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CLiPPA Award: Celebrating the Best in Poetry

Our thanks to Chris Riddell, one of judges for the CLiPPA Award for Poetry 2023, and publicist Andrea Reece for making this blog possible - and to all the poets whose work continues to inspire children and young people.

Chris Riddell with shortlist

How far in advance of the award were you asked to be a judge and how did you feel about being asked?

I was asked about six months in advance of the CLiPPA and I felt extremely honoured.

What was it like to judge having been involved in the award (live drawing!) in previous years?

I know the awards very well, having drawn live, illustrating the nominees for at least five years and I knew how important they are in influencing the renaissance in children’s poetry.

How many books of poetry did you read during the judging process and how did you manage to keep track of them all?

There was a long list of over 30 books for all age groups and I kept a notebook and awarded stars and made short comments on each as I read.

When judging a collection of poetry, what is it that you are looking for? Are there key criteria?

The key criteria in judging poetry are accessibility, impact and creativity which are all intertwined. We also considered the production and design as part of the reading experience as well as the appeal for specific age groups.

Chris Riddell©Ellie Kurttz_CLPE

Why do you think poetry is so important for young people?

Poetry for young people is important because it connects in a unique way, spurring creativity but also bringing understanding, catharsis and joy.

What do you think we can do - as reviewers, book promoters, librarians etc. - to engage young people with poetry?

The key way of engaging young people with poetry is to connect it to other aspects of their lives – music, performance, art and social media. The more poetry is read aloud, reviewed and celebrated with awards like the CLiPPA and magazines like Armadillo, the more relevant it becomes for young people.

CLiPPA has been running a long time now. What do you think are the secrets of its success?

The CLiPPA Award has been so successful because it engages schools in the award process, inviting poetry performances from school children all over the country and bringing them together on stage at the National Theatre for a joyous celebration.

Reem St Matthews CofE Primary reads Marshmallows ©Ellie Kurttz_CLPE

If you had to choose one poem to recommend to a child who has never experienced poetry, which would you choose and why?

You can’t start too young when introducing children to poetry, so I would recommend Michael Rosen’s poems for the very young, which work unique magic with words. One poem? ‘Button Bop’.

As per the last question: what about if a child is aware of poetry but would like to read a collection?

For a child who is aware of poetry I would like to recommend Macmillan Children’s Books The Big Amazing Poetry Book which features the collected works of 52 of the best children’s poets. (I did the illustrations!)

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. It is fascinating to share these insights with our readers and help spread the word about your books.

The CLiPPA was awarded to Marshmallow Clouds by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek, with illustrations by Richard Jones (Walker Books). Choose Love by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček (Graffeg), was Highly Commended.

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