Meet… Banjo Paterson
James Gulliver Hancock
Random House, 2015
Hbk., 32pp., RRP $A24.95
I currently have a display in the library based on “A Poem in Your Pocket Day” which includes teachers sharing their favourite poems for the students to illustrate. When I asked the teachers to share their favourites, I was surprised to find how many had selected a poem by Australia’s most iconic poet, A. B (Banjo) Paterson. That this book, the latest in the Meet… series, then arrived for review was totally serendipitous.
While most children know of Banjo Paterson’s works, at the very least through learning the words of Waltzing Matilda, not much is known of his life generally and the things that shaped him and made him such a devotee of the life of ordinary Australians. So this journey through his life told by Kristin Weidenbach and accompanied by the detailed artwork of James Gulliver Hancock is an important addition to any library collection. With snippets from his poems like Clancy of the Overflow illustrating his life and yearning to be away from “foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city” we are connected to his life and his writing and understand their beauty and power that meant they were loved by the ordinary person who, in those days, would not normally read anything let alone poetry. Just as he wrote in The Man from Snowy River that the ride would be talked about everywhere and always, so Paterson’s poems spread throughout the bush so that they are now part of the Australian psyche.
The Meet…series is a must-have in school libraries as it brings the lives of our heroes and history-makers to life through accessible, illustrated texts in a way that brings the biography genre to life. They add an extra layer to an historical study and the accompanying teachers’ notes open up new ideas for exploration. Because Paterson was writing during World War I, and although too old to enlist he drove an ambulance in France and was in charge of the Australian Remount Squadron in the Middle East, this could be a timely opportunity to introduce his works to students. We’re All Australians Now would be an ideal starting point. Teaching notes are available.