Meet Banjo Paterson by Kristin Weidenbach and James Gulliver Hancock
Random House Australia Children's, 2015. ISBN 9780857980083
The picture book series of Meet... has been extraordinarily successful in bringing the biographies of outstanding Australians to younger readers. Taking simple information and presenting it in a very accessible text accompanied by illustrations has opened up a whole new experience for younger students, giving them all a very clear picture of salient points about each subject's life and times.
The latest offering in the series examines the life of arguably our most famous poet, A. B. Paterson, better known to all as Banjo, beginning with his early life growing up in the countryside near Yass and through to his working in the 'big city' where his longing for the outback evidenced itself in his bush ballads.
Banjo's acclaim as a bush poet was swift and universal - loved by both city dwellers and country folk alike. Lines from various poems are cleverly quoted to highlight certain events and highlights and Hancock's illustrations in tones that reflect that landscape offer a visual exploration of others. Readers could certainly try to identify each poem from its given illustrative clue.
Of course, perhaps the most familiar composition for the intended readership is 'Waltzing Matilda' which receives its due attention and offers a wonderful opportunity to explore the vocabulary of this famous poem in detail. There is much in here to enrich a teaching program - comparisons of town/country life in Banjo's time and in the present day, entertainments and hobbies of the past, landscapes and so much more. Here the provided teaching notes will be a terrific bonus.
As with previous titles in the series a double page spread at the end contains a timeline of The Banjo's life and given his involvement with WWI this could be a timely chance to introduce younger students to the man whose work is loved by so many generations of Australians.