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One of the coolest poets for children Benjamin Zephaniah's Talking Turkeys has something to say Talking Turkeys is the very first ground breaking children's poetry collection from street poet Benjamin Zephaniah Playful clever and provocative this is performance poetry on the page at its very best


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    'Talking Turkeys' Poetry by Benjamin Zephaniah Benjamin Zephaniah was born in Birmingham in 1958 At a young age he went through several schools before being permanently excluded at the age of 13 He showed great promise as a poet reading his poetry in local churches becoming well known among the local black Caribbean community His time in prison proved to be a turning point in his life At the age of 22 shortly after being released from prison he published his first collection of poetry specifically designed for children called ‘Talking Turkeys’ It is this collection of poems that I will be reviewing Throughout the poems Zephaniah connects with young people using conversational language and introduces topics that can be easily understood by children with a wide variety of interests Topics include a visit to Buckingham Palace friends family sweets heroes and animals This has the effect of making poetry fun and accessible to a wide range of age groups at KS1 and KS2 Children naturally enjoy playground jingles and rhymes but can become daunted at the idea of ‘poetry’ so this collection of poems is fun and enjoyable helping to stimulate a child’s imagination and interest whilst building confidence in poetry The words are simple and appropriate for both the KS1 and KS2 reader A unique feature about his poetry is the way in which he writes colloquially or ‘street’ For example instead of using the word ‘there’ he replaces it with ‘dere’ Informal made up words such as ‘guzzard’s’ add humour and fun His poems generally have an uplifting heart warming moral at the end as in the poem ‘Heroes’ where the last line states ‘I say we’re all heroes if we do our little bit’ This positive message and the associated visual imagery would be an excellent project title for an extended piece of writing The structures of the poems are not complex but are effective In ‘Friends’ the structure is very simple using four lines to describe each animal in turn using well known characteristics of that specific animal When talking about a snake he writes ‘I am known to slip and slide’ This poem provides visual stimulation and makes the ideas in the poem easily understood for children of a young age This is strengthened by the inclusion of a wide variety of illustrations Pictures designs and photographs are creatively embedded within the poems The layout of the words in the poem often supports the image Images consist of collage pen and ink and photographic studies which add humour and make the poems less daunting to read In his poem entitled ‘Drivosaurus Rex’ he uses an image of a T Rex driving a car which would grab the attention of the young reader In other poems the illustrations provide the lay out of the poem in a fun and imaginative way allowing for the text to be broken up Zephaniah connects with modern issues and introduces new perspectives to a young audience The effective imagery and informal language work well together and open up a world of possibilities for classroom activities I thoroughly enjoyed reading the poems again and would certainly use them as an excellent teaching resource and recommend this book to both children and adults I now intend to read of his work in the near future