March 21st 2019 marks World Poetry Day, a day which recognises the unparalleled ability of poetry to inspire, captivate and move us all; from the youngest minds to the oldest and wisest. In 2018, we celebrated 25 years of Macmillan’s Children’s Poetry. To mark the occasion, Gaby Morgan, Publisher of the Macmillan Children’s Poetry list, chose ten of her favourite children’s poems from the last 25 years, and what better time to reflect upon these beautiful poems than now?
Over the past 25 years we have published over 350 poetry books containing thousands of poems. Being asked to write this piece, I discovered that it is a very difficult thing indeed to choose only 10 and explain why I love them. I just do. Poetry is powerful stuff - from nursery rhymes, to song lyrics, to poetry shared on social media to verse novels. We turn to poems to soothe or rally, to praise, to celebrate, to comprehend, to grieve, to shout “I love you” or to pick ourselves up when it seems impossible.
Poems can take us on a journey through history and the seasons, festivals and traditions from many different countries, cultures and religions. They teach us about empathy and tolerance: they are words for life.
Here are a few of my favourite poems for children, that you can share and savour with your family and friends.
‘A small dragon’ by Brian Patten
This speaks to me of belief and trust and wonder.
A small dragon
I’ve found a small dragon in the woodshed.
Think it must have come from deep inside a forest
because it’s damp and green and leaves
are still reflecting in its eyes.
From Read Me: A Poem for Every Day of the Year
‘Puzzle’ by Matt Goodfellow
A small but important poem.
From The Same Inside: Poems about empathy and friendship by Liz Brownlee, Roger Stevens and Matt Goodfellow.
‘The Laughter Forecast’ by Sue Cowling
Sue Cowling’s poem looks at all the ways of expressing happiness in this alternative weather forecast.
The Laughter Forecast
Today will be humorous
With some giggly patches,
Scattered outbreaks of chuckling in the south
And smiles spreading from the east later,
Increasing to gale-force guffaws towards evening.
The outlook for tomorrow
From Happy Poems chosen by Roger McGough.
‘Give Yourself A Hug’ by Grace Nichols
A gorgeous hug of a poem which implores you to believe in yourself.
An extract from ‘Give Yourself A Hug’
Give yourself a hug
when you feel unloved
Give yourself a hug
when people put on airs
to make you feel a bug
From The Works: Every Poem You Will Ever Need at School chosen by Paul Cookson.
‘Uses’ by Rachel Rooney
This is a wonderful collection of poems inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Rachel’s beautiful poem answers this question – ‘What is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversation?’
An extract from ‘Uses’
They prop open windows; let butterflies in
and stop doors from slamming in sudden, cold wind.
They help with your balance and make you walk tall,
they’ll increase your height on a chair, if you’re small.
From Wonderland - Alice in Poetry edited by Michaela Morgan.
‘My Mum’ by Evie Weston
This is a lovely example of a kenning in this book of poems chosen specially for Key Stage 1. Evie is my daughter and this one is about me!
Wants it neater,
But so sweet-er,
From A First Poetry Book.
‘I Opened A Book’ by Julia Donaldson
The joy of reading, perfectly contained in a poem.
I Opened A Book
I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.
From her collection Crazy Mayonnaisy Mum.
‘Aliens Stole My Underpants’ by Brian Moses
I love this poem. It is very funny and is a good example of where your imagination can take you.
An extract from ‘Aliens Stole My Underpants’
To understand the ways
of alien beings is hard,
and I’ve never worked it out
why they landed in my backyard.
And I’ve always wondered why
on their journey from the stars,
these aliens stole my underpants
and took them back to Mars.
From Lost Magic: The Very Best of Brian Moses.
‘Photograph’ by Roger Stevens
This poignant poem describes a child’s experience of World War II.
An extract from ‘Photograph’
Now Dad’s in France
And our beach is covered in concrete
And tangled barbed wire
In case the Germans invade
But on that day
We’d just made
The world’s grandest sandcastle
And watched the tide
Filling the moat
It all away
From What Are We Fighting For? by Brian Moses and Roger Stevens.
‘Let No One Steal Your Dreams’ by Paul Cookson
This is an inspiring poem about believing in yourself.
An extract from ‘Let No One Steal Your Dreams’
Let no one steal your dreams
Follow your heart
Follow your soul
For only when you follow them
Will you feel truly whole
Set your sights and keep them fixed
Set your sights on high
Let no one steal your dreams
Your only limit is the sky
From The Very Best of Paul Cookson: Let No One Steal Your Dreams and Other Poems.
Looking for your next adventure?
Discover the next great story to spark the imagination of your little reader with our dedicated children's books newsletter.