World Book Day 2018
1st March 2018
The White Rabbit
St David’s Day - the daffodils crouch low,
cagouled in tight green unopened buds,
Siberian winds blow thin snow flurries
in and out of the garden; we leave the heating
on all night and watch the smart meter
tell us in pounds and pence the guilt
we feel about this marauding season.
The library opens late; buses freeze,
trains stay put. Up the icy road
children come dressed in motley.
Under gloves and scarves they flash
pinks and purples, crayoned-on whiskers,
a blue Thomas the Tank Engine
with a funnel and cotton wool smoke,
is attached by strings to its maker. Alice in blue,
Matilda with a messy dress, Batman heroic
in red zig-zags of action.
World Book Day – and I am to read stories.
I sit on a miniature chair, try the story about the girl
who hated reading but was helped by whispering
the words to Bonnie the big white dog.
The Reception class is sceptical:
a dog would eat the book or pee on the carpet.
There is rapid debate about dogs’ toilet habits.
This is more interesting than the book.
I try Class 1 on a big Dinosaur book.
Thomas the Tank Engine is balanced uneasily
on a beanbag and two Willy Wonkers compete
for a chair. The children listen – a man
stands on a hill and wants to reach a star.
He tries standing on a tree (the class laugh).
They suggest dragon’s wings, a helicopter,
a rocket – but the next page shows devastation,
the earth ruined, factories belching smoke –
that is the price of his rocket. The star is
only a bare mound of dust, and in the sky
a lovely blue planet hangs like a jewel.
The children hear how the woken dinosaurs
repair the earth, the man returns, shares
a new paradise with everyone (including the dinosaurs).
Hands go up, the dinosaurs are extinct, they would eat
the man, how could they get all the rubbish into volcanoes?
A solemn boy stands up, “It’s only fiction,” he says.
“What’s that?” asks the White Rabbit.