Of all the literacy hour recommendations, one, at least, must have brought a gleam to educational publishers' eyes, if not those in charge of school budgets. The big book has become a must for teachers doing poetry in primary schools, where they are required to work as a whole class, and these large-format versions cost money. Once schools would buy whole sets of poetry books, which arguably were more useful. Now the big book seems essential.
Poetry Hour 1 (key stage 1) and Poetry Hour 2 (key stage 2) come in small and large formats and are beautifully produced, with clear text and attractive full-colour illustrations. It is good to see a range of poems in these anthologies, which have avoided the trap of trying to be too trendy - whih too often results in a compromise on quality. The poems, for the most part, are well-chosen and offer teachers plenty of possibilities for follow-up work.
At the back of each big book are suggestions for activities based on a few of the poems. But the ideas are weak and not always appropriate. To say the limerick is a "nonsense poem" and suggest Year 2 children try writing some is to misunderstand the nature of the form. And to think that many pupils may already know the rhyme, "I had a little nut tree", is to be out of touch.
The poems offer some real possibilities for further writing, but, sadly, most of these have been missed. Teachers would find the big book useful for shared reading but would be well-advised to work out their own follow-up activities.
Sandy Brownjohn's latest book of poems, In and Out the Shadows, is published by Oxford University Press Children's Books