There's An Alien In The Classroom by Gervase Phinn

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There's An Alien In The Classroom by Gervase Phinn

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Category: Children's Rhymes and Verse
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A light-hearted collection of poetry, plus a handy description of all the different types of poems. It'll strike a chord with many children. Well worth a look.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Andersen Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1849392020

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There's An Alien In The Classroom is a collection of school-based poems, and poems aimed at school-age children. Taking in all forms, from limericks and cautionary verse, to acrostics and haiku, it offers a broad overview of poetry. With themes including school, families, seasons, Bonfire Night, Nativity plays and going to the dentist, there's something to appeal to every child.

It's an enjoyable collection of poems, but the major criticism of it comes with the very first poem, so we'll start with the negative. Tantrum! is a poem based around the old joke of:

I don't want to go to school.
You have to - you're the headteacher.

I'm certainly not averse to a cheesy joke, but one version of the poem is more than enough. Very similar twists in the tail are repeated with too great a frequency throughout. They get a bit of a giggle from time to time, but they're a definite weak link. Beyond them, there are plenty of very engaging and enjoyable poems - I particularly enjoyed the cautionary tale of Cuthbert Grey who played near railway lines. Other favourites include the understated emotion of a child of divorce in Sunday Outing, the haunting ballad of The Mermaid, and the all too familiar routine in The Haircut.

There are evocative looks at seasons and events - not necessarily poems that you'll remember all your life, but they do strike a chord and there's always something to pick out, no matter what time of year you're in. The poems have a wide appeal, and even if one poem or another doesn't quite spark with you, there are always many others right around the corner that you'll enjoy.

Toss in plenty of illustrations from the always-excellent Tony Ross, and everything clicks together well. The illustrations do a great job of selling the light-hearted poems, and particularly emphasising the jokes. The black and white pen and ink style marries beautifully with the text, and keeps the energy up, particularly for reluctant readers who might otherwise turn their noses up at poetry.

The whole book is pitched as a light read, never hammering home that it's poetry, and therefore educational and a bit worthy. However, when you get to the end, there's a super explanation of all the different types of poem. It's not a heavy instruction manual, but it will pique the interest of all the readers, as they try to match up the poetry forms with the poems. (And then spur them on to get stuck into the likes of A Kick In The Head: An Everyday Guide To Poetic Forms by Paul B Janeczko and Chris Raschka).

If you're looking for a fun collection of poetry, that can be appreciated by a wide range of ages and abilities, There's An Alien In The Classroom is a good choice. Well worth a look.

My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

Michael Rosen's Big Book of Bad Things by Michael Rosen is pitched at a similar age range, and with similar themes. For more light-hearted poetry, this time with a football theme, The World At Our Feet by Paul Cookson is surprisingly good.

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Buy There's An Alien In The Classroom by Gervase Phinn at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy There's An Alien In The Classroom by Gervase Phinn at Amazon.com.

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