Chalk Talk: How budding poets can give Michael Rosen a helping hand


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The Independent Online

It may not be the most taxing task the author and former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen has ever set himself: write the first line of a poem and let someone else complete it for you!

It's something I have always dreamed of as a journalist whenever I feel in a slightly lazy mood.

I jest, though. It's all in a good cause – a competition by The Children's Bookshow, and supported by these pages, to celebrate its 10th anninversary.

The first line of the poem is "The water was burning", and all school pupils have to do is to finish the poem in any way they want. It can be any length or any form, it can rhyme or not rhyme as the case may be.

All schools have to do is to make sure it gets to the Children's Bookshow by November 30 to qualify for a first prize, which consists of 12 signed copies of books by writers who are participating in a roadshow, which will take place  from September 28th (see

Apart from Michael Rosen, those participating in the roadshow include Swedish writer Ulf Stark and Carll Cneut, from Belgium. On the home front Rosen is joined by Alexis Deacon. The winner will also qualify for £300 worth of books for their school classroom or library.

In addition, the three runners-up will receive a signed copy of Michael Rosen's A-Z: The Best Children's Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah and his new biography for children of Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr Dahl.

To be eligible to enter the competition children must be aged 12 or under and resident in the UK. You should send your poems together with your name, address, telephone number and the name of your school to: The Children's Bookshow, PO Box 66347, London NW6 9QU.

Alternatively, you could email your poem to

Meanwhile, I'm just toying with that first line, "The water was burning" – but perhaps I had better not go down that road. After all I am a bit too old to enter.