Contents and notes


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Book 1


Hurt No Living Thing                                Christina Rossetti  

The Caterpillar                                         Christina Rossetti

The Tickle Rhyme                                     Ian Serraillier

The Blackbird                                           Humbert Wolfe   

Two Little Kittens                                      Anon 

The Owl and the Pussy-cat                        Edward Lear     

Puppy and I                                             A A Milne  

What is Pink?                                           Christina Rossetti

The Rainbow                                            Christina Rossetti    

A Spike of Green                                      Barbara Baker  

Do You Call It Happy?                               Laurence Smith

Who Has Seen the Wind?                          Christina Rossetti             

Windy Nights                                           R L Stevenson 

Dad and the Cat and the Tree                    Kit Wright 

What Is Under?                                        Tony Mitton

The End                                                   A A Milne 

In the Park                                              June Crebbin    

Jesus, Friend of Little Children                   W J Mathams


Book 2 


Cats                                                        Eleanor Farjeon      

Five Eyes                                                 Walter de la Mare   

The Donkey                                              Gertrude Hinde  

The Robin                                                June Crebbin    

The Tale of Custard the Dragon                  Ogden Nash     

Mrs Malone                                               Eleanor Farjeon

Two Limericks                                           Edward Lear

Who’s Been at the Toothpaste?                   Michael Rosen    

UR 2 GOOD                                              Michael Rosen    

I’m Just Going Out for a Moment                Michael Rosen     

Where Go the Boats?                                 R L Stevenson  

The Land of Counterpane                           R L Stevenson   

Pocket                                                      June Crebbin    

In the Playground                                     Stanley Cook    

Matilda Runs Away                                    Marion St John Webb

Autumn                                                    F Politzer

Autumn                                                    Florence Hoatson

Cobweb Morning                                        June Crebbin    

For Them                                                  Eleanor Farjeon                                             


Book 3 


Baby’s Drinking Song                                James Kirkup     

Glenis                                                      Allan Ahlberg   

Streemin                                                  Roger McGough

Matilda                                                     Hilaire Belloc  

Denis Law                                                 Gareth Owen   

There Came a Day                                     Ted Hughes  

Something Told the Wild Geese                   Rachel Field          

The Kitten in the Falling Snow                     James Kirkup

First Primrose                                            Leonard Clark  

Leisure                                                     W H Davies                            

Stones by the Sea                                     James Reeves  

Slowly                                                      James Reeves  

The Old Field                                             D J Enright      

The Grasses                                              James Reeves  

Dogs                                                        W H Davies     

The Cat                                                    Gareth Owen   

The Frog                                                   Hilaire Belloc   

Upon the Snail                                          John Bunyan     

Earth-worm                                              Leonard Clark   

Rabbit and Lark                                        James Reeves  

From a Railway Carriage                            R L Stevenson

To a Lady Seen from the Train                    Frances Cornford   

To a Squirrel at Kyle-na-no                        W B Yeats



Book 4


It was Long Ago                                         Eleanor Farjeon 

I Remember, I Remember                          Thomas Hood    

A Child of Our Time                                    Roger Woddis   

One Summer Evening                                 William Wordsworth     

There was a Time                                       William Wordsworth  

Who?                                                         Charles Causley

What Has Happened to Lulu?                       Charles Causley 

My Parents Kept Me from Children             

who were Rough                                        Stephen Spender      

Small Quarrel                                            Allan Ahlberg    

The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould             Charles Causley  

maggie and milly and molly and may           E E Cummings    

A Bit of Colour                                           Horace Smith    

The Secret Song                                        Margaret Wise Brown   

Storm                                                       Roger McGough

Velvet Shoes                                              Elinor Wylie     

Snow Toward Evening                                 Melville Cane

In the Bleak Mid-winter                               Christina Rossetti     

Father, Hear the Prayer we Offer                  L M Willis

The Thrush’s Nest                                      John Clare 

Spring                                                       Gerard Manley Hopkins     

Two Limericks                                       

You Tell Me                                                Michael Rosen  

Shoe, Boot!  Shoe!                                     Gina Douthwaite

The Snare                                                  James Stephens

Blackbird                                                   Christopher Leach     

Cage Bird and Sky Bird                               Leslie Norris 

The Road Not Taken                                    Robert Frost 

A Smuggler’s Song                                     Rudyard Kipling  

Time Child                                                 Gareth Owen  



These notes relate to a selection of poems from Book 4. Those marked with a * can be found on the internet. If anyone wishes to have complete sets of notes for all 4 anthologies please get in touch and I will send them by email.


It was Long Ago*

The anthology begins with a number of poems on the theme of childhood memories.  As we get older these memories often seem to become more important and can be a source of comfort, pleasure and fascination.


One person should read Eleanor Farjeon’s beautiful poem while everyone listens.  Afterwards read it quietly to yourself and picture the different scenes which are recalled so vividly.


What are these different scenes?  Of all the recollections of the day which one is recalled with most longing?  Why do you think this is?


How would you describe the old woman?


The narrator has strong memories of the summer’s day but she/he also has other sorts of memories.  What are these?


The “dusty road” is mentioned three times.  Why did it seem to have no end?


Look at the way the poem is narrated in the first person and directed at the reader as if one person is talking to another.  A number of phrases are used to achieve this effect:  “I’ll tell you”, “you know” and “It won’t mean much to you.”  Why do you think this is very appropriate for the theme of the poem?


Which phrase is repeated in every verse?  What effect does this have?


Look at the length of the lines in the poem and the way a conversational tone is created by carrying ideas over successive lines.


Find all the rhyming words.  What do you notice about them?



The Road Not Taken*


Listen and follow while one person reads the poem, pausing at the end of each verse.  Read the poem again on your own or with a partner.

Picture the setting of the poem with the traveller having to decide which path to take.

Why was the wood yellow?

What was the difference between the two paths?

Why did the traveller choose the path he did?  Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?

What is the meaning of: “wanted wear”; “leaves no step had trodden black”?

What sort of a “sigh” do you think it is in the final verse?  Why might the traveller give a sigh in the future?

If the poem has a deeper meaning what do the two paths represent?  Can you think of occasions when you have had to make choices in your life and when you have taken the “less travelled”, or less popular, path?  Did it make a difference?

Discuss some of the many choices which you will need to make as you journey through life.

Can you think why the poem is entitled “The Road Not Taken”


A Child of Our Time


Before you read this poem make sure you have read “I Remember, I Remember”.  “A Child of Our Time” imitates Thomas Hood’s poem but is not, perhaps, a parody of it.

Read it together and then quietly on your own.


What sort of home was the person brought up in?  What are his memories like?  How do they compare with those in “I Remember, I Remember”?  What were all the problems and stresses which he remembers so clearly?


Does anyone live in a high-rise flat?  Do they share the views expressed in this poem?


Look at the last four lines.  This is known as “irony”.  The person does not really care about the architect.  On the contrary he holds him responsible for all the problems of the high-rise flat.


Compare the rhyme and rhythm of the poem with “I Remember, I Remember”.


Discuss some of the issues raised about living in tower blocks.




Read the poem, twice, quietly to yourself.  As you read it picture the different scenes which are described.

Notice the three times which are mentioned and which give a sense of chronology to the events:  evening of the first day, morning and evening of the second day.  How are the beginning and ending of the poem connected?

Think about the meaning and impact of the following phrases:  “shabby with dying”; “hopped off, heavily”; “feathered air”; “incongruously”.

Why do you think the blackbird did not touch the water and crumbs?

Why do the beautiful morning and the sound of other birds singing make the situation more sad?

In what form is the poem written?  Does this help to create the impression of a sad event being gently related in a conversation?

At the end of the poem the person finds it difficult to concentrate on his newspaper because he is upset by the death of the blackbird.  Notice the literally cosmic news he is trying to read about and how it contrasts with what has happened in his own garden that day – the death of a blackbird might seem to be insignificant compared with the enormity of space travel but in fact it was a much greater event.

Can you think of occasions when you have been saddened by the death of a creature?

Practise reading this very moving poem out loud so that you can do justice to the effect it creates.


You Tell Me


If you have not come across this poem before here is a good way to read it:

One person should be the announcer and read the poem quite slowly line by line in a football announcer’s tone of voice.  Everyone else should keep the poem covered up except for the line which is being read.  When one person has read the poem take it in turns to be the announcer and see who can read it with the best expression.

Try making up your own humorous football results, using wordplay, with some of your favourite teams.


A Smuggler’s Song   here


This is a splendid poem – rich, exciting, full of colour and interest, with just a hint of menace.  It is written as if one of the smugglers is speaking.

Listen and follow while one person reads it out.  Who is the smuggler talking to and who are the “Gentlemen”?

Read the poem again with individuals or pairs taking a verse each.  Picture all the vivid scenes which are described.

Consider and discuss the following questions:

  • What is meant by the line: “Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by”?  Why do you think the smuggler is offering this advice?
  • What do the following words and phrases mean: baccy; woodlump; roped and tarred; brushwood; chuck you ’neath the chin; cap of Valenciennes?
  • What sort of goods are being smuggled and who receives them? Which recipient would today be considered surprising?  Where is one of the hiding places for the smuggled goods?
  • Why might a horse be tired and a coat be “cut about and tore”? Why is the little girl told not to ask questions about these things?
  • Who are King George’s men? Why would they make a fuss of the girl?  Why is it important for her to be both careful about what she says and careful to listen to what is said?
  • Who are Trusty and Pincher and why are they not disturbed by the Gentlemen?
  • What present might the girl receive from the smugglers? Why would she be given it?
  • What do you think is the meaning of the line: “Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie”?  Why was the child discouraged from being inquisitive about the smugglers’ activities?

Look at the form of the poem: the rhythm and long lines, the rhyme scheme, the way in which the final verse echoes verse 1.  Is the form of the poem suited to its theme?

What do you  think was the general attitude towards smuggling as shown by the poem?  What would you have done if you had seen the smugglers?

A number of important issues and dilemmas are raised by the poem which are still of great relevance in modern society.  Should you turn the other way when you know people are doing something wrong or breaking the law?  Should you remain quiet about it?  Is it right to condone certain activities which are unlawful but generally acceptable?  You can discuss these issues among yourselves.

Find out about smuggling in the past.  Perhaps you can write a story, or imaginary diary, on this theme.

Read the biography of Rudyard Kipling.

To round off your study of this dramatic poem plan your own choral reading of it with plenty of expression and actions, using props and costumes.  In this way “A Smuggler’s Song” will be a poem you will always remember.


One Summer Evening*


The extract is just a very small section of William Wordsworth’s long autobiographical poem known as “The Prelude”. (Book 1, line 357) Clearly the episode was one which Wordsworth vividly remembered from his childhood in the Lake District.


Listen and follow the poem while one person reads it.  Afterwards slowly read a few lines at a time on your own so that you understand what they mean.


Think about the following questions:


Did William have permission to borrow the boat?


At about what time do you think he made his way to the rocky cave?


What is meant by the phrase “act of stealth”?


Why was taking the boat “a troubled pleasure”?


What do you think was “the voice of mountain-echoes”?


What were the small glittering circles and why did they “melt” into one track of light?


Which words and phrases tell us that William was rowing strongly across the lake?


There are two clues in the extract which indicate that there are mountains nearby.  What are they?


What is the meaning of “elfin pinnace”?


Do you like the simile in the last line?


Picture the scene described in the poem: the moonlit lake, the mountains and a boat being rowed across the water.  Can you think of some reasons why William set out on this solitary adventure?


Cage Bird and Sky Bird   here


Listen and follow while one person reads the poem and then individuals or pairs can take a verse at a time to read out.

Think about these questions:

  • Where was the cage situated? Why did the Cage Bird seem so happy at first?
  • What was the main difference between the Cage Bird and the Sky Bird?
  • What was the Cage Bird’s question and how did the Sky Bird answer it?
  • Why was the Cage Bird sad after hearing the Sky Bird?
  • What is the significance of the cage being made of silver and ivory?


What are your views about keeping birds or other animals in cages?  Perhaps you have pets of your own which are kept in a cage.

If the poem has a deeper meaning and can be related to human experience, what kind of existence might the cage or “cell” of the Cage Bird represent?  What kind of freedom and happiness is represented by the Sky Bird? 

Try to learn this rather sad but beautiful poem.


Two Limericks


The origin of the limerick is unknown but one suggestion is that the name derives from the chorus of an old Irish soldiers’ song, “Will You Come Up to Limerick?”

Edward Lear is probably the best-known writer of limericks to which he added his splendid illustrations.  The first limerick is by Edward Lear and the second is anonymous.

Read both the limericks on your own or with a partner and try to learn them.

Find more limericks by Edward Lear and other poets and choose some favourites to recite.  Try writing your own, keeping to the correct limerick form.


Shoe, Boot!  Shoe!*


Gina Douthwaite has written many brilliantly inventive shape poems.  This is one of them.  Read it quietly to yourself first of all.  Afterwards one person can be “Boot”, one person can be “Shoe” and one person can read the last three lines.  Read the parts with suitable expression.

Can you hear the play on words in the title?

Find and enjoy all the examples of wordplay in the poem – it is generously laced with them and it will be quite a feat to find them all! You could try to write your own shape poem, to include some wordplay, about an item of clothing or something you use in your home.