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.

Selby Sprung, by Duncan Ball

How many adventures can one little dog have? Lots, especially if that dog is Selby the talking dog, back in this the sixteenth Selby book. This time Selby falls out of a plane, almost gets eaten by a savage Shark Man on death Island, and has to stop a runaway train.

I want to warn you that something terrible happens, and you’ll see when you get to the end. I’m not dead or anything, so don’t worry, but after all these years and so many close calls about keeping it a secret that I know ho to talk –
I better not tell you any more or I’ll spoil it.

How many adventures can one little dog have? Lots, especially if that dog is Selby the talking dog, back in this the sixteenth Selby book. This time Selby falls out of a plane, almost gets eaten by a savage Shark Man on death Island, and has to stop a runaway train. But, worst of all, he is being pursued by the Evil Genius Morrie Artie, who is desperately combing Australia to prove that the talking dog really exists – and to use him in all sorts of ways. Is Selby’s secret about to be revealed to the world?

Selby Sprung offers all the fun and adventure that young readers have come to expect from the series, with humorous adventures, twists and turns and all round silliness. Illustrations (by Allan Stomann) scattered throughout the book add visual appeal, and some chapters are written in diary format by Selby himself.

As with previous titles, this one stands alone, but will encourage readers new to the series to seek the others out.

Doggone good stuff.

Selby Sprung

Selby Sprung, by Duncan Ball
Angus & Robertson, 2011
ISBN 0780732292638

This book is available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

My Sister Has a Big Black Beard, by Duncan Ball

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

Considering the dearth of poetry books around for children and the number of teachers crying out for them, plus the fact this collection is written by Duncan Ball who already has an established following with his Selby and Emily Eyefingerbooks, this book should do extremely well.

In these poems Duncan Ball’s quirky sense of humour and playful use of words and rhyme is sure to appeal to children. This is evident in the title poem and also in his ability to pick up something as small and insignificant as a bookmark or a mozzie bite shows there is nothing outside the scope of poetry.

Readers might even learn something about spelling as in the humorous Old Mrs McKeller.

This book is destined to be a hit with children who will chuckle over the poems. It is one where everyone is going to have their particular favourites, whether it is the long narrative of Amanda Hass who eats glass, or the pitfalls of eating food past its prime as in Quentin’s Lunch. One I liked was

All Poemed out
I’m poemed out
I’m poemed out
I’ve just developed poem doubt
I don’t know what to write about.

could easily be expressing the feeling of any child told to write a poem in class.

There’s the innate honesty in Epitaph for Lonely Man. What child can fail to feel the impatience of waiting to get out of school and the exuberance of Daylight Savings Spent?
It’s three o’clock
It’s three o’clock
It’s I-will-soon-be-free o’clock

The whimsical black and white illustrations by Kerry Millard add to the text. I especially liked the one of Moncrieff, Mrs McKeller’s butler with his imperious look and the humorous drawing that accompanies Uncle Norm.

My Sister Has a Big Black Beard and Other Quirky Verses

My Sister Has a Big Black Beard and Other Quirky Verses, by Duncan Ball, illustrated by Kerry Millard
HarperCollins Australia, 2009
PB RRP $14.99
This review first appeared online at Write and Read With Dale. It is reprinted here with permission.

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Joke's on Selby, by Duncan Ball

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

Not realizing what I was starting, I first gave my grandson a Selby book a year or so ago. He loved it so much he has since gone on to read and re-read several others. In fact I suspect he’s angling to end up with the whole Selby collection – all 19 of them.

Duncan Ball has a sense of humour that reaches out to children. His wordplay is very clever. They are a good, fun read. The Joke’s on Selby is no exception. It features Garry Gaggs the comedian who is back in Bogusville, where Selby and the Trifles live, to do his comedy act. What’s more, he’s staying at the Trifle’s house, which presents Selby with a problem. He knows he dare not laugh at Garry’s jokes which are so awful, they’re funny. Do that and his secret would be out. Selby decides he has no choice but to make a run for it.

When the librarian is threatening to blow up the school, Selby finds a creative and fun way to calm her down.

Garry has a list of heckler busters that usually work but suddenly he strikes a heckler who is not so easily put off. Garry dubs him the phantom heckler and threatens to quit being a comedian. Once again Selby comes to the rescue and uncovers the culprit. When he finds out who is responsible, Garry is extremely surprised and has to take drastic steps.

This collection of stories is as funny as the other Selby books. Kids will love it. It’s no wonder the Selby books were awarded the Kroc (Kids Reading Oz Choice) Series Award winner.

The Joke’s on Selby ,By Duncan Ball
ISBN: 9780732288624
Published by Angus&Robertson
An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Australia
RRP $12.95

Eyespy Emily Eyefinger, by Duncan Ball

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

My grandson is a huge fan of Duncan Ball’s Selby books, and is collecting them at a great rate. I have to say I have enjoyed those of the Selby books I have read too so I was interested to read this Emily Eyefinger book. Eyespy Emily Eyefinger is a compilation of 4 books which were previously published as books 5-8 in the Emily Eyefinger series.

Emily Eyefinger has an advantage over many of us. She has an extra eye, on the end of her finger. She discovers, and readers will too, that it can become very handy for solving problems.

Duncan Ball displays the same quirky humour in this book as in the Selby books. In the first story Emily introduces the reader to the ‘Mouse Code’ she and her friend Malcolm have devised. By cracking the mouse code, she learns her friend and his father, Professor Mousefinder, are in trouble. She convinces the soldiers to take her along on their rescue mission. Crawling through the jungle she finds her eyefinger comes in very handy.

Emily is a daring, enthusiastic, likeable and inventive main character who helps solve problems for those she cares about. A kind hearted girl, Emily helps her friend Janey who is in danger of losing the part she covets in a movie and helps her teacher, Ms Plump with the opera she is in. Emily manages to always be in the right place to help her friends or just when trouble is around.

For me it lacked a little of the charm and fun of the Selby books, though I’m sure avid Emily Eyefinger fans might not agree. And maybe I’m just a sucker for dog stories. However, I’m sure children will relate to Emily and enjoy her adventures. Readers from around 7 and upwards will enjoy this book and it would be a good introduction for anyone who has not met Emily Eyefinger before.

The end of the book contains an interesting anecdote from Duncan Ball which explains how Emily Eyefinger came to be.

Eyespy Emily Eyefinger, by Duncan Ball , Illustrated by Craig Smith
Angus&Roberston an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN 13:978 0 7322 8637 8

Selby Santa, by Duncan Ball

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

Selby is back in another series of crazy adventures centred on Christmas, as Selby sets out to prove the existence of Santa Claus. In this book, the fifteenth in the Selby series, Selby again gets himself in and back out of a number of scrapes and awkward situations, especially when he tries to stand in for Santa in a flying sleigh invented by Dr Trifle. During his escapades Selby meets some interesting characters, one of whom is inspired after meeting Selby to write a series about Blake Romano and his secret agent dog.

I particularly liked the story of Selby making Christmas ‘pressies’ for the Trifles and the way even when Selby gets things wrong, it somehow works out right. Selby’s insights into people are priceless, like Aunt Jetty who he describes as having, ‘the feelings of a flea.’

The quirky situations, word play and humour make these stories a joy to read. The collection includes a play and a couple of Selby’s poems. This is a book children will pick up and chuckle over time and time again. I know my grandson will. He started with his father reading him ‘Selby Shattered.’ In the end he couldn’t wait for Dad to get around to reading the next chapter, so started reading it himself. Though at least a couple of years under the age group these books are intended for, he was so captivated by this talking dog and his antics that he has read several Selby books since. They are his favourite chapter books.

I can’t wait see his face when he receives Selby Santa at Christmas. I’m sure he’ll be delighted with this new addition, which includes some of the usual characters like Selby’s owners, Dr and Mrs Trifle and Garry Gaggs as well as the usual inclusion of Paw notes that refer readers to stories from other Selby books. Selby Santa also includes 15 Christmas stickers. The book is sure to be a hit with kids of all ages.

Selby Santa by Duncan Ball
Published by Angus&Robertson – an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, Australia
Paperback 175 pages
RRP $12.99
Published November 2007
ISBN 9780732286798
suitable for ages 7 and up

Emily Eyefinger and the City in the Sky, by Duncan Ball

Suddenly the prescriptions man screamed, ‘She’s got a gun! She’s got a gun! It’s the witch again!’
The lipstick woman froze. Slowly, she put her hands in the air.
‘Don’t shoot!’ she said. ‘Take the lipstick! It’s yours!’ With this, she dropped to the floor behind the counter.
‘Wait!’ Emily said. ‘It’s not a real gun. Look! It’s plastic!’

When Emily and her friend Janey dress as witches to practice for a play, they don’t realise the trouble it will cause. But why are the people at the pharmacy so scared of two girls in costume? Emily and the eye on the end of her finger are going to investigate.

Emily Eyefinger is a normal girl with a fairly extraordinary extra eye – on the end of her finger. It has all kinds of uses, especially for solving mysteries or getting out of scrapes, because with her extra eye Emily can see into all sorts of things that ordinary eyes can’t.

Emily Eyefinger and the City in the Sky is the tenth book of stories about Emily and her adventures, told by one of Australia’s best-loved children’s writers, Duncan Ball, perhaps best known for his stories of Selby, the talking dog. There are six self-contained stories in the book, perfect for independent reading by kids aged seven to ten.

Lots of fun.

Emily Eyefinger and the City in the Sky, by Duncan Ball
Angus & Robertson, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2006

Selby's Shemozzle, by Duncan Ball

Selby stopped in his tracks. ‘That is so incredibly funny,’ he thought in the split second before he started laughing uncontrollably. He doubled up and fell to the ground, pounding his paws in the dirt. ‘That is sooooooooo funny!’

Selby is back with more side splitting adventures and more shemozzles than one dog could expect in a lifetime. There are fourteen stories all featuring the world’s only talking dog as he gets covered in chocolate, turned invisible, wins the lottery and much more.

As always, Selby’s stories are recounted with the level of clever wit readers have come to expect from the loveable Selby. This is the thirteenth Selby title and marks the 20th anniversary of Selby’s adventures, which makes him one long-living dog.

Kids love Selby, and Selby’s Shemozzle is sure to please.

Selby’s Shemozzle, by Duncan Ball
Harper Collins, 2005

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle, by Duncan Ball

‘Stop the horse!’ the woman yelled. ‘Pull harder!’
‘I-I can’t. There’s something wierd. It’s staring at me.’
‘But it’s facing the other way. How can it be staring at you?’
‘It’s got an eye back here. It’s looking right at me.’

Emily Eyefinger truly lives up to her name – she has an eye on her finger. Having an eye on the end of one your fingers could be problematic – but Emily finds it pretty helpful. She uses her extra eye to solve all sorts of mysteries.

In this, the ninth Emily Eyefinger book, she uses the finger to see out of the back half of a horse suit, catch a quiz cheat, and even to solve an ancient puzzle. Along the way she has lots of fun and adventure.

Emily Eyefinger is the invention of Duncan Ball, perhaps best known for his series about Selby, the talking dog. Ball’s sense of humour and his refusal to let the impossible stand in the way of a good story are what endears him to young readers. His simple language is accessible for struggling readers, without excluding more advanced readers.

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle is sure to please 8 to 10 year old readers.

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle, by Duncan Ball, illustrated by Craig Smith
Harper Collins, 2005

Selby's Selection, by Duncan Ball

A talking dog? Of course there is no such thing – no one you know has ever met one. Or is it, perhaps, that one exists, too cunning to let his secret slip?

Selby is Australia’s most famous dog, yet no one knows his true identity. After he cleverly taught himself to talk, he realised that a talking dog wouldn’t’ get much privacy -–scientists would want to study him, his owners would want him to run errands, and everything would be different. So Selby keeps his identity a secret, sharing his experiences with the children of Australia through the Selby series of books.

Each of the nine previous books shares tales of Selby’s exploits as he leads a double life and gets into some hilarious scrapes. Now in Selby’s Selection he shares the best of his previous adventures, interspersed with some special treats” Selby’s favorite jokes, funny poems and songs, as well as profiles of Selby’s human friends and more.

Long time Selby fans will love this collection and newcomers will find this alluring enough to seek out the rest of the series.

Duncan Ball has won numerous awards and accolades for the Selby books, as well as for his many other books for children and adults, including the Emily Eyefinger series about the girl with an eye on the end of her finger. The Selby books have been published overseas.

For more information, visit Selby at his web site.

Selby’s Selection, by Duncan Ball
Angus & Robertson, 2001.

A Taste

On opening night a full house watched in silence as the Stage Stompers performed the first act of The Enchanted Dog and Selby waited behind the rock for his big moment. The magic of the play began to bring out the actor in him and he felt his heart throb when Postie Paterson gagged on the enchanted pawpaw and staggered towards him.

Not waiting to be pushed, Selby leaped out from behind the rock as soon as Postie fell behind it. He jumped into the spotlight and stood there on his hind legs, turning from side to side so the audience could get a look at him.

‘This is wonderful!’ Selby thought…