Tag Archives: Allie Esiri & Rachel Kelly

the fabulous IF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility & a wee challenge for you

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When I was mailing my list of AMAZING NZ Bookshops that sell poetry for children  (see my page), I discovered some books I would like to buy. I can’t buy them all at once so I still have my secret eye on a few. I am going to tell you about a book I got at TIme Out Bookshop in Mt Eden (they have a lovely wee room especially for children’s books!). I saw at least one other bookshop had a copy of this book.

If: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility Edited by Allie Esiri & Rachel Kelly (Canongate, Edinburgh, 2012)

Allie was an actress for a long time (looks like she loves Shakespeare) and worked for the New York Times. She has three children.

Rachel worked at Vogue then at The Times in London. She has five children and has always loved poems.

The book is divided into sections (‘Growing Up,’ ‘Humour and Nonsense,’ ‘Tell Me a Tale,’ ‘Magic, Friendship and Love,’ ‘Animals, Nature and Seasons,’ ‘War History and Death,’ ‘Lessons for Life’ and ‘Bedtime.’  That does seem to cover a BIG range of possibilities. I can think of lots more though: Special occasions, food, home, moods, machines, things, places, people, clothes,   adventure, our bodies, space, science, mathematics … BUT! You can never fit all you want in treasury as I have discovered on several occasions now.

There are loads of very famous (world famous!) poets in the book: Shakespeare, Edward Lear, ee cummings, Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan, AA Milne. Many of the poets in this book wrote for adults more than they wrote for children, many of the poets are dead and most of the poets are men. If I had the whole world from which to gather a a collection of poem gems from I would come up with a very different mix. Lots of the poems I would pick would be written by authors who usually write for children (like Hilaire Belloc, Valerie Worth, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Caleb Brown and so on), but I would go back into the past because that is fascinating. But this is a wonderful collection full of poetry diamonds, emeralds and volcanic rock!

I adore the illustrations. They are a mix of drawing and cut-out words in lemon-yellow and white, with tiny little lemony drawings floating on pages ( a cat, a flower, a star and so on). It is a beautiful book to hold and smell and look at.

The poems take you on a fabulous poem journey. You go along the roads and paths of  poems written from the distant past until now. I loved reading writing from ages ago when I was little — discovering how poems written in the past sing in your ear in a different way.

Next week I am going to tell you more about AA MIlne and give you a special challenge but his poem ‘The King’s Breakfast‘ is in the book. I loved saying this poem when I was little:

The king asked

The Queen, and

The Queen asked

The Diarymaid:

‘Could we have some butter for

The Royal slice of bread?’

The Queen asked

The Diarymaid,

The Dairymaid,

Said ‘Certainly,

I’ll go and tell

The cow


Before she goes to bed.’

(it is a long poem so that is just the first verse. But it is really good to say out loud because it has a great rhythm and repeats itself beautifully.)

The wonderful thing about this treasury is you keep finding poem gems.

A Challenge: Try writing a poem that fits in one of the sections in the book (see above)! I will post my favourites. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email address if you like.