Review Blog

Nov 04 2009

60 classic Australian poems for children edited by Christopher Cheng

cover image

Ill. by Gregory Rogers. Random House Australia, 2009. ISBN 9781741664140.
(Age 9+) Recommended.
'Hist! Hark!
The night is very dark,
And we've to go a mile or so
Across the Possum Park.'
Did Australian rhyming verse really lose its appeal or do we just need new editions to replace the tired poetry books in our libraries? The second scenario is the more likely. Children are still enthralled and delighted by the drama, humour and wit of poems by such writers as C.J. Dennis, Banjo Paterson, Henry Kendall and Henry Lawson.
Christopher Cheng recalls the pleasure of reading and reciting Australian verse as a child. He has chosen 60 poems for a hard cover volume which is aptly named. Adults will recognise most of the titles and remember many of the opening lines by heart. Award winning artist Gregory Rogers has provided the pencil and wash illustrations.
The editor has restored lines which are often omitted because they speak of the hardships of life in the past. He has also included brief 'Poet biographies', an 'Index of first lines', an 'Index of poets', a list of sources in which the poems were first published and occasional notes about the history of the poems.
Most of the collection dates from the turn of the last century. It encapsulates the best of a tradition of storytelling through the medium of performance poetry. Christopher's Cheng's book will help to ensure that the tradition lives on.
Elizabeth Bor

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