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Meet My Folks!

Author: Ted Hughes. Illustrated by George Adamson
Series: Puffin Story Books
Published: Harmondsworth
Physical Description: 62p. : ill.
Notes: This is the first volume of children’s poetry written by Ted Hughes (1930-1998), who is ‘regarded as one of the major poets of the second half of the twentieth century’, as well as ‘a significant author for children’ (O’Sullivan 131). Along with Michael Morpurgo, ‘Hughes proposed the creation of a children’s laureate position’ (O’Sullivan 132), further strengthening his position within a canon of children’s authors and advocates of children’s literature. The inclusion of Meet my Folks! in the Puffin Book series continues the series’ interest in poetry, but also marks a departure from the favoured poets of the series – namely Walter de la Mare and Charles Causley. This book is a sequence of family poems, each of which describes a different family member in comic and outlandish style. Some of the poems revolve around imagining the family member as an animal and focusing on their strange visual appearance and habits. ‘My Sister Jane’ explains that the speaker’s sister is a crow who hides her appearance when visitors come but flies wildly around the house after their departure. This flight, and the required ducking by other family members, is re-enacted in the poem’s line breaks: ‘Whirls through the house at the height of your/ head - / Duck, duck, or she’ll knock you dead’. ‘My Other Granny’ tells the story of his octopus grandmother, and though focused on the comic, the final stanzas bear an underlying sadness. The stanzas describe how his Granny could not talk but cries instead, however, when she leaves again, these tears cannot even be used to prove her visit: ‘For the sea-tears in her saucer/ And a man’s tears are the same’ (32). ‘My Uncle Dan’ upturns the usefulness of inventions and takes delight in language, while ‘My Mother’ subverts the image of mothers cooking in kitchens and presents a wildly imaginative cook, so different to mothers who ‘stick to their little cook-books’. The final poem, ‘My Own True Family’, takes up one of Hughes’ favoured themes in his poetry for older children, environmental destruction, as it explores the promise of preservation a boy makes to an oak tree.
[Ciara Gallagher].
O’Sullivan, Emer. Historical Dictionary of Children’s Literature. Landham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010.
Subject: Form, Genre, Poetry, Comedy, Family, Imagination, Environment
Language: English
Original price: U.K. £1.25; Aust $3.95; N.Z $4.50; Can $3.95
Library: Church of Ireland College of Education
Collection: Bartlett Puffin Collection - CICE