CHILDREN'S SUMMER SPECIAL / Poetry

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Another Custard Pie by Roger McGough, illus Graham Percy, Collins pounds 8.99. Imagine that instead of running away to join the circus, the circus joined you: a ringmaster in the living room, a seal in the bath, a baby elephant playing the baby grand, a fire-eater in the hearth, a juggler spinning plates, etc. Though there is no development beyond the child-narrator's growing exasperation, the best of the rhymes (and pictures) are topnotch big toppery: 'The house is in a shambles / I can't read or watch TV / The polar bear's been at the fridge / There's nothing left for tea. / (Except for custard pies, of course, / But already I've had three.)'

Them and Us, ed Jennifer Curry, illus Susie Jenkin-Pearce, Bodley Head pounds 7.99. An ingenious package: on left-hand pages, a child's eye view of familiar experiences such as starting school, shopping, family rows, Hallowe'en, going to the dentist, visiting grandma; on right-hand pages, the adult's view. So it's David Phipps (9) versus Vernon Scannell on falling in love, and Matthew Lea (4) as against John Kitching on death in the family. Brilliant idea for an anthology; a shame not all the poems live up to it.

Bags of Poems: Family Album ed Jill Bennett, illus Sami Sweeten, Doubleday pounds 8.99. Cheeky title for such a thin offering (always be suspicious when publishers omit page numbers) but the choices are discriminating: John Agard, Brian Patten, Michael Rosen, Jack Prelutsky, Colin West and other vernacular, unsentimental souls muse on the trouble with mum and dad, fights with siblings, waily baby brothers, kind grannies, eccentric aunts, etc.

We're Off: Verses on the Move, ed Brian Thompson, illus Susie Jenkin-Pearce, Viking pounds 8.99. Just the thing for children who won't usually listen to stories because they're too interested in trains, boats, planes, bikes, trikes: a collection of poems about machines, most of them 'traditional' (ie unattributed, Anon) yet recent.

An Armful of Bears, ed Catherine Baker, illus Chris Riddell, Methuen pounds 7.99. A whole book of bear poems? Yes, but teddies as well as grizzlies, roly-poly polars as well as bruins, Edward Lear's Moppsikon Floppsikon as well as Judith Nicholls's great bear in the sky. And it is page 13 before we get a mention of honey.

It's Raining, It's Pouring by Sarah Pooley, Methuen pounds 9.99. Rainy day anthology not just of poems but stories, recipes, hints on drawing and painting and making your own music, cut-out-and-paste ideas, and a host of time-killing suggestions.

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