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Poetry

Pick Up a Poem series. THE BOX ROOM. By Sophie Hannah. Illustrated by Helen Stephens. COME BACK TO ME MY BOOMERANG. By John Agard. Illustrated by Lydia Monk. ZOO OF DREAMS. By Adrian Mitchell. Illustrated by Peter Bailey. FLUFF AND OTHER STUFF. By Tony Mitton. Illustrated by Philip Hopman. Orchard Books. pound;4.99 each.

PIP. By Tony Mitton. Scholastic Press. pound;9.99.

Thumbs up for Orchard, whose inviting Pick Up a Poem series is excellent value. It is full of promise for key stage 1 readers, with its colourful covers, engaging line drawings on every page and a wide range of poetic forms unobtrusively noted in the contents, useful to teachers and young readers.

Great to see Sophie Hannah, already popular for her adult fiction and poetry, turning her attention to children. The Box Room is an ingenious play on the idea of boxes - obvious ones such as phone, post, music and paint boxes (although the way she deals with them is far from obvious) and more intriguing concepts: "The future's a box full of after. An egg is a box full of yolk. My life is a box full of laughter And the world is a box full of folk."

Hannah's famous sense of humour and fine craft are to the fore in gently amusing, rhyming poetry, perfectly matched to young independent readers aged around six or seven. Helen Stephens's lively line drawings add to the fun.

Come Back to Me My Boomerang, which is dedicated "to the shapes that shape us", also includes some boxes, but in this case it is squaring the circle ("and instead of rounders I'd be playing squounders" or "Books are friends that come in squares"). This is John Agard at his best - there is a thoughtful undercurrent to the deliciously playful poems - and Lydia Monk's black and white illustrations beautifully complement the verse.

Adrian Mitchell wrote Zoo of Dreams with the help of his beloved dog, Daisy, who confides in a "Letter from the Poet" that she "whispered (the poems) into my Dogfather's ear". The delightful poems are written from Daisy's point of view (many with introductory asides in italics), which should appeal to young readers. "My Children Friends" in the poem of that title, "are often muddly - But they're always cuddly".

Daisy's zoo includes swans - "to be candid, I'd sooner they never landed" - and "The Little Blue Penguin": "chilly little geezerI Make room for him in your freezer". Peter Bailey's attractive artwork captures the spirit of this tender and funny collection, which ends with a sleepy lullaby for animals who rest not in boxes, but "In cave or burrow, Pouch or nest."

In Fluff and Other Stuff, Tony Mitton concentrates on those odds and ends found in pockets (tickets, screws, shells and fluff). The opening poem draws the reader in: "In my pocket, feeling round, what can this be that I've found? Pull it out to see andI oooh! Look: a poem just for you."

Warm, funny, simple, this book is another winner, enhanced by Philip Hopman's exuberant drawings.

Mitton's Pip is highly recommended for a similar age group, following the success of Plum and The Red and White Spotted Handkerchief. It includes a long narrative poem, "The Woodcutter's Daughter", light-hearted rhymes and ditties, and more reflective poems, encouraging young readers to stop and stare or think. Oh, and more boxes: "The Matchbox Monster sleeps in my bed, snug in its matchbox, close to my head."

MORAG STYLES Morag Styles is reader in children's literature at Homerton College, Cambridge

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