To celebrate National Poetry Day I wanted to review some poetry books that would appeal to very young children. I love when publishers try to make them accessible to all ages by turning famous poems into Picture books, which Faber & Faber have done with these two fantastic titles. Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat by T.S. Eliot with illustrations by Arthur Robins and The Ride-by-Nights by Walter de la Mare with illustrations by Carolina Rabei.
In Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat T.S. Eliot’s poem is brought to life through Arthur Robins hilarious illustrations. The rhythm of this poem moves along at a steady pace reminding me of the train going along the line, which makes it perfect for reading aloud. Having shared it at storytime it is definitely able to capture children’s imagination and keep them engaged despite having quite complex language.
Skimble is missing and the night train can’t leave until he is found. There is panic all around but eventually he’s found and the train gets on its way. There is so much to see in the illustrations as you peer through the windows in each of the carriages and try to guess the stories of each of our passengers. Or as we look inside Skimbleshanks cabin, see what tiny details you can spot from the fish shaped biscuits in the jar, to the mice popping out watching him drink his tea. Our railyway cat is so essential as nothing escapes his attention from the tiniest detail of how a passenger takes their tea to the mail train robbery which is being planned right under his nose. Full of fun, humour and beautifully told it’s a perfect introduction to poetry I absolutely loved it.
In ‘The RIde-by-Nights’ it is Carolina Rabei’s glorious illustrations which bring Walter de la Mare’s magical poem to life for a young audience. We see a family going trick-or-treating. whilst unknown to them up above witches are flying through the starry Halloween night. As the story unfolds we see the witches and the family enjoying this spooky night in their own unique way. Carolina’s stunning illustrations show the witches flying through the night playing tricks while down below the traditional Halloween fun is happening. One of my favourite parts is when one of our witches sneaks down to join in the trick-or-treating and swoops away with sweets from an unsuspecting ‘mummy’.
The flow and language of the poem creates a spooky atmosphere in the beginning as our witches are described as ‘crooked and black in the crescent’s gleam.’ It nicely builds the tension as we wonder what mischief our witches might be up to on their special night. Then the rhythm speeds up as our witches fly through the sky swooping and diving through the Milky Way, as they celebrate and have fun. We then feel the poem start to slow down as the evening draws to a close and both our groups slowly makes their way home. It’s a perfect celebration of Halloween for younger readers being slightly spooky but it’s a gentle fun tale. Great to read aloud but also ideal for sharing as there is so much to enjoy discovering in this exquisitely drawn story.
Thank you to Faber and Faber for sending me copies of these lovely books. ‘The Ride-by-Nights’ is available to purchase now, while ‘Skimbleshanks’ is due for release in early November