Tag Archives: Once Upon a Poem

Once Upon a Poem on Poetry Box


I wanted to share a book with you that tells a story in the shape of a poem (there are so many good ones) when I remembered a British book I got ages ago. I loved the title: Once Upon a Poem: Favourite Poems that tell Stories. You might be able to find this book in your library or get them to order it from another one.


What I love about this book is that some of my favourite children’s authors picked one of their favourite poems that tell a story (not by them but by someone else!). I did feel a bit sad that nearly all the poems in the book are written by men. They should have had some Margaret Mahy in there: Down the Back of the Chair or Bubble Trouble for a start!

I am going to share the beginnings of some of my favourites in the book and then you will have to hunt it out to read the middles and the endings.

JK Rowling picked ‘Jim Who Ran Away From His Nurse and was Eaten By a Lion’ by Hilaire Belloc (I love Hilaire’s poems BTW!). The title of this poem gives a lot away (it is a sad tale!), but here is the beginning.

There was a boy whose name was Jim;

His friends were very good to him.

They gave him tea, and cakes, and jam,

And slices of delicious ham

Philip Pullman picked Lewis Carroll’s magnificent word feast, ‘Jabberwocky’ (we’ve even had a children’s bookshop in Auckland named after this poem!). As you will see from the poem’s beginning Lewis was very cunning at making up words, but you still get to follow the wild ride of the poem.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gmble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

Philip Ardagh picked Tony Mitton’s ‘Brave Boy Rap.’ This is based on the story of a Greek hero and the monstrous Minotaur, but Tony has made it modern. I can only post a snippet so excuse the abrupt ending!

Prince Theseus

was a brave young lad.

Big bullies made him

boiling mad.

So when he heard

about a beast

whose horrid habit

was to feast

Cornelia Funke (a great author for you older readers) picked the magical mayhem of ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes.

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,

Jacqueline Wilson picked Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and The Pussy-cat. I used to love saying this when I was little so the words sang in the air.

The owl and the pussy-cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea-green boat


Once Upon a Poem: Favourite Poems That Tell Stories Foreword by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Illustrated by Peter Bailey, Sian Bailey, Carol Lawson, Chris McEwan. Published by Chicken House 2004 in Great Britain.