Flabbergaster, selected by Mark Carthew, illustrated by Ed Myer (Teacher Created Materials, 2014)
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
The title of this 28-page hardcover poetry collection, Flabbergaster, was familiar so I was not surprised to see that it was taken from a poem of the same name by Australian children’s poet, Doug Macleod (whose name unfortunately is misspelled at the foot of his poem about a little sister on a rollercoaster.) There are sixteen poems here, some by well-known international poets such as Myra Cohn Livingston, William Jay Smith and RL Moore, and some by Australians — Max Fatchen, Janeen Brian and six by Mark Carthew (one co-written with Brian).
Although it doesn’t say so on the cover, the theme of the book, ideal for children aged 7 to 9 years, is machines; these included a washing machine, an insinkerator, a toaster and a crane. It’s a lively and well considered selection of poems, each taking one or two pages and accompanied by colourful illustrations. One poem which particularly interested me is Carthew’s ‘The Droning Drain Machine’ which first appeared in his collection Machino Supremo (as did five other poems here). In his earlier book, the accompanying illustration and the text appeared over a number of pages to show the path of drain unclogger. In Flabbergaster, there’s a drain framing the double-page spread which ends with a brown blob that illustrates Carthew’s final lines, ‘MUD/MUSH/SLIMY SLUDGE/BIG/BULGING/BOGGERS/BUDGE.’
One of the poems that stood out for me was Charles Malam’s ‘Steam Shovel’ which begins with the line, ‘The dinosaurs are not all dead’ and then extends the metaphor to describe the shovel with ‘jaws dripping with a load/Of earth and grass that it had cropped.’ It’s so good to know that small children will have access to a book that demonstrates metaphor so clearly.
What is clearly obvious in all of the poems is the power of verbs to give energy and action to writing – words like ‘hook’, ‘hoist’ ‘bolt’, ‘weld’ that appear in ‘Construction Job’ by Myra Cohn Livingston. And Max Fatchen’s use of verbs like ‘Looping, lunging’, ‘swinging, clinging’ in his fast-paced poem titled ‘Dive and Dip’ which describes the experience of riding on a roller-coaster.
All in all, Carthew ought to feel well pleased by this collection. It is sure to be well used by teachers working with classes on the subject of machines. And the poems will surely be enjoyed by their students.