There are four poems in “At the Crossroads” which tackle the theme of childhood. These are “Hide and Seek”, “Half-past Two”, “Dear Mr Lee” and “Leaving School”. Each poem tackles the theme of childhood from different perspectives and views.
“Half-past Two” takes the perception of a small child who gets lost in another world. He only knows a range of basic times which are important to him. These words are highlighted by being joined up, which is what a child is taught to do at school, e.g. ‘timetogohomenowtime’. These basic times are the ones that he hears everyday but has not been taught any other times by his/her teacher. This world is a far more important world to him because he enjoys it far more and can get lost in this world where time doesn’t matter. Although he does not know the times that the clock tells, he knows the times that get repeated to him. All the child can do is see the hands move but can’t ‘click its language’. In the end the child gets the blame for the teacher’s lack of ability to teach the child, and the lack of awareness shown by the teacher. This reflects on the incompetence of the teacher. The poem’s intention is to highlight the
“Dear Mr Lee” reflects on a person who is older than the other people in the poems I have chosen. This person has grown up and is now probably studying for their GCSE’s. She starts off by making conversation, which is shown in the first sentence in brackets. She calls the author of the book by his first name, Laurie, because she feels that she knows him more personally. The words ‘lived with’ and ‘stained with Coke and Kitkat’ suggests to us that this person has become closely attached to the book and feels strongly about it and can make reasoned judgements. She talks about how the book has altered her view of English Literature. She has no interest in the other sections of the subject because she can’t express her views.
The poem is written very much as someone would speak, with little or no punctuation. This is ironic because the poem is about someone writing to their favourite author during an English exam. The ideas don’t always follow on logically, and the lack of punctuation means there is a poor sentence structure to the poem. She describes the criticisms of the teaching methods and she says ignoring the pupils’ view of the book makes them ignore the enjoyment of it. She is angry that the tasks set don’t allow her to show her true feeling for the book. The intention of the poem is to condemn the exam system.
“Leaving School” is about a child, younger than the one in “Dear Mr Lee”, leaving his old school and starting fresh in a new one. Like any child who has to go through the ordeal of changing schools, he is a bit apprehensive. He tries so hard to do well at school that he forgets things and in turn gets punished for them. At first he starts off excited, because he feels he is growing up. This new school is different to his old one in numerous areas. ‘They had the Beacon Series’, which is a series of reading books, unlike what he is used to. For him this is a big step up from his normal ‘Billy Goat Gruff’ books. After a while he starts to give up hope of ever getting things right, ‘I started saying nothing’. Even basic things like putting on his shoes and getting undressed become increasingly harder as the stress of the school life gets to him, ‘I forgot how to get undressed’. A key theme which runs throughout the poem is communication, or lack of it. The intention of the poem is to explain to parents what their children go through when they change school and how they experience these changes.