Jackie French, (selected by), and Tania McCartney (illustrator), This is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children, NLA Publishing, April 2019, 160 pp., RRP $34.99, (hbk), ISBN 9780642279385
Using digitally manipulated images, illustrator Tania McCartney, explores a range of techniques and textures to extend the text and draw readers young and old into the wonders of poetry from both past and present. C.J. Dennis’s A Bush Christmas, is a good example of McCarthy’s modern take on this Australian classic of the early twentieth century. In the swelter of the Aussie bush we meet a family as they celebrate Christmas. At a long table they gather with wine, bread sticks, bowls of food and dressed in contemporary clothing with party hats and decorations. McCarthy captures something of the poem’s humour and the oddity of imported English traditions to a vastly different context and landscape.
In Shaun Tan’s Horns, the incongruous image of a rhino plodding slowly along a street is set against the mad rush of a futuristic freeway. Here McCarthy develops Tan’s theme of extinction and environmental abuse with the abuse the drivers hurl at the rhino, the last rhino, who is in their way. Together image and text powerfully refer to our short-sightedness about the future and our planet.
Although this collection would have benefited from a greater representation of Indigenous voices the power and wisdom of Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s The Past, and Bronwyn Bancroft’s Home, which celebrates man’s oneness with nature, provide a wonderful opening to this terrific collection of Aus-tralian poetry. An introduction by Jackie French explaining the background behind the collection and a ‘where to start’ page, instead of contents, will help the readers navigate their way through the book; subheadings such as ‘If you are in primary school you may like’, or ‘If you want a poem of courage to help you face tomorrow’ will help the reader find the poem for them.
Highly recommended for ages 7+
Reviewed by Mem Capp