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

For Weddings and a Funeral, edited by John Marsden

John Marsden is best known for his books for children and young adults, including the unforgettable Tomorrow series. Here, though, he offers something very different – an anthology of poems for special occassions – most specifically for reading at weddings and funerals. It was put together, Marsden says in his introduction, to offer a selection of special poems to add a personal touch to events – so that everyone who takes part in ceremoniies (can) have something chosen specifically for the occasion.

The weddings section of the book offers well known pieces such as Marlowe’s ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the pussycat’ as well as lesser known offerings such as a translated Apache Song. The funeral section is similarly diverse, with offerings from Emily Dickinson, WB Yeats, Robert Louis Stevenson and many more.

This is a special collection with a lovely selection of peoms for special occasions.

For Weddings and a Funeral, edited by John Marsden
Pan, 2006

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

Walk in the Forest, by Meryl Brown Tobin

Reviewed by Christine Edwards

Walk in the Forest is the first solo collection of poems by Meryl Brown Tobin. It brings together poetry that has been anthologised in a diverse range of magazines, broadsheets and journals; some have won awards, others broadcast on radio.

Many poems give voice to the poet’s concerns about world peace and justice. She ensures the reader’s discomfort by questioning morality and the condoning of conflict through silence. Tobin’s message is powerfully evoked through keen irony in ‘Tripping the New Millenium’, where following the ‘Killing, killing, killing’ on a global scale comes the question: ‘How about a trip around Australia?’. Western apathy to the plight of human suffering is evident in ‘East Timor’. ‘Rag Dolls’ is a simple but haunting epiphany of the Kurd slaughters. Tobin always comments with deep compassion about contemporary conflicts, highlighting the permanent scars of war where there are no victors.

Her work equally reflects on the importance of everyday relationships, of achieving personal harmony and a fulfilling existence. Hence sections under ‘People’ and ‘Reflection’ evoke the beauty and gentleness of humanity: ‘I drink riches / from others’ thoughts / pour what I have to share / Open to the world’. Inspiring words from ‘Cup’.

In her concern for the environment, Tobin’s poetry brings to mind the phrase ‘Take only photographs, leave only footprints’. She teases readers with the mysteries of Big Cats and Thylacines (‘Sestina: Striped Mystery’) and impresses on us the need to be responsible caretakers of nature: ‘We return as hordes surge in / a babble in a multitude of tongues / St. Kilda Beach transposed / … / Katatjuta’s sunset approaches/’.

Perhaps her three-lined poem ‘Principle of Life’ best sums up the beauty and thoughtfulness, and ultimately uplifting sentiments of this collection: ‘With love and truth your guides / leading through good and evil / take on the world’.

A 120 page A5 paperback with a full-colour laminated cover, Walk in the Forest is available from Readings and selected bookstores and newsagents for RRP $17.50 or direct from the publisher, Ningan Publishing, c/- P0, Grantville, 3984 (P&H incl in price).

Reviewed by Melbourne writer, Christine Edwards, whose latest novel is On Board the Boussole (My Story Series, Scholastic Press, 2002).


Meet the Monsters, by Max Fatchen

This fun book has three things kids like – rhyme, silliness and monsters. As such, it is sure to be a hit. The book contains fifteen illustrated poems on the subject of monsters.

From short limerick-style rhymes, to longer narrative poems and with a wide variety of monsters – including bunyips, sea monsters and monsters under the bed – there is a rhyme to tickle the fancy of every young reader. The comic and colourful acrylic illustrations of Cheryll Johns will also delight.

Great for individual or home reading, this would also make an excellent classroom resource for poetry sharing with students. Many of the poems would also be suitable for class performance.

Lots of fun.

Meet the Monsters, by Max Fatchen, illustrated by Cheryll Johns
Omnibus, 2004

Mind's Eye , by Wendy Laing

Reviewed by Molly Martin

This is a delightful little work of twenty-two stimulating odes written for and about everything from the writer’s pets to what might have been ‘IF.’

Within the lines of “That’s Life” is presented: ‘The future will happen, despite what we ask. The present is precious, a time to enjoy all life’s moments, pain, hope and joy.’ Laing introduces Kaspar in “My Best Mate”, along with “Unspoken Love” portraying the unspoken devotion of a dog. I especially enjoyed odes “Cats” and “Break of Day” which are both directed toward my favourite critter: cats.

The question of what might have been is asked in the ode: “If”. ‘Have you ever wondered what might have been, if you’d been born of a different being?’ “Games that we Played” and “Summer Daze” ‘Just ponder about this lovely vision of two young girls, having loads of fun, in the long days and the hot summer sun’ forward the idea of childhood happiness. “Day Dream” time ruminations during a walk in nature, “I am What I Am” lauding an acceptance of self while “The Cross”, written about soldiers, along with “Magical Mist” (‘Our home town framed by this special treat. The magical mist spell was now complete!’) are guileless fine reading.

“Twilight Years” (‘Some of these folk, at the sunset of life are unable to talk, but manage in spite of all odds, to smile from inside.’) and “A Tranquil Walk” offer plain feel-good odes, while “Tinderbox” and “One Careless Match” are written about a scourge here in the US as well as in Australia. Wild fire is a terrifying experience when viewed close up or from afar.

“Forget-Me-Not” with ‘A Cottage and garden called Forget-Me-Not’, “The Trek” and “Seduction” each hold a surprise for the reader to enjoy. “Grains of Time” is Laing at her poignant best.
“The Light of Hope” and “An Ode to the Phantom Light” are written following Laing’s visit to a lighthouse. Writer Laing again proves her marvelous talent as author, children’s writer, poet. “Mind’s Eye”, filled with twenty-two very enjoyable works is a treat. The vast array of subject matter has proven no undue challenge for author Laing. Each ode is marvelously wrought.

The book is a perfect companion to a warm sunny afternoon sipping lemonade in the hammock on the porch, or curled up with a cup of hot chocolate in a huge chair in front of the fire in the midst of a January snow storm.

Mind’s Eye, by Wendy Laing
Crystal Dreams, 2002

The Moon in the Man, by Elizabeth Honey

Rhyming is fun. Kids love the magic of a poem – whether it tells a story, plays with a rhythm or simply explores the fun of words.

The Moon in the Man is a magical new collection of poetry from Elizabeth Honey, which kids will adore, and parents and teachers will love reading and sharing.

Full of fun and simple rhymes and finger plays, accompanied by bright colourful illustrations, the book will help students to enjoy and improvise with language.

Poems include short whimsical rhymes and loads of finger plays complete with diagrams to show the actions. And if these aren’t enough you can see Elizabeth Honey performing these rhymes on the net at www.allenandunwin.com/moonintheman.asp.

If that is not enough, there are also longer poems perfect for clapping, clicking or tapping along to, building on children’s love of rhythm, and, to finish the books, a couple of quieter, reflective ones.

This is poetry collection which should have a place in every kindergarten, playgroup, child care centre and school, but which is also perfect for sharing at home. Children will love to come back to their favourite rhymes over and over, and will quickly start to memorise the words and read the poems along with you. The poems are also excellent for creative writing sessions, with easily repeatable patterns which children could use to add on extra verses.

Elizabeth Honey is a prize-winning author of novels, poetry and picture books, with a style and energy of her own. Her last picture book Not a Nibble! was the Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year in 1997.The Moon in the Man continues her tradition of excellence.

The Moon in the Man, written and illustrated by Elizabeth Honey
Allen & Unwin, 2002.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks, by Jim Haynes

Ask any Australian to tell you a limerick and chances are that they’ll happily oblige. Whilst not an Australian invention, the limerick is certainly a much loved poetic form in this country. Now, in celebration of the art, Jim Haynes brings together over a thousand limericks in one volume.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks is more than just a collection of limericks – Jim Haynes provides an insight into the history of the form and prefaces each section with his humorous commentary. In the opening chapter The Limerick: A Brief and Inaccurate History, Haynes explores the question of when and where the limerick originated –

One expert says, ‘If you please,
I think old Aristophanes
First mastered the trick
Of the true limerick,’
But not every expert agrees.

as well as looking at the progress of its popularity.

The remainder of the book presents limericks classified by type and subject matter. With twenty categories there is a huge array of limericks, from the childish and charming:

There was a young man who asked ‘Why,
Can’t I look in my ear with my eye?
I’m sure I can do it
If I put my mind to it,
You never can tell till you try.’

to the Obscene and Odious, with categories in between including a section devoted to immortalising every Australian Prime minister from Barton to Howard in Limerick form.

This is not a children’s book – many, many of the limericks are suitable only for adult readers. Alongside offerings from Edward Lear are bawdy, risque and downright rude offerings.

Author Jim Haynes has a background as a teacher of literature and history, with two Masters degrees in literature. He has won the Comedy Song of the Year title at the Tamworth Festival four times, including Don’t Call Wagga Wagga Wagge and Since Cheryl went Feral. As well as regular television and radio appearances he has been awarded the Bush Laureate of the Year Award for his collections of poetry, I’ll Have Chips and An Australian heritage of Verse. The Great Australian Book of Limericks is sure to be another favourite.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks, by Jim Haynes. RRP $19.95
ABC Books, 2001.