This Is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children
NLA Publishing, 2019
160pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99
In the beginning
The waves purred on beaches touched only
By bird prints, the slash of crocodilian tails,
Diprotodon tracks lumbering like furred boulders
Eagle wings whispered on the wind.
Then human feet left prints upon white sand.
For 60 000 years the nations sang…
This is the beginning of a haunting poem written by Jackie French that wends its way through this remarkable collection of poems that highlight and celebrate this land and its people. Using the poetry of old and new, the classic and the newly minted, from poets well-known and not-so, the threads of the history of this nation are woven together into a tapestry that is as rich in colour and culture as the life around us. And yet, in the words of Oodgeroo Noonuccal, “I know, this little now, this accidental present, is not all of me, Whose long making Is so much of the past. ” As Jackie explains in her introduction, to have included all the threads that make this place unique would require a book “so big you would need a forklift to carry it and a million dollars to buy it.”
But what it does have is a smattering of that which makes us unique told in lyrical lines that are compelling, but as Jackie so rightly points out in her introduction, not every poem is for everyone; not every poem will speak to you today but it may tomorrow; or, as she says, that “shoes for an eight-year-old won’t fit a twelve year old”; “sometimes we need chilled watermelon: sometimes we long for pizza.”
But whichever poem you choose today, and there is a list of suggestions to match your mood or desire, it will be beautifully illustrated by the magical work of Tania McCartney, adding an extra layer of cream to words that are already so rich. From a yummy-looking sundae in a glass to accompany Jackie Hosking’s A Dessert Sky to the confronting cityscape that accompanies Horns by Shaun Tan, you are compelled to read the words that are on the page and think more deeply, appreciate more wisely.
My apologies to the local school – my review copy is not coming to you this time. This is one to give to Miss 8 and Miss 12 so they can share in the beauty of this land and its people, and the words of those who tell them about it. It is indeed Australia: Story Country.