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.
the paddock is full of poems,
pushing their way in
through the barbed wire fence,
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 www.daleharcombe.com She also writes poems for children, some of which have appeared in School Magazine or been published by Harcourt Education.