24 January 2010

60 Classic Australian Poems for Children

edited by Chris Cheng and Illustrated by Gregory Rogers

Random House. Australian, Junior, Young Readers. Hardback rrp $19.95

Guest Reviewer - Anastasia Gonis

In this well-selected and entertaining collection of poetry for young readers, we visit our historical heritage through the eyes and hearts of our earlier wordsmiths who documented life with great humour, lots of nostalgia and many times with tears on their words.

The ballad entries tell of ant explorers, bellbirds, and brumbies charging wildly across the plains. There are bush Christmases and christenings, circuses, Clancy of the Overflow and Cobb & Co. We hear about the harshness of life for prisoners and gold miners, and learn of the pain of exile. Emus and lots of outback animals are drawn with words in galloping rhyme and through varying styles of verse.

There are salutes to cricket, odes to the sheepdog and to the skills of Aborigines. Mr Smith the cat from Tallabung and his walkabout ways give us a laugh, as does Mulga Bill. The subject mix also includes a typewriter and a platypus, the travels of a night train, and two odes to pioneers - one by Frank Hudson and another by Banjo Patterson. Then there are references to churches, poets, campfires, bankers and Santa Claus in the bush.

Women of the bush are acknowledged in Women of the West and The Shearer’s Wife. People were also Waiting for the Rain back in 1936 when John Neilson wrote this poem which accompanies references to the swagman, to bullock teams, The Travelling Post Office, dingoes and pelicans; all immortalised in these moving portraits of Australian life in the early days.

There are Poet Biographies included at the end along with Book References, an Index of First Lines and an Index of Poets, plus a list of poems and a reference to each one regarding the date of its first publication, and the publication it was in. There is also information on the editor and the illustrator.

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