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Illustrating Verse

by Olivia Ahmad, Quentin Blake Centre team

Poetry and pictures are the perfect combination. Today we're celebrating National Poetry Day and it's theme of 'The Environment' with extracts from five of our favourite poems from our Quentin Blake: Illustrating Verse exhibition.

1. Alphabeasts by Dick King-Smith, 1992

The Dugong, or sea-cow is rocked by the motion
Of gentle warm waves in the Indian Ocean,
And clasps to her horrible breast with one flipper
The sickening face of her hideous nipper.

We think Quentin's dugong and it's little ‘nipper’ (aka calf) is very lovable! This poem is the 'D' in Dick King-Smith's alphabet book that describes a different animal facing extinction for each letter.

Illustration of a dugong with it's head above water hugging a dugong calf

2. The Bed Book by Sylvia Plath, 1986

A kind of hammock
Between two tall trees
Where you can swing
In the leaves at ease
And count all the birds –
Wren, robin and rook –
And write their names
In a Naming Book.

This poem was written by Sylvia Plath for her children. It imagines more interesting uses for beds than sleeping, like birdwatching! In Quentin's illustration you can spot hoopoes, parrots and hummingbirds.

Page layout with illustration of children in a hammock surrounded by birds

3. What If… by Michael Rosen, 2011

What if
they made children-sized submarines
you could get into and go off underwater
looking at people’s feet
and you could find out wrecked ships
and glide about
finding treasure.

Michael Rosen's What If poems imagine unusual situations, like exploring the seabed in a tiny submarine.

Illustration of two children in a submarine looking at a treasure chest

3. The Camel by Ogden Nash

The camel has a single hump;
The dromedary two;
Or else the other way around.
I’m never sure. Are you?

Actually dromedaries have one hump and camels have two. Still, this poem by Ogden Nash is fun to say aloud!

Illustration of a girl with a camel and a dromedary

5. Our Village by John Yeoman, 1990

The ice is reflecting the light of the moon;
It’s getting quite late now – we must be home soon;
We’ve lit up the lanterns to have one last skate
With twistings and turnings and figures of eight.

Quentin and John Yeoman's book about changing seasons in the countryside ends with this magical scene on a frozen lake.

Illustration of people ice skating by moonlight holding glowing lamps

See Quentin Blake: Illustrating Verse on tour across the UK

Find out more about National Poetry Day