What does it mean?

What does it mean?

Looking for meaning

The range and wealth of children’s poetry has been a delightful discovery for me. Since starting Bookwagon, I have sought to read and expand my knowledge of children’s poetry.

Poets are looking for meaning in their creations. The tweezer picked perfection and impact of their words create images and stimulate feelings. Poetry is a most accessible genre to children and adults. It offers children a chance to understand, word play, recall, recite and build a word relationship.

I found teaching poetry a direct, structured, liberating form of writing. Poetry invites us to write and read for meaning.

Kowhai New Zealand

Young New Zealand poet Isabel Carmichael had been asked to consider the impression of war on a setting, when her class learned about Gallipoli:-

In one minute’s silence…..
Can you imagine the firing of the guns as the sky turns black from the bullets?
In one minute’s silence…..
Can you imagine people having a good day,
When suddenly people with guns come running onto the shore?
In one minute’s silence……
Can you imagine all of the diggers shooting at all of the other soldiers,
When they know that they are just as important as them?
In one minute’s silence……
Can you imagine all of the dead bodies lying on the floor from being shot…..
In one minute’s silence.

Piha West Coast beaches Bookwagon

CLiPPA prize

Bookwagon loves, recommends and sells this year’s CLiPPA poetry prize nominations’ list proudly.

Thinker My Puppy Poet and Me is an empathetic poetry diary between a new puppy and his boy master. They are looking for meaning in their relationship with each other and the world.

Dark Sky Park by Philip Gross is rare and tender and beautiful, recommended to nature loving families.

A Kid in My Class is essential school fare. Rachel Rooney’s dedicated examination of a classroom of children is raw, empathetic and recognisable.

School is the setting for Everything All At Once by Steven Camden. We travel through secondary school doors with an assembly of characters, keen to fit in, experience, not stand out, be themselves… if they knew who that might be. They are looking for meaning in alien worlds of adolescence and education.

CLiPPA books Bookwagon

A selection of CLiPPA nominees

Oxford Spires Academy

Oxford Spires Academy has won more poetry awards nationally, than any other title. Writer in residence, Kate Clanchy has compiled a selection of this school’s poems in an outstanding collection, England Poems from a School

Students speak more than thirty languages with more than fifty dialects. Yet there impressions of home, growing up, England and their future resonate with truth, longing and hope.

Rainbow over Oxfordshire fields Bookwagon

    Rainbow over fields of barley, Oxfordshire

The meaning of words- Geordie style

My Geordie mother-in-law enjoyed opportunities to recall traditional words and phrases from South Shields. ‘Wey aye ‘man!’ as she agreed with something, ‘cannae’ offered in a stream of conversation for ‘can not’. Reminiscing about wartime dance floors, she would occasionally consider a ‘Bobby Dazzler’, or a ‘bonnie lass/ lad’ or her ‘marra’, Doris. Cheryl (Tweedy/ Cole/ Versini-Fernandez) delighted Helen, until she disappointed her. ‘I think she’s gotten above her station. She’s not a Geordie lass.’

Geordie lass and language

Geordie lass and lingo

The meaning of words- Kiwi speak

Mr Bookwagon is beginning to understand the New Zealand art of understatement.  A family member texted him after Watford F.C’s devastating loss in the FA Cup final- ‘No words mate’.

Nouns that tangle me still, include:-

  • cling film- Glad Wrap (New Zealand)
  • flip flops- jandals (New Zealand)
  • tacky back plastic- contact (New Zealand)
  • newsagent/ corner shop- dairy (New Zealand)
  • Tippex- Twink (New Zealand)
  • lolly- iceblock (New Zealand)
  • plasters- Band Aids (New Zealand)
  • kiwi*- kiwifruit (New Zealand) * – This one makes me very cross! A kiwi is our native New Zealand bird, and/ or a native New Zealander, not a hairy fruit.
Iceblock eater Bookwagon

      Iceblock eating Kiwi

What writers do

Emma Carroll, best-selling, award-winning children’s writer explained  Operation Mincemeat to a recent school audience. She explained its initiative and how this event in WWII developed into a story within When We Were Warriors. Emma shared how she is looking for meaning in her research and storytelling. Her research allows her to ‘be who she wanted to be’ and ‘create the stories she wanted’.

Asked for a top tip when writing, she advised, ‘Lose the adjectives. Give the words a chance to make a story.

Emma Carroll signing

Emma Carroll school visit

Kate DiCamillo- and how we read for meaning

  Walker, Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo’s books are deceptively simple. Yet her words are laden with poignant meaning. We seek meaning in the context and our innate understanding to assume nuance, impulse and setting. Deckawoo Drive, her early chapter book series including Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, offers complex words and feelings.

Leroy Ninker lives a small life. His dreams of being a cowboy sustain him.

‘ A car drove by Look, Mama!’ a boy in the backseat of the car pointed at Leroy. ‘It’s a very tiny cowboy.’

Leroy stood up straighter.

‘I am a cowboy on his way to procure a horse,’ he said. ‘I am a man wrestling fate to the ground.’ 

Fate appears to conspire against Leroy, yet he does not buckle.

Bookwagon Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, Kate DiCamillo & Chris Van Dusen

Early chapter books

Bookwagon has hit the trail with a succession of author visits and popup book fairs recent weeks. I have spoken about children’s literature, also .

Bookwagon on tour

Bookwagon popup fair

Frequently, we are asked for recommendations about early chapter books, titles to bridge picture books and middle grade readers.

Bookwagon asserts picture books’ relevance to readers of all ages. Picture books offer an incomparably varied opportunity to readers looking for meaning. We are looking for meaning in the pictures of our daily lives; from babies, physical health, DIY, gardening, internet shopping, home interiors, to photographs. They are part and parcel of how we understand.

Early chapter books are a landing stage, however. To that end, Bookwagon has been working to extend our  selection of ‘forever’ early chapter books, titles where the stories are interesting and meaningful.

Bookwagon early chapter books

A selection of early chapter books

Don’t forget

We invite readers to click on our tag cloud to discover a unique selection. Remember! Every Bookwagon book has been read and loved by us. We only recommend and sell books we love. We are looking for meaning.

Words and meaning

A friend’s  grandsons are being raised to speak three languages. They will hear, speak and read for meaning in these languages. My nephews are fluent in Japanese and English.

SCL Bookwagon

   Bookwagon family readers

A difficult part of raising bi- lingual or tri-lingual families is unravelling the nuances of individual languages. A basic example of this is in national humours. Another is gestures. When we work to acquire another language we are looking for meaning beyond the words and  phrases alone.

ESOL/ EAL experts recommend families speak and read to their children in the adults’ first language, but ‘share’, i.e., read books together, in the adults’ secondary languages.

Bookwagon is building a range of quality translated titles from around the world. The subtleties, subjects and construction of these works, even in translation, are different from English books. Reading translated books extends understanding for readers looking for meaning.

Across the oceans

Before an audience at the British library, children’s laureates Lauren Child and Sir Quentin Blake discussed how their different works hit problems in translation. Lauren Child shared the consternation of American publishers by ‘My Uncle is a Hunkle’.

“What’s a hunkle?” her publishers demanded.

“It’s word play,” she explained.

“Word play?”

Bookwagon Word Play

Looking for titles with determination

I am delighted when international titles we seek to share with our readers become available in Britain. Works by writers like Kate DiCamillo fly from the wagon into readers’ waiting hands. Recently, we’ve included unique early chapter/ graphic books by Canadian writer Ben Clanton- Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea!

Minh Lê and Dan Santat collaborated to form a glorious picture book about characters looking for meaning in their relationship in Drawn Together

Polly Horvath wrote ‘Everything You Need on a Waffle‘, a favourite title I read to classes. It is unavailable in Britain. I am very happy to welcome her most recent title, The Night Garden. The setting is Sooke, a little known, hidden treasure on Vancouver Island. We holidayed there before the giddy days of Bookwagon.

Bookwagon an international books' selection

 Some recent international titles

Further looking for meaning

Customers ask how the Bookwagon team maintain our pledge to sell books we’ve read and loved only. We are committed to knowing every book we sell. It means we recommend children’s books for  your children confidently in person, by gift and online. It means that I am writing in a room covered in books seeking my readership. What bliss! Check out the latest titles rolling off this reader’s lap and onto a page soon!

Happy reading!

RIP- Helen Mayho, Granny Bookwagon







Poetry for the willing memory and conscious carrier*

Poetry for the willing memory and conscious carrier*

Motatau Road is unlikely to strike a chord of recognition with many Bookwagon readers. However, the memory of 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoons of Speech and Drama in a brick and tile bungalow on a corner of this road chimed brightly with me this week.

We took a break to Ffairfach, a small village before the winding bridge across the River Towey to Llandeilo, courtesy of lovely friends. (We’d have had a longer stay if one of us hadn’t forgotten the key to our accommodation necessitating an emergency stay in a local hotel’s honeymoon suite; angst does not fit well with such surroundings.)

The landscape, weather and township’s offerings were magnificent. We knew time was scarce so determined that a priority destination should be Laugharne, home to Dylan Thomas.

There was a ritual to those Speech and Drama afternoons. I had been reluctant to attend, but my mother was determined to see if this intervention would build my confidence. The activities were not demanding, and I enjoyed the conversations with the teacher. What I loved most, however, was her suitcase of poems. Each week there came a moment when she would reach for the suitcase, unclip it, and let me  loose upon scattered pages of typewritten poems that she had copied over the years, poems by Eleanor Farjeon, Alfred Noyes, Christina Rossetti, for example. I discovered many treasures, many of which crop up still in my day to day life with remembered lines or phrases. However, as my confidence grew, I asked for more; I wanted to discover more poetry, different poetry. That suitcase paved the way to my discovery of Dylan Thomas.

My teacher suggested that Thomas’s words would be too ‘hard’; in truth I didn’t really ‘understand’ them, but I understood the emotion and could visualise the pictures he painted with his words. From ‘Fern Hill‘ the first poem I was offered, my love for this bold, urgent poetry was sealed.

Dylan Thomas was not the only poet I loved, nor was Speech and Drama the only opportunity to extend my knowledge of and delight in this form of literature. We learned ‘The Eagle‘ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson by heart in Year 7, were introduced to the works of Allen Curnow whose ‘Time‘ can still be remembered in snatches. At each arrival home, to New Zealand, James K.Baxter’s words, ‘These unshaped islands on the sawyer’s bench/ Wait for the chisel of the mind.‘ pulsate. In Year 10, a maverick teacher had us enact ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner‘ with desks piled precariously atop of each other to create the rambling shipwreck- it crashed, much to our delight. With other travellers, I coursed the waters of the Shannon alighting at W.B. Yeats’ printing press, realising his poetry anew. One of my most precious memories is performance poet John Hegley singing, while a girl danced, late into the night, long after his official performance at the Battersea Arts’ Centre was over. Wendy Cope and Seamus Heaney have created words I recognise through experience and feelings. Then there was hearing Michael Rosen’s dramatic recitation of ‘Chocolate Cake‘ to a mesmerised school, long after I’d first heard it at a meeting of the South Auckland Children’s Literature Association.

One of the best parts of the revised English programmes of study in the National Curriculum is the inclusion of poetry learning, from- ‘learning to appreciate rhymes and poems and recite some by heart/ building a repertoire of poetry learnt by heart, appreciating and reciting some/ listening to and discussing a wide range of poetry, recognising different forms of poetry.’ Poetry learning offers knowledge, authority, opportunity, attachment and reason. Poetry, in all its forms, is approachable for all ages. My parents long into their later years could still recite poems learned and loved at school, from John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever‘ to Walter de la Mare’s ‘Silver‘. They were proud of their skills and the associated memories.

While teaching a Reception class in its first full week, I watched a young boy offer another, ‘I can read that book to you.’ He picked up Caryl Hart’s.Big Box Little Box The class had been introduced to rhyming strings in the morning and I had read this title through to them twice, then again after lunch at their request. Archie, at four, could recite the rhyming text, make connections with the pictures, predict and recall, and thus, ‘read’ the book. The precision of language was ideal.

Poetry is also deceptively easy to write; Michael Rosen urges teachers to unlock their own fears and allow their pupils to enjoy the words, the rhythm and flow. So:-

Emilia has a bad cof
Emilia needs antiybiats
For a week.
She has tishs
In her bag
She needs a hat
For a week too. 

This week Bookwagon has the opportunity to celebrate National Poetry Day, September 28th, through working with acclaimed poet  Michaela Morgan. We are delighted to be celebrating her industry and sharing her poetry with a live audience that we hope will remember the day, the poet but most of all, the words.

*from ‘Time‘ by Allen Curnow

(We invite you to browse through our proud collection of Bookwagon poetry titles by clicking on the tag, ‘poetry’ on the home page.)