‘Poetry is the official language for children and we just stole it’

  • Poet Mandy Coe's online book launch for Belonging Street
  • The promotion of children's literture and poetry 
  • Mandy Coe believes 'poetry is the official language of children. We appropriated it, we stole it'

Manchester Children’s Book Festival and Poetry Library hosted prize-winning poet and illustrator, Mandy Coe, for launch of her latest book the to mark national poetry day.

Mandy is the author of six poetry collections and her poems have been broadcast on BBC radio and TV.

She also currently works with adults and children in schools, universities, teacher training colleges and community arts projects.

The book launch for was a collaboration between the new Manchester poetry library and the MCBF, which was introduced in 2010 co-directed by Kaye Tew and  poet laureate Carole Ann Duffy.

Belonging Street is a collection of poems published by Otter-Barry Books who specialise in children’s poetry. It is about nature, belonging and hope for the future and whose aim is to reflect the many cultures in a city like Manchester.

The launch was originally supposed to be live but due to social distancing rules, it was decided to be an online medium with a recorded 65 people in attendance, including fellow poets, adults, children and families.

Mandy recited her poetry with the aid of slides which featured illustrations to promote visual literacy. In between breaks Jake Hope, chairman of the youth library, held a Q&A with Mandy questioning her on creative process and inspiration.


 When asked how this book launch compared to previous ones, Mandy said:  “Normally my book launches involve music, live literature, friends  and lots of hugging! So I was a little unsure, with the book being published during the first lock-down or if it would ever be seen anyone!

“But with the help of MPL and MCBF this lovely online launch-format emerged, allowing us to share community, laughter, poems, illustrations as well as that crazed ‘virtual waving’ that passes for hugging nowadays.”

On the topic of visual literacy, Kaye believes that the aid of illustrations in the PowerPoint was beneficial because “the event highlights the importance of visual literacy in children’s literature especially in poetry as it continues the conversation between the two”.

Mandy stressed the importance of poetry to children, stating: “More than important, it’s a human right for all children have access to poetry and literature. Equally, important is that adults have access to the poetry and literature that children create.

“Children are desperate for us to listen, and they have so much to say – with huge creative skill. A curriculum with less testing and more creativity is something I have heard schools and teachers wish for more time than I can count”.

And when questioned on the ethnical representation in children’s literature for BAME children’s she said: “Historically no, but in children’s books this year, new book lists and award short-lists, show a welcome shift towards fairer representation of not only authors, but of focus and topics. 

“This shift has resulting in some beautiful books exploring both personal and social experiences in a way that will engage new readers and create much-needed role-models”. 

This is crucial when according to a BookTrust report about the representation of people of colour among children’s book authors and illustrators that only “1.96% of children’s book creators were British people of colour”.