Praise & Press





‘Firecrackers’ short-listed for the 

North Somerset Teachers Book Award and

The Teachers Book Poetry Award


” A ‘firecracker’ by name and by content, this is a real treasure of a book which will soon be a must on all classroom shelves.”

North Somerset CBG @JustAboutBooks




Zaro Weil, illus. Jo Riddell, pub. ZaZaKids Books

“Long ages ago in ancient earth time, creatures talked like us but in wacky weird rhyme” and so begins this collection of 101 poems, short rhyming plays, raps, haikus, stories and fairy tales.  Illustrated with detailed and humorous black and white line drawings and pictures by Jo Riddell which both add to and expand the rich language of the text, children will delight in the cornucopia and richness of the language found within these pages.  Ideal for dipping into, this book can be read together, on your own or out loud; the plays are an interesting addition.

The topics covered are wide-ranging, thoughtful and quirky so every reader is bound to find something to delight them.  This is a great collection for sparking the imagination, generating questions, and enjoying the sound and intricacies of language and word play.  The collection is a rich celebration of the natural world and this book would sit comfortably on the shelf alongside other poetry books on nature.  There is also a QR code that can be scanned for access to an audio recording of many of the pieces.

Poetry is an under-represented area, and this would make a great addition to any collection.



“Firecrackers is a treasure trove of treats! The stunning illustrations feel both fresh and classic, framing a wonderful variety of poetry, word play and stories. This delightful gift hardback is a perfect present, ideal for sharing or cherishing alone.”

Tamara Mcfarlane


“Firecrackers is packed full with explosive words and colourful ideas. The poems range from the pleasingly quirky to the more thoughtful and reflective. There’s plenty here that will spark the imagination of a child.”

Rachel Rooney


‘I first came across Zaro Weil’s poetry in the 1990s when looking for materials for my anthology to be published by Walker Books and chose her Wake Up as my opener. So I was thrilled to learn that she has a whole bumper collection coming soon from ZaZaKids Books. It’s not just a ‘Firecracker’, but I think it will be a fire-lighter that will ignite in children, a life-long passion for poetry. I can’t wait to see the whole book.’

Jill Bennett, Red Reading Hub


‘Fun, fantastical and full of variety: a wonderful collection of poems to inspire and delight.  Whoopee!!! This bouncy, brilliant book is full of fun.’

Book Trust


Many thanks for Firecrackers. I really do like it. The variety of material is excellent. I enjoyed the American rap and the rhyming play – and I want to know what happened to the shepherd who named his sheep.

In A Field of Daffodils the illustration really helped me to capture the vastness – “no basket large enough for April”. The Badger Square Dance is fun and the picture of the badgers dancing springs off the page. I recognise exactly the feeling in Love The Weed – “You bet I’m strong. I was pulling one way, and the whole earth was pulling the other way, and I won.” The poem on the back cover is great too.”

Brenda Marshall

English 4 – 11

Published jointly by the English Association and UKLA


Today’s poem in our Poetry Calendar comes from a forthcoming collection I managed to get a sneaky peek at: Zaro Weil‘s Firecrackers.

This cornucopia contains 101 poems, rhymes, raps, haikus, but also short plays and fairy tales which lend themselves to a phrase that is increasingly seen when talking about contemporary poetry events for adults, but not one often used with young children: Spoken Word.

Whilst some poems work best on the page (for example shape poems, where the layout is an integral part of the poem), and some readers of poems enjoy them most in a quiet, private space, other poems – and experiences of them – are given a completely different vitality when performed. Whilst this collection could certainly be enjoyed alone, curled up on the sofa (Firecrackers is generously illustrated throughout with over 150 black and white line drawings and ink washes by Jo Riddell), I think it’s real strength is in celebrating word play, rhythm, the joy of language out loud. For this reason, I’m really pleased that when the book’s published in the Spring it will come with a link to an audio recording of many of the playful pieces featured. ‘Think of It’, the poem I chose for our Poetry Calendar today, is perfect for us on the cusp of the New Year, looking to what we hope to do in 2018; at this time of year seed catalogues are some of the most frequently re-read imagination-sparking material in our home.



If there’s one thing we’ve begun to notice lately, it’s that there’s a seriously inspirational revival in the amount of awesome poetry anthologies coming to market for children. Perhaps now, more than ever, kids need books that take them away from the day to day humdrum modern world, and let their imaginations fly. That’s the idea behind “Firecrackers” by Zaro Weil with illustrations by Jo Riddell. Inside this book you’ll find an impressive collection of poems, raps, haikus, fairy tales and flights of fancy on a diverse range of subjects but all with huge child appeal. We’re complete suckers for poetry books anyway, so we couldn’t wait to dive in. Poem anthologies lend themselves so well to being read aloud, in fact I’d urge parents to give poetry books a go for bedtime reading, to chop and change around from stories for a mo and let clever verse fuel your children’s dreams.

“Firecrackers” might’ve arrived with us just a day too late to latch it onto bonfire celebrations around November the 5th but this book will elicit the same oohs and ahhs as a well organised firework display. Poems range from silly subjects that will tickle your little ones, to more thought provoking stuff to slide into those gaps in the day where you just want to kick back, relax and hear something soothing. Jo’s illustrations are superb too, simple and child-friendly without distracting too much from the verses.

There’s truly something for everyone here in “Firecrackers”, and we’re so happy to see children’s poetry having such a fabulous resurgence in popularity, perhaps giving the next generation of young poets plenty of food for thought.



Beautifully illustrated by Jo Riddell, this collection of poems and stories is a perfect gift book. It’s ideal for dipping into, for quiet reading and for reading aloud; indeed, unusually amongst the stories, haikus and poems, there are a couple of rhyming plays too, great fun for the family or a group of friends. Single collections of poems are relatively rare these days, and it’s lovely to find one that gives the poet the space and time to explore ideas and return to themes. Poetry speaks to children directly, and this should become a real favourite, a book, to quote Rachel Rooney’s review, ‘to spark the imagination’.

Other recommended anthologies for children include A Poem for Every Day of the Year edited by Allie Esiri, and Kate Wakeling’s CLiPPA winner Moon Juice. ~ Andrea Reece


In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading Kids Reader Review Panel members were also lucky enough to read and review this title. 

Lucas Blake, age 7 – ‘This is a really good book to share with your family or read by yourself, especially if you love animals – the haiku poems sound like the animals wrote them themselves!’

Abbie Collings, age 5 – ‘I love the front cover and the poem ‘Winter’ is my favourite at the moment as it is really snowy outside right now!’

Abbie’s Mum – ‘Abbie really enjoys poetry and she has spent a lot time flicking through the book to choose poems to read aloud.  Certainly a collection to be treasured.’

Sam Briggs (& Mum), age 8 – ‘An array of fun, serious, interesting and intriguing stories, tales and poems to read with your child or for them to enjoy alone.’

Elissa Watkin, age 5 – ‘Firecrackers is a beautiful book that would make the perfect gift. Packed with poems and fairy tales the book is a fantastic read for children…I will keep this book for ever and ever and will always enjoy reading it.

Lovereading4kids Readers Reviews


It’s difficult to pinpoint who will most enjoy this book – the child or the parent. Because while it will undoubtedly delight the younger reader, it is also chock-full of poems and stories that will appeal to the child in many of us. There are poems short and long and very long. There are stories – some new and some old. And they are all beautifully illustrated by Jo Riddell, whose drawings prove that there is more than one talented artist in her household. The poems here are nearly all personal and sometimes quite profound. Many are simple and sweet, others contain ideas that will be a trifle complex for very young children and some will even challenge older juniors. But I’m a great believer in giving children something to aim for by allowing them access to new concepts and complicated language. It’s great to see a proper, large, quality hardback book devoted to children’s poetry. This one contains a wealth of words for them to peruse. I predict that for many, Firecrackers will be a book to treasure.



There is no theme in this enjoyable collection of poems and prose except fun. And theres a lot of whimsical quirkiness. Many children will enjoy The Three Little Pigs: A Rhyming Play, for instance, whose narrator begins Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme/ And monkeys chewed tobacco/And hens took snuff to make them tough. Zaro Weil often makes playing with words into an engaging game of escapism: I fly on a kitten to my perfect tree house/And write funny poems with a soft little mouse. In other moods shes lyrical especially when shes describing spring: fruit trees in pastel puffs and a sudden trumpet of green. The best thing, for me, in this little book is the Badger Square Dance which captures the rhythm so expertly that you have to chant/sing it because the words simply wont stay on the page. Jo Riddells surreal drawings of hoedown badgers in their Stetsons are lovely. She too is very good at catching and reflecting a range of moods and styles.

Reviewed by Susan Elkin in TSL 66-1 (Spring 2018), Under 8 Section.

The School Librarian


A large glossy book with plenty of breathing space for the poems and high-quality illustrations. Multi-talented Zaro Weil’s poems and short plays are magical, imaginative and look at the changing seasons with wonder and awe. “A field ofdaffodils/hundreds/thousands/ and no basket/large enough/for April.” This brief descriptive poem is given a double page spread embellished with Jo Riddells magical panoramic illustration. A charming, captivating book.

Wes Magee for Carousel Guide Magazine


Firecrackers (Troika Books) is a magical and generous new collection of poems, stories and plays. It’s beautifully presented and designed with Jo Riddell’s wonderful illustrations enhancing the rich array of texts that Zaro Weil has composed. 

The hefty hardback book opens with ‘Long ages ago’ (p.11), a sprightly and humorous take on how the animals first acquired their sounds: ‘Long ages ago / in ancient earth time / creatures talked like us / but in wacky weird rhyme //’. So disruptive was their rhyming chatter that the world was driven to dismay: ‘The sun roared ‘PLEASE STOP’ / the moon covered its ears / hid behind clouds / and burst into tears //. The sun (who features in several items in the book) comes up with a solution arguing that ‘it’s important to speak / in a voice that’s your own // Now cats try to purr / pigeons coo-coo / dogs learn how to bark / and cows just say moo //

It was no surprise to learn that the esteemed Jill Bennet had chosen ‘Wake up’ (p.17) as an opener for an anthology: ‘Wake up / morning / has / galloped / bareback / all night to / get here//’. This is one of many tiny poems – little starry fragments of verse – that children will remember and treasure (‘Sunflowers’, p.150; Shivering crickets, p.160; Winter, p.181 to name a few). 

Recurring forms are a clever touch. The poetic duo ‘When I was the sunrise’ (p.86) and ‘When I was the sunset’ (p.87) are the first of several &’When I was’ poems scattered through the book. Often taking an elongated form, these offer tiny, rich thoughts: ‘When I was / a / mouse / darkness / circled / above / my / head / like / a / hawk //’. Children will enjoy emulating these in their own writing. 

There are some long, lively, rhyming plays based on traditional stories (‘The Three Little Pigs’ p.132) is one and some short plays that fall into the category of mini Q and A jokes: ‘Me and the Earthworm, a very very short play’ (p. 233): ‘Me: Where are you going, earthworm? Earthworm: Around the world Me How long will that take Earthworm A long stretch’.

Also drawing on traditional tales are two fairytales. With shades of Rumpelstiltskin, ‘Four hundred sheep. A fairy tale’ (p.32) tells of a shepherd who has chosen an appropriate name for each and every one of his 400 sheep. No spoilers here but this puts him in a very strong position when he comes to confront a demon who thinks he knows the answer to everything. Jo Riddell’s art work is beautifully curated with its uncluttered juxtaposition of images and text. Look, for instance, at the two page spread given to ‘Two cats’ (p.114) playing in the snow ‘arching / circling / rolling like it was / summer and / goldenrod had / flown in their noses //’. Cat paw prints work their way across the pages up to the two expressively tumbling cats in the top right. 

Most of the illustrations are black and white on white pages but there’s the occasional reverse effect as in ‘Owl’s haiku’ where the haiku is suspended in a white moon in the black night sky: ‘Waiting / stillness rules / will the moon appear / tonight / will my shadow soar //’. This is one of several wild life haikus which conform to the syllable count but have been stretched out over more than the conventional three lines. 

You would think that there are already enough repetitive, list-like poems written for children but ‘The Paper Bag’ (p.54) is a fitting final note for this review. With the simple and powerful repetition of ‘Fill up a paper bag with….’ imaginative and thought-provoking ideas are assembled: …spring sounds and / open it in December /’. ‘Fill up a paper bag with / your favourite words and / shake it until a good story comes out / and finally… ‘Fill up a paper bag with / velvet / just to have it //’. 

I want to fill up my paper bag with even more of her poems. 

240 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant. ISBN 9781909991781

Reviewed by: Alison Kelly



I was sent a taster of this wonderful book last year and since then have eagerly anticipated the finished collection so I was thrilled when it finally arrived. It was certainly worth the wait. It absolutely fizzes and zizzes with over ninety different delights – poems short (some such as Cherry blossoms less than a dozen words

Cherry blossoms / are quiet / unlike frogs /leaping to every / raindrop

and long – Dinosaur site for instance, and haiku.

I love this Nightingale’s haiku in particular:

Hidden / I woo the night / note by note till / galaxies twirl / stars applaud

There is also a sprinkling of short plays and fairy tales.

There’s child appeal in spades from the words alone but Jo Riddell’s splendid black and white illustrations add to the enjoyment; they’re thoughtful and are perfectly in balance with the writing.

I strongly believe that poetry should be part of every child’s daily experience: teachers there is something for all moods and tastes herein and once you start reading this book with a group of children they’ll keep on demanding ‘just one more’.

Equally it’s perfect for the family bookshelf, to set imaginations soaring during the day or to send a child off into dreamworlds of ‘sun-dotted butterflies’, ‘fruit trees in pastel puffs’ and Shivering crickets.

Red Reading Hub

 Jill Bennet


Subtitled ‘An Explosion of Fantastical Poems, Raps, Haikus, Fairy Tales (and more) to Spark Imagination’, the book is a veritable cascade of words, wound in wonderful ways.

Although the collection offers fairy tales, little plays and a song, it is the poems that are our focus here- and what a range Zaro Weil offers! Here are poems crying out to be performed- spoken-shared- as they celebrate the joy of words, the richness of language and the potential for play that lies within them.

There a poems which could be performed by classes or individuals. Take ‘Firecrackers Tonight’ for example…

Firecrackers tonight

a sky volcano of colour

wave after wave

rousing the stratosphere

from its great darkness…

Perfect for developing the use of cadence, projection, enunciation, gesture and choral/ part speaking as well as simply poetry for pleasure, it could also be used as a starting point to inspire children’s own writing. And there are many others that can be used in this way too.

There are light-hearted poems…

This bed is so fat

this pillow so soft

hundreds of dreams

can climb right in

…and ones that provoke discussion and laughter. Poems like ‘A trade’ and ‘The Paper Bag’ would make great models for children to use as a model for their own poems. The starting line

Fill up a paper bag with…

of each verse would generate such discussions about those precious things and how to describe them. At a time when vocabulary (or the lack of it!) continues to be a major barrier for so many, the freedom poetry offers to explore and experiment with words is a real gift. For example, in Bumblebees and hummingbirds, the reader can ponder the image of ‘mulberry clouds’, question how water is ‘braiding the earth in a torrent of new-born rivers’ and imagine what ‘a slippery wisp of some barely green branch’ looks like. 

There is also a code which can be scanned so that you can hear ‘ear-rattling raps, poems and songs’- I haven’t tried this yet so can’t comment on it, but hearing others perform poetry is a real joy so it can only add to the value of the book.

Illustrated throughout by Jo Riddell with black and white drawings that enhance the text beautifully, this is a real treasure of a book which will soon be a must on all classroom shelves. A ‘firecracker’ by name and by content!

Firecrackers  Zaro Weil, illustrated by Jo Riddell

ZaZaKids in association with Trioka      ISBN: 978-1909991781





Why I Like Poetry, by Zaro Weil

Zaro Weil lives in an old farm on a little hill in southern France with her husband and two sheepdogs, Spot and Clementine, alongside a host of birds, insects, badgers, wild boars, crickets, donkeys, goats, hares and loads more. She has been a lot of things; dancer, theatre director, actress, poet, playwright, educator, quilt collector and historian, author, publisher and a few others. All of which I would say fit into being a poet like a hand fills a glove.

She has written several books including a book of children’s poetry, ‘Mud, Moon and Me’ published by Orchard Books, UK and Houghton Mifflin, USA. Her poetry for children has appeared in many anthologies. Zaro’s new book, illustrated by Jo Riddell, with poetry, little plays, tall tales, raps, fairy tales, and haiku is here.

Here she kindly shares her article, Why I like Poetry:



I like to write poetry.

One reason is because I think in pictures. A lot of people think in pictures. It’s MAGIC. It’s like dreaming when you’re awake.

And when you write poetry, you can figure out how all these unrelated pictures can come together and become an exciting brand new picture. A poem. A poem which you express with words; words which don’t necessarily follow a normal logical order.

It’s something totally surprising and totally YOURS.

Not to mention electrifying. It’s like pulling a white rabbit out of  a hat. Only the hat is your head and the white rabbit is this poem that’s been waiting inside you anxious to jump out.

Another reason I like to write poetry is because sometimes when I see something, it makes such an impression on me – a WOW moment – that I want to remember it forever.

Example.  One day I look out of our kitchen window and see the neighbour’s cats playing in the snowy garden. That night I can’t help it. I think about those two cats over and over. It makes me smile. Suddenly the first few lines of the poem jump into my head:

Two pussycats


Pawed in my


People have many ways of creating poetry.

Here’s how I do it.


First I take all kinds of pictures from my mind that don’t seem to go together. Sometimes I don’t even think very hard because the pictures just pop, spin, fly, slide, bounce, and roll into my brain for some reason.

Suddenly this strange group of images are somersaulting around in my head. And nothing makes any logical sense. SO, I make comparisons – I find ways to link the images. I compare a blue blue sky to a field of summer bluebells or to my friends’ sparkly blue eyes.  In my mind they are all alike in some way because they are all too blue to be true. Or I compare the sunrise to a big orange beach ball bouncing in slow motion over the horizon or to a galloping unicorn anxious to start the day. I used this idea of a unicorn in one of my favourite poems that’s in FIRECRACKERS. This unicorn was drawn by the wonderful artist who created all the pictures for the book, Jo Riddell.


And then PRESTO it becomes totally another way of seeing things – my own private way. There are a million and one images to compare and another million and one images to compare them to. And more. Much, much more. But the truth is creating poems is a puzzle; an imaginative word and idea puzzle, one which is totally fun and intriguing to work out.


I keep saying the image words and phrases in my head over and over and re-arranging them on paper or on screen, like furniture in the living room, until I like how they all work together. And as I repeat these words over and over (and often out loud) to myself, eventually I discover the poem’s true secret beat; it’s special rhythm which makes the poem sound just like it should.

Here it’s super-important to learn to trust what you like. After all, you write to make someone happy first of all and that someone is YOU!



(This is a page from my beautifully bruised and battered old poetry notebook. These crazy scribbles eventually turned into Comet, which appears in my new book, FIRECRACKERS. Funny, isn’t it?)

SOMETIMES the words can rhyme and that is fun. Sometimes they don’t. It depends on what I feel like doing with the words and ideas that day. Or rather what the words and ideas feel like doing with me that day.

Poetry is funny like that.  You have to be open to it. In other words, you (the you you know very well) can’t always control what goes in or out of your brain. A poet has to trust that there are things they don’t know and wait for the ideas or words from their secret selves to pop out. (This is the tantalising and mysterious part of the whole thing.)

THEN after combining the pictures, the words, and the sounds in an order that I choose, the poems turn out to have a particular meaning.  This meaning reflects how I am feeling at any one time. So my poems can be funny, or sad, or unsettling, or lovey, or worried, or silly, or frightened, or bittersweet, or happy.  Or a host of other things as well.  And sometimes really not even that obvious to me at first.

FINALLY here is the key thing in my magical poetry world. When I am writing, I know deep down I have something I really want to say.  But believe it or not, I don’t always know what it is.  So, I keep on writing and finally, if I am lucky and the stars are with me, I arrive at exactly what I mean to say. And there is kind of epiphany!  An AHAmoment. The moment when the poem flies across the plate like a home run and makes sense.And that is the most exciting thing.

To have figured out a little bit of what is going on inside me.

To have created something exciting and new.

And to have found a personal link between me and the whole world out there.

That’s why I like poetry so much – it is a wonderful puzzle to work out and the results are totally unexpected and totally strange and always and forever MAGICAL.


About the Author

Zaro Weil

Zaro Weil lives in southern France with her husband, two sheepdogs, alongside a host of birds, insects, badgers, wild boars, crickets, donkeys, goats, hares and loads more.

She has been a lot of things; dancer, theater director, actress, poet, playwright, educator, quilt collector and historian, author, publisher and a few others. Her poetry for children has appeared in many anthologies.