John Foster

John Foster

b. 1941

Everyone enjoys being read to, adults as well as children. There is something about the shared experience that makes it special for both the reader and the listener. John Foster

Inside a shell

John Foster

The Schoolkids’ Rap

John Foster

It Isn't Right to Fight

John Foster

Silver Aeroplane

John Foster

Seaview Haiku

John Foster

Four O'Clock Friday

John Foster

Shaun Short's Short Shorts

John Foster

Edmund Clerihew Bentley

John Foster

Let’s Give a Cheer for Onomatopeia

John Foster

Ten Dancing Dinosaurs

John Foster


The Land of the Flibbertigibbets

John Foster

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About John Foster

John Foster is one of the most highly regarded and successful contemporary children’s’ poets and poetry anthologists in the UK, and has countless publications to his name. Junior Education has described him as: “indisputably the world's premier poetry anthologist”.

John was born in 1941 in Scotby, a village outside Carlisle. He didn’t have a television when he was growing up, so spent a lot of time reading. One of his favourite poems was ‘Albert and the Lion’ by Marriot Edgar, in which the eponymous Albert is eaten by a lion at Blackpool Zoo. John’s father would put on a Lancastrian accent and perform the dark and funny poem for him, which began his life-long love of both listening to, and speaking poetry aloud. He has said in interview with The Poetry Archive: “Poetry is part of the oral tradition and many of my poems are written to be performed.” He wrote many poems at school, and remembers one being published in a school magazine; he also remembers always wanting to be a writer. He went on to study at Oxford University and then trained as a teacher. He taught English for twenty years in Oxfordshire and while he was teaching wrote information books for children, and English course and source books, as well as books and articles for teachers and librarians. The first poems he wrote as an adult were initially made up to amuse his children when they were small, on long car journeys.

Since leaving teaching to become a full-time writer in 1988, John has become a regular visitor to schools. He says: “I like the spontaneous way children react when I perform my poems. I enjoy making them laugh.” John relishes word play and puns – he likes dancing with language to see how it moves. You can hear ‘Give a Cheer for Onomatopoeia’ on this Archive recording, where he has language fizzing and whizzing and humming and drumming. He also enjoys writing in form such as the neat, rhymed four-lined form of the Clerihew - he says it’s a bit like “solving a puzzle”.

John says that “poetry can be serious too” so also writes about issues such as being bullied. You can listen to ‘Four O’clock Friday’ here, in which the speaker of the poem escapes the torment of being bullied when he is “home at last.”

John Foster’s love of spoken word is much evident on this lively Archive Recording. He invites children to “read poems out loud, to revel in the sounds of the words, to learn poems and to recite and perform their favourites, both old and new,” so why not start here? You can read along with John.

This recording was made on 28th March 2012 at The Soundhouse in London, and the producer was Anne Rosenfeld.

Selected bibliography

Crack Another Yolk (ed) OUP, 1996

Never Say Boo to a Ghost (ed) OUP, 1991

Fantastic Football Poems (ed) OUP, 2007

Pet Poems (ed) OUP, 2007

Magic Poems (ed) OUP, 2004

Monster Poems (ed) OUP, 2004

Dragon Poems (ed) OUP, 2004

Dinosaur Poems (ed) OUP, 2004

101 Favorite Poems (ed) Collins, 2002


1I Wrote a Poem, Sitting Under a Tree

2The Land of the Flibbertigibbets 3On the Clip Clop Clap

4Let's Give a Cheer For Onomatopoeia

5Bird Talk

6Mrs Nugent's Budgie

7Animal Apologies

8The Hour When the Witches Fly

9The Shadow Man

10The Smugglers

11The Mermaid and the Fisherman


13The Schoolkids' Rap


15Inside Sir's Matchbox

16Spelling Bee

17Children's Prayer

18And How Was School Today?

19Four O'Clock Friday 20Autumn News Bulletin 21November 22Sitting in the Doorway 23The Brown Bear 24Chinese New Year 25It's Spring

26Seaview Haiku

27Silver Aeroplane

28Ten Dancing Dinosaurs

29At the School for Young Dragons

30The Wizard's Dragon

31Love Letter - From the Wizard to the Witch

32Sean Short's Short Shorts

33Chinese Please 34Quite Right, Mrs Wright 35Sandra Slater 36Charlotte Cul-de-Sac

37Edmund Clerihew Bentley

38Neil Armstrong

39Count Dracula 40Electric Fred

41Grandpa's False Teeth

42 I Used to Work

43Traveller's Tales

44A Cheeky Boy Called Robert Rung

45The Recycling Rap

46Where Is the Forest?

47It Isn't Right to Fight

48Paying His Respects


50It Hurts

51The Vase

52Great-Gran Just Sits

53There are Four Chairs Round the Table 54This Morning My Dad Shouted

55Dad's Hiding in the Shed

56Football Story

57Please, Mr Black

58The World's Best

59The Night Before the Match

60Why Did You Pull Her Hair?

61Sarah, My Sister, Has Asthma

62Life's a Spelling Test 63Why is it? 64Spells

65Inside a Shell

66I Dream of a Time

A tour of the Archive with Helen Gray

As a secondary schoolteacher in London for the past thirty years, it has been my privilege to have had a job which...

Featured Guided Tours

Books by John Foster