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The Best New Poetry for Children: CLiPPA 2021 Shortlist

Author: Zaro WeilThe shortlist for the CLiPPA, CLPE Children’s Poetry Award has been announced.  The UK’s only prize for published poetry for children, the CLiPPA celebrates the best new poetry of the year and, through its popular Shadowing Scheme, prompts hundreds of schools to explore the collections on the shortlist and stage poetry performances by their pupils. This year’s shortlist, chosen from books published in 2020, demonstrates the vital resilience of poets and publishers. It celebrates exceptional poetry for children by brand new voices and the UK’s best-known and best-loved children’s poet.

Judge, poet Zaro Weil who won the CLiPPA 2020 with her collection Cherry Moon, introduces the shortlist.

‘Thanks to the strength, unwavering high standards, and brilliant long reach of CLPE and the CliPPA year after year, the publishing world has rewarded children with a bounty of beautiful poetry books for 2021.

As judges this year our choices were unparalleled in the quality, power and sheer wonderfulness of so many fine submissions.

Reading each book was electrifying. There was so much to learn from every author; so much imaginative fervor, mesmerizing language and richly conveyed emotions.

Many of the books were also visually stunning, which can immeasurably enrich the poetry experience for any child.

But perhaps most importantly, there were a remarkable variety of themes which resonated perfectly with these very particular times.

But the CLiPPA is not just about selecting a shortlist and a single winner. It is more than that. The prestige of the CLiPPA signals to anyone involved with education, the arts or child development and parenting, that poetry is important. That imagination, words, and emotions matter.

For it is the particular verve of poetry, with its heightened sensory impressions, musical and compelling language, and visionary understandings which offers the child the possibility for both self-awareness and self-expression.

Because at its heart, sharing poetry helps create new thoughts, images and feelings, magically offering children that bit of extra fire-power. Extra life-power. Not to mention added joy — because they have discovered not just new worlds, but new parts of themselves through poetry.

The five books on the shortlist are:

Slam! You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This, chosen by Nikita Gill, Macmillan
Nikita Gill brings together exciting new poets, all well known to poetry audiences but many making their first appearance in print; this as a book to excite young people about all the potential of poetry, curated with skill and passion.

Bright Bursts of Colour, Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, Bloomsbury Education
The poems in Matt Goodfellow’s collection range from the silly to the sensitive, and all will resonate with children aged 7 – 11. We all admired the child’s eye view, the dynamic representations of real-life experiences, and the book’s understanding of a child’s sensibilities.

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann, Penguin
Compelling, powerful, and authentic, Mann’s verse novel speaks directly to its YA audience. We loved the fresh voice and how an old form is made new.

Big Green Crocodile Rhymes to Say and Play, by Jane Newberry, illustrated by Carolina Rabei, Otter-Barry Books
A collection of new nursery rhymes, this is a book for parents and adults to share with the very youngest to spark a lifelong love of poetry. In fact, it’s a perfect post-lockdown book, allowing adults and small children to connect and share poems. It’s also beautifully presented and perfectly illustrated.

On the Move, Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Walker Books
On the Move is both personal and universal, with messages of home, identity and family. The judges found it full of emotion, delivered with a perfect sense of understatement; they praised the way words and illustrations provide pauses, allowing readers space to think.

Zaro’s fellow judges are poet Amina Jama, who features in the Rising Stars collection published by Otter-Barry Books; Julie Blake, co-founder and Director of Poetry By Heart; and Charlotte Hacking, Learning Programmes Leader at CLPE. Allie Esiri, whose poetry anthologies include A Poem for Every Day of the Year and regularly top the bestseller lists, is chair of the CLiPPA 2021 judging panel.

The winner of the CLiPPA 2021 will be revealed at the The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, on Monday 11 October, in a Poetry Show introduced by CLiPPA judges, Zaro Weil and Allie Esiri, and featuring performances by the shortlisted poets. Schools across the UK and beyond will be able to watch the show on The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival platform and access poetry CPD sessions created by CLPE.

The free Shadowing Scheme to involve schools in CLiPPA 2021 will launch alongside the announcement of the winner but schools are invited to register now.

Zaro Weil’s newest collections from Troika, Polka Dot Poems…100 Weird and Wonderful Nature Haiku, with illustrations by Lucy Wynne is out now, and When Poems Fall from the Sky, illustrated by Junli Song in association with The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, will be published October 2021.