words; they burst upon the brain with a love of life and display a curiosity that is catching. I would go so far as to say that some of Gerard Benson’s work for children will prove to be quite important in the annals of poetry. This collection will bring pleasure to adults as well as children and teenagers. Jut buy it. TUC

The Penguin In Lost Property by Jan Dean and Roger Stevens (Macmillan)

Two popular poets come together to create a delightful collection of poems about animals large and small, usual and strange. The craftsmanship is evident throughout – it feels as if every poem has been worked on carefully. The rhymes are clever and satisfying, the ideas are interesting and humour flows through the book, sometimes bringing a slight smile, sometimes worthy of a guffaw. There’s also some useful information in here, which means, along with the fun of reading the poems, children learn, too. A very good collection. TUC

I’m A Little Alien by James Carter (Frances Lincoln)

As I read through this book I could clearly picture a group of children, sat upon the classroom carpet at storytime, laughing, clapping and joining in. It’s full of references to those things that loom large in the life of an infant – wobbly teeth, aliens, mini beasts, space rockets and playtime. There are group poems, poems to dance to, poems to shout and poems to sing. It’s a lovely collection of easy but not always simple rhymes, many of which will definitely become favourites with the younger children they have been written for. TUC

Don’t Poke A Worm Till It Wriggles by Celia Warren (Bloomsbury)

I will never look at a worm in the same light again. What a lovely book. Who could have guessed how many things could be said about these unremarkable (or so I thought) creatures? The poems are bright, funny, sometimes surprising, really well crafted – and every single one of them is about worms. I am quite sure all children will really love these poems and enjoy the clever rhymes and rhythms on every page. I particularly like:

“The scientists know everything about me,”

said the worm as it wove down one more hole,

And its five tiny hearts beat faster,

“But they still don’t know about my soul.”

Well there’s a thought – and there’s an example of a poem to entertain, educate and challenge a child. Perfect. TUC

Stars and Jars by Chrissie Gittins (Bloomsbury)

I don’t like to write negative reviews, but when presented with this book I was lost for words. The ideas behind some of the poems are okay, but the execution is less than proficient. I just don’t like it – not for reasons of personal taste, but because I do not think the thing is well done: rhyme, rhythm, sense are all lacking. It feels very amateurish. Someone at Bloomsbury and several respected critics disagree with me, obviously. Compare this to the wonderful modern children’s poetry around and the talented poets writing at the moment and you have to ask: Could this possibly be a case of Emperor’s New Clothes? Or am I the deluded one? TUC

Grrr! Dinos, Dragons & Other Beastie Poems by James Carter and Graham Denton (Macmillan)

I hadn’t actually heard of some of the dinosaurs featured in this two-hander from Carter and Denton. I guess the Ornithomimus, the Allosaurus, the Archaeopteryx  and the others really do (sorry, did) exist and aren’t just the inventions of these poets’ imaginations? Like the dragons? Now we know they are the stuff of fiction but they come to life quite terrifyingly here. Perhaps rather samey once you’re reaching the end of the book (there’s only so much you can say about scary beasties once you’ve established that they’re scary and they’ll eat you if you don’t look out), these poems are nonetheless fun and at times quite educational. Infants particularly do seem to adore dinos and dragons, so this should be a hit with younger readers. TUC

Cosmic Disco by Grace Nicholls (Frances Lincoln)

There are some beautiful poems in this solo collection. Some tell a story, some relate a riddle, some are lyrical, some are quite terse. Many of them are improved if you imagine them recited with a Caribbean lilt to the poet’s voice. They all illustrate the beauty of Nicholls’ way with words: She knows how to make complicated ideas simple; how to convey a complex emotion in just a couple of syllables; how to grab your attention in one word. My, she’s clever. TUC

The Dragon With The Big Nose by Kathy Henderson (Frances Lincoln)

 It’s a shame they chose this poem to title the book, because when I picked it up I confess I thought ‘oh no, not more dragons’ – I know children like them, but there seem to have been an awful lot of them about in the poetry pages recently. In fact, there is just the one dragon poem in this debut solo collection and it is not the strongest verse in the book. I much prefer the one about the different excuses children use to keep awake after the light’s been turned out – it will ring a bell with every parent; and the one about great great Aunt Alfreda – quite surreal. I’m not sure all the poems work. But this book introduces a poet with promise. TUC

 The Monster Sale by Brian Moses (Frances Lincoln)

Oh please not more monsters… no, it’s all right, this book of fast-paced poems covers a wide variety of subjects. I read that Moses often accompanies himself on percussion when performing and you can hear a drum beat behind many of these verses. The occasional lazy rhyme – ‘Someone who could help me out, When all around me begin to shout’ – can be forgiven, particularly because Moses is a master of the pun (see Tank Training). I like the illustrations, too, and think the publisher could have given artist Will Dawburn credit other than a tiny-print copyright line which I had to search hard to find. TUC

Can It Be About Me? by Cheryl Moskowitz (Frances Lincoln)

I love the introductory paragraphs to the poems. Of course they all speak for themselves, but when bringing poetry to the young it’s a good idea to give them a little clue as to what the poem is about and it’s interesting to hear the answer to that perennial question: Where did you get the idea from? Moskowitz obviously gets her ideas from the people around her, young and old. Some insightful verses give this book a different feel to many about at the moment. Children will relate to the personal in many of the poems. And respond to the positive messages, too, I hope. My favourite lines – from one of the introductions, actually, but this could be a poem itself: ‘Kids are good at clapping games. Grown-ups aren’t. I think that’s the main difference.’ Well, that sums it up nicely. TUC

Here Come The Creatures! by Wes Magee (Frances Lincoln)

 Simple, beautifully lyrical, learnable poems from a master craftsman. This is going to be a favourite book with so many younger children. It just flows. Lovely. If you know an infant, buy it! (No credit for the artist – Lorna Scobie – again. Do Frances Lincoln have something against illustrators at the moment?) TUC

I Am A Poetato by John Hegley (Frances Lincoln)

In recognition of his standing as a poet of, well, some standing, the publisher has given Hegley’s new collection a hard cover and a bigger format. It’s worth it. There are some fabulous ideas in here as Hegley takes his usual off-the-wall look at life with wit and wisdom. I give you (and surely someone will grab the last line as a catchphrase):

The Quibble

likes an argument

at any time of day,

morning or night,

You might hear the Quibble say,

‘That’s not quite right, is it?

Or, ‘Are you sure, Barbara?’

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Let’s Play edited by Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D’Arcy (Frances Lincoln)

 An anthology of poems new and old about a whole range of sports and games from across the world, nicely and colourfully presented in a large hardback with lovely illustrations by Shirin Adl. This is not a particularly exciting collection but it does what it presumably set out to do – showcases some different sports and, with two pages of information about them at the back, lets children know where and how they are played. I don’t like the fact that some poems are represented only by extracts. But there are some good poems here. TUC

Hear Here (Hands Up Books), Trevor Parsons

It’s rare to find a poetry book which doesn’t include at least one weak poem, but Trevor Parsons’ debut manages to give us 60 quality poems. I really like this solo collection. Parsons is very good at punch lines, which usually bring an extra smile but sometimes bear a sting in the tail. This is a book that children will want to read more than once. The only criticism concerns the cover – I don’t think the framed grey-blue retro look will be attractive to children, despite the fine illustrations by Lucy Creed which continue throughout the book. But it might appeal to parents and grandparents, I suppose, who may well be the ones forking out the cash. I hope so because it would be a shame to judge this book by its cover and deny children the chance to enjoy this great collection. TUC

Come Into This Poem (Frances Lincoln) and Plum (Barn Owl Books), Tony Mitton

Come Into This Poem is Tony Mitton’s latest offering; Plum is a re-release of an old favourite. Both books feature Mitton’s hallmark – the occasional comment from the poet which I very much like and I think children do, too. Often poems justifiably mention things that children won’t have experienced – Mitton makes sure they know what they’re reading about, which adds to the enjoyment; particularly because they often answer a child’s favourite question: Where do you get your ideas from? Mitton is a talented, versatile and accomplished poet with the ability to engage children with his imaginative writing. In Plum, many of the poems read like adventure stories, they all say something interesting and they all illustrate a wonderful use of language. TUC

Evidence of Dragons (Macmillan), Pie Corbett

A fantastic collection of whimsical, funny, beautifully written poems – some with a message, some worthy of their place in the book just because they make you smile. Children will love having them read to them, but should be encouraged to read them aloud themselves (even the one entitled A Poem To Be Spoken Silently!) as this will help them learn a lot about the satisfaction of speaking cleverly crafted phrases. They’re not all easy poems; they are all proof of Corbett’s wonderful way with words. TUC

Best of Enemies, Best of Friends(Wayland),

This anthology tackles the serious subject of bullying – and does a very good job of capturing the fear of the victim, the bravado of the perpetrator and the shame of the silent witness. It also celebrates the joys and examines the trials of friendship. It includes poems by a selection of well known children’s poets, such as Roger Stevens, Clare Bevan and Jan Dean, and mixes in amusing and wise quotations from such celebrities as Abraham Lincoln, Aristotle and Professor Dumbledore! It also features the occasional poem by a child. I don’t like the cover – I think it’s a bit crude and frivolous and likely to appeal to younger readers – and the paper quality is poor, but I do like the contents, which will entertain and be valuable to the older primary school pupil. TUC

Does Your Face Fit? (A&C Black), Roger Stevens

An anthology for teenagers produced in aid of nasen, the special needs charity, which includes winning entries from the nasen Inclusive Poetry Competition, this is a collection of serious and moving poetry. There are a few lighter moments, but many of the poems are sad – they describe childhood confusion and disappointment, neglect and abandonment. Written with insight and compassion, by some established poets, including the anthologist Roger Stevens, and some talented newcomers, including the teenage competition winners, the poems are likely to be loved by young people going through the agonies of adolescence. Those whose special circumstances make them feel excluded should gain the ever-relevant and valuable message – You are not alone. TUC

Pumpkin Grumpkin (Walker Books), John Agard and Grace Nichols,

A collection of classic nonsense poems from around the world which illustrates that humour knows no territorial boundaries. It may vary from country to country, but it’s accessible to all of us no matter where it originates. The book quotes Sampurna Chatterji: “To me, nonsense is a game we play in which humour and insight, imagination and anarchy bounce in amazing (and amazingly rigorous) patterns on the trampoline of language!” Well, absolutely. That exactly describes the importance of this anthology compiled by poetic couple John Agard and Grace Nichols. A grumpkin? Possibly an Icelandic fruit – possibly the fruit of an Icelandic poet’s imagination! TUC

The RSBP Anthology of Wildlife Poetry (A&C Black), Celia Warren, hardback

This is a gorgeous book featuring the work of poets ancient and modern, beautifully presented in a mixture of colour and black and white and illustrated by a selection of leading wildlife artists. In his foreword, Andrew Motion says: “…rarity is marvellous, ordinary things are marvellous too – or can be if we look at them closely enough… This eye-opening is not simply allowed by poetry, but endlessly encouraged by it…” Wise words which work equally well as a statement of intent for this book. Classic poems by greats such as Yeats, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Keats, Lear, Blake and de la Mare sit happily alongside potential classics by greats-in-the-making like Gerard Benson, John Rice, Judith Nicholls, Tony Mitton, John Agard, Roger Stevens and the anthologist herself, Celia Warren. It would make a wonderful gift with a long, long shelf life for any child (or, indeed, any adult). Truly a treasury! TUC

Goldilocks on CCTV (Frances Lincoln), John Agard,

Brilliant! John Agard is so clever. This behind-the-scenes look at some well known and popular traditional tales is more than a book of poems; it’s a collection of beautifully bizarre ideas, telling cultural references and wickedly wise words that bring those so-familiar characters from the past firmly into the 21st Century. The illustrations by Satoshi Kitamura are perfect – not a word I use unguardedly. The poet’s rich reading voice with its Caribbean cadences can be heard throughout the book. It’s a masterpiece, will become a classic collection and will probably be Number One in my list of Top Ten poetry books this year. TUC

If You Could See Laughter, Mandy Coe (Salt)

Mandy Coe has the ability to transform ordinary situations into magical adventures with her skilful use of rhythm and rhyme. There’s something for everyone in this book – girls, boys, younger readers and teenagers should all be captivated by the way in which her words conjure up vivid pictures that make the reader feel happy to be alive. TUC