Praise & Press



North Somerset CBG @JustAboutBooks


“Long ages ago in ancient earth time, creatures talked like us but in wacky weird rhyme” and so begins this collection of 101 poems, short rhyming plays, raps, haikus, stories and fairy tales. Illustrated with detailed and humorous black and white line drawings and pictures by Jo Riddell which both add to and expand the rich language of the text, children will delight in the cornucopia and richness of the language found within these pages. Ideal for dipping into, this book can be read together, on your own or out loud; the plays are an interesting addition.

The topics covered are wide-ranging, thoughtful and quirky so every reader is bound to find something to delight them. This is a great collection for sparking the imagination, generating questions, and enjoying the sound and intricacies of language and word play. The collection is a rich celebration of the natural world and this book would sit comfortably on the shelf alongside other poetry books on nature. There is also a QR code that can be scanned for access to an audio recording of many of the pieces.

Poetry is an under-represented area, and this would make a great addition to any collection.



“Firecrackers is a treasure trove of treats! The stunning illustrations feel both fresh and classic, framing a wonderful variety of poetry, word play and stories. This delightful gift hardback is a perfect present, ideal for sharing or cherishing alone.”

Tamara Mcfarlane


“Firecrackers is packed full with explosive words and colourful ideas. The poems range from the pleasingly quirky to the more thoughtful and reflective. There’s plenty here that will spark the imagination of a child.”

Rachel Rooney


‘I first came across Zaro Weil’s poetry in the 1990s when looking for materials for my anthology to be published by Walker Books and chose her Wake Up as my opener. So I was thrilled to learn that she has a whole bumper collection coming soon from ZaZaKids Books. It’s not just a ‘Firecracker’, but I think it will be a fire-lighter that will ignite in children, a life-long passion for poetry. I can’t wait to see the whole book.’

Jill Bennett, Red Reading Hub


‘Fun, fantastical and full of variety: a wonderful collection of poems to inspire and delight. Whoopee!!! This bouncy, brilliant book is full of fun.’



“Many thanks for Firecrackers. I really do like it. The variety of material is excellent. I enjoyed the American rap and the rhyming play – and I want to know what happened to the shepherd who named his sheep.

In A Field of Daffodils the illustration really helped me to capture the vastness – “no basket large enough for April”. The Badger Square Dance is fun and the picture of the badgers dancing springs off the page. I recognise exactly the feeling in Love The Weed – “You bet I’m strong. I was pulling one way, and the whole earth was pulling the other way, and I won.” The poem on the back cover is great too.”

Brenda Marshall English 4 – 11
Published jointly by the English Association and UKLA


Today’s poem in our Poetry Calendar comes from a forthcoming collection I managed to get a sneaky peek at: Zaro Weil‘s Firecrackers.

This cornucopia contains 101 poems, rhymes, raps, haikus, but also short plays and fairy tales which lend themselves to a phrase that is increasingly seen when talking about contemporary poetry events for adults, but not one often used with young children: Spoken Word.

Whilst some poems work best on the page (for example shape poems, where the layout is an integral part of the poem), and some readers of poems enjoy them most in a quiet, private space, other poems – and experiences of them – are given a completely different vitality when performed. Whilst this collection could certainly be enjoyed alone, curled up on the sofa (Firecrackers is generously illustrated throughout with over 150 black and white line drawings and ink washes by Jo Riddell), I think it’s real strength is in celebrating word play, rhythm, the joy of language out loud. For this reason, I’m really pleased that when the book’s published in the Spring it will come with a link to an audio recording of many of the playful pieces featured. ‘Think of It’, the poem I chose for our Poetry Calendar today, is perfect for us on the cusp of the New Year, looking to what we hope to do in 2018; at this time of year seed catalogues are some of the most frequently re-read imagination-sparking material in our home.


If there’s one thing we’ve begun to notice lately, it’s that there’s a seriously inspirational revival in the amount of awesome poetry anthologies coming to market for children. Perhaps now, more than ever, kids need books that take them away from the day to day humdrum modern world, and let their imaginations fly. That’s the idea behind “Firecrackers” by Zaro Weil with illustrations by Jo Riddell. Inside this book you’ll find an impressive collection of poems, raps, haikus, fairy tales and flights of fancy on a diverse range of subjects but all with huge child appeal. We’re complete suckers for poetry books anyway, so we couldn’t wait to dive in. Poem anthologies lend themselves so well to being read aloud, in fact I’d urge parents to give poetry books a go for bedtime reading, to chop and change around from stories for a mo and let clever verse fuel your children’s dreams.

“Firecrackers” might’ve arrived with us just a day too late to latch it onto bonfire celebrations around November the 5th but this book will elicit the same oohs and ahhs as a well organised firework display. Poems range from silly subjects that will tickle your little ones, to more thought provoking stuff to slide into those gaps in the day where you just want to kick back, relax and hear something soothing. Jo’s illustrations are superb too, simple and child-friendly without distracting too much from the verses.

There’s truly something for everyone here in “Firecrackers”, and we’re so happy to see children’s poetry having such a fabulous resurgence in popularity, perhaps giving the next generation of young poets plenty of food for thought.



Beautifully illustrated by Jo Riddell, this collection of poems and stories is a perfect gift book. It’s ideal for dipping into, for quiet reading and for reading aloud; indeed, unusually amongst the stories, haikus and poems, there are a couple of rhyming plays too, great fun for the family or a group of friends. Single collections of poems are relatively rare these days, and it’s lovely to find one that gives the poet the space and time to explore ideas and return to themes. Poetry speaks to children directly, and this should become a real favourite, a book, to quote Rachel Rooney’s review, ‘to spark the imagination’.

Other recommended anthologies for children include A Poem for Every Day of the Year edited by Allie Esiri, and Kate Wakeling’s CLiPPA winner Moon Juice. ~ Andrea Reece


In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading Kids Reader Review Panel members were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

Lucas Blake, age 7 – ‘This is a really good book to share with your family or read by yourself, especially if you love animals – the haiku poems sound like the animals wrote them themselves!’

Abbie Collings, age 5 – ‘I love the front cover and the poem ‘Winter’ is my favourite at the moment as it is really snowy outside right now!’

Abbie’s Mum – ‘Abbie really enjoys poetry and she has spent a lot time flicking through the book to choose poems to read aloud. Certainly a collection to be treasured.’

Sam Briggs (& Mum), age 8 – ‘An array of fun, serious, interesting and intriguing stories, tales and poems to read with your child or for them to enjoy alone.’

Elissa Watkin, age 5 – ‘Firecrackers is a beautiful book that would make the perfect gift. Packed with poems and fairy tales the book is a fantastic read for children…I will keep this book for ever and ever and will always enjoy reading it.’

Lovereading4kids Readers Reviews


It’s difficult to pinpoint who will most enjoy this book – the child or the parent. Because while it will undoubtedly delight the younger reader, it is also chock-full of poems and stories that will appeal to the child in many of us. There are poems short and long and very long. There are stories – some new and some old. And they are all beautifully illustrated by Jo Riddell, whose drawings prove that there is more than one talented artist in her household. The poems here are nearly all personal and sometimes quite profound. Many are simple and sweet, others contain ideas that will be a trifle complex for very young children and some will even challenge older juniors. But I’m a great believer in giving children something to aim for by allowing them access to new concepts and complicated language. It’s great to see a proper, large, quality hardback book devoted to children’s poetry. This one contains a wealth of words for them to peruse. I predict that for many, Firecrackers will be a book to treasure.



There is no theme in this enjoyable collection of poems and prose except fun. And theres a lot of whimsical quirkiness. Many children will enjoy The Three Little Pigs: A Rhyming Play, for instance, whose narrator begins Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme/ And monkeys chewed tobacco/And hens took snuff to make them tough. Zaro Weil often makes playing with words into an engaging game of escapism: I fly on a kitten to my perfect tree house/And write funny poems with a soft little mouse. In other moods shes lyrical especially when shes describing spring: fruit trees in pastel puffs and a sudden trumpet of green. The best thing, for me, in this little book is the Badger Square Dance which captures the rhythm so expertly that you have to chant/sing it because the words simply wont stay on the page. Jo Riddells surreal drawings of hoedown badgers in their Stetsons are lovely. She too is very good at catching and reflecting a range of moods and styles.

Reviewed by Susan Elkin in TSL 66-1 (Spring 2018), Under 8 Section.
The School Librarian


A large glossy book with plenty of breathing space for the poems and high-quality illustrations. Multi-talented Zaro Weil’s poems and short plays are magical, imaginative and look at the changing seasons with wonder and awe. “A field ofdaffodils/hundreds/thousands/ and no basket/large enough/for April.” This brief descriptive poem is given a double page spread embellished with Jo Riddells magical panoramic illustration. A charming, captivating book.

Wes Magee for Carousel Guide Magazine


Firecrackers (Troika Books) is a magical and generous new collection of poems, stories and plays. It’s beautifully presented and designed with Jo Riddell’s wonderful illustrations enhancing the rich array of texts that Zaro Weil has composed.

The hefty hardback book opens with ‘Long ages ago’ (p.11), a sprightly and humorous take on how the animals first acquired their sounds: ‘Long ages ago / in ancient earth time / creatures talked like us / but in wacky weird rhyme //’. So disruptive was their rhyming chatter that the world was driven to dismay: ‘The sun roared ‘PLEASE STOP’ / the moon covered its ears / hid behind clouds / and burst into tears //. The sun (who features in several items in the book) comes up with a solution arguing that ‘it’s important to speak / in a voice that’s your own // Now cats try to purr / pigeons coo-coo / dogs learn how to bark / and cows just say moo //

It was no surprise to learn that the esteemed Jill Bennet had chosen ‘Wake up’ (p.17) as an opener for an anthology: ‘Wake up / morning / has / galloped / bareback / all night to / get here//’. This is one of many tiny poems – little starry fragments of verse – that children will remember and treasure (‘Sunflowers’, p.150; Shivering crickets, p.160; Winter, p.181 to name a few).

Recurring forms are a clever touch. The poetic duo ‘When I was the sunrise’ (p.86) and ‘When I was the sunset’ (p.87) are the first of several &’When I was’ poems scattered through the book. Often taking an elongated form, these offer tiny, rich thoughts: ‘When I was / a / mouse / darkness / circled / above / my / head / like / a / hawk //’. Children will enjoy emulating these in their own writing.

There are some long, lively, rhyming plays based on traditional stories (‘The Three Little Pigs’ p.132) is one and some short plays that fall into the category of mini Q and A jokes: ‘Me and the Earthworm, a very very short play’ (p. 233): ‘Me: Where are you going, earthworm? Earthworm: Around the world Me How long will that take Earthworm A long stretch’.

Also drawing on traditional tales are two fairytales. With shades of Rumpelstiltskin, ‘Four hundred sheep. A fairy tale’ (p.32) tells of a shepherd who has chosen an appropriate name for each and every one of his 400 sheep. No spoilers here but this puts him in a very strong position when he comes to confront a demon who thinks he knows the answer to everything. Jo Riddell’s art work is beautifully curated with its uncluttered juxtaposition of images and text. Look, for instance, at the two page spread given to ‘Two cats’ (p.114) playing in the snow ‘arching / circling / rolling like it was / summer and / goldenrod had / flown in their noses //’. Cat paw prints work their way across the pages up to the two expressively tumbling cats in the top right.

Most of the illustrations are black and white on white pages but there’s the occasional reverse effect as in ‘Owl’s haiku’ where the haiku is suspended in a white moon in the black night sky: ‘Waiting / stillness rules / will the moon appear / tonight / will my shadow soar //’. This is one of several wild life haikus which conform to the syllable count but have been stretched out over more than the conventional three lines.

You would think that there are already enough repetitive, list-like poems written for children but ‘The Paper Bag’ (p.54) is a fitting final note for this review. With the simple and powerful repetition of ‘Fill up a paper bag with….’ imaginative and thought-provoking ideas are assembled: …spring sounds and / open it in December /’. ‘Fill up a paper bag with / your favourite words and / shake it until a good story comes out / and finally… ‘Fill up a paper bag with / velvet / just to have it //’.

I want to fill up my paper bag with even more of her poems.

240 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant. ISBN 9781909991781

Reviewed by: Alison Kelly


I was sent a taster of this wonderful book last year and since then have eagerly anticipated the finished collection so I was thrilled when it finally arrived. It was certainly worth the wait. It absolutely fizzes and zizzes with over ninety different delights – poems short (some such as Cherry blossoms less than a dozen words

Cherry blossoms / are quiet / unlike frogs /leaping to every / raindrop

and long – Dinosaur site for instance, and haiku.

I love this Nightingale’s haiku in particular:

Hidden / I woo the night / note by note till / galaxies twirl / stars applaud

There is also a sprinkling of short plays and fairy tales.

There’s child appeal in spades from the words alone but Jo Riddell’s splendid black and white illustrations add to the enjoyment; they’re thoughtful and are perfectly in balance with the writing.

I strongly believe that poetry should be part of every child’s daily experience: teachers there is something for all moods and tastes herein and once you start reading this book with a group of children they’ll keep on demanding ‘just one more’.

Equally it’s perfect for the family bookshelf, to set imaginations soaring during the day or to send a child off into dreamworlds of ‘sun-dotted butterflies’, ‘fruit trees in pastel puffs’ and Shivering crickets.

Red Reading Hub Jill Bennet


Subtitled ‘An Explosion of Fantastical Poems, Raps, Haikus, Fairy Tales (and more) to Spark Imagination’, the book is a veritable cascade of words, wound in wonderful ways.

Although the collection offers fairy tales, little plays and a song, it is the poems that are our focus here- and what a range Zaro Weil offers! Here are poems crying out to be performed- spoken-shared- as they celebrate the joy of words, the richness of language and the potential for play that lies within them.

There a poems which could be performed by classes or individuals. Take ‘Firecrackers Tonight’ for example…

Firecrackers tonight

a sky volcano of colour

wave after wave

rousing the stratosphere

from its great darkness…

Perfect for developing the use of cadence, projection, enunciation, gesture and choral/ part speaking as well as simply poetry for pleasure, it could also be used as a starting point to inspire children’s own writing. And there are many others that can be used in this way too.

There are light-hearted poems…

This bed is so fat

this pillow so soft

hundreds of dreams

can climb right in

…and ones that provoke discussion and laughter. Poems like ‘A trade’ and ‘The Paper Bag’ would make great models for children to use as a model for their own poems. The starting line

Fill up a paper bag with…

of each verse would generate such discussions about those precious things and how to describe them. At a time when vocabulary (or the lack of it!) continues to be a major barrier for so many, the freedom poetry offers to explore and experiment with words is a real gift. For example, in Bumblebees and hummingbirds, the reader can ponder the image of ‘mulberry clouds’, question how water is ‘braiding the earth in a torrent of new-born rivers’ and imagine what ‘a slippery wisp of some barely green branch’ looks like.

There is also a code which can be scanned so that you can hear ‘ear-rattling raps, poems and songs’- I haven’t tried this yet so can’t comment on it, but hearing others perform poetry is a real joy so it can only add to the value of the book.

Illustrated throughout by Jo Riddell with black and white drawings that enhance the text beautifully, this is a real treasure of a book which will soon be a must on all classroom shelves. A ‘firecracker’ by name and by content!



“Cherry Moon feels like exactly what we need right now. A magical journey, grounded in natural beauty and a sense of communal wonder and hope.”

Poet and Clippa Judge

“We found this a wonderfully evocative collection of poems a joyous celebration of nature and language. The playful exuberance of the text and complementary illustrations have immense child-appeal, but there is also an underlying thoughtfulness about the environment which parents and teachers sharing the book with younger children will appreciate. This is a book to be read and reread.”

Poet and Clippa 2020 Judge

“Zaro’s poems allow children to explore their emotions and understand them as shared experiences; and it connects readers with the natural world. Something that is vital at this time.”

Chief Executive at CLPE

“(The poems) always display the infectious curiosity and wonder for nature found in young minds. The book is also visually stunning…making sharing these poems a joy for all the senses.”


“A superb introduction to poetry for the very young and a wonderful book to share:beautiful to look at too, thanks to Junli Song’s stunning screen print illustrations.”


‘Weil’s poems capture eye-popping moments, tender observations and a thousand whimsical reflections on the sheer joy of the natural world. At a time when the natural world is in crisis, and healing its wounds is high on every child’s agenda, there is a genuine need to bring nature back into the lives of children through the stories we tell. And Cherry Moon makes an enormous contribution to this, delivering special and accessible poetry for a new generation of readers.”



Top 30 Books for Children 2019

“Exquisitely simple poetry about nature with warm almost vintage print illustrations to accompany. About a plum tree in Spring.”



“This is a book to enchant, inspire and treasure. Any poetry or art lover would surely welcome Cherry Moon into their library.”



At a time when the natural world is in crisis, and healing its wounds is high on every child’s agenda, there is a genuine need to bring nature back into the lives of children through the stories we tell. And Cherry Moon makes an enormous contribution to this, delivering special and accessible poetry for a new generation of readers.



Inspired by a twilight walk in the woods with her father as a child, this collection explores the beauty of the natural world. Beautiful illustrations and heartfelt verses make this a collection to treasure.







Circus Magic, Forest Wonders and A Hero Dog

“If your youngsters are barking mad for canine capers, then here’s an action-packed adventure story starring a lovable dog coping with life on the mean streets of New York City.

Spot Guevara: Hero Dog – the first book of an exciting new series that is perfect for young readers – is based on the real-life sheep dog of author Zaro Weil who lives in France and has also written poetry for children.

Spot, a lively puppy with a lovely story to tell, is brought to life by a gorgeous gallery of colour illustrations from Katy Riddell, daughter of the former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, and an illustration talent in her own right.

Born rough on the streets of Brooklyn, the seventh puppy in his mum’s litter, Spot relates his story in his own inimitable words. Spot loves to roam the city and meet new friends, like the human Perfecto Guevara who brings Spot and his family scraps of food, as well as cuddles and lots of love. Spot also has to learn to fend off danger, and find about other people and other dogs.

But one terrible day, Spot’s entire family are carted off by the Dog police while he is out exploring and he vows never to give up searching for them, even if it means crossing the frighteningly huge Brooklyn Bridge…

Youngsters will love following Spot’s adventures and misadventures in New York City as he confronts tough enemies and becomes the ultimate lovable doggy hero. Written in chapter book format, this is ideal reading for children to enjoy on their own, or to cuddle up and share with an adult.”

Lancashire Evening Post


“Spot Guevara: Hero Dog” by Zaro Weil and Katy Riddell is set in New York City and is the story of a young puppy, Spot, who has been separated from his mother and siblings.This follows his adventures as he tries to find them, in what is a very big City. There are ups and downs, heroes and villains and above all there is the indomitable spirit of the young puppy. It was a truly uplifting story with a happy ending, but with potential for more adventures.”



‘Spot Guevara lives happily on the tough streets of Brooklyn, until the dreadful day when his whole family is captured by the dog police and he has no idea where they have been taken. Vowing never to give up looking for them, Spot must learn to ward off danger, to discover which dogs-and humans-may be trusted, and how to find happiness despite all that has happened. Spot Guevara is an adventurous tale full of love, loss, courage and family values, told with lightness and humour.And engaging, bold modern print and Katy Riddell’s lively illustrations will help even less able readers to become hooked.

Tina Massey



We always like to include a few books for younger readers beginning their solo reading journeys with illustrated chapter books, and the antics of one “Spot Guevara, Hero Dog” by Zaro Weil, with illustrations and cover from Katy Riddell is absolutely perfect for animal-loving kids everywhere.

Born rough on the streets of Brooklyn this is Spot’s story, told in his own voice and from his unique point of view.

Life on the streets is hard, and one terrible day Spot’s entire family are carted off by the Dog police and he vows never to give up searching for them.

This is the beginning of Spot’s many adventures as he roams the city meeting new friends, fending off danger and learning about humans and other dogs. Can Spot be a hero? Will he need a friend or two along the way?

This is fast-paced but really fab stuff, perfect for kids who are moving on from picture books and want an exciting waggy dog tale.