BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Today we feature a Q&A with award-winning poet Joshua Seigal, whose new book Welcome To My Crazy Life (available here) was published this month.
Read on for our review of the book, followed by an exclusive Q&A in which we ask Joshua about the inspiration for his poetry and his latest Lollies win. We are also offering a giveaway for copies – read on for details!
Book Title: Welcome to My Crazy Life (available here)
Author: Joshua Seigal
Illustrator: Chris Piascik
Publication Date: February 2020
Most Suitable For: KS2
Reviewed by: Alison Leach
A little while back we consulted with teachers and school librarians about the most popular books in their libraries. We were aiming to find out the most enjoyed books for each year group as part of the research for our 50 Recommended Reads lists, and one response that came up again and again was Joshua Seigal’s funny poetry collections – which, they reported, flew off library shelves like hotcakes when readers in KS2 were around. Brilliant to dip into and filled with giggles, these collections are a huge hit in schools and this was confirmed earlier in the month when pupils voted Joshua Seigal’s I Bet I Can Make You Laugh winner of the 9-13 category in the 2020 Laugh Out Loud Book Awards.
We were really pleased when Bloomsbury sent us Joshua’s newest poetry collection, Welcome to My Crazy Life. It’s a playful collection categorized by Seigal’s love of language and humorous insights into all aspects of life (including poems that offer some very useful advice for all situations, like Don’t Forget Your Trousers).
The collection’s poems range from those that are brilliant to read aloud – like the onomatopeia-filled What’s That Noise? – to those whose visual appeal makes them best for experiencing straight off the page – like the super-alliterative shape poem Catastrophic Carnivorous Creature or the poem Homework, which fills the page with one big visual pun. There are silly poems, witty poems, wise advice and even a poem made up entirely of numbers.
One of. the reasons that poetry collections like this are so popular in schools is that readers almost always find something that truly resonates with their perspective on life, and poetry is brilliant at capturing shared experiences and emotions. There’s plenty that teachers will find relatable too. Flicking through the collection, I found mine straight away – The Coffee Monster may just have easily been inspired by my own early morning pre-coffee prowlings.
Reluctant readers and poetry pros alike will find plenty to enjoy in Seigal’s trademark outpouring of wit, wordplay and wackiness.
with Joshua Seigal, author of Welcome to My Crazy Life
Tell us about your new poetry collection – what can readers expect?
A lot of poems about all kinds of different things, in lots of different styles. The overarching theme, if there is one, is wordplay. Lots of the poems are quite funny and light-hearted, but there are some serious ones in there too, and even one or two that were specifically written to make people cry with emotion.
Do you remember the first poem you ever created? What was it about?
Yes I do, you can see it on my website here: https://www.joshuaseigal.co.uk/otters. I was five years old and it’s about otters.
Your poems are brilliant for making us chuckle and it is wonderful to see your work being celebrated in the Laugh Out Loud book awards! What was it like being shortlisted for the Lollies – again?!
It was fabulous being shortlisted, but it was even better to win! The book that won, I Bet I Can Make You Laugh, was in fact an anthology edited by me, so massive credit must go to all the other fantabulous contributors.
Where do you find inspiration for your poems?
I just write about things I’m interested in, like animals, school, family and memories. I can often go for months without writing anything at all; I just wait for some kind of inspiration to strike. It is important to be open to the world around you, so I often get inspiration from my five senses.
What do you think is the key to making poetry accessible to children?
Don’t patronise, and try to be authentic. Either kids will like it or they won’t. I think the key is to write stuff you want to write, and if it happens to appeal to children too then, well, that’s great. Also, a well timed and clever joke never goes amiss.
What are your favourite poems of all time?
The poems written by the contributors to I Bet I Can Make You Laugh, because they won me the Laugh Out Loud Award!
My personal favourite poem from the new collection is The Coffee Monster, which describes someone remarkably like me! Do real people inspire your poems, or are they mostly imagined?They are mostly imagined, but maybe a couple are based, loosely, on real people.
Teachers sometimes feel under pressure to ‘teach’ poetry in formal ways, but what would you say is the role of poetry in reading for pleasure, and how can schools tap more into its power to foster an enjoyment of ready?
Share lots of poems, and try not to be too prescriptive about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, just enable a wide variety of experiences and responses. Give children the opportunity to perform poems out loud, and expose them to a wide range of styles.
Finally, we have to know – the poem Don’t Forget Your Trousers is full of good advice, but is it based on personal experience?
It is based on dreams I sometimes have, where I turn up somewhere important and realise that I am not wearing any trousers. Surely I’m not the only one who experiences this?
Joshua Seigal is a poet, performer and workshop leader who spends his time visiting schools, libraries and theatres around the country and beyond. He has taken critically acclaimed poetry shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but often ends up performing in front of his mirror, using a hairbrush as a microphone. He has managed to gain the minimal skills required to make his own website – www.joshuaseigal.co.uk.
Thanks to the publishers at Bloomsbury, we have FIVE copies of Welcome to My Crazy Life to give away to our followers.
There are two ways to enter:
1. Twitter entry – To enter, follow @booksfortopics and RT the giveaway tweet.
2. Instagram entry – Follow @booksfortopics on Instagram & TAG in the giveaway post’s comments a friend who may also like to win this book for their home or school library.
We will give away 3 copies for Twitter and 2 for Instagram. You can enter twice! Giveaway closes 11.59pm 4th March (UK) – terms and conditions here.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book and providing the giveaway prizes.
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