(the idea that everything has consciousness and that it’s not limited to evolved biological entities) is alive and well in the Humble household.
My father made rocking horses - beautiful and ornate creatures carved lovingly out of northern white pine. We have one at home (Polly
) which he made for my daughter Em when she was born.Polly the horse gets stroked and patted and talked to regularly.
In the house, we also have a number of old teddy bears each with their own personalities, a fluffy and well-loved pyjama cat (Catty
) and a toy mouse called Dicky
. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
When I worked as a class teacher, I had a yucca plant (Jim the yucca)
given to me by a grateful parent. Jim the Yucca was greeted each day when I entered the room and it was with some sorrow that I left him in the school when I retired. He was enormous after twenty years growing beneath a skylight in Class Four and I couldn’t get him into the car.
As a youth, my first car was a Trafalgar blue Morris Minor saloon called Felicity
. The car had a cranking handle which I occasionally used to get the engine fired up while I cajoled and pleaded with Felicity to start on cold mornings … I could go on.
The sentience of inanimate objects, for me (and others) is well-established. It is also an accepted phenomenon in children’s literature (the mirror in Snow White
, the puppet in Pinocchio
, Sparky’s talking piano, Woody, Buzz and the other toys in Toy Story
, The Velveteen Rabbit
). In one of my favourite children’s books, Julia Donaldson’s ‘Stick Man’ poem was born from an idea that developed out of Axel Scheffler’s illustrations in The Gruffalo’s Child
of a stick doll.
Illustration by Em Humble
A self-aware object also features in Michael Rosen’s ‘Suitcase Poem’ which first appeared in The Poetry Roundabout
and more recently was part of the Dirigible Balloon
anthology Chasing Clouds: Adventures in a Poetry Balloon
In Michael’s wonderful poem, we are privy to behind the scenes musings when the eponymous suitcase is taken for granted, having been left behind in the room while the family enjoy their holidays. Worse than that, the poor thing spends the rest of its time at home in the loft, in the freezing cold, crammed full of stuff and forgotten. That, of course, is no way to treat such a useful member of the household.
In a bout of understandable boredom, the suitcase frets over a perceived and well-founded lack of freedom. Emotions bubble (sadness and anger perhaps) until the injustice of the situation overflows with the hatching of a plan to achieve its goals of being able to swim, to ski, to dance and shout. It is planning to escape, go on the run and enjoy itself at the next available opportunity.
It's a super poem which Michael Rosen reads so well (visit the Dirigible Balloon
website to hear the recording of him performing his ‘Suitcase Poem’). It invites the listener to imagine the adventures and fun the suitcase might have once it makes the break to fulfil its dreams.