This September we are publishing Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup and collected by Fiona Waters – the follow-up to our highly-acclaimed, multi-award-winning collection, I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree: A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year. And today, our head of picture books, Louise Bolongaro, introduces the new book.
I am lucky enough to edit picture books for young children for my living. I dream about stories, beginnings, middles and endings, and love how words and pictures work together brilliantly to tell a tale. The very best books of all make my heart sing and my skin tingle.
But … I think I might be quite a poetry person, too. As a child, I missed a year of school due to illness, and a kindly and inspirational teacher (Ms Gaskell, thank you) gave me bags and bags of books. Up until then, I mainly trailed after my older brother and sister, but those bags of books made a bookworm of me. When I was better, I was allowed to walk to the tiny village library on my own and found not just more stories but poetry, too. I loved the reassuring rhythms – they were so beautifully predictable – and I liked the way a poem could look. The words didn’t fill all the white but left funny spaces, as if to give me room to think. My favourite collection was my mum’s beloved Albatross Book of Verse. At seven, I didn’t always understand very much, but Ms Gaskell said that was OK; she said it was “the reading that mattered”.
The reading really did matter and here we are, many years later. I’ve learnt so much about words and pictures and meanings and now see how poems and picture books are so very similar. Picture books, as a wise person once said, should be both windows and mirrors: they enable children to see out into other worlds whilst also reflecting their own. They provide comfort or reassurance or sometimes just good old entertainment, or maybe a combination of many things. A poem does all of this, too. Look at how a tiny collection of words, carefully arranged, can say so much. Poems are bite-size, mini-story worlds that can be nibbled upon word by word or just swallowed whole in one big gulp. And, like a picture book, a poem always, always makes us feel something.
When we were thinking about ideas for this book, we talked about the funny spaces that poems leave on the page and how pictures can make a poem so much more. We also thought about the things that children really love and what poems might appeal to them. I thought about my son, who at the age of three, was in love with his encyclopedia of animals. It was almost bigger than him and had hundreds of pictures of nearly every animal you could think of.
So, why not a poetry anthology that was all about animals? A glorious collection of as many animal poems that we could find, with one poem for every day of the year, that a child (or parent or uncle or carer or friend) could dip in and out of as they pleased. And this felt like a very important decision. Poems and reading “matter” more than ever but so does the natural world. If this book can nurture a love of the animal kingdom, then maybe it will also help create the conservationists of the future.
Fiona, the anthologist, has found wonderful poems for you to enjoy, and Britta, the artist, has created a beautiful visual story on every page. There are poems to make you think, poems to make you laugh, poems that you’ll want to share and some that will stay with you forever. There are some poems that you might know already, but hopefully you’ll make lots of exciting new discoveries, too. You might find that there are some you would like to go back to. And perhaps that poem will say a different thing on a different day. Remember that you don’t always have to understand a poem. Poems are like that.
And just as there are all sorts of poems, there are all sorts of creatures here, too. Sometimes our job wasn’t easy – it’s quite hard to find a poem about an aardvark! – but we think that there are enough species here to fill the ark, from the crabs on Christmas Island to migrating monarch butterflies, the splendour of an Indian elephant and, of course, plenty of dogs and cats and lions and tigers and bears. There are also lots of unsung heroes – the humble snail, the tiny ant, the shy platypus. Who knows, maybe your favourite animal will appear on your birthday? Wouldn’t that be nice?
I feel very proud to have helped make this book and hope that all the wonderful poems here might make your heart sing and your skin tingle, and make you a poetry person, too.
You can take a look inside Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem For Every Day of the Year below:
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! will be published on September 3rd – you can pre-order the book from Waterstones here and from Amazon here – and if you’d like to be the first to hear more about the book, and be in with a chance of winning a copy, you can sign up to our Tiger, Tiger newsletter here.