Updated 30th January 2020
The Old Vic
On December 14, I did a show at the Old Vic in London. This is the second year I’ve done this and it’s an absolute treat to do it. I was taken to the Old Vic from about the age of 10 and I thought it was so grand and special full of such clever people performing Shakespeare and other great plays. And then 60 years later, I come out on to the stage and do my thing! Maybe that doesn’t sound amazing to you but as I stand there, inside I feel like I’ve caught some of that grandness just by being there! And because I went with my parents and brother, I feel full up with feeling. It was also special this year because my son Joe came along with my step-daughter Laura and her family.
I was on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb on December 20. This is hosted by the wonderful Ian McMillan, poet, performer, wit, jester, language observer and shaper. I love the way he tells things, talks about things. Every day he writes a tweet which is really a little prose poem about his morning stroll. Anyone wanting to write poems should read these and see how in just a few words, you can create a pictures and feelings. They remind us that you can build an atmosphere and observe things around us in a very small space. Over time, one by one, Ian is constructing a world out of these fragments.
I was on the programme because it was about nonsense (I’ve done two books of nonsense, which I wrote as a kind of tribute to Edward Lear.) Amongst the guests was Julia Donaldson who, along with Axel Scheffler the illustrator, has done more than anyone to make the rhyming picture book a fantastic art form. The programme is recorded in the BBC studios in Salford, Manchester.
The recording went well, I thought, we got on a train back to London and about a half hour from Manchester the train stopped. The guard announced that they had been informed a tree had fallen on the line. Then the lights went out and we all sat in the dark. Axel’s phone didn’t work and he needed to get in touch with someone to tell them that he wouldn’t be able to fly to France in the morning because he wouldn’t have time to get home and to the airport! He used my phone to make the arrangements. Next time I see him, I’ll check to see if he ever got to France over Christmas.
Also on the programme was writer, comedian and podcaster, Jake Yapp who was down to write and perform his next podcast – from home. Instead, he set up his computer and he did it from the train. You can listen to it here and hear me break out into doing We’re Going on a Bear Hunt just to give people something to join in with. But they didn’t. Well I tried, here it is.
I also did another little Christmas show at one of our local cafes, La Dinette. It’s a very baby-friendly eatery, and it’s nearly always full of young mothers and fathers with babies and toddlers. They make their own cakes and muffins there and at Christmas, fantastic mince pies. A few doors down is the Muswell Hill Children’s Bookshop so they supply a pile of books, I do poems, everyone eats mince pies, babies roll round the floor…
My book The Missing came out in a kind of double-barrelled sort of a way with some copies released in December and the proper publication date at the beginning of January. It seems to have interested a lot of people so I’ve been on radio and done interviews for several newspapers and podcasts – such as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Saturday Live’, BBC Radio 5 Live’s ‘Jeremy Vine Show’, Just Imagine’s podcast with Nikki Gamble, and newspaper interviews, articles and reviews in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, Financial Times, Books for Keeps, Yorkshire Post, The I, The Week, First News, Authorfy and others.
On January 16 I was asked to give a talk for a conference held in the Orbit. That’s the red tower on the Olympic site, next to the London Stadium where West Ham play now. If you get a chance to go, you must do it. The view at night is like you’re in an aeroplane, looking out over the east side of London. The stadium lights were on and it looked like a space craft had landed next to us, while all around people were sitting in their towers waiting for unseen creatures to emerge.
Holocaust Memorial Day
January 25 was when we had the ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day in Cambridge. This was to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Russian army in 1945. I’ve been working with Helen Weinstein and HistoryWorks in Cambridge alongside Eva Clarke a survivor from one of the concentration camps. In fact she was born in Mauthausen and survived with her mother. She tells her story, I tell the stories in The Missing, read poems and the school students write poems themselves, sing songs that I’ve written the words for, or do other creative work around the terrible events of that time.
By the time we get to the memorial day itself, we’ve spoken to and worked with something like 5,000 students and teachers. On the day itself – which was held in the Corn Exchange, there was a mix of speeches, dance, drama, song, poetry, and testimony from survivors both of the concentration camps and of more recent genocides and discrimination. It was a powerful and moving event, full of brilliant work by the young people.
Another project I’m working on which involves songs is with the composer Russell Hepplewhite. I’m writing the words for his music as part of what are known as ‘Friday Afternoons’ at Snape. This is a resource for teachers and pupils to have new songs to sing in schools on all sorts of themes. Our theme is Everything! I’ve written words on atoms, cells, movement, discovery, life and a whole lot more! We’ll be presenting a performance on May 4th at the City of London Boys School, then it’ll be available after that. I’ll keep you posted.
Very sorry, it’s been some time since I’ve posted up some News. Here is a quick catch-up.
I’ve done another one of my booklets for teachers. This one is Reading for Pleasure and has tips, resources, thoughts on how we read, (the reading process if you like), how doing things like the SPaG test puts us off reading! And more. You can buy the booklet here on my website along with my other self-published books for teachers, my book about writing (The Author) along with all my other books published by mainstream publishers.
There’s a new book in the ‘Big Questions’ series that I’ve done with Annemarie Young. This one is What is Politics?
It’s meant for Key stage 2 and 3 students.
There’s my book Book of Play that has come out in conjunction with an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. Please do go to the exhibition and I hope you enjoy my book too!
Available on 12th December: The Missing, the True Story of My Family in World War II.
I’ve done some more filming for our YouTube Channel ‘Kids’ Poems and Stories with Michael Rosen’.
We’ve had over 65 million views and we have more than 330 thousand subscribers. New videos go up every week.
The latest ones include an interview with Francesca Simon about how she writes, a story about how I used to get scared going to the outside loo when I went to see my grandparents (!) and another ‘Right Class 6’ monologue by the teacher who doesn’t seem to be getting anything right.
I did a bit of filming for Arte Television, for French TV. It was about Roald Dahl and where he lived in Great Missenden. A French film crew and I walked round Great Missenden talking about the village and the museum in relation to Dahl’s work. We looked at the petrol pumps that gave Dahl the idea for what Danny’s father does in Danny Champion of the World (a book I like a lot), the houses that he describes the BFG striding over, and we looked at his writing hut which has been put in the museum. I was able to use what I researched for my book about Roald Dahl, The Fantastic Mr Dahl – a book for Key stage 2 students taking readers into the life and work of Dahl.
Simon Mayo who used to DJ on the BBC left to be a DJ on Scala Radio. When my Book of Play came out, he asked me in to talk a bit about it. It’s always interesting going to see different kinds of radio stations. At Scala, it’s all very compact, with the studio right next to where people are on their computers, the producer sits in the studio and it feels more like an office that just happens to be broadcasting! All very matey.
Apart from this, I’ve been zipping about: Liverpool, Cumbria, Belfast, Shoreham, Bournemouth, Cheltenham, Appledore… If you look at my Events on this site, you’ll see where I’m going next!
A Dog’s Tale!
This month, I have a new book out, A Dog’s Tale! An old dog chats to a young dog about what’s coming up in life: big new adventures. But not to worry, the old dog says, and even if something bad or sad happens, what matters is how you deal with it. It’s in rhyme with fantastic pictures from Tony Ross. Find out more…
The Corner Table Podcast
In June I went to the wonderful Evin restaurant in Hackney, near to where we use to live to eat their gorgeous falafel and gözleme to record a podcast for ‘The Corner Table’. It’s a neat idea from Jack Aldane to record authors in their fave cafe about life, times, writing, rhubarb or anything.
Here’s how it came out: check if you can hear me munching. It was genuine, authentic munching.
Digital Storytelling Festival
June 7, I took part in a multilingual Digital Storytelling conference at the college where I teach, Goldsmiths, University of London. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole thing but it was great to hear We’re Going on a Bear Hunt being spoken in German – and with new places like up mountain, in the story.
Here’s a sample of Bear Hunt in German:
“Wir gehen auf Bärenjagd
Wir fangen ein ganz Grossen
Und wenn ihr uns fragt,
Wir haben keine Angst
in den Hosen.”
This month I’ve been working really hard finishing off some books. I can’t say exactly what they are at the moment. Publicity people at publishers like to keep things hush-hush so I’m not giving away titles just yet. I’m not trying to be mysterious, it’s just the way the publishing industry works!
What I can tell you, is that for one of the books, I volunteered to be put under a kind of house arrest: I went into the publishers, put myself in a room in their office and didn’t come out until I had done a few thousand words. And it worked! I did it. Just the final bits of editing to do. One night when I came out of the little room after working almost non-stop for about 8 hours, the people left in the main office clapped!
Well, it’s one way to get writing done.
Bridge School, Islington
I helped open the Bridge School’s new building. Here’s how Jane Ramsey announced it on twitter along with her photo of the event:
The wonderful Michael Rosen officially ‘ribbon’ (tinsel!) cutting at today’s ceremony celebrating formal opening of their integrated learning space (ie things to do outside of school day) at the inspiring Bridge School in Islington working with CYP with autism
BC ELTon Awards
David Crystal was given an award at the English Language Teaching awards evening.
Here’s Benjamin Zephaniah hosting the evening at the ELTon Awards and me presenting Professor David Crystal with a Lifetime Achievement Award:
Professor Alison Baker of the University of East London hosted a symposium on Robert (Bob) Leeson who was a writer for children, poet, critic and reviews editor for the Morning Star. He was a also a friend, activist and great supporter of librarians, teachers and other writers. He wrote the book that went with the ‘Grange Hill’ TV programmes and ‘The Third Class Genie’ and various adaptations of eg ‘Robin Hood’ and the ‘Thousand and One Nights’.
We discussed his work and shared ideas about how BAME authors and characters in books could be better represented.
Flights of Fancy
Still with Walker Books: they published a book called Flights of Fancy, which is by all ten Children’s Laureates. We each have a few pages to give readers some ideas of something creative to do. The book is out and this month we recorded our pages so that there can be an audiobook to go with it. My pages contain some ideas for how to write some poems. One of my ideas is to play with the word ‘Bobble’. Oh yes.
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
The SBT is in Stratford and they invited me to do two family shows there with some words about Shakespeare. It was great to do my poems and then throw in a kind of Shakespeare quiz based on old-fashioned words that Shakespeare used – people had to guess the meaning from a choice I gave them.
For example are ‘gaskins’ – a) onions, b) baggy trousers c) itchy feet ? And then I ask them if some sayings are by Shakespeare or not: What about ‘Knock, knock. Who’s there?’ Is that by Shakespeare or not? What do you think?
Then amazingly, while I was sitting in to one side, waiting between shows, I recognised someone walking through: it was one of the greatest and most famous Shakespeare scholars of our time: Stanley Wells! I was able to ask him a question about the clown, Feste, who is in ‘Twelfth Night’. Did he think that the man who first played the part – Robert Armin – provided the songs that Feste sings? He thought so!
And while we’re on Armin, do you know he wrote a kind of guide for clowning. Amazing. 400 years ago, the clown in Shakespeare’s theatre company was writing about how to be funny.
Here’s the one of Robert Armin’s books:
I finished up a project I did with the Barbican Education team. This involved me collecting together and writing some poems about my family history and giving them to the team. Then they made a kind of doll’s house, with ‘rooms’ for each memory, and put into it objects to represent something from that particular memory. Many of my family stories were about migration – my father, his parents, and my mother’s mother and her grandparents all migrated from Poland to Britain and America and back again! Plenty to talk about there!
Then we had a teacher training session for the teachers taking part. We looked at how you can collect memories and turn them into poems and objects to create this ‘house’. On, April 20, we came together and each school had made a short film and the children and teachers explained what they had done.
I’m hoping that we can make a little book out of all their poems.
More info can be found at: stmarys.ac.uk/news/2019/02/barbican-boxes
Festival of Ideas
On May 5, I was one of the speakers at the Royal Academy’s Festival of Ideas. I talked about how the arts are getting squashed and squeezed out of the school curriculum. I began though by talking about how the ‘interpretation’ of one piece of art with another used to be high status. I used two prints from the Royal Academy’s own collection as an illustration of this: Henry Fuseli’s pictures of Thor battling with the serpent in Midgard, and Fuseli’s picture of Prospero, from The Tempest.
Interview with Liz Pichon
On May 6, I talked to Liz Pichon, the creator of the wonderful Tom Gates series. This was for our ‘Talking to Writers about Writing’ videos on our YouTube Channel. We’re building up a library of writers talking to children and teachers about writing here. So far, we have Malorie Blackman, David Almond and Frank Cottrell Boyce. Can I ask teachers to take a look at these?
Suggestion: read a book by one of these authors, look at the video and put into practice something of what they say. I promise you, this will work out well.
South Tyneside Festival
Had a great time in South Shields, being interviewed by the journalist Kevin Maguire at the Word – the central library – for the South Tyneside Festival. Apart from that, Kevin introduced me to an app on my phone which counts the steps I do in a day. Apparently, according to him, I’m supposed to do 10,000 steps a day. I never knew that my phone was secretly recording what I do. What else does it know about me?
We shot some more vids for our YouTube channel – more poems and stories. We try to put up new material once a week. If you want to keep up with this, best thing to do is subscribe. Just click on the little bell!
Crowdfunding You’re Thinking About Tomatoes
One spin-off from the our channel is that we’re crowdfunding the book that I’ve just read on the channel You’re Thinking About Tomatoes.
I’m working with artist, Cole Henley, to turn the book into a graphic novel. A beautiful full-colour hardback book of 128 pages, it’s perfect for introducing readers to the magic of comics! We would really like your support and there’s all sorts of rewards for people who spend a bit more. Pledge levels include signed copies, original artwork, and appearing as a character in the book.
Reading For Pleasure
We had a fantastic one-day conference at Goldsmiths on new ways to inspire Reading for Pleasure. I interviewed some of our students who had done research on this and we had speakers and workshops through the day. This is one of a series of conferences at Goldsmiths for teachers. Please look out for these. I promise you they will help you in making teaching reading or writing more interesting for the children and you! Please check my Events section on my website here, to see other Goldsmiths events coming up – like a series of poetry workshops I’ll be leading and a talk about writing and writing poetry.
I did a long interview for Carousel magazine about my writing and life. Look out for that in the magazine soon.
The National Poetry Archive
The National Poetry Archive kicked off their children’s section with a launch at the Illustration Museum, near Kings Cross Station. Please look out for this. There are hundreds of poems, read by poets on this archive. It’s a great way to show children – or anyone – how poetry sounds and an inspiration for anyone to make recordings themselves.
We had an author event at Goldsmiths as part of our MA in Children’s Literature. I interviewed Malorie Blackman. It was an inspiring event, full of Malorie’s observations growing up as a child of Caribbean parents, thinking about herself in the world, facing discriminatory attitudes, overcoming these and becoming the great and successful writer she is. She is writing for ‘Doctor Who’ (bringing her love and admiration for Ruby Bridges into the story) and her series of Noughts and Crosses books have been made into plays and . . . soon to be a TV series. Fantastic!
The Hay Festival
At the end of May, I went to the Hay Festival and did 5 events: a panel for former children’s laureates – with Chris Riddell taking the mick with his wonderful on-the-spot cartoons of me! I did a family event and signed books for two and a half hours. What? Really? Yes!
I also did a schools event for teenagers – 1700 school students – and they gave me the nicest, most enthusiastic welcome that I’ve ever had. When I did poems about my family’s experience of losing a child and another poem about my family’s experience during the Holocaust, you could have heard a pin drop. I was moved by that. Then when I told them about writing in an exaggerated style (‘Stone Age’ and ‘No Breathing in Class’) they whooped! And then when I did the meme thing of ‘choop, click, noice’ (as the meme people put it!), they applauded. I was actually really moved by the welcome they gave me. And some of them had come from as far away as Birmingham.
The organiser of the Hay Festival, Peter Florence, interviewed me for a one-hour session based partly on my memoir So They Call You Pisher! (Verso Books). Peter has created a Glastonbury for books. It is an incredible achievement with speakers from all over the world, talking, discussing, demonstrating. It’s like a one-week university. It was a lovely group of people who seemed to like my stories and accounts of my family. Thanks for everything, Peter!
Then, sadly, we heard that the wonderful Judith Kerr had died and so we did an impromptu event, with Julia Eccleshare, Philippa Perry and myself to talk about Judith’s life and work and context. it was the least we could do.
At Hay, BBC Culture interviewed me:
In the 1990s there was a project called the Language in the National Curriculum Project or ‘LINC’. It brought together teachers, researchers and academics to discuss latest ideas on ‘literacy’ and ‘oracy’ – how we write, how we talk and how best to teach these things. The project encouraged teachers to bring ‘portfolios’ of children’s work into centres like the old ‘Teachers’ Centres’ or CPDs as of now. Academics provided ideas which passed down via experienced language experts based in the Centres. The teachers who came to the centres reported back to the staff in their schools.
Materials started to be produced based on these examples of the children’s work and what teachers were finding worked well. Alongside these were some of the theories coming from the researchers and academics. What was happening was a mix of theory and practice whilst the teachers themselves were developing professionally.
I thought at the time that it was a great model for how education should and could be run. If there were problems or snags, they could have been worked on, but the structure seemed great. But it was abolished.
However, there is one survivor from this time: the concept of ‘oracy’. That is, we can look at how we talk, whether that’s in speeches, in conversations, in arguing or telling stories, or how we find out things using ‘talk’ and any other ways in which we talk.
There are some key figures who’ve studied oracy and learning through oracy (known as ‘dialogic learning’), most notably Neil Mercer, Robin Alexander, Fiona Maine, Lynn Dawes, Julia Snell and Teresa Cremin and her ‘book blether about books’. In the past, Gordon Wells, my father Harold Rosen, Nancy Martin, James Britton, Jerome Bruner and others explored this area too. We teach dialogic approaches to children reading books in our course ‘Children’s Literature in Action’ at Goldsmiths, University of London. I have presented the theory as we use it in my booklet, Poems and Stories for Primary and Lower Secondary Schools.
Oracy is alive and well with the Voice 21 school in East London and on March 28 I was invited to visit and present our work in the field. I follow their work on twitter and it was great to see how this has become a national project.
Haringey Library Awards
On April 2, I was over the moon to be able to go to our local ‘people’s palace’, Alexandra Palace (everyone calls it ‘Ally Pally’) and present the Haringey Library Awards. Haringey Libraries choose books for the years 5-8 to choose from. They vote on their favourite. There were about 800 children in the recently restored theatre cheering their favourite writers. I did a little poetry show and gave out the prizes.
Here’s the shortlist:
The final shortlist for the Biblio-buzz Alexandra Palace Children’s Book Awards (formerly Haringey Children’s Book award) has been published. Haringey schoolchildren aged 9 to 12 were invited to vote for their favourite book from the six titles.
The shortlisted novels were:
- Will You Catch Me? by Jane Elson
- Tin by Padraig Kenny
- Child I by Steve Tasane
- Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St John
- The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
- Kick by Mitch Johnson
Here’s how Haringey announced the winners:
Congratulations to Jane Elson and Steve Tasane who are this year’s winners of the Biblio-Buzz Alexandra Palace Children’s Book Award (formerly Haringey Children’s Book Award).
Voted for by schoolchildren across Haringey, Jane’s novel Will You Catch Me? received the Schools Award, while Steve’s book Child I received the Library Award, voted for by children visiting Haringey’s libraries.
Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust’s Creative Learning team and Haringey Library Services collaborated to deliver the award aimed at nine to 12-year olds, inspiring them to read and vote for their favourite book.
The winners were announced at a ceremony at the restored Alexandra Palace Theatre, hosted by Michael Rosen – one of Britain’s best-loved writers and performance poets.
Here’s the website link:
Oxford Literary Festival
On April 4, I did a talk at the Oxford Literary Festival about my book, Workers’ Tales. These are stories taken from old socialist magazines and newspapers from 1880-1914. It’s always odd for me to go back to Oxford where I was at university. On this occasion I was talking in what used to be the Indian Library, an old building next to my old college, Wadham College. When I came out I could see the window of the room I used to sleep in in my first year at university. It’s amazing how just being in a place, looking at things you first saw many years ago – in this case over 50 years ago – gives you such powerful sensations. I could feel being myself. I also remembered that right on that spot there was a big demonstration which I took part in and one person who came up to me on that day is called Robert Reich. He went on to become Bill Clinton’s Labor Minister and he often writes about politics today. He always says that he met and became friends with Clinton at Oxford and Clinton says how he took part in demonstrations. I often wonder when Reich came up to me on that day and said, ‘I agree with what your demonstrating for but I don’t agree with your methods’ was Clinton there too?
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
On April 5, I went to London Zoo and acted out We’re Going on a Bear Hunt for the book’s 30th birthday. There aren’t any bears there…well…there was one, actually. There was someone inside it, waving. I had another time-memory thing there too. I first visited London Zoo about 70 years ago! There are photos of me there with the rest of my family and some family friends. That must have been in 1949. The big rock in the middle always reminds me of that time. I think it used to have mountain goats on it.
The British Library
On April 9, I went with my daughter to the British Library to look at old alphabet books for children. I’m going to be doing a talk there on May 3 about alphabet books so we wanted to look at the old ones, and take pictures of them in order to show these to the audience on the screen as a powerpoint. I love going behind the scenes at the British Library – or at any museum, or going backstage in a theatre. It’s like being let in on a secret.
On April 26, two of my sons and I went to watch the Arsenal under-23s playing Leicester under-23s. The stadium was mostly empty apart from one corner so it was strangely quiet. Arsenal scored 3 goals in the first ten minutes and then spent the rest of the match stroking the ball about. The people in front of us were about my age and did a lot of talking about ‘Dick Emery’. The Arsenal boss is called Unai Emery and is Spanish. Dick Emery was an English comedian who dressed up in all sorts of different outfits and did different voices. I can’t think of two people less like each other than Unai Emery and Dick Emery. It just goes to show that nicknames are not always about how people look like or sounds like someone else. Sometimes they are about how unlike they are. Maybe. Anyway, given that Arsenal weren’t that keen on scoring anymore and Leicester couldn’t, it started to be more interesting listening to these people in front of me.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
On January 15, I joined in a celebration for the 80th anniversary of the publication of ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ by T.S.Eliot at the British Library. This was the book that Andrew Lloyd Webber turned into ‘Cats’ the musical. I was on with the poet Christopher Reid and the actor Simon Callow. We each read our favourite poem and Christopher and I read one or two of our own poems. It was all great fun, and it’s really interesting to see a real actor at close quarters reading or acting. You can learn so much from the way they ‘play’ their voices like a musical instrument – as Simon did. Anyway, it was great fun.
Barbican Centre ‘Boxes’
I’m working with the Barbican Centre and some schools on creating ‘boxes’ which will help the children tell stories or write poems about their lives. These boxes are divided into ‘rooms’ which each have something in them to represent something from our lives or the lives of our parents or grandparents. I’ve got a poem that goes with each room. I didn’t make my box but the children in the project will make theirs and I’ll get to see them later in the year.
I’ve been working with History Works in Cambridge on a variety of projects – local history and Holocaust Remembrance. You can see some of this on their website. I’ll just add that the project has given me the chance to meet Eva Clarke who was born in Auschwitz. She has a terrifying story to tell of her and her mother’s survival in the last months of the Second World War. This part of the project came to a close with a ceremony of poems, songs and testimony in the University Church.
Shakespeare in Whitley Bay
I had a trip to Whitley Bay in Northumberland to do some work with several of the organisations that do work on Shakespeare in primary schools. Two schools took part in a debate on ‘Romeo and Juliet’, discussing whether Romeo and Juliet were good ‘role models’ and whether their parents behaved well or not. I did a short talk on Shakespeare’s language. I did a kind of quiz on the meanings of some of the ‘forgotten’ words in Shakespeare’s plays and I used a piece from ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ to show how he turned a piece of prose into a speech in the play.
This year is the 20th year of the Children’s Laureates so there are all sorts of events to celebrate this. There was a party to kick it all off and 9 out of the 10 laureates were there. It’s a great project, run by Booktrust, to put it about out there that children’s books and writers for children play a big part in cultural life in this country. It’s not always an easy message to get over.
On February 14, Scholastic announced the winners of the Laugh Out Loud Awards – the Lollies. These are the awards for the year’s funniest books for children. There are three categories and four books on a short list for each. A group of judges choose the four and children from schools all over the country vote on them. I started this up when I was Laureate at a time when the Roald Dahl estate backed it and it was called the Roald Dahl Prize. It disappeared for a year or two until Scholastic picked it up and they’ve backed it ever since. I think an award for funny books is a great way to draw attention to the fact that there are really good, well-written books for children that a good for a laugh, good to read together in schools or at home and there are others that are great to read on your own. I just wish that the press, radio or TV would take notice of the award to give it more profile. They are supposedly interested in putting over the idea that it’s a good thing to read. What better way to promote that than to make a bit of a fuss about funny books – which really encourage children to read! I think this is kind of obvious. They don’t! The daft thing is that every few months I get invited on to radio or TV or a newspaper asks me about why it is I think that children are reading less these days! I feel like saying, ‘Well, if you helped us promote books, perhaps that would help!’
My best friend at school was called Dave and I used to love going over to his house for ‘Friday nights’. This is a way of celebrating the eve of the sabbath or ‘shabbes benacht’ (Yiddish for it) in Jewish homes. What I liked about it was the way Dave’s father, Morris, used to tell jokes and make up jokes. He and Dave’s mother ran a shoe shop in Wembley Market but he had been a jazz musician. Anyway, sad to say, Morris died aged 103 but the funeral was an amazing event with some of Morris’s songs playing on the speakers at the service and Dave and his brother Howard reading some of Morris’s poems. He was a very clever, funny, kind man. I’ve written about going over for ‘Friday Nights’ in my memoir So They Call You Pisher!.
World Book Day
On World Book Day, I did two performances in the Genesis Cinema on the Mile End Road in Tower Hamlets and then did an ‘In Conversation’ event with the playwright and actor Danny Braverman. It was mostly based on that memoir so I got a chance to tell a lot of family stories – which the audience seemed to like.
Stand up to Racism and Fascism
I took part in the Stand up to Racism and Fascism march on March 16th and spoke at the rally at the end. I read one of my poems and met up with people involved in things like the campaign to get justice for the Windrush generation.
In late November I did an event in St James’s Church, Muswell Hill, for a great children’s bookshop – Muswell Hill Children’s Bookshop. The vicar told me how a bomb had landed on the church during the Second World War and we stood right where it had landed. For a moment it seemed ages and ages ago and then thinking about it again, it was only a couple of years before I was born!
My son and I had a great time at the Emirates on December 2 – perhaps the best time ever! Arsenal beat Spurs 4-2. It was especially amazing because Arsenal were down 1-2 at half-time and to be absolutely, absolutely, absolutely honest, I think Spurs are playing better than us this season. Hah!
On December 7, I did a little Christmas show in one of our cafes in Muswell Hill, La Dinette. I like doing local shows it somehow connects what I do with people I see in the street. Maybe, it reminds me of how people mostly live in ‘neighbourhoods’ and villages. If you stay anywhere long enough, that’s what happens. Maybe I’m the village children’s poet!
On December 12 I visited St Paul’s Church of England School, in Whitehcapel and that had a special link for me. My father lived just a few hundred yards from that school when he was growing up between 1922 and 1939. I like visiting the places where my parents came from and visited.
That evening something special happened. My oldest son and his wife had a baby. No photos, we’re all respecting her privacy – if that’s OK!
That’s why it was especially amazing to perform at the Old Vic theatre on December 15. My parents used to tell me how they went there in the 1930s and saw Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud acting there. I first went there in the 1950s and I can remember seeing Judi Dench playing Juliet in Romeo and Juliet in 1960. To stand on the same stage as such people really is quite amazing. I was – hah! – stagestruck!
On December 18 I did another Livestream for our YouTube channel with a special guest, the wonderful Frank Cottrell Boyce. He is a great guy, writes fantastic books and he’s a big Liverpool supporter so we had lots of banter. He’s got the upper hand at the moment, hasn’t he? Then I interviewed him for a new one of my Writers’ Interviews, third in the series after Malorie Blackman and David Almond.
Royal Albert Hall
To finish up my public Christmas events, I did two performances in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall – another great venue, very red and velvety! There were thousands of children there and at first I wondered how they were all going to get in the room, and then I realised that they were showing films like The Snowman in the main auditorium which holds about 6000 people! Oh, they hadn’t come to see me after all.
What I’ve Been Up To
I’ve been out and about (as usual!) talking in schools and to groups of teachers. I’ve been doing this in Chelmsford, Chester, Cambridge, Ashford and Dartford. I met some reading volunteers who are part of an organisation called Beanstalk and I’ve been teaching our MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The trip to Chester was a performance in a theatre – the Storyhouse, which is a lovely, modern theatre. I have to say, I really do like doing performances in theatres when hundreds of children come in from all around. It always feels exciting and full of fun – a real event. Of course this kind of thing takes a huge amount or time, money and organisation. The people who do this for me are the Children’s Bookshow, a fantastic organisation that puts on a whole series of book events all round the country.
Sheffield Children’s Book Award
On November 16, I was delighted to attend the Sheffield Children’s Book Award on November 16. I was invited because one of my Uncle Gobb books won the overall prize a few years ago and all the winners of the prize stretching back over 30 years were invited. It was held in the Lyceum Theatre, a beautiful old theatre and hundreds of children were there who had read this year’s books that were up for the award. That’s what I really like about this award – the final winners are chosen by thousands of children. I wish every city, town and locality in the country could do this, as it’s a fantastic way for children to read and talk about books.
Not Boyzone reunited but me at the #SheffieldChildrensBookAwards with three greats from the #ChildrensBooks world: @JstrongJeremy, #KesGray & @MichaelRosenYes. I’ve had the good fortune to have illustrated for them all. @SheffLibraries
— Nick Sharratt (@NickSharratt1) November 16, 2018
Uncle Gobb Review
And talking of Uncle Gobb, I got a very nice review from the English Association for my latest Uncle Gobb book:
Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot (illus. Neil Neal Layton) published by Bloomsbury
“The cover of this book reproduces and excerpt from a Guardian review describing Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot as ‘story telling anarchy’ and I really couldn’t put it better myself! This hilarious, often irreverent tale of Malcolm, his friends and the dreadful Uncle Gobb is the third in the Uncle Gobb series and presents an ultimately predictable good defeats bad ending, but what a journey we go on to get there. Rosen’s carefully crafted language jumps off the page as readers join him on this fantastical tale which again intertwines everyday classroom debates and dilemmas with appearances of a body-building genie and a ‘dread shed’ doubling as a rival school where IMPORTANT FACTS (not my capitalisation!) are taught. Within the highly humorous plot Rosen also skilfully gets in a plug for the Sure Start initiative ‘now closed’ and a poke in the ribs of the National Curriculum’s preoccupation with conjunctions… And all this is punctuated by a pair of bemused weasels. As I read, and guffawed at, this book my mental image was of Michael Rosen’s highly flexible face reading the text – with its mixed fonts and textual variance – out loud. Rosen has again presented a language-rich, laugh-out-loud tour de force which continues to ‘save his place’ amongst the forerunners of contemporary children’s writers. Recommended forY2 upwards both as an independent read and as a treat for teachers who enjoy a good read-aloud Rosen at the end of the day!”
– Laura Manison Shore, Senior Lecturer in Early Years & Primary Education, UWE, Bristol
The Memorial of the Shoah
I’ve been to Nottingham for Five Leaves Bookshop and Whitechapel, London for the Idea Store talking about my autobiography So They Call You Pisher! (published by Verso Books). In these talks I tell some of the stories that come from the book. Halfway through, I sometimes worry that if I tell too many and if I tell them too well, people won’t want to read the book! The last part of the book tells the story of how I discovered what had happened to my father’s uncle and aunt in France. He had always said that ‘they were in France at the beginning of the war but they weren’t there by the end’. He never knew but one way or another, partly through luck, partly through digging away in books or online I’ve pieced it together.
One result of this is that I’ve discovered that my father’s Uncle Jeschie and his Aunt Rachel were deported from Nice, in southern France, to Auschwitz where they were killed. I found that their names are engraved on a wall that commemorates all the Jews who were deported from France and who died as a result. It’s at the Memorial of the Shoah in Paris. On November 20, my wife and I went over to Paris for a ceremony which commemorated the departure of the train which carried them to Auschwitz (Convoy 62). At the ceremony there were more than a hundred relatives of the other people who were transported on that train and we could, if we wanted to, read out the names of our relatives. It was very cold and people huddled up in their winter clothes, many were quite old themselves and as they spoke, we each said what our relationship was to the person or people who had died. I said, in French, ‘l’oncle de mon père’ and ‘la tante de mon père’ (the uncle and aunt of my father). What was really moving was hearing people say things like ‘maman’ (mum) or ‘papa’ (dad) and they asked us to read out the ages of the children on the train. Some were less than a year old. While we read the names, there were some children playing in a playground nearby and you could hear their voices as they ran about laughing and shouting.
An English journalist was there and he asked me a few a questions and wrote it up for the Daily Mail online. Here it is:
BBC RADIO 4
I’ve just finished a season of ‘Word of Mouth’ on BBC Radio 4, which means that I’ve been presenting the programme for 20 years!
One of the highlights of this last series was an interview I did about what happens to people’s language when they have dementia. Then, the last programme of the series revisited a book by Raymond Williams that came out in the 1970s, called Keywords.
Following that, I did a series of 15-minute programmes called ‘Key Words for Our Times’ where a commentator chose a word to talk about and I interviewed them about it. You’ll find all these programmes on BBC iPlayer and podcast.
The Guardian published an extract from a book I’ve edited called Workers’ Tales. It’s a story written by one of the people who helped found the Labour Party, Keir Hardie.
And the ‘New Statesman’ published an extract from a book that I co-edited with Kimberley Reynolds and Jane Rosen, called Reading and Rebellion.
On October 5, Emma-Louise Williams and I went to a conference on the work and life of the late Jamaican-British poet, and short-story writer, James Berry. We knew him well, I had worked with him several times since the 1980s and Emma made a radio programme about him for BBC Radio 4. It was great to hear his voice come over the speakers and hear people talking about him so thoughtfully and affectionately.
So They Call You Pisher!
I was delighted to have the chance to talk about my memoir, So They Call You Pisher!, at the wonderful Wiener Library, a unique archive and library documenting the Third Reich. Here is my talk:
The book is recently out in paperback, published by Verso Books.
Giles Paley-Philips has got a podcast up and running. It’s called ‘Blank’ and he and a colleague interviewed me in a murky basement cafe, Nordic, in London. We had a good time and I think it’ll be ready for listening soon.
I did a recording of my book ‘Unexpected Twist’ for a company called ‘Bolinda’ who also recorded me doing all the books – bar the latest – that I’ve done for Andersen Press. Here’s Volume 2. You can find them all on Audible.
My latest book for Andersen Press is Hampstead the Hamster which has a special Christmas touch to it.
What the Dickens…
On the way back from recording the programme, I went to Cleveland Street in London. This is very special for anyone interested in Charles Dickens, and in particular, Oliver Twist not only because Dickens lived in Cleveland Street twice in his early life, but because from the house, young Dickens would have been able to see people coming in and out of the Cleveland Workhouse just down the road from his home. Both his home and the Workhouse are still there, so you can get a real flavour of what it was like and there’s every chance that that experience fed into Dickens’s writing about the Workhouse in Oliver Twist. By the way, the old Workhouse building was very nearly knocked down a few years ago, but it was saved, thanks to Dickens enthusiasts.
There’s a plaque on the wall of Dickens’s home there:
– and in a lot of other places in London, like the Dickens Museum in Doughty Street
and his birthplace in Portsmouth.
And here’s my book Unexpected Twist which tells two stories – a shortened version of Dickens’s Oliver Twist and a brand new story that I’ve written based in part on the Dickens story!
I’ve been busy visiting schools this month doing my performances of my poems and stories. I can see that everyone I meet wants me to do ‘Chocolate Cake’, ‘No Breathing in Class’ and to make the noises I do in ‘Hot Food’ – choop, lip-smack, NICE! It’s very funny when I start to do them because everyone joins in straightaway. It makes me feel like a singer singing their greatest hits!
I visited the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford and the Natural History Museum next door. They are amazing places. So many incredible things to see. If you’re ever in Oxford you must go. Don’t laugh – I was looking at old brooms! It’s to do with a radio programme that my wife is making.
Radio 4 are making a programme about learning poems off by heart. Gyles Brandreth interviewed me for it, so that might be coming out soon.
There was a conference in Oxford to do with writers and their education and I spoke about my book So They Call You Pisher! which in some ways is a book about how different kinds of education – school and home – turned me into a writer. It was great to hear Beverley Naidoo speak about her life in South Africa and how she began to write books like Journey to Jo’Burg.
I visited the literary festival at Budleigh Salterton and I realised that I had been there before. I didn’t recognise anything because it was when I was 4 years old, 68 years ago!
Audio Book Recording
I did some audio recording of a book I edited called Workers’ Tales published by Princeton University Press. It’s old stories published by socialist and Labour newspapers between 1880 and 1920. I’ve edited it and written an introduction. Find out more…
I’ve been having some meetings to do with my book about Emile Zola – The Disappearance of Emile Zola, love, literature and the Dreyfus Case published by Faber. I can’t say any more at the moment, but I’m a bit excited. (In other words, very excited.)
My son and I share season tickets with a friend and it was good to sort that out this month. We went to see Arsenal versus Everton. Great goal from Lacazette but we only won because Cech made some incredible saves. Still, the best football moment of the month had to be Eden Hazard’s incredible goal against Liverpool. Sometimes, in football it doesn’t matter that the player plays for a rival team: a great moment is a great moment. It was just wonderful to watch. Even though we were at home watching it on TV, I stood up and clapped. As if he was there.
In 1997 I completed a Ph.D. on the subject of authoring a piece of children’s literature – a book of poems that was eventually published as You Wait Till I’m Older Than You (Puffin). I have self-published this Ph.D. thesis and it is out now in the form of The Author: Towards a Marxist Approach to Authorship. Find out more…
I’ve been filming some more things for our YouTube channel. A live show, which you can see up on the channel now and an interview with the great writer, David Almond, author of Skellig and many other books. Watch now
I hope you’ve all had a great summer. We went to various places, one of them, Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. We had a great time – I found a cafe that sold raspberry sorbet. My two favourite ice creams are raspberry and blackcurrant sorbet, though I can manage dark chocolate, rum and raisin and cookie dough too.
I have a new email Newsletter that I am sending out regularly. Here is a teaser…
If you would like to receive this then you need to sign up and subscribe to it. The sign-up form can be found below:
I’ve got some books coming out in September:
Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot – this is the third in my Uncle Gobb series. Poor Malcolm has to love with his Uncle who is mad keen to tell Malcolm what to do. And he keeps asking him questions and telling him how he should be better than it is. Once again, Malcolm is plotting on how to get rid of Uncle Gobb. But – meanwhile – Uncle Gobb is plotting on how to get rid of Malcolm. Luckily Malcolm has got his great, great, great friend Crackersnacker to help him. And there’s a girl called Lizard who is helpful too.
Unexpected Twist – this is a book based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Perhaps you know a bit of that Dickens story – about a boy who has no parents and is in the Workhouse. What I’ve done is imagine a story that is a bit like the Oliver Twist story. And this time it’s a girl. In the Dickens book, Oliver gets in with a bad crowd, even though he doesn’t realise it at the time! Can you think how that might happen today? How could someone not know they were getting hooked in to a bad crowd?
The paperback of my book Jelly Boots, Smelly Boots is coming out too and this has in it some of my favourite poems: a mix of funny, crazy, sad, mysterious and great, great pictures by David Tazzyman. Hope you enjoy it.
I’ve been writing some more books too! I’m working on a book to do with how I found out what happened to my father’s uncles during the war. It’s a very sad story but at least I’ve been able to find out and so they are not forgotten – which is how it was when my Dad was alive. He never knew what happened to them. And now I’ve found out. It doesn’t bring them back alive but at least they are remembered properly.
I’ve also written what I hope is a funny fairy story…I don’t know yet whether any publisher will want to publish it. That’s what it’s like when you’re a writer. You write something. You hope it’s good. You send it off and you wait to see if a publisher likes it and thinks that they can make it into a book. So, I’m sitting here with my fingers crossed!
On June 13 it was great to go to the Social History Society’s annual conference in Keele University. People were giving a whole host of papers on their research on social history of the past and present. I talked about my memoir So They Call You Pisher! which gives a view of what it was like growing up in the London suburbs in the 1940s, 50s and 60s coming, as I did, from a background of people who came from ‘outside’. My parents were from London’s East End, Jewish in background, and so there was a big contrast for me and my brother, between the world our parents talked about from before the Second World War and the world we grew up in.
In the evening of the same day, I went to the Wiener Library in London, which is a remarkable archive of the history of Nazi Germany. They have regular exhibitions and this one is about what the Nazis called ‘decadent’ art, the art they despised and thought was ‘degenerate’.
On June 14, my son and his friend, Ian organised a pub quiz event on behalf of St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney. Ian’s mother, who I knew well, sadly died in the Hospice but in order to show his gratitude for the way they cared for her they set about raising money for it. Anyway, I was the quiz-master. I don’t have many ambitions left, but one of them was to be a quiz-master! It was fantastic fun, making up the questions, doing them and I met a young celeb: Liam from ‘Bake Off’! He was at the same school as Ian and my son and he agreed to do some cake questions – o yes! – and act with me doing bits of dialogue from famous films.
Great fun at the Matchwomen’s Festival which commemorates the wonderful strike by the women who worked at Bryant and May’s matches factory in London’s East End in the 19th century, organised by Louise Raw who’s written a book about it. I talked about So They Call You Pisher! (which talks quite a lot about my parents who came from nearby). It took place at Bow Arts, where Emma-Louise Williams and I organised an exhibition of the East London Group of painters only a few months earlier.
Great fun at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, where the show, ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ based on Helen Oxenbury’s and my book, is on. I was asked to come along and do a workshop with the audience. We went on all sorts of other ‘hunts’, the children making up going on a ‘robot hunt’ or a ‘snake hunt’ and the like, and they came up on stage and we made all sorts of funny noises. Great fun to work with such young children who were really brave to come up on stage like that!
Live webcast. I did a two and a half hour webcast on our YouTube channel. We had loads of questions, shoutouts, queries and I did various poems. You’ll be able to see it up on our YouTube channel very soon – or it’s up there already! I never know exactly as these things are sorted by my son Joe!
Speaking of my YouTube channel, we have released a batch of official T-Shirts. They are available to order now!
Meningitis Research Foundation
I recorded an appeal for Meningitis Research Foundation, that is broadcast on BBC Radio 4. This will go out in September, so listen out for it! It’s focussing this time on a research project on vaccinating women when they’re expecting a baby as this may well give the babies great immunity to meningitis.
A lovely board book version of ‘A Great Big Cuddle’ comes out on the 2nd August. It’s called Wiggly Wiggly and it’s got the most wiggly, funny, rhymes from the book, ideal for the very youngest children to have and pour their gunky food all over and chew the corners. Ah, I remember it well! And to think that my oldest child who used to give his books a really good going over is the one directing me on YouTube!
Anyway, it’s Wiggly Wiggly published by Walker Books. Find out more…
How to Make Children Laugh (Quercus)
This book is out now, and it was covered by Chris Evans on his breakfast show on BBC Radio 2. We had a good chat and he was very enthusiastic about it – which was great – but very unexpectedly, straight afterwards, Vassos, the guy who does the football round-ups, started talking about Chocolate Cake. I think he was talking about my performance on video at our YouTube Channel – Kids’ Poems and Stories with Michael Rosen. In case you hadn’t seen it, that version of the story is now in paperback form published by Puffin. Find out more…
Chocolate Cake (Puffin)
Congratulations to Kevin Waldron who did such wonderful pictures for this book! He won the Children’s Books Ireland prize for illustration.
Further Chocolate Cake news: the Polka Theatre did a wonderful musical based on the poem, and I went to see it a couple of times. It’s now on tour around various venues in the country. I think it’ll be back next year playing various venues then.
I had a great time in Ireland doing a show in an old theatre converted from a church in a place called Smock Alley. We had fun thinking about people making smocks in an alley. But first, the children had to tell me what a smock was…
Professor Jack Zipes, one of the world’s great experts on folklore, folk and fairy tales was over in England and we were delighted to host him talking to us at Goldsmiths, University of London. He talked about how fairy tales have a social and political relevance, particularly when they talk about power and haven’t been stripped of this relevance by people trying to ‘civilise’ them. I’ve been reading his latest book, ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ – a magnificent book, exploring the significance of the master-slave, boss-apprentice, adult-child relationship as shown through the many different versions, (anthologised in the book). Highly recommended. Published by Princeton.
I’m working with them on a project which is under wraps at the moment!
Eddie Steele Rosen
As you probably know, dear Eddie died in 1999, when he wasn’t quite 19. Every year, his old mates who he played hockey with, organise a memorial game. The team was part of Arsenal Community sports, run by the wonderful Freddie Hudson. Well, the 19th game was on June 9, on the pitch in the Arsenal Hub and there was a fantastic crowd of Eddie’s ex-team-mates, their friends, partners, and now: people’s children. So we had a great time, and swapped news, and there’s a wonderful moment when we remember Eddie and I give the award for the best player, the award being a goal-keeper’s glove mounted on a wooden plinth, reaching for and holding a bottle of Efes beer – Eddie’s favourite! Great moment, as always – and I even played for a few minutes! We make a collection and give it to the Meningitis Research Foundation. Here is a photo from last year’s game:
Writing for Pleasure
Here’s a booklet I’ve done to support work that teachers are doing in helping pupils write for fun. It focusses on a technique of using the shape and ‘syntax’ of stories that are already written and imitating them and/or inventing aspects of them. I give an example of doing this using the plot of ‘The Tempest’ in order to write a modern story.
On the Road With So They Call You Pisher!
I’ve been talking in quite a few places about my memoir So They Call You Pisher! (Verso Books) and it’s turned into a kind of 45 minute stand-up comedy routine. My parents were in their own way both comedians and so it’s good to get their jokes and ways of going on ‘out there’. I’ve now made a recording of the book and it will come up soon on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.
More Chocolate Cake
The Polka Theatre has come to the end of its run of Chocolate Cake – a show based on my poem of that name and some other poems. I saw it twice and thought it was wonderful, so full of fun and music and inventive digital work. I’m really glad to say that it’s going on tour this year and will, they hope, return for another tour next year.
National Union of Teachers
It was a great honour to give a short speech at the final conference of the National Union of Teachers before they go into one big union the National Education Union. No matter what criticisms I make of government policy on education and though this is sometimes a criticism of what goes on in classrooms, I keep trying to say that this is not a criticism of teachers. I fully understand that teachers have to do what the government, Ofsted and the testing-exam system tells teachers to do. I hope that that is always clear. If it isn’t, then I hope I can make that clear here. It’s always been my aim to support teachers in their professional job of doing their best by children, parents, families and community. I believe that the excessive test and exam system, policed by league tables and enforced conversion, prevents teachers from assessing pupils in ways that can directly help the pupils.
Newham Bookshop Celebrations
It was great to do an evening at the Wanstead Tap in celebration of 40 years of the Newham Bookshop, a fantastic community bookshop that supports community reading in hundreds of different ways. Viv Archer who has managed the shop in all that time is a friend and colleague and it’s always been a delight to do readings of all kinds for the bookshop. Long may it thrive!
What is Right & Wrong?
A book I did with Annemarie Young called What is Right & Wrong? published by Wayland has come out. It’s to help anyone reading it how to decide the really big stuff in life and living.
A Book About A Dog
I’ve been writing a rhyming picture book for Scholastic. I can’t say much about it yet – top secret! – but it’s about a dog. Well not actually ‘about’ a dog – more, ‘by’ a dog. OK, I realise a dog didn’t write it, but you get what I mean! Anyway, I’m still working on it. I mean, the dog’s still working on it.
Royal Albert Hall Shows
I’ve done a rehearsal for two huge shows at the Royal Albert Hall on March 11. I’ve written the words for some songs based on the Greek Myth, Daedalus and Icarus. The music is written by Will Todd and I’ll be doing the narrating – the spoken bits between the songs. We rehearsed at our home, and the conductor brought his little 2 year old boy with him and he played with our children’s old soft toys and ate houmous!
So They Call You Pisher!
In my memoir, So They Call You Pisher!, I put a photo of my father’s uncle in his army uniform. I thought that he had been in the French Army in the First World War. It turns out that he was on the other side: he was in a Polish regiment in the Austro-Hungarian Army. How do I know? Because I posted up the picture on twitter and people tweeted me to tell me. The power of social media, eh?
I had a great time in Oxford with my students from Goldsmiths. We talked about Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll and their nonsense poems and stories. Imagine that! A whole Saturday talking nonsense. (Sounds a bit like me most Saturdays, actually!)
I’ve just heard that BBC Radio 4 have asked me to present five shows about words like ‘post-fact’, ‘fake news’, ‘debt’, ‘doom’ and the like. I’m really looking forward to it.
I’ve pretty well finished my Oliver Twist book. It’s hard to explain but really, like Bah! Humbug! it’s 2 books in 1. That’s to say, there’s a cut-down version of Oliver Twist and there’s a brand new story that I’ve written about a girl called Shona, who is in a way a bit like Oliver. She and her classmates are reading Oliver Twist in class, exactly while Shona gets into trouble over the matter of getting a ‘free’ phone! Tony Ross is going to illustrate it and it’ll be out in September or October this year.
I’ve also finished a book that goes with the series of books I did with Tony Ross that includes Fluff the Farting Fish and Choosing Crumble, all published by Andersen Press. The latest is called Hampstead the Hamster about a boy who gets a hamster for Christmas…but something is wrong: the hamster is unhappy. Luckily, the boy – Leo – is very good at figuring out what Hampstead wants. Will he be able to cheer him up? Let’s hope so!
You may have seen on my YouTube Channel, Kids’ Poems and Stories with Michael Rosen, that I did another live web chat. It went very well at the beginning but then we ran into ‘technical problems’ and I started to fade into a fog. It looks a bit like some kind of sci-fi movie. I have to say, it wasn’t what we meant it to turn out like, but – hey – we’re busy learning how to do these things and at least you know it’s for real, and we’re not puppets!
The Lollies award ceremony was amazing with great acts and performances from the Horrible History Show and Alesha Dixon read from her children’s picture book. And then the prizes were announced. If you want to find out what are the funniest books of the year, go to the Lollies website and take your pick! I have a strong connection with this prize because it’s sort of ‘my baby’. I mean, when I was Children’s Laureate, I helped create the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and the Lollies Award has taken over from it. It’s great to celebrate funny books, don’t you think?
As I said, in my last ‘News’ I was going to visit my old school, Pinner Wood, in Harrow, North London. It was amazing to see it. It’s survived falling down into the chalk mines that were found underneath the school. The head told me that they aren’t prehistoric ones – I thought they were! They were dug by a farmer who lived just up the road and thought that he could sell some chalk. One problem: he didn’t fill in the holes and tunnels! So, over a hundred years later, the playground suddenly opened up and there was a great big hole down there. They put a camera on a cable to look and they saw the tunnels. It reminds me a bit of when I was a boy in Pinner we went down an air raid shelter that we found in the Memorial Park.
I was very honoured to take part in the Cambridge memorial days for Holocaust Memorial Day. I read some poems about my relatives who died in the Holocaust and school students from several schools – Parkside and Trumpington amongst them – wrote fantastic poems themselves.
And then I made some more videos for the YouTube video channel. This time I’ve told some stories about someone I call the ‘Bakerloo Flea Woman’ who comes from a book that I wrote called Nasty. I also made some little videos for the Polka Theatre for the show they are going to put on from March to May based on my poem Chocolate Cake and some other poems too – with music by Barb Jungr.
Why Read? Why Write?
Teachers may be interested in my new booklet: Why Read? Why Write? It’s a set of articles about reading and writing to inspire you and your pupils with great language work. Some of it comes from my talks with my MA students at Goldsmiths, University of London. Find out more about the book.
I’m deep in the middle of writing the follow-up to my book Bah! Humbug! that came out for Christmas. That one is based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and this new one is based on Oliver Twist – also by Charles Dickens. With Bah! Humbug! we had the idea of a modern family where some of the people in the family are like the characters in A Christmas Carol so Dad is a bit like Scrooge, the daughter, Eva, is a bit like Tiny Tim and so on… The children in school are putting on a play version of A Christmas Carol. The pictures are by Tony Ross and we both dressed up in Dickensian clothes to go on BBC Breakfast and Newsround to talk about it.
We sat in the studio in our Dickens’ outfits chatting to the presenters and we had finished, Tony said, ‘When do we do the show?’ I said, ‘We’ve just done it, Tony!’ He said, ‘Oh, I thought that was us just rehearsing.’ He didn’t realise that we were on live television and it was all over!!!
This time with the Oliver Twist story I’m writing about a… No! I can’t say any more. You’ll have to wait till it comes out next Christmas!
Lollies 2017 Book Awards
On January 18 there’ll be the Lollies Awards. This is the prize for the funniest children’s books of the year. I’m the chair of the judges and each year since I was Children’s Laureate – first with the Roald Dahl Prize and now with the Lollies Awards, we’ve been celebrating funny books.
Who is going to win? I don’t know! Children in schools have been voting for the best book and I haven’t seen the results.
Watch Me Live on YouTube
Also coming up on January 17 is the second of my live web chats. Follow the instructions on my YouTube channel and you’ll be able to ask me questions about any of my poems or stories or anything at all really! If you leave your name (or a nickname) I’ll do shout outs. I’ll do some poems too and stuff that just comes into my head! My voice was a bit hoarse last time because I had a cold. I was half wondering if I would end up whispering! Hopefully, I won’t have that worry on January 17. Hope to hear from you…
On January 19 I’m going back to my old primary school, Pinner Wood, in Harrow. A couple of years ago, they had to close the school because they discovered ancient chalk mines underneath the school. They thought the school might collapse into the tunnels. Just think, when I was there in the early 1950s, I was playing in the playground and going to lessons and none of us knew that deep down under the school there were these big holes and tunnels…and at any time the school could have fallen down! Anyway, they seem to have filled up all the tunnels (or something!) and I’m going to visit. I’ve been eating a lot of Christmas pudding over the last few weeks. I hope I’m not too heavy!!!
Great news coming up with my Uncle Gobb books: Uncle Gobb and the Green Heads is coming out in paperback soon (January 11th) and my brand new Uncle Gobb book – Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot is coming out later in the year. More news on that in next month’s News.
My Booklet for Teachers
Teachers: my booklet Poetry and Stories for Primary and Lower Secondary Schools is about ways of reading and writing poems with children. It also has a ‘matrix’ for evaluating how children are responding to poems. It’s available through this site via Amazon or you can get it from Bookmarks Bookshop or Newham Bookshop in east London. The booklet is based on my course at Goldsmiths, University of London, where I teach on the MA in Children’s Literature. One term of this course involves teachers developing projects with their class, encouraging or enabling children to read, write, respond, comprehend literature. We discovered that there weren’t really any full and rigorous descriptions of how children respond to texts, so I’ve devised this ‘matrix’ to help. It links to my book What is Poetry? The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems (Walker) which is intended for both children and teachers.
Later in the year, I’ll be bringing out another booklet that is more focused on writing – also based on sessions on our MA course. If you’re interested in doing this MA please go to the Goldsmiths website to see how you can apply.
For adults reading this, I can tell you that my book The Disappearance of Emile Zola, Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case is out in paperback now. My memoir, about me growing up, going to college and discovering the tragic story of my father’s uncle, has been out for a few months: So They Call You Pisher! (Verso).
Live Web Chats on YouTube
I’ve had the strange experience of losing my voice. I’ve been walking about whispering and waving my hands in the air. This is not great for when I’m doing radio. (Joke!)
It was great fun doing a live web chat on my YouTube Channel. We did this on December 15 and you can see the two halves up on Kids Poems and Stories with Michael Rosen at YouTube. If you’d like to get a shout out or ask me questions on the next one, look out for me mentioning it here or on twitter and Facebook. What I do is chat away for an hour answering your questions and reading out new poems and things. My son Joe Steele Rosen films it on his mobile!
Next live web chat – January 17. See you then!!!
This Christmas, I brought out Bah! Humbug! with wonderful pictures by Tony Ross. It’s about a boy called Harry who plays the part of Scrooge in the school play of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. He loves doing it. The problem is that Harry’s dad can’t be bothered to stay for the whole show because for him, work comes first….Harry sees Dad leave right in the middle of the show….will he be able to carry on?
If you’re a teacher and you’re reading this, you might be interested in my little booklet that I’ve written: Poetry and Stories for Primary and Lower Secondary Schools. It’s ideas and thoughts about how to do poetry and stories, why do we do them in schools and what I hope is a useful ‘matrix’ for looking at how children and students talk about poetry and stories. I developed it with my students (most of whom are teachers) at Goldsmiths, University of London. You can get it from Bookmarks Bookshop or Amazon.
My Latest Adventures (November 2017)
I’ve been in Cambridge a lot recently helping with their fantastic Historyworks project. This involves thousands of children across Cambridge in discovering history beneath their feet. Cambridge isn’t just the university (which has been there for over 800 years) but all sorts of amazing stuff like exploding fossil dinosaur poo, a Leper colony, Isaac Newton buying glass prisms in the market which as a boy he called ‘prisons’, and stone lions that get up in the might to drink water from the gutter! My job has been to help children write poems about it, while writing some of my own.
I’ve been going all over the country talking about memoir So They Call You Pisher! and I’ve even met people who I’ve written about in the book, some of whom I haven’t seen for 40 years or more. One person I met – and this was very moving – was the wife of my English teacher, who I’ve written about in the book. I also got a letter from a man who is 101 years old who I last saw in Germany when I was 11! He’s been writing poems and his autobiography too.
An exciting thing coming up is that the Polka Theatre for Children in London is going to put on a play based on my poems. I met up with the director, Peter Glanville, and song-writer, Barb Jungr to discuss what would be in the show. I really have no idea what it’s all going to sound like but I’m very excited by it. I’ll keep you posted.
Fun thing happened to me the other day. I went into a little Turkish cafe on the Holloway Road – called Crystal – to pass the time while something else was going on. Soon some families came in and one by one the children recognised me and were soon calling out ‘Noice!’ and ‘Don’t put mustard in the custard!’ and asking me for selfies. Everyone came from different backgrounds, speaking different languages. In the end, the whole cafe was asking me questions, getting selfies while I sat there eating my lamb and aubergine and rice! It felt so friendly and fun and it was everything I like about living in London. Then I thought if I had known 50 years ago that such a thing would happen to me, that I could sit in a little cafe and people would call out my poems at me and have such fun, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Welcome To My New Website
I hope you can find your way around it easily.
I know that some people who come to the website are looking for answers to questions about who I am, where I was born, where I grew up and that sort of thing. All that’s here! Others are looking for books I’ve written, or places where I’m doing my shows, or maybe just some news of what I’m doing. I hope you’ll find that sort of thing here very easily.
My latest book for children is Chocolate Cake. It’s been beautifully illustrated by Kevin Waldron. If you know my video of Chocolate Cake, then the book has all the words and noises I make on that video. It’s published by Puffin Books. When you read it, you can make all the noises yourself!
My YouTube Channel
Talking of ‘Chocolate Cake’, some people who know that video don’t realise that I have a video channel on YouTube where my son, Joe Rosen has put up over 200 of my poems, songs and stories. It’s called ‘Kids Poems and Stories with Michael Rosen’. If you subscribe to it, you’ll get a note telling you about new videos that Joe puts on there.
This Month (September 2017)
This month I’m visiting some schools where I perform my poems and do workshops to help children write poetry. You can see what I do in these workshops in my book ‘What is Poetry? The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems’ (Walker Books)
I’m also recording radio programmes for BBC Radio 4. These are mostly ‘Word of Mouth’, the BBC programme about words and language. They go out on Tuesdays at 4.00 and Mondays at 11.00 pm. In one of the programmes, I interview Malorie Blackman, the author of ‘Noughts and Crosses’. After the programmes go out, they all go on to BBC iPlayer. Anyone reading this who does A-level English language would find these programmes very useful.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
On October 1 at 4.30 on BBC Radio 4, I’m doing a programme about the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and how he invented a new way of writing. I visited the place where he did this and talk to the poet Michael Symmons Roberts. For anyone studying Hopkins’, I hope this programme will be interesting for everyone but for anyone studying Hopkins, I think it covers some useful stuff!
Michael Rosen’s Reading Revolution
Teachers, if you’re interested in helping make your school one that really focusses on reading for pleasure, then you could come to our conference on reading at Goldsmiths, University of London ‘Reading Revolution’On September 23.
I teach at Goldsmiths where I’m a Professor of Children’s Literature. We run an MA on children’s literature, for teachers, librarians, or anyone interested in looking more closely at children’s books, or writing them or illustrating them. We have three ‘pathways’ – critical, creative and illustration.
So They Call You Pisher!
This month I’ve got my autobiography coming out, published by Verso. Well, it’s not the whole life! It covers my first 23 years and there’s family history I uncovered too. I’m doing a tour talking about the book at festivals and arts venues. It’s called ‘So They Call You Pisher!’
The Working Artist
Emma-Louise Williams and I are curating an exhibition of paintings done by the East London Group. It’s on at the Nunnery, Bow Arts in Bow, East London, running from September 29 to December. A good deal of the East London Group’s work was focussed on the streets, buildings and parks of East London running from the late 1920s to the 1950s.
New Interactive VR Video
This is a VR film of Mo from A Great Big Cuddle. On a computer you can scroll around with your mouse. On a phone you can move around using the handset to look around, or you can watch it on a VR headset and have look around.
Video directed by Joe Rosen.
9 New Videos For April & May
My son Joe has filmed a further 9 videos of me reading poems from several different books. Here are the last three. I hope you enjoy them.
New Shakespeare Videos
Here are 3 new videos of performances based on my book What’s So Special About Shakespeare?, published by Walker Books. All films directed by Joe Rosen.
New Videos of My Poems
My son Joe has filmed 12 more videos of me reading poems from several different books. Here are the final three. I hope you enjoy them.
All the videos were directed by Joe Rosen.
Share A Story 2016
This year I’m really excited to be working with CITV as the Ambassador for their BAFTA winning Share a Story competition which gives children the opportunity to embrace their inner storyteller. Each year Share a Story asks children to enter their stories into our competition with the winning tales brought to life and put on CITV. I’ll be running a scripting workshop with our four lucky winners to help develop their stories.
This competition is a fantastic chance to come up with a story and see it turned into an animation. What a treat! Imagine your words, your ideas, your story, on TV as an animated film. Something very, very special.
Share a Story is now open to children aged 5-12 until 29th April 2016. To find out more or to enter the competition head over to the CITV website.
A Great Big Cuddle
Here are two more videos of me performing poems from my book, ‘A Great Big Cuddle’, with pictures by Chris Riddell, published by Walker Books.
All the videos were directed by Joe Rosen. Go behind the scenes and see how they were made.
Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed
I’ve written a book called ‘Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed’ and it’s illustrated by Neal Layton. If you like funny books, this could be a book you’ll really enjoy. You can find out more at: www.bloomsbury.com/
I’ve also made some videos telling you all about it:
Quite a few people recently have asked me where they can find the words of ‘Chocolate Cake’. As you probably know there is a video of me performing ‘Chocolate Cake’ right here, along with 91 other poems filmed by my son Joe plus some other videos of me in performance from BBC Learning in Scotland and the like.
The words of ‘Chocolate Cake’ are in my book of poems: ‘Quick Let’s Get Out of Here’. It’s in print and published by Puffin Books.
In Print List
As a reminder, my books of my own poems in print are:
(for younger readers)
Mustard,Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy (Bloomsbury)
Something’s Drastic (HarperCollins Education)
Even My Ears are Smiling (Bloomsbury)
Bananas in my Ears (Walker)
Michael Rosen’s Book of Nonsense (Hodder)
Even More Nonsense (Hodder)
No Breathing in Class (Puffin)
(for older readers)
Quick Let’s Get Out of Here (Puffin)
You Wait Till I’m Older Than You (Puffin)
Centrally Heated Knickers (Puffin) (these are poems that have link to ideas of science)
Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things
WARNING: YouTube is a ‘free-for-all’ site. Quite a few people have fun taking my videos and making new versions of them, known as ‘poops’ or ‘YTPs’ Many of these are not suitable for young children. I am not responsible for either the words or pictures of these. If you want to be sure that you’re looking at videos that I made, please only go through this site. Or, if you look closely on YouTube you’ll see the tag ‘artificedesign’ . Click on that and you’ll see a ‘room’ of all 92 videos that I filmed specially for this site.
The Hypnotiser (out of print) – nearly all the poems from this book are here as videos on this site.
Michael Rosen Live – a video of me in performance in a theatre available from email@example.com
There are several audio versions of my work:
Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy (Bloomsbury) includes a CD of the book
Even My Ears are Smiling (Bloomsbury) includes a CD of the book.
A firm called Abbey Media put out audio versions (performed by me) of:
Quick Let’s Get Out of Here
Hairy Tales and Nursery Crimes
Sonsense Nongs (me singing silly songs accompanied by Peter Gosling who once played ‘Captain Keyboards’ on TV – great fun for car journeys!)
I am reading quite a few poems at the Poetry Archive.
New Series of Free Videos
I have just released a new series of videos titled ‘Poems And Stories About My Family’. The poems are all taken from my books and this series of performances was produced by my son Joe. You can watch them now here!
Warning For Parents and Teachers
Please please please play or download my videos from this site only. These are the only videos officially sanctioned by me as being suitable for children. If you go to YouTube to download or play videos, I can take no responsibility for the material you or the children in your care watch. Please be warned: just because my face and/or voice is on a YouTube page, it does not follow that it has anything to do with me.
YouTube is an ‘open’ site, which means that the videos belong to anyone and everyone. Anyone can take them and do what they want with them.
Please take note of this.
Here are some reviews of ‘Tiny Little Fly’:
TINY LITTLE FLY. Text copyright © 2010 Michael Rosen. Illustrations copyright © 2010 Kevin Waldron. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.
This is an interesting blog on children’s writing, education and poetry by Anthony Wilson.
Here’s me taking part in a Guardian podcast with discussion about books.
You can watch a video of me performing with the Homemade Orchestra here.
I was asked to choose a Champion of the Week for the Guardian – David Crystal – and then several debates broke out.
This is an article I wrote about global English for the BBC News Magazine.
Government withdraws all funding from free books for children programme, and my response – once in the article and once more in the thread below!
Here’s my article on it.
This is an article I wrote about libraries for ‘The Sun’ newspaper
This is an article I wrote for ‘Socialist Review’.
Here is the longlist for the Warwick Prize for writing, which I am co-judging .
I’ve helped do some additions to the London Grid for Learning present Perform a Poem. I have chosen a top ten performance films. Please show the children you know and teach.
Here is an interview with me in the USA’s Publishers’ Weekly.
Here is a write-up of this year’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize in Guardian.
Here’s my recommended read for the New Statesman.
Here’s a teaching suggestion from the British Council with my poem ‘Orange Juice’ from ‘Quick Let’s Get Out of Here’.
Here’s a review of my book of ‘Poems for the Very Young’.
Where Will I Be?
Some people have been asking me recently, when am I next doing a public performance in London?
I’ll be on at Bookmarks Bookshop
1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE – Tel: 020 7637 1848
Sunday December 18
Latest News and Reports of What I’ve Been Up To
A great evening happened in Dalston.
Interview with me in Reading University’s magazine.
Here’s me interviewing the wonderful French novelist and champion of books, reading and books in schools, Daniel Pennac.
Here’s me trying to save libraries.
Manchester Literature Festival write-up of me performing.
Here’s the critic Brian Alderson writing about my very first poetry book for children: ‘Mind Your Own Business’
Come to this wonderful poetry video site. I’ve recorded several poems here that I’ve never recorded anywhere else:
Lovely write-up of the Bath Children’s Literature Festival with a walk-on part for me!
The wonderful children’s books magazine, Books for Keeps has done a feature on me and my new book: ‘Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things’.
Here’s a Guardian newspaper blog thread about spelling, grammar and punctuation that I contributed to.
A scandal about Shelley I wrote up for the Guardian at Comment is Free.
I’m a powerpoint presentation!
Interview with artist Kevin Waldron re our new book: ‘Tiny Little Fly’ .
This is me arguing with Simon Heffer about ‘Correct English’ on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Nightwaves’
Here’s a write-up of me working with sixth formers at BSix college in Hackney.
‘Big Book of Bad Things’ Reviews
I’ve had some nice online reviews for ‘Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things’.
I have two publications that you may be interested in:
1. A DVD ‘Michael Rosen Live’ of me performing a selection of poems from ‘Michael Rosen’s Book of Bad Things’ and some of the older books. It’s a performance in front of a live audience, lasting about an hour and is available from
Jan and Kate Powling on firstname.lastname@example.org
2. I have republished ‘Hairy Tales and Nursery Crimes’ along with selected stories and poems from ‘Arabian Frights and other Gories’. If you’re interested in buying a copy write to me at email@example.com.
If you’re a school that has booked me to come and see you, don’t forget to order some from Jan and Kate on firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a Guardian podcast of me talking about ‘the books that made me’.
Here’s what I wrote on a Guardian blog about children’s humour.
Here’s a podcast of me and a band called The Dulce Tones, performing a poem I wrote about urban regeneration schemes – called ‘Regeneration Blues’.
Two new books on the way:
A new book of poems called:
‘Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things’ (Puffin) due out later this year
…and a new picture book called:
‘Tiny Little Fly’ illustrated by Kevin Waldron (Walker)
July News Roundup
Here is my latest news from March to June 2010:
The Roald Dahl Funny Prize winding up again for 2010.
This is an article I wrote for the New Statesman magazine about the revamped Jewish Museum in Camden, London.
Here’s a short Guardian article about family holidays.
…and here on a visit to a school in Bromley.
Short interview at Teach Well Teach Often.
I was asked to give a quick speech to open the restored and updated West House in the Memorial Park in Pinner. I used to walk past this house on the way to school every morning and it was where my mother used to do Scottish Dancing lessons, It’s not re-opening as a gallery space and archive for the artist and cartoonist, William Heath Robinson. Here’s how the local newspapers wrote up the day; Harrow Observer and Harrow Times.
Fred and Anne Jarvis Award
I was awarded the Fred and Anne Jarvis Award by the National Union of Teachers for ‘campaigning for education’. My parents were longstanding members of the NUT, my mother campaigned for equal pay for women, and my father for comprehensive education so it was a proud moment for me to receive this.
Here’s a great new site called Authors Hotline. This is my page.
Articles and Podcasts
Here’s an article I wrote for the Independent some time ago about going back to my old secondary school, Watford Grammar School.
To browse an index of older news stories, visit the News Archive.