Guinea Pig Town, by Lorraine Marwood

It was our brother’s idea
to build a town,
a small town
for many guinea pigs
which kept multiplying –
cream ginger and black
wisps of colour and rabbity-mousey
features, all ours.

So begins the title poem of this beautiful collection of animal poems from one of Australia’s leading children’s poets. Stretching over four pages this poem, the longest in the collection, tells the tale of siblings building a ‘town’ for their guinea pigs, but it is more than just a story – it is a celebration of childhood, of pets, and of the magic way in which poetry can bring such events to life.

Other poems are much shorter – just a few lines of perfect poetic observation, as in Storm:
The wind so strong
a dragonfly cartwheels
along the ground

But whatever the length, the quality of the poems is consistent. Each new poem is a delight waiting to be discovered, and, like the subject matter, to be wondered at. From cute and cuddly kittens to scary spiders and thrilling frill-necks, there is an animal on every page for young readers to enjoy, whether they read cover to cover, or dip in and out.

New children’s poetry collections are few and far between in Australia, which is regrettable, but fortunately Marwood, (with the support of publisher Walker Books) continues to produce quality collections of Aussie children to savour.

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems, by Lorraine Marwood
Walker Books, 2013
ISBN 9781922077424

Available from good bookstores or online.

March Reads

I had lots of reading fun in March. I’m currently immersing myself in collections of children’s poetry, which has given me a chance to rediscover some old favourites and discover some new (to me) gems. Of course, I’ve read lots of prose, too, but it may be the first month ever that the amount of poetry I’ve read outweighs the prose – and I like it. Hopefully it will reflect in my own poetry writing.

So, as always, here’s my list for the month just gone, with links to those that are reviewed here on Aussiereviews. Have a great April 🙂


The Hypnotiser Michael Rosen Lion Children’s Poetry
The Dog’s Just Been Sick in the Honda Colin Thompson Hodder Children’s Poetry
Great Anzac Stories Graham Seal Allen & Unwin Adult NF
Wouldn’t You Like To Know Michael Rosen Andre Deutsch Children’s Poetry
A Very Unusual Pursuit Catherine Jinks Allen & Unwin Children’s
Flower Moon Snow: A Book of Haiku Kazue Mizumura Thomas Y Crowell Children’s Poetry
Water Bombs: A Book of Poems for Teenagers Steven Herriick UQP Children’s Poetry
The Romance Diaries: Ruby Jenna Austen ABC Books Young Adult
Troy Thompson’s Excellent Peotry Book Gary Crew Lothian Children’s
Muster Me a Song Anne Bell Triple D Books Children’s Poetry
City James Roy UQP Young Adult
Honey Sandwich Elizabeth Honey Allen & Unwin Children’s Poetry
Man Drought Rachael Johns Harlequin Adult Romance
Songs for My Thongs Colin Thiele Rigby Children’s Poetry
Aunts Uncles Cousins and All Michael Dugan McMillan Children’s Poetry
Behind the Sun Deborah Challinor Harper Collins Adult
A Paddock of Poems Max Fatchen Omnibus Puffin Children’s Poetry
In the Garden of Bad Things Doug Macleod Puffin Children’s Poetry
Been to Yesterdays Lee Bennett Hopkins Wordsong Children’s Poetry
This is Just to Say Joyce Sidman Houghton Miffling Children’s Poetry
We’re Going on a Croc Hunt Laine Mitchell Scholastic Picture Book
I Love You Too Stephen Michael King Scholastic Picture Book
Bureau of Mysteries & the Mechanomancers HJ Harper Random House Children’s
Paper Chains Nicola Moriarty Random House Adult

Of Poetry Collections

I’ve been pondering poetry of late, particular poetry for children, inspired both by some study I’m doing and by the rediscovery of some of the poems of my childhood, including that of A. A.  Milne, some of the earliest poetry I remember loving  (along with Dr Seuss).

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that makes a poem, the different forms used, and the ways that poetry is collected.  The poetry I’ve been sampling is pretty varied – from Blake, to Ted Hughes,  to AA Milne , to Michael Rosen and more. And, of course, because I’m a proud Aussie, I’ve been revisiting some of my favourite Australian poets. Which has reminded me that there aren’t a lot of children’s poetry books published in Australia, particularly single author collections. For now I’m not going to attempt to analyse why – that’s perhaps a whole series of blog posts.  Instead, I thought I’d start with a list of the poetry collections published in recent years. Initially I looked for those published in t past 5 years, and asked friends on Twitter and Facebook to help.  I ended up with a few titles that were more than five years, but in order to prevent the list being too depressingly short, I’ve kept those in.

So, here it is, my list of single-poet poetry collections for children published in recent years.  I’m hoping I’ve missed some, and that this post will draw some comments from those who remember what I and my friends haven’t.

From Lorraine Marwood:

A Ute Picnic (Walker Books, 2010)

Note on the Door (Walker Books 2011)

Guinea Pig Town  and Other Animal Poems (Walker Books, 2013)

Redback Mansion (Five Islands Press, 2002)


Elizabeth Honey

Mongrel Doggerel (Allen & Unwin, 1998)

The Moon in the Man (Allen & Unwin, 2002)

Honey Sandwich   (Allen & Unwin, 1993)

I’m Still Awake Still  (Allen & Unwin, 2008)


Steven Herrick

Untangling Spaghetti (UQP, 2008)


Doug McLeod

 Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns (most recently Working Title Press, 2012)


Colin Thompson

 There’s something really nasty on the bottom of my shoe (Hodder, 2003)

My Brother Drinks Out Of The Toilet (Hodder, 2000)

The Dog’s Just Been Sick in the Honda (Hodder, 1999)


Meredith Costain

Doodledum Dancing (Penguin, 2006)


Anne Bell

Muster Me a Song (Triple D Books, 2002)


Christobel Mattingley

Nest Egg: A Clutch of Poems (Triple D Books, 2005)


Max Fatchen

Poetry Allsorts (Triple D Books,  2003)


Andrew Lansdown

Allsorts: Poetry Tricks and Treats (Wombat Books)


Rosemary Milne

There’s a Goat in My Coat (Allen & Unwin, 2010)

Duncan Ball

My Sister Has a Big Black Beard (Harper Collins, 2009)

Michelle A. Taylor

If the World Belonged to Dogs (UQP, 2007)


Janeen Brian

By Jingo! (ABC Books, 2005)


Geoffrey McSkimming

Ogre in a Toga (Scholastic, 2007)

John Hay-Mackenzie

Cautionary tales for boys and girls (Murdoch Books, 2009)


Jill McDougall

Anna the goanna: and other poems (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2008)


So, have I missed any? If you know of any single poet collections published in Australia in recent years, do drop me a line and I’ll add them. I haven’t included verse novels here, because I’m intending to compose a separate list of these, and perhaps also  of anthologies.

Allsorts: Poetry Tricks and Treats, by Andrew Lansdown

This book is aptly named as it contains all sorts of sweet delights. If you are a teacher feeling a bit lost about teaching poetry in class, or just someone who wants to learn more about the craft of poetry, you will find this book an invaluable tool.

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

This book is aptly named as it contains all sorts of sweet delights. If you are a teacher feeling a bit lost about teaching poetry in class, or just someone who wants to learn more about the craft of poetry, you will find this book an invaluable tool.

Not only is Andrew Lansdown one of Australia’s best imagist poets, but included in the book are some personal observations about poetry, the best way to write a limerick, where ideas come from and ideas for writing poems as well as outlining different ways of writing e.g. quatrain, haiku, rhymed poem, sonnet or tanka.

Andrew explains techniques such as assonant rhyme, couplets, and alternating rhyme just to name a few and talks about ways of creating sound effects in poems using devices like onomatopoeia or rhyming tercets, and examples of using assonance, imagery or metaphor. To make it even easier for teachers and students of poetry, he has included an index which highlights each poem’s form and poetic techniques. So if you are looking for a ballad, a syllabic poem, a rhyming quatrain, sestet, or a villanelle, it points you in the right direction of examples. The index also highlights specific topics e.g. poems concerning animals, home, imagination, ocean or birds, which Andrew Lansdown is particularly fond of writing about.

Poems are arranged according to colour- the colours of liquorice allsorts. Colours are red, yellow, white, green, orange and black. Some of the poems in this collection are humorous and whimsical, like The Snaffle and There was an African Lion or The Elephant who Lost His Tail. Others are delicate snapshots.  Among my favourites are Fuchsia Wrens, Summer, The Japanese Gardener, Dressed to Kill, Genesis, Christmas Tree and Ball of Gold.

Andrew Lansdown has the knack of showing us that a poem can be about any subject even pesky mosquitoes. He provides plenty of examples to make you think differently about things or to make you laugh or smile. Wombat Books and Studio Journal are to be congratulated for collaborating to produce such a great collection of poems for children and adults to enjoy.

Allsorts: Lightt Hearted Poems for Light Hearted People

Allsorts: Poetry Tricks and Treats, by Andrew Lansdown

Wombat Books

RRP $24.95
Write and read with Dale

If the World Belonged to Dogs, by Michelle A. Taylor

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

Written due to an Australia Council literary grant, If the World Belonged to Dogs is a welcome addition to the sometimes sadly lacking library of good poetry books for children. Many of the poems in the collection appeared in School Magazine, which over many years has been responsible for publishing a number of Australia’s leading and upcoming writers.

Michelle A Taylor has captured the playful humour and inquisitive nature of children, starting right from the first short poem, Where is Wednesday?

In the middle of the sandwich
Neither here nor there
That no-man’s land
Where the week begins to bend
Too late for the beginning
Too early for the end.

The simple rhyme coming in the last two lines ties the poem together neatly.

Taylor shows great insight into the interests of children. Her comparison regarding What Does Friday Look Like? is fresh, interesting and, above all, child centred and I loved How to Catch a Hiccup and also the image of fairies hiding rainbows in When it rains, Do Fairies? What young child hasn’t pondered about the habits of fairies and what they get up to?

This collection contains an interesting mix of poems. Taylor knows when to use rhyme to effect and when to leave it alone or use only internal rhyme. Her images are visual and vital. I defy you not to be able to see the scene in the opening of A Paddock Full of Poems which takes its title from A Paddock Of Poems, the Max Fatchen collection of poems for children.

And suddenly,
the paddock is full of poems,
pushing their way in
through the barbed wire fence,
galloping bareback
on the black mares,
their manes wild in the breeze.

In the title poem, the playful and visual imagery, of each person in the family portrayed as a dog, is sure to amuse children and have them thinking which kinds of dogs their own family members might resemble. The ending in particular will bring a wry smile to any face:

And my dog would put on its glasses
then say with a smile

‘Dogs do not think they are human
but they know that humans are dogs.’

In the hands of an imaginative teacher this poem, and indeed this whole collection, could provide food for thought and discussion perhaps.

The collection is divided into nine sections: Fantastical Nonsense, (which contains some of my favourites) Creatures Great and Small, Families, Bread and Butter, A. B.C, Disgusting Habits, Goosebumps, A Big Country, and Lazy Bones and Lullabies. Between them all, it has poems to please any taste. I’m sure the poems collected in Disgusting Habits, and Goosebumps, will appeal particularly to boys in the 8-10 age group.

One of the poems that appealed to me was The Ocean in Different Clothes where Michelle A. Taylor captured the essence of two different cultures according to the ocean at their shores.

A fun read, this book is a must for any library, classroom or anyone with an interest in contemporary children’s poetry.

If the World Belonged to Dogs, by Michelle A. Taylor
University of Queensland Press 2007
ISBN 978 0 7022 3609
PB RRP $16.95


Dale Harcombe has had poems published in many of Australia’s literary magazines and newspapers. Ginninderra Press published ‘Kaleidoscope’ her first collection of poetry in 2005. You can read several of her poems at She also writes poems for children, some of which have appeared in School Magazine or been published by Harcourt Education.