Here are the occasional reflections of a joyful traveller along the strange pathways of fantasy and adventure. All my reviews are independent and unsolicited.

I started this blog intending to write only about children's fantasy ('magic fiction') but have since widened my scope to include any work of children's fiction that I have read and enjoyed. Fantasy will still probably predominate, as it remains a favourite genre, but I cannot now resist sharing thoughts on other wonderful books too. (MG and occasionally YA.)

Here you will find only recommendations, never negative reviews. If I read a book which I feel is less than wonderful (which happens far more often than not) then I simply don't write about it. This blog is, rather, a celebration of the most exciting books I stumble across on my meandering reading journey, and of the important, life-affirming experiences they offer. It is but a very small thank you for the wonderful gifts their writers give.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Moon Spun Round: W. B. Yeats for Children, Edited by Noreen Doody, Illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald

'Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.' (from He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven)

I have not often posted on this site about a poetry book for children. Even though I love poetry, it is well outside the remit of 'magic fiction' I originally set for myself. However this book is so brilliant in both concept and execution that it has sent me rushing to recommend it. 

Doubly exciting discovery

The Moon Spun Around was actually published in 2016, but I have only just discovered it, and am thrilled to have done so. It brings together two things that are, for me, wonderfully welcome. Throughout my long teaching and advisory career I have promoted poetry, alongside fiction, and consistently held that children need to be exposed to the highest quality examples as well as to the jingling rhymes and comic verse that so often pass as 'poems for children'. Even young children can draw much from real* poetry, even where it is 'difficult'. To experience its verbal richness and skilfully crafted sound patterns makes an enormous contribution to their developing a love of language, and children can often  intuitively understand and appreciate a good deal more than we think they might. 

Added to this, W B Yeats is one of my all time favourite poets, so to find so skilled an editor and illustrator presenting his work in a format attractively and comfortably accessible by children is enormously exciting. Here an excellent selection of whole poems and extracts is accompanied by some some of Yeats' stories, as well as short pieces relating to his life, which are illuminating without ever being heavy. All are greatly enhanced by extensive attractive and highly evocative illustrations, adding up to a book that is a real treasure. 

Magic nonetheless

On reflection, it is perhaps not so strange a choice for my 'magic fantasy' blog, after all. Both W B Yeats' life and his writings are steeped in magic and mysticism, in the ancient folklore and mythology of Ireland. And he was certainly a magician who could weave the spell of language quite superlatively. There is much in his work that will enchant, enthrall and delight children, and this book is the very thing to cast that spell over them. 

It is a work that should be known to, and drawn on, by all teachers of primary children, and others who want to grow young minds. Were I still teaching, it would soon earn its place on my shelf of well-used resources, alongside such gems as Ted Hughes' What is the Truth? and anthologies like The Rattle Bag  It should be read to, with and by as many children as possible. They should be immersed in its luscious language as they are enticed by its attractive and atmospheric illustrations. They should lilt with its varied rhythms,  wallow in the stories, learn some of its verses by heart. They do not need always fully to understand, or necessarily to,understand at all. That will come . They should grow with, and through, these wondrous words and their rich and enriching images. This is what poetry is, and what it is for. 

Let them: 'hear it in the deep heart's core.' (from The Lake Isle of Innisfree)

*That not necessarily written specifically for children.