Review - poetry: Cross-phase

20th June 2001 at 01:00
Friendly Matches
By Allan Ahlberg
Viking pound;8.99, TES Direct pound;7.99

It Takes One to Know One
By Gervase Phinn
Puffin pound;3.99

Up on the Roof: new and collected poems
By Matthew Sweeney
Faber pound;5.99nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Allan Ahlberg's long-awaited Friendly Matches is his first poetry collection since Heard it in the Playground (1989), and very much in line with his earlier best-selling volume, Please Mrs Butler . All these titles are superbly illustrated by Fritz Wegner, who is on form here with his comical and endearing images of footballers young and old; the perfect match for Ahlberg's verse.

We see a new talent at play in Gervase Phinn, the former inspector for English who has delighted teachers for years with his witty anecdotes about school life. Phinn has been hailed the James Herriot of schools for his collections of memoirs for adults, Over Hill and Dale and The Other Side of the Dale , and the same good-humoured charm is evident in It Takes One to Know One .

In Matthew Sweeney there are threatening shadows which we do not find in Phinn's work; in Singing Class there's an anxious boy "dumb for an hour, mouthing air,the song-words flitting through his head,his eyes never leaving the inspector". Sweeney is a distinguished poet who devotes part of his writing life to a young audience. This volume of new and collected poems contains many of the best from previous collections, as well as 15 new poems.

Morag Styles is reader in children's literature at Homerton College, Cambridge. To read her review in full see this week's TES Friday Magazine.

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