Michael Harrison and Christopher Stuart-Clark have been compiling anthologies for OUP for many years now. Their anthologies usually have a selection of good poetry – if a little safe at times – and are beautifully produced.
This latest anthology is a rich selection of both classic and contemporary poetry. It includes well known traditional poets such as Blake, Rossetti, Farjeon and Dickinson alongside Zephaniah, Duffy and Dunmore.
The poems are divided into sections covering poetry, life, school, animals, the earth and the seasons. The section ‘There Isn’t Time!’ is particularly strong with poems such as Patricia Beer’s powerful ‘Abbey Tomb’ and Julie O’Callaghan’s ‘Unhappy Whispers’, a poem about the final weeks of her father’s life. There is also light-hearted verse from Spike Milligan and Valerie Worth.
Out of the eight illustrators, one for each section, Adam Stower’s illustrations for the ‘Off to School’ section are refreshingly dramatic and edgy. But why have OUP only credited the illustrators on the inside of the dust jacket and in minute print on the copyright page? They should be listed in the contents page and on the title page of each section. Which brings me to the cover of the collection. Jane Ray has illustrated the cover of the book with jewel-like motifs and OUP have chosen a calligraphy style font for the title of the book. Despite the old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, anyone who picked this book off the shelf would wrongly think that this is a traditional treasury of children’s poems for middle-class parents to buy for their children; which is a shame as there is something for everyone in this lively, enjoyable and thought-provoking collection.