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.

Unforgotten, by Tohby Riddle

Nobody knows where they come from.
But they come.
Impossible birds of the big sky
and the long night …

Unseen, angles come to Earth to watch over, to warm and to mend. But the harshness of the world, and the vastness of the work required proves too much for one of these silent comforters, and it falls to Earth where , sorely in need of comfort itself, he is at risk of not being able to move any more. His plight is seen and acted upon by an unlikely group of rescuers including a clown, children,  even a patched donkey.

Unforgotten is not a story – it’s an experience. And a lyrical, beautiful experience at that. The text is a poem, a line or two to some pages, and no text on others,whisping its way in white font across black backgrounds. The illustrations are an intriguing montage of photographs and drawings, so that the viewer can explore in detail or simply absorb the whole. An initial reading leaves the reader thinking; rereading provides depth and enhances the wonder of the work.

Suitable for readers of all ages.


Unforgotten, by Tohby Riddle
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742379722

Available from good bookstores and online.

Horizons, edited by Janette Fernando

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

One again Poetic Christi Press has come up with an anthology that represents a cross section of poets and poetry. The striking photograph the front cover beautifully illustrates the theme of the 2010 Poetica Christi poetry contest from which these poems have been selected.

From the personal and poignant picture presented in the winning poem Earthly Ending with its subtle internal rhymes to Miriam, which gives another insight into the story of Moses found by the Pharaoh’s daughter, there is much to like about this book.  It is one I found myself dipping into again and again.

I liked the profound simplicity of To See Further, which was a highly commended entry as was City’s Edge, another highly commended poem. Backyard Horizon: Arundel Street focuses on the small and seemingly insignificant aspects of creation often overlooked. The photograph on the same page compliments it perfectly.

Like any anthology there is a little unevenness in the quality of the poems chosen, but there are still a majority of accomplished poems that resonate with the reader. Some others I particularly like were Horizons. I loved the idea of the sun and the way the poet sees it soak the city salmon pink at sundown. The wonder of a young child’s view is evident in Z in the Sky, a commended poem. But it’s not just the winning and commended poems which are worth reading. You could almost feel the rhythm of the water in Floodtide. Rained-in and But the Sun is a Stone, and The Road to the Coast were others among many favourites. However on further readings I’m sure I’ll find other favourites.


Edited by Janette Fernando

Published by Poetica Christi Press


RRP $20

Sister Madge's Book of Nuns, by Doug MacLeod & Craig Smith

Convents are religious places
Peaceful and sublime
Full of nuns with solemn faces
Praying all the time.
Through the arches dark and lofty
Meek as they can be
All the nuns are treading softly –
All except for me.

So begins Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns a book of irreverent verse which has delighted young readers since its first edition in 1986. Sister Madge Mappin and her fellow sisters from the Convent of Our Lady of Immense Proportions are now back in a new hardcover picture book edition, ready to be discovered by a new generation of readers.

The rollicking poems are silly, irreverent and naughty – but they are laugh out loud funny, cleverly crafted by the talented Doug MacLeod, and brought to life in the illustrations of Craig Smith. As well as Sister Madge, there is Sister Stephanie, a diminutive nun who gets her own back on a store manager who teases her for her shortness, Sister Christabel who adds laughter to the convent with a whoopee cushion and Sister Isobel who innocently (or not) feeds the children to the animals on a zoo visit.

Suitable for primary aged readers right through to adults, it is wonderful  to see this old favourite back in print.

Sister Madge's Book of Nuns

Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns, by Doug MacLeod & Craig Smith
This edition Working Title Press, 2012
ISBN 9781921504433

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

The Owl and the Pussycat, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.

For the many readers who have grown up familiar with the work of Edward Lear, this offering is a delightful opportunity to reconnect, and for those who may perhaps not be familiar with his work, this is a chance to rectify that situation. This hardcover collection of some of his nonsense rhymes including the title poem, The Jumblies and Calico Jam, among others, is sumptuously illustrated by amazing Australian illustrator Robert Ingpen. A special bonus is that as well as bringing each poem to life with his illustrations, Ingpen has added information about the mysterious Bong-Tree and the land where it grows, a homage to Lear and a delight for readers.

Adding to Ingpen’s growing series of illustrated classics, (previous titles include A Christmas Carol, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan and Wendy), The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes is appropriate for child readers and adults alike, and a fitting tribute to mark Edward Lear’s two hundredth birthday.

The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes, by Edward Lear, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 9781921977596

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

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

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

Note on the Door, by Lorraine Marwood

Perfect both for the classroom and for private reading, this is a volume which will gladden every poetry lover’s heart – and switch others on to the sheer pleasure which poetry can bring.

This is just to tell you
that your bedroom
rotted away
at 9.15 am
this morning.

Thus begins the title poem of this wonderful collection, a poem pleasantly reminiscent of William Carlos Williams This is Just to Say, which young readers may be unfamiliar with, but one which this modern poem could be used to introduce and compare. And that’s the wonderful appeal of this collection – it can be read and enjoyed cover to cover, but can also be used to explore poetry well beyond its pages, as well as to open discussion and exploration of a wide range of themes.

From fun poems about messy bedrooms or getting out of chores, to acute observations about everyday things such as spilling milk, spinning like an acrobat to land
all over
the most extensive area,
of my mother’s
newly washed
kitchen floor.

and to explorations of truly sad events – a boy burying his dead cat, with blisters, a kind of hand weeping,Marwood shows her poetic dexterity time and again. The use of line drawings, photos and, of course, in keeping with the title, pieces of notepaper, adds visual appeal.

Perfect both for the classroom and for private reading, this is a volume which will gladden every poetry lover’s heart – and switch others on to the sheer pleasure which poetry can bring.

Note on the Door and Other Poems About Family Life

Note on the Door and Other Poems About Family Life, by Lorraine Marwood
Walker Books, 2011
ISBN 9781921720611

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