Poetry book review


silly-squid-Silly Squid!

Poems about the Sea

by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Cheryll Johns

(Omnibus book from Scholastic Australia)

HB RRP $24.99    ISBN 9781742990965


Reviewed by Dianne Bates


What a handsome book of poems for children this is, so lovely that the publishers (rightly) thought to present it in hardback. Flipping through the pages is an absolute delight as the full-page illustrations are colourful and beautifully depicted. And too, the design of the book is very appealing with hand-written font for the poems and facts about the sea creatures depicted on every page typed around the borders.

Each poem is devoted to a single creature, such as a crab, a sea star, Leafy sea dragon, whale, squid and many more. The poet forms vary from poem to poem but all are jolly and enjoyable. In ‘Stingray’ for example, there are three repeating lines interspersed with a three line rhyming line. ‘Shark’ is presented as quatrains with rhymes on the second and fourth lines. Each one of the poems has a light, deft touch and none of them is a line too long. Most of them are narrated by the sea creature they describe with each poem giving (accurate) factual information. Here’s just one example, from the poem, ‘Jellyfish’:

‘…we come in different sizes                                                                                          

 and people call us ‘jellies’.                                                                                                                            

We have no bones, nor heart nor brain –                                                            

not even jelly bellies!’

Faced with information like this, a curious child is likely to go off to an encyclopedia (or Google) to check out if the facts are true, and might thus find out even more about jellyfish.

Researching and finding poems from hundreds of poetry collections in order to compile an anthology a few years ago, I looked at a wide range – and of course have included Brian’s poems in my book, Our Home is Dirt by Sea (Walker Books Australia, 2016). This latest collection by Brian is probably one of the very best single poet collections I came across. It’s highly recommended for readers aged 7 years and up.


Poem of the Day



by Anne Bell

I went to the house,looking for a man to build a fence

knowing nothing of him,except that people said

he built good fences.

His garden warmed July’s cold hills,

but there was nobody there,

save a peacock,a scarecrow and a fine, grey mare.

I found nobody to build my fence,

but I think I’d like a man

who left his home to the care

of a peacock,a scarecrow and a fine, grey mare.


First published in The School Magazine.

Poem of the Day


Blown Away

by Nadine Cranenburgh


I’ll tell you where I’ve been

I don’t think you’ll believe it

It started with a leaf

And me running to retrieve it


It fluttered through the rain

And over lots of puddles

So when I caught it up

I was soaked and in a muddle


It settled down at last

Upon a rotten jetty

I reached for it with hands

That were colder than a Yeti’s


That leaf was almost mine

I stretched out with a sigh

But then it blew away

To a dingy tied nearby


A sudden gale-force gust

Sent us sailing through the ocean

I clung on like a limpet

Feeling seasick from the motion


The wind dropped, I was lost

With no clue of north or south

Right then the leaf bobbed gently

Through a great whale’s gaping mouth


Surprisingly I followed

What else was there to do?

But leaves give whales an itchy throat

So skywards we both flew


I splashed into the sea

And heard a rotor spinning

A helicopter scooped

Another ride beginning!


I madly treaded water

Determined not to drown

We flew above a fire

And the helo tipped us down


I landed fairly softly

Upon a smoky shore

Close by the burned-out jetty

Where the dingy was before


A seagull grabbed the leaf

Flapped through the ashes squawking

My leaf was gone for good

So back home I started walking


That’s why I’m late for tea

It’s true, just like I said

What’s this, a leafy salad?

I might just go to bed.

Poem of the Day


Pirate plight

by Jenny Erlanger


Though pirates get by

with a patch on one eye

their lives out at sea can be grim.

No wonder they’re mean,

all the pirates I’ve seen

have clearly been missing a limb.

I now understand

all those hooks for a hand,

the clumping around on a peg.

To fit out their ships

for those plundering trips

must cost them an arm and a leg!





Poem of the Day



By Teena Raffa-Mulligan


Tell me a tale of treasure untold,

buccaneers’ bounty, jewels and gold.

Spin me a yarn of a hazardous quest,

until it is ended the hero won’t rest.


Share stories of dragon, damsel and knight,

princesses rescued from a grave plight;

of monsters, aliens, mystery and magic,

adventurous, exciting, funny or tragic.


Whisk me to markets jostled by crowds.

Trek me up mountains shrouded in clouds.

Spin me through space at heart-stopping speed.

Chase me through tunnels –where do they lead?


Sail me across oceans so vast and deep,

I cannot help wonder what secrets they keep.

Lead me to forests where birds nest on high –

Wind through the trees is a whispering sigh.


Such silence and splendour fills me with awe,

inspires me to whisper, please show me more

of far distant places where I’ve not yet been.

Draw open the curtains upon the next scene.


As I travel abroad without leaving home,

I’m scientist, pirate, astronaut, gnome,

crook, cop or detective solving a crime,

anyone, anywhere, freefalling in time.


Thrill me, delight me, chill me, excite me,

amaze me, intrigue me, above all invite me

to enter a world where anything goes,

created for me in wonderful prose.


Words are my passport, ideas the key

To unlock my fancy and let it roam free.

I turn the first page to open the door

into magical Bookworld, its realms to explore.

* This poem appears in Charms, Volume Three, edited by Sally Odgers. Charms is a collection of stories, poems and illustrations by a range of contributors. It is also a fantasy novel in three volumes. For more information about this and other Prints Charming projects visit www.printscharmingbooks.com

Poetry pointers #2

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Poet and writer Stephen Whiteside answers some key questions about writing poetry. To find out more about Stephen and his work, visit his website here


1. Where do you get ideas?

First you need the right state of mind. The best way to achieve this is to try to find an hour or two when you having nothing to do other than to write a poem. As you unwind, ideas will begin to come. The more relaxed you get, the more ideas will arrive, and the more interesting they will be. I often approach a writing session with an idea for a poem in my mind but find that, after half an hour or so of thinking and pottering, I have a much better idea, and one that is nothing like the idea that I first sat down with.
2. How do you write a poem?
I am a rhyming poet. For me, it is very much a matter of writing a first line that I am happy with. The rest will then start to flow. In addition to writing what I want to say, I also have to be mindful of the rhyming pattern. Will it be a simple ABAB, or am I being more ambitious? How many stresses will there be in each line? Will each line be the same length? How many verses will there be? How long will they be? Will they all be the same length? Will there be a repeating line, or a refrain? Will that also change a little each time, or not? And so on…
3. Who publishes poetry?
This is a very good question. I am not sure I know any more. Yes, I know the publishers who (very occasionally) publish collections, but who publishes individual poems? My own collection, ‘The Billy That Died With Its Boots On and Other Australian Verse, published by Walker Books last year, was built heavily around poems that were published in The School Magazine (NSW), the Pearson magazines in Victoria, and The School Journal (New Zealand). Alas, these latter two no longer exist. So, aside from The School Magazine, who does publish poetry for children?
4. How do I become a children’s poet?
Given the dwindling number of publishers, I suspect that it is becoming harder and harder to become a children’s poet. Then again, of course, this is very much a matter of definition. At what point are you a children’s poet? Have you succeeded if you write a poem for your child, or niece or nephew? Or do you need to have had a poem published to be a children’s poet? Or do you need to have had a collection published? Or do you need to have had multiple collections published before you can say you are truly established as a children’s poet?
The obvious answer is to simply write, but writing without publication becomes demoralising after a while, especially if you’ve been trying hard to have poems published without any success. Peer support is important, but there aren’t really enough children’s poets for them to have their own organisation – at least, not yet. Of course the Australian Children’s Poetry web-site is a great asset, but if you want to meet other children’s poets in the flesh, you are probably going to have to join a group for children’s writers generally – such as SCBWI – or a group for poets who write for adults as well as children, or both.
5. What is your top tip for writers who want to write poetry for children?
There are two key points, I think.
1. Make sure you are always enjoying yourself when you write.
2. Never give up (but this only works if you make sure you are continuing to enjoy yourself).

Poem of the Day


A Shelter

Neridah McMullin


I put off going to bed,

The cloud cover,

Keeps the heat in…

And the stillness

Is oppressive.


Robins, wrens, honey eaters,

Panted the day away,

In shaded canopy,

Their beaks open.

Too hot to complain.


I open up the house,

All the doors; windows.

Something might wander in…

But hopefully,

It will wander out.


Thrown wide,

It’s no longer a house.

It’s a shelter,

A secret place.

A bed in the forest.


Under the sheets,

I listen to the night’s music.

Muted waves break,

Crickets click, ruffled feathers soften.

And at last, the birds are asleep.

Poetry pointers #1

1 Comment

 Find the rhythm

Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme but it should have good rhythm–should sound good read aloud, as that is how most poetry for children is delivered, rather than silent reading. Listen to the sounds as you read out your poem; does it have a good pattern, an attractive rhythm? Jerky rhythm or forced rhyme will really spoil the overall feel. – Sophie Masson. (Visit Sophie’s website here to find out more about her writing).



Poem of the Day



by Allan Cropper


There’s a booger in my hanky, it’s been there for half an hour

It is fresh and it is green, but it tastes a little sour

I will hide it in my sock drawer if I ever take a shower

I wonder if my mother’s gonna mind


There’s a booger in my hanky and it’s been there all the day

It is icky and it’s sticky and it’s looking pretty grey

I think I’ll try to train it, and teach it how to stay

I wonder if my mother’s gonna mind


There’s a booger in my hanky and it’s been in there all week

It is probably worth a lot ’cause it’s almost an antique

If you really want to see it I can give you a quick peak

I wonder if my mother’s gonna mind


There’s a booger in my hanky, now it’s been in there a year

It’s as solid as a rock and it’s looking pretty clear

That the booger is a goner, but don’t you shed a tear

There’s plenty of other boogers I can find

I wonder if my mother’s gonna mind




Poem of the Day


Moving marvel

By Teena Raffa-Mulligan


I can

Banana bend

Licorice twist

Jelly wibble wobble.


See me

Caterpillar creep

Snake slither

Deer dash and dart.


I am

Rock steady

Tree tall

River rush and flow.


Love this

Body mine

Body strong

This moving marvel.

* First published in School Magazine.