Reading and activity ideas for your Chatterbooks group
Great New Poetry from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books!
About this pack
Enjoy these latest poetry collections from poets John Hegley, Kathy Henderson, Wes Magee, Brian
Moses and Grace Nichols, and be inspired to explore more poetry and write your own!
This pack introduces you to five fabulous poetry books and their authors, with tasters from each
book, plus reading activity and discussion ideas for your Chatterbooks groups.
It’s brought to you by The Reading Agency and their Children’s Reading Partner, Frances Lincoln
Children’s Books. See http://www.franceslincoln.co.uk/en/ChildrensBooks
Chatterbooks [ www.readinggroups.org/chatterbooks] is a reading group programme for children
aged 4 to 14 years. It is coordinated by The Reading Agency and its patron is author Dame
Jacqueline Wilson. Chatterbooks groups run in libraries and schools, supporting and inspiring
children’s literacy development by encouraging them to have a really good time reading and talking
The Reading Agency is an independent charity working to inspire more people to read more
through programmes for adults, young people and Children – including the Summer Reading
Challenge, and Chatterbooks. See www.readingagency.org.uk
Children’s Reading Partners is a national partnership of children’s publishers and libraries working
together to bring reading promotions and author events to as many children and young people as
The poetry and the poets: about the latest collections from John Hegley, Kathy
Henderson, Wes Magee, Brian Moses, and Grace Nichols
More poetry titles from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Discussion and activity ideas
For help in planning your Chatterbooks meeting, have a look at these Top Tips for a
And you can find even more poetry ideas in our latest Poetry Chatterpack ! available
for download on the Chatterbooks website.
The poetry and the poets
I Am a Poetato 978-1847803979
A very funny, witty, zany collection for children, which will also appeal to
the author’s adult fans. It has all the John Hegley comic hallmarks,
including references to wearing glasses, Luton, and dogs (being superior
to cats)! The poems are arranged alphabetically by title, with family pets
and other animals featuring strongly, from a mos-quito and ants, through
wise camels, goldfish and guillemots to Toby the armadillo from Peru and
not forgetting the unusual unicorn in school.
The book is packed with John’s unique brand of deadpan humour, and is illustrated in scrap-book
style with the author’s own quirky line drawings.
About the author: John Hegley was born in north London and brought up in Luton. His eight
collections of adult verse have mostly been published by Methuen, and he has two other children’s
books in print: My Dog is a Carrot, (2002, reissued 2007 Walker) and Monsieur Robinet, a duallanguage storybook, pub Donut Press. He started out as a stand-up comedian/poet, performing his
work on the festival and comedy circuit and he became something of a cult performer from the
early 80s onwards. He has recently started to direct his writing and performances more towards
children, but generally his shows will delight all ages. He plays the ukulele as part of his poetry
performances. He is a Fellow of the English Association. John Hegley lives in Islington.
… Once our hamster
got out of its cage.
Titchy thought he was FREE
which he was.
But freedom brings
its own problems.
In this case it was the cat….
Kathy Henderson The Dragon with a Big Nose 9781847803658
Have a big adventure in the city with these funny, magical and brilliant
poems! Read about the naughty dragon with a big nose, the gutter
creature who rustles litter, and the dustcart dragon with his raging, rusty
belly. Find out if the new baby is magic, and whether Uncle Clem really
had a blue mouse.
But DON’T turn your grandmother into a frog!
About the author: Kathy Henderson is an award-winning author and illustrator, as well as an artist
and printmaker. Among her many titles are the modern classic picture book The Little Boat, with
Patrick Benson, which won the Kurt Maschler Award and was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize. She
also wrote and illustrated The Storm, which was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Her
books for Frances Lincoln include the colour poetry collection 15 Ways to Get Dressed, which she
wrote and illustrated, Pets, Pets, Pets, illustrated by Chris Fisher, and Hush Baby Hush, Lullabies
from Around the World, illustrated by Pam Smy. Kathy visits schools regularly, running workshops
and performing her work. She lives in north London.
the first hum
is the milkman’s float
on its battery run
chattering the bottles
down our street
while we’re still asleep.
Wes Magee Here Come the Creatures!
A brilliant, varied collection of poems for very young children, suitable for early
years and Key Stage One. Funny, sad, silly, sing-along, the poems are about friends
and families, pets and creatures, school, space travel – and more. There is
something for everyone in this sparkling collection – with lots of action and joining
About the author: Wes Magee was born in Scotland, and worked as a teacher and head-teacher
until he became a full-time writer twenty years ago. He has published 100 books for children,
including poetry, picture books and storybooks. He regularly visits schools, libraries and festivals
across the UK and abroad, performing his “poetry show”. He also runs training days for teachers,
talks at educational conferences and runs writing workshops. His best-known books are The Very
Best of Wes Magee, which won the Children’s Poetry Bookshelf Award, The Boneyard Rap and The
Witch’s Brew. He lives in Yorkshire.
…And inside Gran’s old diary
something caught my eye
one tiny buttercup
pressed flat from years gone by.
I’ll never lose Gran’s diary
or its silver key
that we found in the attic
when you explored with me.
Brian Moses The Monster Sale 978-1847803665
Chickens who wear jumpers, all kinds of monsters, a puppy’s favourite chews (a
lucky dip of forgotten socks), staying awake waiting for your birthday, a bear in
his underwear… . In his first collection for younger children, well-known poet
Brian Moses has provided a funny and witty snapshot of family life, with a bit of
fantasy added in. Perfect for sharing at home or at school.
About the author: Brian Moses has been a professional poet since 1988. He visits schools across
the UK and Europe, performing his poetry and percussion show. His poetry books include Behind
the Staffroom Door: The Very Best of Brian Moses and A Cat Called Elvis. His solo collections and
anthologies have sold over 1 million copies and he is featured on the National Poetry Archive. The
Monster Sale is his first book for Frances Lincoln. Brian lives in a small Sussex village.
If you should visit
your school at night,
it wouldn’t seem
such a friendly sight.
Open the door
and step inside.
There are so many places
where something could hide…
Grace Nichols Cosmic Disco
A sparkling galaxy of new poems by one of the UK’s most exciting
contemporary poets. From Aurora Borealis, Sun – You’re a Star, to Lady
Winter’s Rap, the Earthworm Sonnet and You – a Universe Yourself, this
is brilliant poetry with an astonishing range – comic riddles, animals and
nature, home truths and the explosive wonder of the cosmos.
About the author: Grace Nichols was born and brought up in Guyana,
but has lived in the UK since 1977. Her first poetry collection for adults, I
is a Long-Memoried Woman, won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and was dramatised for radio
and film. Grace has written many highly regarded poetry books for adults and children. Her
children’s books include Come on into my Tropical Garden, Everybody Got a Gift and Paint me a
Poem, inspired by art in the Tate Galleries, where she was poet in residence. Grace Nichols lives in
Lewes, Sussex, with her husband, the poet John Agard.
waltzing-with-moon ocean Everything in purposeful motion
like the lifting lark
or the swirls of Saturn…
More poetry from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Debjani Chatterjee & Brian
Give Us a Goal!
Wendy Cooling (ed)
A is Amazing: Poems about
Hush, Baby Hush!
Pets, Pets, Pets!
Fifteen Ways to Get Dressed
An Imaginary Menagerie
Come into this Poem
Can it be about Me?
Thawing frozen frogs
Hey Little Bug!
Poems for Little Creatures
The Language of Cat
(pbk Oct 2013)
Some ideas for your Chatterbooks sessions
Here are some discussion, activity and writing ideas for your Chatterbooks group,
linked to the poems in the collections featured in this pack.
Make your own group poetry book, inspired by these poems and poetry-writing
ideas. You can write poems together, and individually, and for each poem use the
template page at the end of the pack.
Think of a title for your group’s book and design and create a title page together.
You could use a ring-binder to collect all your poems together – then share the book
with your friends and families, and display it in the library.
Poetry X Factor!
Each choose your favourite poem/s from these books.
Practise reading them out loud – you might want to do this individually, in pairs, or in
You could learn them off by heart!
– there is the secret of how to memorise poems in this book: Off By Heart by Roger
Stevens (Bloomsbury 978-1408192948)
Then have a special Chatterbooks Poetry Show – read and recite your chosen poems
to each other and vote for the poem which you think has the biggest X Factor!
The Power of Poetry
Painting pictures with words – eg. Dustcart Dragon (Kathy Henderson); In
Bluebell Wood (Brian Moses)
Telling stories – eg. Bees (John Hegley); George the Plumber (Kathy Henderson)
Expressing feelings – eg. Walking Energy (Brian Moses)
Enjoying sounds and rhythm – eg. The Digging Song (Wes Magee)
Getting people to think about things – Brian (Grace Nichols)
Poetry can be a wonderful way to do all these things and more.
Look at the above poems and talk about this in your group – what do they think
about poetry? What do they like about it? What don’t they like?
John Hegley I Am A Poetato: Some discussion and activity ideas
Write an Acrostic
Have a look at the acrostic poems Fish and Owl – eg.
Get your group to have a go at their own acrostic poems about birds and animals.
The Differences between Dogs and Deckchairs
This is a lovely quirky example of a ‘list’ poem, which gets you thinking as well!
Your group could write their own poem together, inspired by this:
Think of two contrasting things for your title
– eg. The Differences between Cats and Cars.
Then collect your list on a flip chart sheet, with everyone contributing
- eg. A car doesn’t say meow
Cats don’t have an engine……
And you will have a rather interesting poem!
Talking about the poems
John Hegley’s poems often seem simple but they get you thinking a lot.
Choose one of these to read together and talk about:
Guillemot; Invisible Hamster; Wise Camel; Youcan.
Some questions to get the discussion going:
What do you think is the main thing being said in this poem?
How does the poem make you feel? Why?
Any bits/lines which you specially like?
What do you think of these different ways of setting out poetry?
Using handwriting rather than a print type-face (Invisible Hamster)
Using different type-faces and lay-out (Guillemot, Youcan)
Kathy Henderson The Dragon with a Big Nose:
Some discussion and activity ideas
Reading: The Point
Read Today I Read a Bus Stop
Then give your group a big sheet of flip chart paper, divided into 2 columns.
Ask them to list in the left hand column all the things they have read today.
Then in the right hand column, next to each thing read, write down what was
the result of reading it – eg. ‘caught the right bus’; ‘felt happy’…
This is a lovely way to think of the place of reading in our lives – and for those
who think they don’t really read, it shows that they do
Read this poem to your group.
Ask them what stands out most for them from the poem.
Have they seen foxes? Where? What were they doing?
Look together at the poem on the page: the different lengths and placing of the lines.
What effect does this have?
This poem paints a really interesting picture of the kind of person ‘my grandma’ is –
by listing the things she does you can picture what kind of person she is, even
imagine what she might look like.
Have a go at writing a poem in the same way about someone in your family, or one of
Wes Magee Here Come the Creatures:
Some discussion and activity ideas
Looking for inspiration
Choose a Wes Magee poem which you could use as a model for writing your own.
Look at the structure and shape of the poem – what rhyming pattern does it have?
- Inspired by Stroke the Cat you could write Pat the Dog!
- What’s Yellow? could give you ideas for What’s Green? Blue? Any colour….
- Wes Magee’s poems are often about the ordinary things which we do and
which happen in our lives. Have a look for example at Seaside Day, Going to
Gran’s, Sam’s Staying with Me, and then have a go at writing about something
about you and your life.
Gran’s Old Diary
This is about memories and treasures from the past. Talk about the poem.
What objects might you want to keep to remind you of something which is special to
Or what memories would you want to write down, and keep in a diary, or in a poem?
Brian Moses The Monster Sale:
Some discussion and activity ideas
Have a look at Brian Moses If I were a Shape and write your own version of this
You’ll see that it doesn’t need to rhyme.
Start and end each verse with ‘If I were a circle/square/triangle/cone etc’ and then
have 3 lines in between about what you might be in that shape.
Eg. If I were a cone,
I’d be an ice cream with chocolate sprinkles,
I’d be a head-dress for a lady in medieval days,
I’d be attached to a branch of an evergreen fir,
If I were a cone…..
Brian Moses has a great ‘list’ poem in A Good Scary Poem Needs….
Write a poem like this with the title A Good Funny Poem Needs…..!
Another good ‘list’ poem is Worst Crimes Our Dog is Guilty of….
You could have a go at Worst Crimes Our Cat/My Baby Brother is Guilty of….!
Our Favourite Reads
In Big Ted, Enid Blyton and Me Brian Moses remembers how he enjoyed reading Enid
Blyton books when he was a child.
…Her stories were great adventure,
Happy days and laughter,
Stories that we knew would end,
Happily ever after.
What are your group’s favourite books now?
Could you write a poem about your favourite? – eg. Wimpy Kid
Think about including:
What happens in the books – the adventures which you join in, in your
Where you read the books – in bed? in a cosy chair? Somewhere outside?
How the books make you feel
What you will remember most about them
Grace Nichols Cosmic Disco: Some discussion and activity ideas
Grace Nichols has some very short poems which still paint very vivid pictures – pick
these out and talk about each of them. Which is the group’s favourite?
Ask everyone to write their own short poem on anything they like.
Read them out to each other.
Sonnet to an Earthworm
This is inspired by William Blake’s poem The Tyger.
Read and talk about the Sonnet, getting people’s responses to it. Then read and look
at Blake’s poem.
Talk about what comparisons you think the Sonnet is making - eg. the dread strength
of the tiger, and the earthworm’s ‘squidginess’ – and yet, in its way, the earthworm is
as strong and vital as the tiger.
Here’s the first verse of The Tyger, and a link to the whole poem:
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~keith/poems/tyger.html
What Am I? and Who Makes Her Own Bed? are poems which are also riddles.
Read each one to your group without revealing the end/answer and see if they can
work out what each poem is about!
Sky Artist is all about the shapes you can see in the clouds.
(In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet he says ‘Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in
shape of a camel?’)
Your group could:
Look at the clouds – what shapes do they see? Can they make a poem from
From information books and the internet, find out about some different types
of cloud formations – eg. Cirrus; Cumulus; Nimbus
Our Chatterbooks Poetry Book
Title of poem
Name of poet