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The Storybarn selects… from The Reader Bookshelf

Written by Maisie Jeynes, 8th December 2022

As we continue to explore the Reader Bookshelf we've asked members of our Children & Young People Team to talk about their favourite children's books from the collection.

Here, our Reading Heroes and CYP Training Coordinator, Hope McGarry, shares her thoughts on the poetry anthology Everyone Sang: A Poem For Every Feeling by William Sieghart, and illustrated by Emily Sutton. 


When delivering some training recently, the group and I explored ways to engage a child with a book. One participant suggested a fantastic opener – “If this book had a smell, what would it be?”

Thinking about Everyone Sang’s smell – well! Looking at the front cover I would say fresh, floral, heavy (the book is certainly heavy!) yet light; and maybe I would describe that crisp ‘outside’ smell you sometimes smell when someone enters a warm space from the outdoors.

The front cover features eye catching strokes of metallic red, amongst blooming flowers, sturdy branches, buzzy bees, and in the distance, a child sitting under a tree – I wonder how they're feeling? The centre piece (slightly to the right) is a bird (I wonder what kind?), and I see cheery defiance in its expression.

The full title of this poetry anthology is Everyone Sang: A Poem for Every Feeling. On opening the chunky book on a random page, I wonder what feelings might come up for me…

I am met with an image so different from the front cover – Macavity: The Mystery Cat (p.83) is padding along a narrow wall. The scene is night time, frosty-looking, with foggy sweeps of wind.

I immerse myself in Macavity. The setting certainly matches him – he’s dark and mysterious! “His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare, And when you reach the scene of crime – Macavity’s not there!” He’s not only a cheeky criminal, but a bit of a mastermind it seems – further on I read “And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray, Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way, There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair – But it’s useless to investigate – Macavity’s not there!”

Despite the sense of awe around Macavity, I cannot help but look again at his illustration. I notice that his walk is wobbly and unsure, and his eyes hold sadness. Is Macavity actually vulnerable, misunderstood? He is also described as having a coat “dusty from neglect” and “sunken in” eyes. Then again, “when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake” – does this tell us that appearance can be misleading? Never underestimate the ‘feeble-looking’, perhaps?

Macavity: The Mystery Cat is by T.S. Eliot, and the anthology also features poems by Grace Nichols, Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy and Benjamin Zephaniah. You could spend hours riding the waves of this wonderful collection, whilst pondering the smells of each picture.

Words by Hope McGarry

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