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.

Jinxed, by Jill McDougall

Thelma and Louise aren’t anything like I imagined. What do you think of when I say the words Siamese mice? Be honest now. Do you think of long slinky coats and almond-shaped eyes and exotic whiskers?
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
Thelma and Louise have brown fur, long tails and bat ears. They aren’t a bit interested in learning tricks. And they have a major problem with sleeping. For the past week, they’ve spent every entire night scratching and chewing and running on their plastic wheel. Like, haven’t they heard of coffee breaks.

Jinx loves jokes, but sometimes her efforts are unappreciated – and sometimes they land her in trouble. When she accidentally breaks a pet python’s glass box, she has to pay for it –which means she needs money fast.
Dad wants Jinx to come and work in his bakery, but Jinx can’t think of anything worse. She tries everything to make some quick cash. Then when she sees two mice being offered a free home, she sees a money-making opportunity. Can she teach the mice some tricks – or is the joke on her?

Jinxed is a humorous novel for upper primary aged readers, with interest enough to carry through to lower secondary readers. The short length and fast paced action will keep even reluctant readers engaged, and the mix of mice, pythons, jokes and multi-text types including lists, emails and jokes means there is plenty happening.

An excellent read and an attractively packaged book.

Jinxed, by Jill McDougall
Walker Books, 2008

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

The Swamp Monster, by Jill McDougall

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan


Excited about spending a week with their Aunt Hettie, Alice and Poppy discover their Aunt has special plans for them and they are not what the girls expected. Their week long holiday turns into an adventure as the girls wade through mud searching for the elusive swap monster for Aunt Hettie’s latest documentary.

Alice and Poppy do not share their aunt’s enthusiasm and in an effort to convince her to let them have a fun day in Sparkle Bay, they devise a plan and bring the swamp to her. As developers move in to make room for a monster shopping centre it seems that the swamp monster’s only habitat will be gone forever, and the swamp monster with it.

As Aunt Hettie shows the girls photos of the swamp monster as a baby, Alice realises there is still a chance to save the swamp monster and the development is stopped.

Conservation is an important issue and one that children eagerly embrace. The Swamp Monster uses the contrast between development and conservation as the conflict in this story and it is the children who find a way to overcome this conflict. The story has a delightfully humorous thread running through it and whilst conservation and preserving habitats is the theme of the story, it is not forced on to the reader. Jill McDougall presents conservation in a subtle way by having Poppy and Alice explore the swamp environment and make the association between the photos of a baby swamp monster and the swamp water they collected as part of their “plan”.

Annie White’s illustrations compliment the humour in the text and capture the expressions and the emotions of the characters.

Era Publications puts The Swamp Monster at a year 4 reading level, however I gave it to a year 2 reader who understood the theme and read the book independently. This is an enjoyable book and I liked the way humour is used to highlight the conservation theme through a story, as well as having the children solve the problem. The Swamp Monster is suitable for independent readers and would be a wonderful stocking filler for Christmas or as part of a school library

The Swamp Monster is available from Era Publications (www.erapublications.com), into schools and through selected bookstores

The Swamp Monster, by Jill McDougall
Era Publications, 2007
PB rrp $7.50
ISBN 978-174-120303-5


Become a Children’s Writer, by Jill McDougall

What better way to learn about writing children’s books, than to get personal advice from someone who has written more than ninety-five of them? Jill McDougall is a multi-published children’s book author and in her new ebook, Become a Children’s Writer: Insider Secrets, she offers new writers the benefit of her experience.

McDougall offers practical advice on a range of topics, including getting started, finding ideas, gaining feedback and, importantly, finding markets. She also shares links to dozens of publishers which accept unsolicited manuscripts, saving the new writer hours of browsing.

McDougall’s style is upfront and open. She shares stories of her own mistakes and successes, gives hints ranging from biggies about submission procedures down to smaller (but no less relevant) matters like the colour of your printer paper, and generally inspires with her honesty and enthusiasm.

Whilst this offering is especially aimed at new and aspiring children’s authors, there are plenty of reminders for published authors, and the list of markets is in itself worth the cost of the book.

An outstanding resource.

Become a Children’s Writer: Insider Secrets, by Jill McDougall
http://www.jillmcdougall.com.au/, 2007

Seriously Alex, by Jill McDougall

Alex isn’t impressed when he’s invited to stay with his cousin Erin for a week. Not only is Erin better at everything than Alex, she also happens to live on a crocodile farm. A whole week surrounded by crocodiles is not Alex’s idea of fun.

Still, when one of the crocodiles is stolen, Alex and Erin are soon on the trail, working together to get it back.

Seriously Snappy is a funny tale that kids ages 7 to 12 will love. What they’ll love even more is that when they’re finished it they can turn the book over for another story – Seriously Creepy – in which Alex and Erin go camping at a campsite visited by a cave monster.

Seriously Alex is a Banana Split title from innovative young publisher Banana Books. Jill McDougall’s humorous stories are well complemented by the illustrations of Deborah Baldassi.

A fun read.

Seriously Alex, by Jill McDougall
Banana Books, 2003