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Animal antics

ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET? Don't Go Pet A Porcupine. I Gave My Love A Red, Red Nose. The Dog Ate My Homework. Edited by Gervase Phinn. Watts pound;10.99 each

My first reaction was: "Yet more poetry anthologies. I suppose they're just cashing in on the name." After all, the flyer does highlight the Sunday Times remark that Phinn is "education's answer to James Herriot". But actually, the books are good fun.

Respectively, they consist of poems about journeys,animals, what we love and schools. The selection is predominantly humorous poems from good modern authors, yet Blake's "Tyger" and Chesterton's "The Donkey" are included. So there are some poems which are more than simply good fun. Other examples include Phinn's own "Less Able", Tony Bradman's "The New Girl", Peter Dixon's "School Trip" and Gareth Owen's "Star Gazing" with its sense of awe expressed so accessibly: Star on star past counting Each one a raging sun And the sky one endless suburb With all the lights left on...

It has been good to meet new poems from poets I admire and admirable poems from poets who are new to me. Colourfully illustrated with well-chosen photographs, these books are a pleasure, and more than a pleasure.

Phinn's selection seems to be guided by a taste for little life-perceptions, recognitions and empathies. You laugh and learn.

Nicholas Bielby is a freelance writer and English consultant

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