Michael Rosen’s 2007 Poem “I Sell the Owl and the Pussycat Boat”

Michael Rosen .jpg

I put this aside in 2007 and kept losing this article – finally I have scanned this, 15 years later. You can still hear him read this poem at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/audio/2007/jun/11/michael.rosen.reads.his.new.owl.and.the.pussycat.poem

The newspaper cutting was missing when I prepared  my display at the wonderful “Stuff and Nonsense” summer 2019 exhibition at Falmouth Art Gallery https://teachingnonsenseinschools.wordpress.com/2019/06/18/stuff-and-nonsense-at-falmouth-art-gallery-22-june-to-7th-september-2019/

Prequels and Sequels and Back Story?  

Edward Lear wrote his own follow up: https://interestingliterature.com/2016/03/04/the-children-of-the-owl-and-the-pussy-cat/

Beatrix Potter wrote about the pig who sold them the ring in one of her first books to be written and last to be published: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tale_of_Little_Pig_Robinson

I wonder – What sequel or prequel or character’s point of view / diary / poem / limerick etc. could you write for the Owl and the Pussycat?

Blog posted by Mark Norris, International Owl and Pussycat Day nonsense blog, September 2019 / 12 May 2022 Edward Lear’s 210th Birthday



Happy 210th Birthday Edward Lear 2022

12 May 2022 is the 210th birthday of Edward Lear, painter of landscapes and animals, writer of limericks and nonsense verse, nonsense botanist and author of The Jumblies and The Owl and the Pussycat.

Happy International Owl and Pussycat Day 2022!



Whoops! happy Birthday Mr Lear 209 years old – yesterday!

Whoops! My blog post scheduling didnt work so well – this birthday greeting should have gone out yesterday on May 12th, Edward Lear’s Birthday – so wishing you  Happy International Owl and Pussycat Yester-Day 2021

It hardly seems two years since 2019 celebrating the Owl and the Pussycat and Edward Lear at Falmouth Art Gallery’s quirky ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ 2019 summer exhibition.

Since then we have had a long uncertain year or more of lockdown when our zoos, musuems and galleries have been open and then closed on and off. Slolwy they are reopening again … 


My cabinet of Lear nonsense at Falmouth Art Gallery 2019 at their past Stuff and Nonsense! exhibition  

During the Lockdown 2020 year, the lovely Michael Rosen was very ill but has thankfully survived Covid. 

Some things to celebrate!

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Education Depertement, 12 May 2021

Happy 208th Birthday Edward Lear!

Happy 208th Birthday Edward Lear!

Here is the Bicentenary birthday Google Doodle again from 2012

lear12-hp google doodle

and for your birthday this year we give you the fabulous Michael Rosens’s 2007 Owl and Pussycat poem from the Guardian.

Michael Rosen

Happy Birthday Mr Lear (and get well soon Mr. Rosen!)

Lockdown Lear Limericks anyone? 

Lots of Home Learning ideas for introducing more nonsense and Lear-ning  into your home schooling:



Warning – do not attempt any sea journeys in a sieve!

Why not? There’s a Physics or Science lesson idea hidden in there somewhere, how to waterproof a sieve.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, May 12th, 2020

Stuff and Nonsense at Falmouth Art Gallery 22 June to 7th September 2019


Sneaky Peek: Part of my Edward Lear collection on display soon at Falmouth Art Gallery’s Stuff and Nonsense exhibition (22 June to 7 September 2019)

When I  went today from Z to A … from the Zoo to the Art Gallery

Spent Monday afternoon this week amidst the busy-ness of an art exhibition being taken down and a new one “Stuff and Nonsense” being put up at Falmouth Art Gallery in Cornwall, quietly shifting bits of my small Edward Lear collection around this lovely lockable well-lit wall cabinet.

Eventually after several hours, it settled to look like this. I wanted it to look a bit like a bookcase or bookshelf, so some titles are showing their spine only.


“Follow Alice down the rabbit hole and emerge into our extraordinary summer exhibition! A celebration of the stuff we all like – from the bizarre to the everyday.
All ages will be delighted by the nonsense rhymes and illustrations of Quentin Blake, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear and Spike Milligan; fantastical stories including Rossetti’s wombat and the Cottingley Fairies; hilarious new automata; and shrines and assemblages from local artists and community groups.”

Featuring loans from the British Library, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, TATE, Tower Hamlets Local History Archive, the Victoria & Albert Museum and private collections. Supported by the Government Indemnity Scheme and a Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant from Art Fund.    (Exhibition blurb)

Many illustrators have produced illustrations of ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ by Edward Lear, which was voted the Nation’s Favourite Children’s Poem in 2014: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/02/owl-and-the-pussycat-edward-lear-voted-favourite-childrens-poem

Within the ‘window cabinet’, there are a selection of these old and recent illustrations of ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ poem by Edward Lear himself, Beatrix Potter, Charlotte Voake, Claire Ruddock, Michael Foreman, L. Leslie Brooke,  Malcolm Greensmith and even’ Owl and Pussycat’ stamp first day cover postmarks.

In the window cabinet, there are also Lear nonsense illustrations by Arnold Lobel and vintage hand puppets. There are several examples of Victorian era copies of  Lear’s own limericks, nonsense botany (The Biscuit Tree and  Tigerlillia terribilis) and one reproduction of his superb bird illustrations which he painted and engraved the animal collections  at Knowsley and London Zoo in early Victorian times.

I’m not sure if my loan contribution from the small Newquay Zoo collection and my own private collection of Lear stuff is classed as ‘nonsense’ (from one of Britain’s finest nonsense poets) or ‘stuff’ because I have slowly been collecting ‘stuff’ about Edward Lear for years. Maybe my window  collection is both happy nonsense and stuff at the same time.

On display also are other people’s family shrines and collections from small mantlepiece collections etc, to bigger collections  because everybody I know collects some meaningful stuff.

Falmouth has an interesting collection of children’s book illustrations and automata to draw on for this exhibition 



Arguably my Lear window cabinet collection is also small shrine to a man of silliness, ‘bosh’ and ‘nonsense’. Some of my pieces are ‘memorabilia’ books, an enamel plate and mug (for children or collectors?) from the Royal Academy 1988 centenary exhibition of his death.

There is a lovely photographic portrait of the bearded Lear on the front of  an Arts Council Edward Lear exhibition catalogue from 1958. Elsewhere his cartoony self caricatures and self portraits can be seen, amidst all the cats!

High up on the top shelf for adults and tall children to read  adults is one such Royal Academy book with a lovely 1939 poem by W.H. Auden (he of “stop all the clocks”, used in Four Weddings and A Funeral”) and print of Lear illustrations alongside pictures of Lear’s grave and that of his beloved cat Foss, his pussycat. (Sadly Lear never seemed to have a pet owl in the same way. Maybe it sailed away, for a year and a day …)

Elsewhere scattered amongst loans from the  British Library, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, TATE, Tower Hamlets Local History Archive, the Victoria & Albert Museum and  Spike Milligan’s family are some more bits of nonsense that I have picked up for or since the Lear Bicentenary in 2012.

Continuing a long running partnership including Darwin’s bicentenary 2009, Falmouth Art Gallery and Newquay Zoo were planning a 2012  event or exhibition, which sadly due to ill health never happened. Lots of other zoos and museums and galleries happily did celebrate Lear’s birthday and bicentenary on May 12th 2012.

So here we are, celebrating nonsense, only seven years late …

Hugh Stewart, the Falmouth born film producer (1910-2011) amassed in later life a collection of over 100 translations and audio recordings in different languages of ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ poem – we hope that some of these audio versions are available as an audio part of the exhibition.

What else is on loan from the zoo and my collection?

Stuff and nonsense in my collection that wouldn’t fit into the Edward  Lear window display has snuck into other cabinets as ‘placeholders’. Hopefully they will hold these places into the exhibition. It’s quite competitive for space as there is a lot of nonsense out there!

Other pieces are more officially framed up – some hand painted Lear limerick pages (by a child?) marked W.L.A. 1893 and  some of the lovely Royal Mail Stamp postcards  from the 1988 Lear Issue with Lear drawings.

Out of curiosity, like many zoo keepers, I have a wide collection of animal related things from animals on stamps and cigarette cards to lead and plastic zoo animals. Working on the education / children’s side of zoos I have collections of ‘animals in art’ books, postcards and poetry books.

I have included a couple of ‘flip the animal body parts to make a new mash up nonsense animal’ books by Sara Ball (‘Porguacan’) and Tony Van Meeuwissen (‘Remarkable Animals’) ;  some of Tony’s original book illustration paintings for this book are on display. Alongside them are my fabulous full set of 1934 Wills’ cigarette cards Animalalloys. These are suitably randomly arranged in 16 weird animal combinations inside the glass display case. Sadly none of them (yet) make rude animal names.


All 48 of the Animalloys cards, but not in their Falmouth Art gallery exhibition random order.

Looking at these ‘mixed up’ animals, I was reminded of a comment by Amelya, one of the local Newquay primary school children whom I worked with on Newquay Zoo’s 50th Anniversary (this May 2019). She had an imaginative prediction of how zoos will have changed in another 50 years, by our zoo centenary in 2069. Knowing that many animals were becoming rare or extinct, she thought, why not invent new ones?  “In 50 years time zoos will be full of animals. Animals with different DNAs all mixed up to make them really cool and even more cute and scary.”

Having a childhood love of fantastic nonsense from Lear and Lewis Carroll through to the Goons, I have included a couple of the published Goon Show Scripts 1 and 2, reproduced with the cast’s crazy Goon character doodles, alongside an old 1960s Penguin collection of Spike Milligan paperbacks with his great doodles and illustrations to illustrate his silly verse and ‘Milliganimals’.


Spike Milligan and other Goons actors doodled these (reproduced) scripts.

Keeping the zoo connection is an old Jersey Zoo / Dodo Club Millennium Calendar, salvaged after zoo use.  Inside and hopefully finding a place on display is a colourful and daft Gerald Durrell cartoon drawing of his travels and animals, like the drawings  that he used to do live and in public! As Lee Durrell his widow says, “Gerry loved sketching, and he would illustrate his lectures about animals and the [Jersey Zoo / Durrell Wildlife] Trust with quick doodles using a marker pen.” (quote from Durrell shop website, see Blog Post Script B.P.S.)

It is well worth a trip to see the rest of the Stuff and Nonsense exhibition (22 June to 7 September 2019) that I saw in part being mounted around me. I can’t wait to go back and see it all up and busy with people.  The exhibition should appeal to children and adults of all ages, perfect for the school summer holidays. Award-winning  Falmouth Art Gallery is well known as “Fabulous, Free and Family Friendly.” Exhibitions are often accompanied by a programme of fun art workshops as well.


FAG website

The exhibition  title phrase “stuff and nonsense” or “non-sense” itself has interesting and illustrious origins: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/stuff-and-nonsense.html

I hope you make it along to and enjoy this interesting and varied exhibition.

You could have great fun counting how many owls and how many pussycats you can see in the whole Stuff and Nonsense exhibition? Tigerlillias count! 

Thanks to Henrietta, Natalie and all the amazing team at Falmouth Art gallery for their hospitality, putting my small part of their exhibition together.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Education Department, 20 June 2019.

Blog Post Script 

Jersey Zoo / Durrell Wildlife Trust are selling some Gerald Durrell drawings as prints as fundraisers for conservation:

National Poetry Day Nonsense!


“The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat”

Celebrate National Poetry Day 28 September 2017 with one of the UK Nation’s favourite poems. Here are a few fun ideas from our blog archive for teaching more nonsense (poetry) in schools


lear stamps


Edward Lear bicentenary 2012 logo

Edward Lear bicentenary 2012 logo

and videos and translations of the poem in many world languages


STOP PRESS – the bompa.org website itself has now lapsed and the material has moved, file by file, by its creator Attila Veres to http://pimpoapo.byethost22.com/bompa/

owl and pussycat puppets 004

How will you celebrate National Poetry Day? http://www.nationalpoetryday.co.uk

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, 28 September 2017



A 205th Birthday Gift for Edward Lear

International Owl and Pussycat Day, the 12th of  May 2017 last week was the anniversary of Edward Lear’s 205th Birthday.

lear 2017 a

To celebrate, my small birthday gift this year to Edward Lear are three pages from a book of his own limericks.

lear 2017 b


These three musty old pages  have been torn out and the balck and white illustrations by Edward Lear have been hand-painted by one WLA on 5.12.93. This is presumably Tuesday the 5th of December 93 (probably 1893?), five years after Edward Lear died in 1888.

Queen Victoria was still on the throne. Nothing much else happened on this day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1893

Who knows why these were painted or ripped out or who WLA was? Enjoy their colourful Victorian watercolour efforts anyway.

Lear 2017 c

Happy Birthday Edward Lear  (albeit a few days late)

Read past blogposts for ideas on celebrating Lear’s Birthday or using nonsense verses for literacy fun in schools.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, marking  International Owl and Pussycat Day, May 12th 2017

Interesting Literature blog’s view of The Owl and The Pussycat

The ever interesting “Interesting Literature” Blog by Oliver Tearle this weeks features an analysis of interest to teachers and older secondary and A level / degree students of the nation’s favourite poem “The Owl and The Pussycat” by Edward Lear.  Does it mean anything at all?

“But this all still leaves us with the question: is ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ meant to mean anything? Is it simply delightful fantasy (it features anthropomorphic animals, after all: the owl and the pussycat can talk, the owl sings a song and plays the guitar, the pig engage in financial transactions, and the turkey officiate at ceremonies), or is it making a commentary on Victorian society?”


Many interesting points raised about or by this rewarding and intriguing ‘nonsense’ (or is it?) poem.


Happy Christmas to all our readers!

Posted by Mark Norris.

Happy 204th birthday Edward Lear!

What nonsense and bosh to mark Edward Lear’s 204th birthday!

Edward Lear bicentenary 2012 logo

Edward Lear bicentenary 2012 logo

Three ways to celebrate this year’s International Owl and Pussycat Day 2016 to mark Edward Lear’s birthday on 12 May.



  1. You could read the famous and favourite poem in whatever language you choose!

You can find the original poem at www.nonsenselit.org



2. You could sort back here through years of occasional blogposts for lots of ideas for celebrating or teaching nonsense!



lear stamps

Lear 1990 centenary stamps from our Darwin 200 sister blog site https://darwin200stampzoo.wordpress.com/



3. You could buy something nonsensical and joyous like these “puppetry training aids” that  I found in crazy and colourful Danish store Tiger   emerging online and across UK high streets:


Only a £1 or 2  for these puppetry teaching aids at Tiger

And some suitable puppetry training nonsense ideas to use these wiggly eye rings (this sounds better in Danish):


Celebrate wildlife however weird, wacky or fantastical.


Posted by Mark Norris on International Owl and Pussycat Day 2016

Nominate Edward Lear for the new £20 note by 19 July 2015



The  Bank of England website has a competition to nominate a British visual artist for the new £20 note – why not add your vote for Edward Lear?

£20 note character nominations close on Sunday 19 July 2015.

Why Lear?

Because he was a  scientific illustrator of animals, doodler of nonsense Limerick illustrations and a man with a beard and facial hair that would make such a banknote hard to counterfeit or forge!



You are only allowed 100 words so I wrote my nomination at speed in the spirit of Lear in non-Limerick doggerel (which doesn’t scan that well)

There was an odd man called Edward Lear,

whose limericks were strangely queer;

Pobbles, jumblies, owls and cats,

And  Quangle-Wangle’s amazing hats

on a £20 note – imagine that!