13th February 2014:
Chrissie’s new and collected children's poems STARS IN JARS, illustrated by Calef Brown, will be published by Bloomsbury. Details on Bloomsbury, Amazon and Gardners websites.
29th November 2012: Poetry Archive recording of 37 poems goes live, with 6 poems to listen to free:
20th November 2012: Newcastle Journal article about children's reading in the English Department, Newcastle University
August 2012: Chrissie contributed to a Cbeebies series - Rhyme Rocket.
9th June 2012: Guardian pre-publicity for Poetry Archive recording www.guardian.co.uk/books
14th April 2012: Performance at Wenlock Poetry Festival
13th April 2012: Carole Boyd (Linda Snell from The Archers) reads Chrissie's concrete children's poem 'Gales of Laughter' at the Wenlock Poetry Festival. www.youtube.com
13th March 2012: Article in South London Press - 'Lending Voice to Poetry Archive'.
February 2012: Chrissie was invited to make an hour's recording of her children's poems for the Poetry Archive. www.poetryarchive.org
November/December 2011: Poetry News article about the Poetry Society/Norwegian Embassy Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree project with primary schools. View the article (pdf)
10th September 2011: Performance at Poets House New York.
July 2011: Bookbabblers review all three of Chrissie's children's poetry collections: www.bookbabblers.co.uk
2nd October 2010: Performance at Wigtown Book Festival
4th September 2010: Performance at Wordplay Festival, Shetland.
July 2010: Review of The Humpback's Wail in The Telegraph, 24th July. www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews
3rd June 2010: Performance at Hay Festival
April 2010: Publication of new children's poetry collection 'The Humpback's Wail' illustrated by Paul Bommer.
March 2010: The Poetry Book Society selected 'The Humpback's Wail' as one of the two top choices for the Children's Poetry Bookshelf.
February 2010: Article in The Bookseller - Children's poetry can be successful:
January 2010: Republished Now You See Me, Now You ... selected by the Poetry Book Society as one of the two top choices for the Children’s Poetry Bookshelf, Spring Term 2010.
‘Chrissie Gittins’ wonderful collection of poems for children, which was CLPE Poetry Award shortlisted, has been republished. Now You See Me, Now You ... contains a great variety all unified by an aware and intelligent breadth of poetic skill.’ School Librarian, Winter 2009
Review of republished Now You See Me, Now You ... www.writeaway.org.uk
February 2009: Chrissie contributed to a Cbeebies series - Poetry Pie.
11th August 2008: Performance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
6th August 2008: Guest reader at Moniack Mhor (Arvon Foundation) for Carol Ann Duffy’s children’s poetry course.
June 2008: Chrissie recorded poems for the Oxfam C.D. of Children's Poetry at the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood.
28th May 2008: Sell-out solo performance at the Hay Festival.
February 2008: I Don't Want an Avocado for an Uncle was selected as one of four single poet collections for the 'Boys into Books 5-11' booklist. This is a £3 million backed initiative funded by the DCSF and administered by the School Library Association.
October 2007: Chrissie was one of 14 poets invited to give workshops to 200 schoolchildren at Buckingham Palace, 16th October. A performance by young talented poets and laureate Andrew Motion followed, then the children met Her Majesty at a reception in the Picture Gallery. More details ...
6th October 2007: Performance at Ilkley Literature Festival
May 2007: I Don't Want an Avocado for an Uncle was shortlisted for the 2007 CLPE Poetry Award. The award is in its fourth year and is the only prize for a book of children's poems in this country. www.clpe.co.uk
October 2006: I Don't Want an Avocado for an Uncle was selected by the Poetry Book Society as one of the two top choices for the Children’s Poetry Bookshelf, Autumn 2006.
3rd December 2006: I Don't Want an Avocado for an Uncle featured as The Sunday Poem in the Independent on Sunday.
4th November 2005: Performance with Adrian Mitchell at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.
11th May 2003: Death in the Poetry Library was read by Roger McGough on BBCR4 in a Poetry Please edition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Poetry Library. On June 9th 2007 this recording was repeated on BBCR4's Archive Hour to celebrate the reopening of the Royal Festival Hall.
8th November 2003: Performance at the Poets House, New York.
May 2003: Her first children’s poetry collection Now You See Me, Now You ... (Rabbit Hole, 2002) was shortlisted for the inaugural CLPE Poetry Award in 2003.
17th November 2002: Death in the Poetry Library featured as The Sunday Poem in the Independent on Sunday.
July 2002: The Powder Monkey won the category for poems for 9-12 year olds in the Belmont Poetry Prize, and Bradshaw Plots his Revenge was a runner up in the category for 5-8 year olds.
I DON’T WANT AN AVOCADO FOR AN UNCLE (isbn 0954328817)
is illustrated by Kev Adamson kevadamson.com;
NOW YOU SEE ME, NOW YOU ... (isbn 09543228809)
is illustrated by Gunnlaug Moen Hembery gunnlaug.co.uk.
Recent anthologies where Chrissie’s poems appear:
When Granny Won Olympic Gold, ed. Graham Denton, 2011
RSPB Treasury of Wildlife, ed. Celia Warren, 2011
Schofield & Sims:
A Time to Speak, ed. Celia Warren, 2013
Michael Rosen's A-Z: the very best of children's poetry from Agard to Zephaniah, ed. Michael Rosen, 2009.
Dinos, Dodos and other Dead Things ed. Brian Moses, 2003
Don’t Panic: 100 Poems to Save Your Life ed. Fiona Waters, 2003
Read Me and Laugh, ed. Gaby Morgan, 2005
Masala, ed. Debjani Chatterjee, 2005
The Works 4, ed. Gaby Morgan and Pie Corbett, 2005
The Secret Lives of Teachers – 3 Books in 1, ed. Brian Moses, 2005
Best Friends, ed. Fiona Waters, 2006
The Works for Key Stage 1, ed. Pie Corbett, 2006
Christmas Poems, ed. Fiona Waters, 2006
The Works Poems for Assembly, ed. Pie Corbett, 2007
Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, ed. Fiona Waters, 2007
Laugh Out Loud, ed. Fiona Waters, 2008
The Jumble Book, ed. Roger Stevens, 2009
The Works 8, ed. John Foster, 2009
A First Book of Poetry, ed. Gaby Morgan and Pie Corbett 2012
Hubble Bubble, ed. Andrew Fusek Peters, 2003
Love, Hate, And My Best Mate, ed. Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters, 2004
The Poetry Store, ed. Paul Cookson, 2005
Dinosaur Poems, ed. Paul Cookson, 2006
The Book of Complete Nonsense, ed. Frances MacMillan, 2013
Comments and reviews
The Humpback's Wail
'This lively collection is packed full of poems on any number of topics, such as food, animals, brothers, friends, and embarrassing dads. Some poems delight with detailed observations whilst others play skilfully with form to produce sound-poems like 'Wasp on the Tube' whose protagonist buzzes around 'causing a hummmmmmmmmmmmm' and upsetting commuters.' Mandy Coe and Fiona Waters, selectors for the Children's Poetry Bookshelf
'Chrissie Gittins' poems are imaginative snapshots taken with a quirky edge that appeals to children. She crafts the language and surprises the reader; many of the poems would act as creative catalysts for children's own writing. She is one of the best 'children's poets' currently writing and visiting schools.' Pie Corbett (quote on back of the book)
'Gittins is a very good reader. Her latest for kids is The Humpback's Wail, and I recommend it, for its charming illustrations by Paul Bommer, and the poems themselves.' Todd Swift, Eyewear
‘This is a lovely collection of poems of varying length that are a pleasure to read. The accompanying illustrations by Paul Bommer are clear and quirky. Chrissie Gittins chooses subject matter that appeals to children - the minutiae of everyday life is evident. The poems cover birds, embarrassing dads, sleeping in your uniform, food, playtime, teachers, hiding, historical figures - "Queen Victoria Was bursting with euphoria When Prince Albert's ambition Produced the Great Exhibition" and so much more. There is a fabulous illustration accompanying "Iris Upsidaisy" of Iris' corkscrew curls. I enjoyed the way that the reader has to read "Suzannah the Tail Wagger" backwards - it takes a little while to work this out. Gittins uses simple language to convey everyday life with humour and warmth. There is something for everyone in this book of poetry that will appeal to both children and adults.’ Jane Peplar, Write Away website, 2010
‘Quickly becoming one of the best ‘children’s poets’ currently visiting and writing in schools, Chrissie Gittins’ poems are wonderful, imaginative snapshots of experiences, places, emotions and much more, taken with a quirky edge that reaches out knowingly to children. Although I would suggest her appeal is far wider than just children. Chrissie Gittins demonstrates a playful, almost mischievous command of language; carving out a surprise for the reader within every stanza. Likewise her subject matter is instantly accessible, obviously rhythmic and occasionally visual. This collection – dedicated to the ‘children of Lewisham’ – is indicative of the commitment shown by Gittins to promoting poetry within schools; in 2010 she was appointed Lewisham Borough’s first Writer-in-Residence. Furthermore, this book represents a great introduction to reading poetry out loud. My class would wait expectantly at the end of each day, hoping that it would be their turn to read a poem out aloud to the rest of the class; a triumphant collection for teachers, parents, adults and children everywhere.’ Laura Ciftci, School Librarian, vol. 58 no. 4, Winter 2010
‘For gentle but often surreal language, little people should sit cross-legged on the carpet with a copy of Chrissie Gittins’s latest poetry collection, The Humpback's Wail. As a poet who regularly visits schools, award-winning Gittins knows how to help children let their imaginations wander. For example, in Night Sky In The Clun Valley she’ll point out that ‘the sky is throwing out woks, the moon is munching bananas, and the stars wear sparkly socks’. Helen Brown, Telegraph, 24th July 2010
'I was delighted when Chrissie approached Parents in Touch to ask us to review a selection of her poetry books as I love to encourage children to read poetry. These poems really will appeal to children, with their quirky take on things familiar and unfamiliar. Often, she needs very few words to convey her thoughts and this simplicity will appeal to children. Her vivid use of language will engage children and stimulate their imaginations, and her topics are carefully selected to appeal. I had to think to read 'Suzannah the Tail Wagger' - a clever use of shape which will hopefully inspire children to try this for themselves. A super collection to share in the classroom.' Sarah Brew, Parents in Touch, April 2011
'Chrissie Gittins’ lovely book of poems for children The Humpback’s Wail includes a variety of funny, thoughtful, playful and sensual, image-rich poems, probably most suitable for primary school-age children. Favourites were the history-inspired 'The Fragrant Pirate' which explores the smells on board a pirate ship; 'Iris Upsidaisy', which describes Iris’ unruly hair and what it gets up to when she is awake and asleep, and the humorous and irreverent 'The Very Fortunate Frog':
On hot days in July / when I’m feeling sleepy-snoozie / a hose pipe fills my fancy home / and turns it into a Jacuzzi'.
The author works frequently with primary schools to encourage a love of poetry in children, and this really comes over in her poetry, which is full of the quirks, strangeness and humour that children love.' Book Trust website, 2011
I Don’t Want an Avocado for an Uncle
‘Chrissie Gittins knows just what words can do: she makes them dance, sing, sit still for a moment and then leap across the page with joy!’ Ian McMillan
‘a lot of ripe good ones,’ John Hegley
‘An enchanting collection full of vivid imagery. Chrissie Gittins’ poems are full of fun creatures and characters, from Mr Fogg the very friendly Dentist to Igor Iguanodon (who loves to dine on orchids). You'll love the way she weaves words together to invite you into her real and unreal worlds!' Children’s Poetry Bookshelf, Poetry Book Society
'Chrissie Gittins observes well in I Don't Want an Avocado for an Uncle, whether her subject is the madness of New York, rain spitting on hills or the final rituals of a family Christmas. What distinguishes the hits is a recognition that there is no such thing as a good poem only for children. These hits work for anyone who loves poetry. There are beautifully observed pieces. The ballet teacher is a good example: "Her voice glancing each child/with gossamer" or: "stripes of shellduck tipped up in a lake".' Fred Sedgwick, Times Education Supplement Magazine, January 25th 2007
'This is a delightful collection of poetry from Chrissie Gittins. The title has been selected as the Poetry Book Society Choice for the Children's Poetry Bookshelf. A warm, witty and intelligent selection, this group of poems covers a whole range of writing which will appeal to young readers aged 7-13. The poems are most refreshing for their breadth, not just of subject matter, but also of emotional response. There is not a breath of pedantry in the whole book - yet there is humour, wit, joy, sorrow and enjoyable quirkiness. At £5.99 this is a bargain, particularly as this book is exactly how children's poetry should be.' Irene Babsky, School Librarian, Spring 2007.
'There are not many solo collections of poetry for children being published lately, so it’s good to see something getting through, even if it does entail small or self-publication. Chrissie Gittins is not the only poet currently to take this course, which neatly sidesteps the problems of being taken up by a major house and undergoing the rigours of being edited to their strictures. The result is a book which bears and wears the individualities and eccentricities of the author. I note that in reviews of her previous collection words like quirky, surreal, idiomatic, and zany come into play. This book has plenty to fall into line with those attributes, but there are also tenderer and more lyrical aspects and moments. There’s a confidence and assurance about her writing that clearly appeals to an audience that is already receiving her with enthusiasm. A reading shows she knows what she’s doing and is creating an idiom of her own. If you’re interested in poetry written for children, you should definitely read this book and see how it takes you and the children you’re in contact with. There’s a distinctive voice evolving here and I’ll watch with interest to see what it produces in the future. The book itself is nicely produced with good layout and typeface and very apt illustrations by Kev Adamson whose work for me, while carrying traces of Satoshi Kitamura, nevertheless has a strong individuality of its own.' Books for Keeps, no 163, March 2007
‘For the real strength of the collection we have to turn to those poems for which the title has not prepared us. These are quiet, pensive, occasionally meditative commentaries imbued with a pleasantly lyrical note, even on such well-worn topics as seasonal change, the aftermath of Christmas or the beauty of the natural world. It is in poems such as these that Gittins finds an engagingly original voice: ‘Gulls chance the churning sea,/Leaves stack up against the thermal door,/ Tips of willows, russet, finger low grey sky./The year is drawing in.’ Shortlisted for the 2007 CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) Poetry Award, this self-published book has been attractively produces and presented.’ Robert Dunbar, Inis (the Children’s Books Ireland magazine)Winter 2007 No. 22
'Gittins’s latest collection for children is as cleverly accessible for young readers as it is funny and perceptive. This well-illustrated book includes poems created for specific people, poetry about special experiences (like ‘River Torridge’), about everyday experiences (‘Mr Fogg the Very Friendly Dentist) and unusual combinations (‘My Grandma is a Nun’).
An inspiration for poetry readers and writers alike, which will hopefully encourage imaginative use of language and a careful observation of life’s experiences great and small and most of all, an appreciation of the power of well chosen words.' Recommended Books, Booktrusted website
'Gittins’ second foray into poetry for children is enormous fun. In a series of surprising encounters, packed full zany humour, we meet flamingos, nuns, dentists, dinosaurs, old pencil stubs, even the Loch Ness monster! The collection consists mostly of light-hearted lyrics (with a few surprises), and includes a sequence of limericks, some nonsense verse, a shape poem and a riddle. She takes much of her inspiration from the close observation of the world around her: families, ordinary life and the natural world. Thus, childhood experiences such as reading under the covers, visiting the dentist and vying for friendships, are found alongside portraits of eccentric characters and thoughtful meditations on her holidays (from Tresco Bay to New York City). Animals, and especially unusual animals, seem particularly to capture her imagination, perhaps for their quirky individuality. She delights to ponder their thoughts and feelings: the grumblings of flamingos, the contentment of the two-toed sloth and the ruminations of dinosaurs! Stylistically, playfulness and humour predominate (as the title might suggest), giving way periodically to flashes of depth and insight (such an the haunting ‘Lifeline’ or the profound final poem ‘Putting Away Christmas’). Gittins is particularly skilled at the sudden twist, repeatedly using her final line to shock, amuse or tip the reader into profundity. This collection would be enjoyed by children throughout KS2, though some of the more challenging poems invite careful thought from more experienced readers.' Darren Coult, Write Away website
'Chrissie Gittins has a brilliant sense of humour and her quirkiness gallops across every page of this most original collection which is stuffed with daft moments and some serious ones too.' Fiona Waters, Carousel 37, Autumn 2007
'Titles do not always tell the whole story, least of all, perhaps, in poetry collections such as this where the title for the complete volume is shared with one of the included poems. For the strength of the collections we have to turn to those poems for which its title has not prepared us. These are quiet, pensive, occasionally meditative commentaries imbued with a pleasantly lyrical note, even on such well-worn topics as seasonal change, the aftermath of Christmas or the beauty of the natural world. It is in poems such as these that Gittins finds an engagingly original voice: 'Gulls chance the churning sea,/Leaves stack up against the thermal door,/Tips of willows, russet, finger low grey sky./The year is drawing in.' Robert Dunbar, Inis, the Children's Book Ireland magazine, Winter 2007
'A second collection from this poet, just as right as right can be as a poetry book for 7's upwards. There's a broad range of writing here from amusing jokes to poems which, sometimes unexpectedly, evoke responses of deeper emotions. Cleverness, but nor for its own sake, with a great sense of fun and an acute awareness of her readership has resulted in a group of poems which are both entertaining and expanding. A valuable and very friendly collection indeed.' Chris Brown, DCFS Boys into Books Booklist, School Library Association, March 2008.
‘Acute observations of many aspects of life shine through in this collection of poems. We meet some lovely characters such as Mr Fogg the dentist and the grandmother who is a nun. I think my favourite is 'The Pencil Stub' - a wonderful poem about a very simple object, which makes us see it through new eyes. And that is the cleverness of Chrissie's poems - she really makes you think about everyday things. The variety will capture and keep children's attention - people, places and animals, all embellished with humorous illustrations by Kev Adamson. Some poems are funny, some are very thoughtful and all are very enjoyable.' Sarah Brew, Parents in Touch, April 2011
A weekly podcast from the Walking Oliver children's music website www.walkingoliver.com which is run by Paul Austin Kelly - an American opera singer based in Lewes. In this programme - Episode 7, 21st March 2007 - Paul reads several of Chrissie's children's poems.
Now You See Me, Now You …
‘weird, interesting and humorous poems that will bear repeated visits,’ Roger Stevens, Poetry Zone website.
‘Chrissie Gittins has a McGough-like flair for idiomatic surrealism,’ Michael Thorn, TES.
‘I like the warmth and immediacy of the poems. But I think The Shortest Days is my favourite – limpid and deceptively simple.’ Helen Dunmore
‘clearly focused in terms of target readers (mainly pre-teens) and its bias towards humour, occasionally of a quirky and surrealistic kind as in ‘The Fate of the Butternut Squash’. The line drawings are zany too. Sometimes a more serious note is introduced as in the case of the Belmont Poetry prize-winning ‘The Powder Monkey’, which tells of the days when children as young as six went to sea and served on warships, but usually humour prevails. It has a nice pocket-size feel to it,’ Brian D’Arcy, Writing in Education.
‘a most enjoyable collection … she has a nice quirky viewpoint and is well worth investigating,’ Enid Stephenson, Carousel.
‘Chrissie Gittins takes incidents and objects from her locality (Swimming at the local baths; a heart scarab in a museum) and makes imaginative leaps, excavating the thoughts of a tortoise who has travelled from Turkey to Catford. Especially enjoyable are her excursions into wordplay such as ‘Driven to Distraction’, and ‘Approaching Apostrophes’ is an excellent way to get to grips with this troublesome punctuation mark.’ Ann Lazim for the CLPE Award 2003.
‘A witty and interesting collection from children's poet, Chrissie Gittins, which features, among others, poems about a six-foot man in a block of ice, a pair of flying shoes, a travelling wardrobe and a squashed poet. The author also explores the use of language itself in poems such as 'Exclamation Mark Park' and 'Approaching Apostrophes'. Chrissie Gittins writes in a refreshingly non-patronising way for children and this collection is charmingly illustrated throughout. These poems will have particular appeal for children in KS1 & 2, but parents will certainly enjoy reading this collection to younger children too.’ Victoria Buckley-Jennings, Man in the Moon website.
'This is Chrissie Gittins’ first collection of poetry for children, originally shortlisted for the 2003 CLPE Poetry Award. Review:
‘What Does Poetry Do?’ asks the title of the final poem in this collection and amongst its answers is one which captures much of the spirit of Gittins’ verse: ]“it puts great wheezing slices of life into bun trays, with or without punctuation.] The energy, vitality and fun of everyday life run throughout these poems, providing entertainment alongside flashes of the profound.
It is no surprise that the collection is dedicated to the poet’s children, for much of her inspiration appears to come from sharing life with them: the struggle to get out of bed in the morning, the painful encounter with the pet hamster, or the desolation of a playground abandoned in the rain. Gittins even breathes life into the inanimate, giving voice to the sulks of a cuddly toy hung up to dry in ‘Bradshaw Plots his Revenge’ or exploring the contrast between Turkey and Catford in the experience of ‘The Well-Travelled Tortoise’. With a childlike imagination, she seems to be suggesting, the mundane can offer doorways into adventure and delight; flights of fancy are waiting to be taken with a ‘travelling wardrobe’ or with brochures stored in the garage.
Language itself takes on a zany life of its own in her many poems devoted to wordplay, from the tongue-twisting ‘Fate of the Butternut Squash’ and the crazy rhymes of ‘Government Health Warning’ to the stretching of idioms in ‘Driven to Distraction’. I particularly enjoyed the sequence of poems which playfully explored the rules (and misuses) of punctuation – a resource sure to enliven many a grammar lesson. Several of her free verse poems would also make great models for children’s own poetry – ‘The Listening Station’ and ‘Messages from the Heart Scarab’ seem to particularly invite this. Sharply observant, warm-hearted and shamelessly eccentric, this collection offers much to enrich the KS2 classroom.'
Darren Coult, Write Away website, January 2010
‘This book contains a fascinating variety of poems, from the very short - I liked High Chair, which says so much in very few words - to much longer poems to really get your teeth into. Many of the poems have familiar settings, which will appeal to children, such as Getting Up and Back to School. I loved the quirky humour of poems such as Driven to Distraction: 'I picked up a bus on the High Street then put it down on the park.' Some have a much more serious message such as the thoughtful 'The Powder Monkey'. There are some wonderful poems on punctuation, which I think would make a great teaching resource. A well-balanced collection which will be read over and over again.' Sarah Brew, Parents in Touch, April 2011
GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING
Don’t squash peas on your knees,
Don’t grate carrot on a parrot,
Don’t tangle pears in your nostril hairs
Never risk a quid on a squid.
Don’t pour bottled beer in your ear.
Never slice apple pies on your thighs.
Never wash your pullovers with yesterday’s leftovers.
Don’t entice a bowl of egg fried rice.
Don’t assume that tarragon’s a paragon,
Or try to run faster than a bag of spinach pasta,
Don’t try a lunge at Victoria sponge,
A cake with a steak is a mistake.
Bravado never works with avocado,
A flickin’s not the thing to give to chicken,
Don’t go and stutter on the b-b-b-b-butter
Never feed mice on ice.
Careful not to ravage a coy savoy cabbage,
Never have a tussle with a mussel,
Don’t ever hurry with a spicy prawn curry,
Don’t boast about your buttered toast.
Don’t pour jelly in your welly,
Don’t dribble tagliatelle on your older brother’s belly.
Never do the tango with a ripe and juicy mango,
If you do then you’re sure to pay the price!
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