A Nest Full of Stars

Admirers of James Berry’s poetry will find that this new collection continues to fulfil the aspirations voiced in the title poem of his first book, When I Dance, published some fourteen years ago: ‘I’m costumed in a rainbow… And I celebrate all rhythms.’ Here, the rainbow world is as bright and sparkling as ever and its multifarious rhythms are musically diverse. Memories of the poet’s Jamaican origins serve as starting points for a section of delightfully localised poems – such as ‘Caribbean Playground Song’ and ‘Duppy Dance’ – all of which would provide excellent material for classrooms where exuberant pupil participation is expected and encouraged. But even when the mood is more reflective, the note of joy remains the dominant feature: this really is, in a deep sense of the word, celebratory poetry.

At its heart is a perception of children which respects, admires and honours young imaginations. In, for example, the title poem, the discovery of a hen’s egg ‘in her clever secret place’ is the prelude to a series of magical transformations, layer after layer peeling away to match the gradual unfolding of the reader’s increasingly imaginative responses. When you read poems such as these, as the closing lines of ‘Swinging’ express it, ‘You ride a swing out and back/swinging a world rides with you up and down./Swinging/Oh swinging/Swinging…’

Recommended for 9+