The August Read Aloud theme is poetry. The poetry books selected would make excellent additions to home, school and classroom libraries. They are suitable for children in middle to upper primary school. They could also be enjoyable and useful with lower secondary school students. All of these poetry books are entertaining, educational and inspiring.
‘Anna the Goanna and Other Poems’ by Jill McDougall and illustrated by Jenny Taylor is a collection of poems which are designed for performance and tell the stories of different childhood experiences and traditions that Indigenous children have encountered – from bike rides that don’t quite go to plan, camping with family under the stars, hunting, playing footy with tin cans or a game of footy. The watercolour illustrations throughout the book complement each poem beautifully and add to the imagery students are able to form from the words and story contained in each poem.
‘Do Not Go around the Edges’ by Daisy Utemorrah is an autobiographical story containing a collection of poems which explore themes relating to creation, tradition, family and country. On the bottom of the pages is the story of Daisy Utemorrah’s life and then on each page is a poem accompanied by traditional dot form artwork or contemporary images that relate to Daisy Utemorrah’s life story.
The Faunaverse series which includes: ‘Faunaverse: Australian Wildlife in Poetry’ and ‘Faunaverse: Wildlife in poetry, Tasmania’ (this is also available as an audiobook version) by Alexander and Jane Dudley are ecopoetry books. These poems share information about the adaptations, habitat, diet, unique characteristics as well as other interesting details about each animal featured. There are some less well- known animals included too and their importance in the ecosystem is explored in the poems. Each poem is accompanied by a photograph. These poems are designed to be fun and aim to educate children in an engaging and accessible way.
‘Classic Australian Poems’ by Christopher Cheng and illustrated by Gregory Rogers is a collection of sixty classic Australian poems by poets such as A.B. Patterson, C.J. Dennis and Henry Lawson. There is something for everyone in this diverse collection of poems. These poems are stories in verse about life on the land, the Australian landscape, the environment, the animals, mateship and the people. There are humorous poems (Mulga Bill’s Bicycle) and more sombre poems such as ‘Pioneers’. ‘’Said Hanrahan’’ talks about the serious issue of drought in a light hearted way. There’s also the popular and fun poem ‘Triantiwontigongolope’- often a favourite with children. At the back of the book is a section which features the biographies of the poets.
‘The ABC Book of Australian Poetry: A treasury of Poems for Young People’ compiled by Libby Hathorn and illustrated by Cassandra Allen is a collection of poems which feature iconic Australian poems such as ‘My Country’ by Dorothea Mackellar, ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ and ‘The Man from Ironbark by A.B Patterson together with contemporary poets such as Steven Herrick’s poem, ‘The Big River’ or ‘The Wagtail’ by Judith Wright. In the blurb the reader is invited to “follow a river of poetry through the country, town, bush and the seasons to explore the Australian landscape through the eyes of our best poets.”
‘Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids’ by Jim Haynes includes over 600 poems (nearly half are Australian in origin) organised into 20 chapters such as: All around Australia, Creatures great and small, Life’s a laugh, Childhood as well as Life lessons and advice. This collection features contemporary poems as well as poems which have been enjoyed for generations. This makes for a comprehensive collection of poems which will entertain, inspire and delight.
‘Celebrating Australia: A Year in Poetry’ by Lorraine Marwood is a lively collection of poems showcasing many of the different days and ways we celebrate in Australia. To provide an idea of the themes and breadth of poems in this collection it is worth noting SOME of the poems in this collection which include a poem for: Australia Day, Chinese New year, Harmony Day, Anzac Day, World Oceans Day, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Observance Week (NAIDOC), Book Week, International Dot Day (who knew?) International Talk like a Pirate Day, United Nations Day, Human Rights Day and Ramadan (plus many others). Some of these poems lend themselves to a more humorous approach while others are sombre. This poetry collection also serves as a wonderful source of inspiration for children to write their own poems.
’The Science Rhymes Book’ by Celia Berrell and published by Jabiru Publishing is a collection of poems which relate to biology, chemistry, physics and earth and they complement the science primary school curriculum. Each verse does a fabulous job of bringing scientific concepts to life and making them accessible for children. Celia has been very creative in the way she combines science and rhyme. This poetry book should be in all schools and used regularly in science lessons. Celia Berrell writes verse for the CSIRO magazine, Double Helix. Some poems from the book are: Chocolate Box Planet – a highly entertaining poem where chocolates are used as a metaphor to describe the layers of the earth (excellent visual imagery for learners who benefit from this); Cloud Calls which shares in verse the different types of clouds; A Tree House – discusses how a tree is a home and habitat for many and Picking Flowers – all about the flowering plant life cycle.
‘Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice’ is a powerful collection of poems which inspire readers to be ‘woke’ and addresses topics such as ableism, body positivity, empathy, freedom, individuality, justice and privilege (plus numerous other topics). At the beginning of the book Mahogany L. Browne states that: “to be woke is to fight for your civil rights and to fight for the rights of your neighbours”. These poems challenge us to stand up for what is right, be heard and a force for change to attain social justice for ourselves and others. This collection of poems is an inspiring call for action.
‘Book of Poetry’ by Sam Taplin and illustrated by Kristina Swarner offers a selection of poems from classic as well as modern poets including Shakespeare, Ted Hughes and recently written poems by Sam Taplin. This book is a wonderful gateway for children to discover poets and new (to them) poems.
‘100 Best Poems for Children’ Edited by Roger McGough and Illustrated by Sheila Moxley is one of our family personal favourites and I think this has to do with the fact that the poems have such broad appeal. The poems included in this anthology were selected by teachers and children across 135 schools around the UK. Puffin provided a questionnaire for the children to consider their favourite poems in the following three categories; contemporary, more than 25 years old and more than 100 years old. Roger McGough had the exciting task of selecting the top 100 poems for children from over 280 nominations. The structure of this anthology is interesting as the poems are arranged in alphabetical order (according to the poets surname) so for example, on one of the double page spreads you enjoy ‘Fox in Socks’ by Sr Suess and then on the opposite page see ‘The Witches Chant’ from William Shakespeare. There are many poems waiting to be discovered and enjoyed in this book and it would make a welcome addition to any poetry collection.
‘Guinea Pig Town and other Animal Poems’ by Lorraine Marwood is a collection of 90 poems for all libraries – personal, classroom and school. This book is divided into the following sections: Bird Screech Street, Aussie Animal Avenue, Precious Pet Parade, Seascape Drive, Farm Fun Paddock, Creepy Crawly Crescent and Wild Thing Lane. Some personal family favourites are: the poem about the cheeky bird titled ‘The Incident’ involving a bird at the beach swooping in on a hot chip; the heart-warming poem titled ‘Feline’ which is one of my daughters favourite poems about kittens and my older children appreciate the poem ‘Whale Watching’. ‘Guinea Pig Town’ is a favourite too as it tells the story of siblings working together to create a special ‘town’ for their guinea pigs, it is a beautiful celebration of owning a pet and the love and enjoyment that comes with this.
‘Utangling Spaghetti’ by Steven Herrick is a collection of poems that are ideal to perform. This collection of poems features humorous, moving and fun poems which were inspired by the stories Steven Herrick’s sons told him when they came home from school. Their school experiences made excellent fodder for the creation of these memorable poems.
‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ by Shel Silverstein is a favourite with my three children and they have been dipping into this book for years (they never tire of Shel Silverstein’s words and illustrations). This collection of poems begins with an invitation to dreamers, wishers, liars, and more to gather round and spin “flax-golden tales”. We appreciate the fanciful situations, endearing characters, adventures and imaginings of Shel Silverstein. Two favourites include ‘One Inch Tall’ (all about the unique experiences you could encounter if you were one inch tall – so many creative ideas included) and ‘Crocodile’s Toothache’ (the illustration that Shel Silverstein has included with this poem initially caught our attention, but then we read the poem we loved the characters of the dentist and the talking crocodile with so much personality). This is a treasure trove for children which will inspire and entertain for many years.
‘Revolting Rhymes’ by Roald Dahl is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. These poems re-tell some well-known fairy tales ‘to set the record straight’. These entertaining poems are full of wit and humour.