Bully on the Bus, by Kathryn Apel

She’s big.
She’s smart.
She’s mean.
She’s the bully on the bus.
She picks on me and I don’t like it.

I don’t know
how to make her

Leroy has a problem, and it’s a big one. There’s a bully on his school bus – and she’s bigger than him, bigger than his sister Ruby, even as big as his mum. DJ goes to the high school, but she doesn’t want to be there. Leroy likes school, but he doesn’t like the bus, especially when DJ is on it. Leroy needs a secret weapon, but when he finds it he wonders if it will be enough to silence the bully.

Bully on the Bus is a gorgeous new verse novel for younger readers. Leroy and his family are realistic and well-drawn, as is the situation he finds himself in. The resolution, too, is clever, and shows Leroy drawing on the help of those around him but, ultimately, being key to fixing the problem.

This is Apel‘s first foray into the verse novel form, but hopefully it won’t be her last. She handles it deftly and with sensitivity.

Bully on the Bus, by Kathryn Apel
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702253287

Available from good bookstores and online.

Meet My Book: Guinea Pig Town and Other Poems, by Lorraine Marwood

I’m really pleased today to welcome brilliant poet, Lorraine Marwood, to the Aussiereviews blog. Lorraine has agreed to take part in the ‘Meet My Book’ feature. Over to Lorraine, and her answers to my questions.

1. Give us details: title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

My latest title is  Guinea Pig town and other poems about animals. Published by Walker Books Australia, illustrated by Amy Daoud and the release date was 1st April 2013.

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems

2. Why did you write the book?

I already have two collections of poetry with Walker and after discussion with my publisher we wanted a brand new collection of poems all about animals.

3. How long from idea to publication?

About 18 months of intense writing, re-writing, editing.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

I think the hardest part was the whole nebulous idea of an animal poetry collection , but once the title poem was written (I wrote and sent poems in batches to be read by my publisher and editor) then the whole book suddenly took shape and direction.

5. The coolest thing about your book.

There were several cool moments- one was writing a flamingo poem after a visit to a restaurant garden several floors up in London (with flamingos)and after discovering the horn of a narwhal in Scotland. Also the way I wanted the cover designed and the breaking up of chapters into roads, crescents, avenues, all following the lead from the title poem ‘Guinea pig town’.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

That plunging in with an idea gradually takes shape and form and writing directs more writing. (Well I already knew this but it was reinforced.) Also that I love to research facts about an animal before writing. Very important for me as a poet.

7. What did you do to celebrate the release?

I had two fabulous launches on the one day sponsored by the local Bendigo library and the wonderful children’s librarian Tammy complete with an animal farm for kids to hold guinea pigs. There was a huge response.

8. And how will you promote the book?

Through facebook, school visits, my own blog and the writing of a poetry strategy to share the love of animals and poetry.

9 What are you working on next?

Ah, a bigger novel, another verse novel and of course I’d love to write another poetry collection- any ideas for themes?

10. Where can we find out more about you and your book?

Through my web site. www.lorrainemarwood.com
through the Walker Books website and through my blog.

Also I have a facebook author page

Thanks Sally for a great Aussiereviews site.

Lorraine Marwood

Thanks Lorraine. You can see my review of Guinea Pig Town here

Watermelon on My Plate, by Paddy Dewan

Some of the best poems in the book are the shape poems, which young readers will enjoy because words and pictures come together to create a whole, so that in the poem about a bicycle wheel , the lines of poetry are spokes in the illustrated wheel

The pages of this slim volume are filled with poems on a range of topics – from natural features such as clouds, to animals including mice and roosters, to fantastical creatures such as dragons. The poet, Paddy Dewan, takes interesting angles on things such as paintings hanging on walls, which can ‘tell a story’ or ‘reflect past glory’, encouraging young readers to stop and think about the topics.

Some of the best poems in the book are the shape poems, which young readers will enjoy because words and pictures come together to create a whole, so that in  the poem about a bicycle wheel , the lines of poetry are spokes in the illustrated wheel and the reader needs to figure out where to start reading.  In ‘Cloudie’ the poem drifts through pictures of clouds.

Other poems are rhymed and, although some of the rhymes seem forced (such as the phrase  ‘stare your eye’, used to rhyme with ‘piled up high’), the topic and perspectives are interesting, and the black and white illustrations on every spread are really endearing. The book’s size and cover are unusual, being small format with a glossy softback cover, giving it a slightly historical feel in keeping with the traditional nature of much of  the poetry.

Watermelon on My Plate
Watermelon on My Plate, by Paddy Dewan, illustrated by Ros Care
Papyrus Publishing, 2011
ISBN 9781875934676

A Ute Picnic, by Lorraine Marwood

The sound of heat,
a roar like a sawmill
hungry for wood
that day,
that forty-five degree day

(Black Saturday)

From confronting, but very real, explorations of the realities of bushfire, as above, to the silliness of passersby mistaking a milk tanker for party lights, this poetry collection captures the highs and lows of rural Australian life.

Award-winning poet Lorraine Marwood offers a collection that is very Australian, and which delights in its variety. What is common across the collection is the excellence which makes each poem give the reader pause to consider, to enjoy, to celebrate.

Spiders are made fascinating:
of spider
curled against the daylight
waiting for the moon


and cows, which feature prominently (as is to be expected in a rural-themed collection) play follow-the leader (Cow Tracks and Facts) and swing hips in joy of gourmet anticipation (They Buck Only for Oats).

In a classroom setting rural youngsters will delight in the familiarity of the subject matter, and the accuracy of its portrayal, whilst city kids will delight in the novelty of the images. In private, readers will enjoy dipping into the poems one at a time, or reading cover to cover.

A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems is an outstanding poetry collection from an outstanding poet.

A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems

A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems, by Lorraine Marwood
Walker Books, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

There's a Goat in My Coat, by Rosemary Milne

Wriggle and Giggle
Wriggle your fingers
And wriggle your toes
Wriggle your hips
And wriggle your nose
Wriggle your bottom
And wriggle your head
Wriggle and giggle
And jump out of bed!

There’s a Goat in My Coat is a picture-book sized, hard cover collection of poetry from the author of the ‘Playschool’ song ‘There’s a Bear in There’. The opening poem is about getting out of bed, and the final poem rounds off the collection with the same poem, re-jigged for going to bed. In between, there are poems to reflect a wide range of days. Some are nonsense narrative poems like ‘Bouncy Bear’ and the more realist ‘Round and Round the Roundabout’. Others are about slippers and socks and rolling down hills. The title of the collection comes from a poem called ‘I’m a Walking Zoo’, a nonsense rhyming poem. There are long poems and short ones and following around the page ones. Illustrations range from real to absurd and are loose watercolours and pencil.

It’s clear from the outset, that There’s a Goat in My Coat is going to be a fun collection for young children. It’s silly and funny and perfect to read out loud. The content is styled to make the listening to the individual words and lines as much fun as the poem itself. There’s a mixture of poetic styles too, with rhyming poems, rhythmic ones, and others that employ repetition to good effect. There are poems that ask to be acted out, poems for counting, observational poems, something for every taste. The illustrations add to the humour and fun. Some are full colour, others are set in white space. Front endpapers are set on the same sunny yellow as the cover, while the end endpapers reflect the going to bed of the final poem. A perfect collection to give away as a gift, or to keep to share with your own young children.

There's a Goat in My Coat

There’s a Goat in My Coat, Rosemary Milne, ill Andrew McLean
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781741758917

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Untangling Spaghetti, by Steven Herrick

When my dad heard my brother call me
‘A Dork!’
He said,
‘Jack, we don’t say that word in this house.’
So Jack walked quickly out the back door
Stood in the yard
And yelled at me,
‘You dork!’
In his best older brother voice!

Untangling Spaghetti is a collection of poetry for children from award-winning author and poet Steven Herrick, bringing together poems from his previously published collections . From the funny, like House Rules above, to the silly and even the sad, the collection is fun to browse or to read cover to cover.

Poems are arranged into themes, including House Rules, the Big Match and Seeing the World and demonstrate Herrick’s keen understanding of, and empathy with, a child’s view of the world. He says in his introduction that many of the poems come from the experiences of his own sons and in other poems, including the poetry visitor, Herrick’s own experiences are also obvious.

This wonderful collection deserves a place in school libraries and classrooms, but will also be loved at home.

Untangling Spaghetti: Selected Poems from Steven Herrick

Untangling Spaghetti: Selected Poems, By Steven Herrick
UQP, 2009

Can You Keep a Secret, by Mark Carthew & Jobi Murphy

For anyone who loves nursery rhymes – and for anyone who has yet to discover their wonders- this delightful offering is just perfect. This cushioned hardcover book offers hundreds of rhymes, brightly illustrated and with touches such as the ribbon bookmark making it a great gift and a collector’s item.

From the seemingly universally known rhymes such as Hey diddle diddle, and Mary had a Little Lamb to lesser known ones including Five Bananas, Chubby Little Snow Man and many, many more, there are rhymes to suit every mood or occasion. Compiler Mark Carthew has divided his selections into six categories: Nursery rhymes, Playtime Rhymes, Action rhymes, Counting Rhymes, Finger Rhymes and Lullabies and Gentle Rhymes, and has included a Foreword with a little insight into his selection process.

All rhymes are colourfully illustrated by Jobi Murphy using ink outlines and bright fills. Some pages uses bold or bright backgrounds, whilst others are on white. There is plenty of variety to delight young readers.

This is a volume to be dipped into and to be treasured by young and old. Simply beautiful.

Can You Keep a Secret?

Can You Keep a Secret, by Mark Carthew and Jobi Murphy
Random House Australia, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Anna the Goanna, by Jill McDougall

I had a bike
I really liked
It had no brakes
It had no light…

Opening with the adventures of this bike – and of its rider – Anna the Goanna and Other Poems takes children of all backgrounds on a poetic journey through life in remote communities. Written by the author for the Aboriginal students that’s he taught, to provide some relevant literary experiences, the poems will appeal to Aboriginal students, but will also captivate children (and adults) of all backgrounds.

Some poems capture the fun of childhood, with bike rides, and trips to town and games. Others focus on the sorts of things which might captivate a child’s interest – insects, birds and animals feature strongly here. Still others deal with important social issues including a sobering but insightful look into petrol sniffing in Sad Boys in which a narrator talks about a much loved brother who has been changed by this habit.

The accompanying watercolour illustrations bring alive the colours of the Australian Outback, and capture the mood of each poem, with fun (where appropriate) and also with sensitivity.

This is a beautiful book which kids will love, and which should also find a home in every school in Australia.

Anna the Goanna and Other Poems, by Jill McDougall, illustrated by Jenny Taylor
Aboriginal Studies Press, paperback edition 2008

Ogre in a Toga, by Geoffrey McSkimming

If I were a little Iced Vo-Vo,
then I guess my life would be crummy:
I’d sit around with others the same,
and end up in somebody’s tummy.

Poetry for children should be fun, and what could be more fun than rhymes filled with silliness? In Ogre in a Toga author Geoffrey McSkimming (best known for his Cairo Jim series) provides page after page of silliness, guaranteed to have young readers laughing aloud.

The offerings are varied, ranging from quick limericks to the five part tale of The Vicious Vicuna, and the subject matter is also varied. There are poems about cows, fleas, vicuña (this one had the reviewer scurrying for a dictionary to learn that the vicuña is a real South American animal), as well as fantasy creatures such as the ogre, and plenty about people, too.

McSkimming’s verse is delightful to read and lends itself to oral reading and sharing. The hard cover format of the book and the comic line drawings of illustrator Martin Chatterton add to its child appeal.

Lots of fun.

Ogre in a Toga, by Geoffrey McSkimming
Scholastic Press, 2007

Redback Mansion, by Lorraine Marwood

The sky has bones,
electrical legs
that hip and socket
in neon strides
faster than a rocket.
(Storm, p 29)

Lorraine Marwood’s description of lightning as a skeleton marching in the sky is just one of many vivid and creative descriptions which will delight young readers. In her collection Redback Mansion, Marwood shares 46 poems for children on a wide range of topics.

There are poems about insects (Redback Mansion, Mosquito and others), about the weather (Hot Rain and Storm), and about childhood pleasures like riding a bike (Feel a Bike Rhythm) and making a cubby in a cardboard box (Cubby House). Marwood skilfully looks at everyday objects and events through new eyes. A dog lying on his back in the sun is portrayed as solar-powered:
Much stomach expanse
given to the task
of soaking up the sun.
(Solar Powered Dog, p36)
and a noisy washing machine becomes an earthquake:
I can hear an earthquake coming
thundering, lumbering
coming, coming
feel the floor shake
feel your heart quake.
(Earthquake Coming, p13)

A variety of font sizes and layouts have been used to complement the tone and subject matter of the different poems and the black and white illustrations of Marwood’s daughter Tamara and incredibly talented young artist Joanne McNamara.

Kids will love reading these poems – to themselves or out loud – and teachers will find this offering an excellent classroom tool.


Redback Mansion, by Lorraine Marwood
Five Islands Press, 2002