Review of ‘A Boat of Stars’
Title: ‘A Boat of Stars: New Poems to Inspire and Enchant’
Editors: Margaret Connolly and Natalie Jane Prior
Publisher: Harper Collins
Age Range: babies – middle primary
Themes: poetry, rhyme, language, anthology, family, feelings, Indigenous, animals, food, identity, self-image, nature, sustainability, school, transport.
A boat of stars came down tonight
and sailed around my bed –
it sprinkled stardust in my eyes,
put dreams inside my head
Poetry is an experience; the sounds of the rhythm of language are at their very finest when woven through fine poetry. The way Jen Teh talks about music and song here describes perfectly how I feel about song and poetry for young children…it just is part of how they should hear language, and whether you as an adult enjoy or understand poetry is irrelevant, reading poetry with young children will always bring joy. Again, Jen’s wisdom on song here can be also applied to poetry reading with young children: For your child, your voice is the safest and most familiar sound, and is far better than any recorded music. Just as children learn language in interactive environments by being engaged in live conversation, they will gain the most benefit from being sung to directly by their caregivers. Jen Teh, Pathways to Music.
And so, to my latest favourite book of the moment, ‘A Boat of Stars’. This gorgeous anthology on ‘new poems to inspire and enchant’ has rarely left my side since I got a copy for both home and school. At home it sits on the kitchen table and we all pick it up from time to time and dip in and out of it – exactly as one should with any anthology. At school it sits on my reading chair and I’ve started every library lesson with a quick poem chosen at random before we split into groups.
I’ve always loved a good poetry anthology, but rarely have I found one so perfectly pitched at the early childhood age group…and, truth be told, I’m actually using it with all ages, because poetry is ageless. The editors of this collection, Natalie Jane Prior and Margaret Connolly, have selected some of Australia’s finest writers and illustrators to ensure a comprehensive selection of poetry which is rich in literary and visual imagery. Likewise, they have carefully considered what will work for kindergarten and school curriculums while ensuring each piece will engage young children and pique their curiosity and sense of wonder. Disclaimer at this point – I did chat with Natalie Jane Prior very early on (while I sat at netball training one afternoon actually!) about some themes I would hope to see included in any new poetry anthology (at that stage it was but a thought!); particularly kitchen gardens and anything STEM. I feel a particular affinity with the poems, ‘Engineer Mum’ and ‘The Share Garden’ and I’ve already used these two extensively in classes.
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This is a must have book for the home and school library and for every early childhood centre. There is a such a diverse range of writers and illustrator represented and it’s an interesting classroom or library exercise in itself to find other books written or illustrated by each of the different contributors. I appreciate the short bio’s on each of the contributors at the end of the book – every good anthology should celebrate the contributors!
I would share more, and give some examples of how I have used ‘A Boat of Stars’ in the school setting, but the Teachers’ Notes (here) by Lesley Gibbs are invaluable and really I need go no further than these and they list all the curriculum aligned Key Learning Outcomes (love a good downloadable Teachers’ Notes).