Reviewed by Emma Davis
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright
Published by: Nosy Crow
Poems Selected By: Fiona Waters
Illustrated By: Britta Teckentrup
In this stunning successor to I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright is a collection of animal poems, one for each day of the year. It is split into months, with the beginning of each monthly section featuring the date and title and poet for that day. This compendium has been expertly thought out, with poems featuring particular animals grouped together by season. In the winter months, you will find poems about the arctic fox, polar bears, penguins and the snow-shoe hare. Chicks, the first swallow, frog spawn and rabbit are included in the spring months.
This collection of poems features a diverse selection of animals from around the world. There are tiny, tiny insects, giants of the African plains, jungle beasts, ocean swimmers and everything in between. Some animals children will be familiar with, such as dogs, cats, pigeons and rabbits, but then we have the more unusual: guppy fish, water vole, python and anteater.
Some will be recognisable from small world play, such as tigers, lions, chimpanzees and rhinos. Britta Teckentrup expertly brings these creatures, and their habitats, to life. Her images are absolutely stunning, offering up a wealth of opportunities for discussion, with colours, patterns, textures and features. The illustrations, in conjunction with the words, are a perfect introduction to nature and the magnificent creatures we share the world with.
Some of the poems children may already be familiar with, such as Animal Fair and The Bear Went Over the Mountain, whereas others will be new, to the reader and the child. With a huge range of contributions, including William Blake, Ted Hughes, Lewis Carroll and Dick-King Smith, there is something to please everyone. What really makes this collection interesting for children is the inclusion of different types of poetry; an assortment of different lengths, styles and tempos, helping teach children that not all poems have to rhyme. As there are a whopping 366 poems, they cover a variety of emotions, with some making us smile, others designed to make us think, and some to stir up beautiful imagery.
The only difficult question with this book is how you will use the poems! Once you’ve read one, you’ll probably find that you want to keep going! One idea is to share one a day at circle time, using the moment to really listen to the children as they talk about the poem. Encourage them to share what they liked and what they did not like, any words they’re not sure of, and to think about the vocabulary.
Here are some activities to support teaching and learning around Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright:
1. Children in Early Years can begin to think about creating their own poems. Perhaps some of the poems in this fabulous collection could prompt a setting or school to write their own. This is great for collaborative working in a group, sharing ideas and listening to others. An adult can scribe the words on paper, showing the children that their thoughts are valued. This also helps embed the idea that print carries meaning. Once you’ve completed your poem, perhaps you could transfer it to a large floor book and together, as a group, you could write and illustrate it.
2. Just as some settings use familiar stories to encourage children to learn and re-tell them, we can do the same with poems. The collection includes some which are the perfect length to learn, just as you would a song. Perhaps you could then have a go at acting it out. In the current climate, you could even perform it on Zoom for families to see!
3. Make a selection of items to promote the creation of poetry with children. You could draw or paint pictures on wooden discs or spoons, create a poetry choice board with an assortment of images or, cut pictures from magazines. Use these as prompts to feature in your poetry, making it a real creative journey of ideas. This can evolve organically, with the children sharing ideas and thoughts, working collaboratively.
4. Create a word collection wall in school or setting. Some of the poems will feature words children will not have heard of before so you could learn the meaning and make a collection of newly learned words to display. Look back at the end of the year to see how many you still remember.