Summer reading: Books for children: Poetry

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Anthropomorphism ain't what it used to be. Once upon a time, thinking that creatures were just like us meant thinking that they were having a jolly good time (D H Lawrence on fish: 'Quick little splinters of life',/their little lives are fun to them/in the sea'). These days, the beasties seem to be having as beastly a time as we are. Crying snails, arthritic stick insects, whingeing camels, grumpy cats, lonely fleas: human or non-human, it's a tough old life.

At least publishers are doing their best to protect threatened species - this year has seen a zoo-full of new anthologies. Perhaps the most original is Jack Prelutsky's Poems of A Nonny Mouse (Orchard pounds 7.99), which collects the poems of this shy but hugely talented rodent, previously misattributed to a certain 'Anonymous' or 'Anon'. Many are familiar ('Algy met a bear,/A bear met Algy./ The bear was bulgy./ The bulge was Algy'), quite a few are limericks, and not all are about animals.

Prelutsky smuggles in a few poems of his own, as do, with rather less artfulness, Robert Fisher in Minibeasts (Faber pounds 7.99, illustrations by Kay Widdowson) and Rowena Sommerville in Don't Step on that Earwig (Hutchinson pounds 7.99), who does the drawings too. Minibeasts is given over almost entirely to creepy-crawlies, and favours properly weeny forms, like haikus. For very young children, Meg Rutherford has illustrated Animal Poems (Simon & Schuster pounds 8.99/ pounds 3.99), with contributions from Kipling, Christina Rossetti, Dick King-Smith, etc.

Animals also play their part in One in a Million (Viking pounds 7.99), a book which tries to make maths fun: 'One old observant owl/Two tame tickled trout/

Three thirsty throated thrushes'. The book has sections on measuring, handling money and telling the time - with room for uncheery oddities such as Philip Larkin's 'What are days for?'. Charles Sullivan has had a similar idea for his large-format Numbers at Play (Rizzoli pounds 10.95), but uses famous paintings as well as rhyme (three Breton girls dancing, by Gauguin; the nine faces in Leger's 'Great Parade').

For 12s and up, there's Carol Ann Duffy's I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine (Viking pounds 6.99), an anthology of women poets which threatens at times to become a social problem dossier (latchkey kids, anorexia, disability) but is alive and unparochial as English anthologies rarely are, full of energy, anger and vivid contemporaneity.

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