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Science | POEM | Kids’ Poems and Stories With Michael Rosen
Poem performed by Michael Rosen
From Big Book of Bad Things
Published by Puffin
Even My Ears Are Smiling is a collection of poetry by Michael Rosen. It’s a mixture of some of his old classics and some brand new poems, and it runs to a sizeable collection of some eighty-odd works.
Michael Rosen is a hugely influential figure in children’s literature. He is an active campaigner for education and (often against) the education system. He is regularly to be heard on the radio and he presents BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth. His career writing for children spans five decades and few writers can be said to be so well-regarded – if there were a canon of children’s literature, he’d be in it.
Rosen’s strength lies in his ability to create poems that sound as though children themselves have written them. As a means of interesting children in words and inspiring them to write their own poetry these poems are unparalleled. Reading a Michael Rosen poem you feel, whilst admiring his skill, that you too might be able to do it.
There are some great poems in this collection, and they are superb for reading aloud. Preschoolers and primary school children will love listening to them, especially the sound-heavy rhythm-heavy ones that sound almost like rap:
“I’m a three-egg beater
Many also use repetitive rhyme in very appealing ways, such as ‘I’m a dog, I’m a hound, I run round and round, I jump and I bound, I snuffle in the ground”. Thoroughly enjoyable to read and a great way of teaching young children what rhymes are.
Rosen is at his best when the simple, conversational style blends successfully with prosody and deeper meaning to create something that is not only accessible but also subtle and meaningful. ‘First Bus Trip’, for example, perfectly conveys the joy of travelling on the bus for the first time through simple repetition:
“I held on to the bar
in front of me
I held on to the bar
in front of me
I held on to the bar
in front of me.
Even my ears
Many of the poems are descriptions of moments in family life, just like this one, and most are entertaining and well-observed. ‘Attacked by a Banana’, ‘Don’t Mum’, ‘Where are His Glasses?’ and ‘Strawberry Jam’ are particularly effective.
Although some of the poems are mere word-play some of the best are more complex in their approach. ‘Cooking Cakes’ for example, is a hugely comic monologue supposing that a budding pastry-cook has used their initiative.
“I mean to say, in about an hour,
You can use quite a lot of flour”…
and, amongst the non-rhyming poems, ‘Today’ is a thought-provoking commentary on the day a lost dog comes home.
“There were no flags no songs
no cakes no drums
I didn’t see any processions
no one gave a speech.
Everyone thought today was ordinary,
in out in
hum drummer day
grind away day.”
One of the most enjoyable bits of the book (at least in this house) is the number of ‘Down behind the dustbin’ poems that run through it. Several different dogs live behind this bin and it is great fun to read these and even come up with your own:
“Down behind the dustbin
I met a dog called Sid.
He wanted to look inside it
But he couldn’t lift the lid”
– our joint effort!
Overall this is a really good place to start if introducing young children to poetry.
Check out Michael’s website for news, updates and fun.
Who is Michael Rosen?
My first book for children was called Mind Your Own Business and it came out in 1974. Quentin Blake did wonderful line drawings for it.
Ever since then, I’ve been doing these things:
Writing articles for newspapers and magazines
Going to schools, libraries and theatres and performing the poems in my books
Helping children write poems and stories
Making radio programmes, mostly about words, language or books
Appearing on TV, either reading books, or talking about books
Teaching at universities about children’s literature
Running workshops for teachers about poetry
In any week, I might be doing all of these things! To tell the truth, I don’t really know what I’m doing tomorrow, unless I look in my diary to see.