Tag Archives: The Owl and the Pussycat

National Poetry Day Nonsense!


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

Celebarte National Poetry Day 28 September 2017 with one of the UK Nation’s favourite poems. here are a few ideas from our blog 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


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




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!


Happy 203rd Birthday Mr Lear – it’s International Owl and Pussycat Day again!

Today’s marking of Edward Lear’s 203rd  birthday 12 May 2015, celebrating this pioneering wildlife illustrator and creator of nonsense verse, celebrates his nonsense botany:


A beautiful little something from our collection, using the 1988 centenary stamps and a great Owl and Pussycat postmark!

If you want to find out more about using postage stamps within teaching, check out the blog posts and links on our  Darwin200 stamp zoo website blog  

Find out more about Edward Lear, his famous poems and teaching and literacy ideas on the links and previous posts of this blog.

Happy Birthday Mr Lear!

Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo

Owl and Pussycat carved tree sculpture, Treefest Westonbirt 2013

Owl and pussycat  carvings by Dave Lucas, Westonbirt Treefest 2013  Source: FOWA website

Owl and pussycat carvings by Dave Lucas, Westonbirt Treefest 2013
Source: FOWA website

After chatting online to Forestry Commission colleagues at Westonbirt, I came across these fabulous pictures of The Owl and the Pussycat carved from a tree trunk by David Lucas. It was carved as part of Treefest 2013 and has now apparently been donated to Coln House School for their sensory area. Lucky school!

Owl and pussycat  carvings by Dave Lucas, Westonbirt Treefest 2013  Source: FOWA website

Owl and pussycat carvings by Dave Lucas, Westonbirt Treefest 2013
Source: FOWA website

I’ve sat in some good storytelling cahirs in schools and school grounds in the past, talking about animals but these really are magnificent!


You can see the statue in use at: http://www.colnhouseschool.org/index.php/2012-11-12-20-56-49/2013-12-03-14-12-30/the-owl-and-the-pussycat

See others on the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum website  http://www.fowa.org.uk/your_westonbirt/blog/?p=3695

You can see more about the next Treefest 2015 at:


Happy New Lear 2015!

For more info on this Guinness parody of Lear see http://guinnesscollection-mick.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/dr-book-15-happy-new-lear-from-1957.html

Happy New Lear, a parody of Lear by Guinness and artist John Nash 1957

Happy New Lear, a parody of Lear by Guinness and artist John Nash 1957

Happy 202nd birthday 2014 Mr Lear!

Happy 202nd Birthday Mr. Lear! I cannot believe it is two years since zoos, museums, galleries, libraries,  schools and many others around the world celebrated Lear’s bicentenary on May 12 1812 / 2012 .

The last year or two since Edward Lear’s 200th birthday  has seen further Lear events (see Facebook link below). 2013 also saw the spirited sequel The Further Adventures of the Owl and The Pussycat by children’s author Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, Stick Man, Tiddler and other much loved captivating rhyming modern classic children’s picture books.

The poem / sequel is beautifully illustrated by Charlotte Voake, illustrator of many other interesting plant and animal based children’s books.

You can take a peek inside the book at the Puffin website.

I’m sure Mr Lear would be very proud that his characters live on.

We couldn’t let Lear’s 202nd birthday go past without rounding up some of the interesting online resources of inspiring nonsense (poems) for classrooms, in case you missed them :

1. Online Puffin Live interview  Further Adventures read by Julia Donaldson http://www.puffinvirtuallylive.co.uk/author/juliadonaldson

2. Puffin Virtually Live Teachers Pack with lots of nonsense ideas, mask templates http://www.puffinvirtuallylive.co.uk/assets/FurtherAdventuresOwlPussycat_PuffinVirtuallyLive.pdf

3. Event kit for libraries and teachers from the Reading Agency  with games, puzzles, masks  http://readinggroups.org/OwlPussycat_EVENT_LIBRARIES.pdf

4. More owl poem ideas for teachers and uniformed group leaders  http://www.freebookez.com/thank-you-owl-poem/

5. Telegraph interview with Julia Donaldson about Further Adventures http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/10257895/Julia-Donaldson-on-how-Edward-Lears-poems-influenced-her.html

Maybe its time for more Lear Prequels and Sequels:

What might Julia Donaldson write next? The Previous Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat? Or you class if you happen to be teaching nonsense in the classroom?

The Pobble Whose Toes Grew Back?  

Further Adventures of the Quangle Wangle’s Hat?

I often wondered what later happened to Lear’s not so well known characters “Four Children who went round the World” – Violet, Slingsby, Guy and Lionel  http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/fc.html

I like the way Lear inserts some of his other characters into their bizarre world here, as if they just popped next door or tunneled through the pages. it makes the nonsense world just that little more believable.

There are lots more ideas on previous blog posts here and the Nonsense Lit webpage http://nonsenselit.wordpress.com/  and Lear events Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/learnonsense

I look forward to many more prequels, sequels, further adventures …

Until then, Happy 202nd birthday Mr Lear, 12 May 2014 !  Happy International Owl and Pussycat Day!








Puppets, poems, owls, pussycats and wedding presents – more ideas for celebrating International Owl and Pussycat day

Decided how you’ll celebrate International Owl and Pussycat Day, 12 May?

12 May is  Edward Lear’s birthday and 2012  is his 200th birthday. A bicentennial of bosh, a bicentenary of nonsense (and some superb landscape and animal paintings too). You might also have noticed it’s Dickens’ 200th birthday in 2012 as well.  Lots of the way Dickens’ bicentenary is celebrated you could borrow as ideas for Lear’s birthday too! see our events page http://nonsenselit.wordpress.com/ 

 What about an Owl and Pussycat puppet show?  

On my wedding day I was presented by my wife with an unusual wedding present, a vintage pair of Owl and Pussycat hand puppets, old enough to have the cardboard neck tube style head. The Owl and Pussycat poem is a poem about a wedding after all, and I did meet my wife doing puppetry and bug handling for Newquay Zoo on outreach at one of our partner galleries. Like British Sign Language and bugs (the bugs get vertigo and seasick pretty quick), I found that puppets and bugs don’t mix well.  But that’s another story …

We’ll come back to the wedding or birthday present idea in another – but what would you give the Owl and The Pussycat as a wedding gift? Who alive or dead, real or fictional, would you invite to their wedding reception? What nonsense plants would be be their wedding bouquet? http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/nb.html Who would design the wedding outfits for guests? And the ring if the piggywig didn’t wnat to sell his? You could design (make and eat!) a suitable nonsense wedding cake, the invitations … Lear loved nonsesnse cookery and there are some nonsense cooking in his books http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/cookery.html

Puppet theatres were a big Victorian passion and you can see how to make one on the fabulous Victorian Farm Christmas website crafts section with downloadable templates amongst many other fabulous ideas http://www.bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas/activity/toy-theatre.shtml

You don’t need to build a whole theatre, a shoebox ‘television’ http://http://www.roughmagictheatre.co.uk/html/buxton_puppet_festival_-__shoe.html or a shadow puppet version are easy enough to rough together.

We’ve used puppets at the zoo and in gallery talks from time to time, using everything from hand puppets to an OHP Overhead Projector  (old technology now, should be few lying around in schools)  to proper lit from behind tissue paper or thin cloth screens and torches.

Esay puppetry? Print out the Owl and Pussycat illustrations on card whatever size you want, cut them out, put them on sticks and away you go …. paint the backdrop, use them as shadow puppets. http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/index.html 







You don’t need much to make a stage – half a blocked doorway with a cloth pinned up (for the Owl and Pussycat Sea, naturally) or an upturned desk will do the trick.

The puppetry portal website http://www.puppetry.info/ has masses of useful information.

The wonderful Rough Magic Theatre from Bolton have Lear and Lewis Carroll shows using a suitcase shadow puppet theatre. Watch their video and you’ll be wanting to make one of these walking spiv suitcase stages yourself! http://www.roughmagictheatre.co.uk/html/jabberwocky_.html

If you can’t make it to Covent Garden, you visit the fabulous Pollock’s Tpyshop online  http://www.pollockstoytheatres.com/index.htm 


More ideas for International Owl and Pussycat Day in the next few weeks – and we’ve loved to hear how you are going to celebrate Edward Lear’s birthday using this poem or any other ways …

Now whicvh of all this will we do at Newquay Zoo on Lear’s birthday, 12 May 2012? So many to choose from?