The Secret Boat

The Secret Boat

The Secret Boat











The Secret Boat

Mark Macleod

Hélène Magisson

Dirt Lane Press, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99



The child’s literacy development and mastery is underpinned by a rich, imaginative and informed vocabulary and the poems in this beautifully illustrated book certainly contribute to this.  Using a variety of familiar situations which “take the reader from beachside to countryside, from revolting to delicious, from realism to fantasy, and end with a suite of bedtime meditations” the clever, creative use of words paints pictures that little ones will love to here and visualise over and over again. 

Who doesn’t have a smile as they picture this…

It’s soft inside

my mother’s pouch.

I can hardly feel her hopping.

But on the way

back home again,

I’m squashed in with the shopping. OUCH. 

And who is not taken back to the beach when they hear this…

The bubbles giggle

up the sand, 

tickle our toes

on the shore.

They take a breath,

they run away

and then come back for more. 

Just listening to the rhythm and rhyme of language teaches children so much about how they, themselves, can and will express themselves, but taking a few moments to explore what is being said in these short, often whimsical, poems empowers them to be more observant of their world and try to describe it for themselves.  Next time they let the waves just tickle their toes they will think of the bubbles giggling as they make those toes curl up and jump.

While the Australian Curriculum has a strong strand that includes a focus on vocabulary, the NSW syllabus is more explicit requiring students from Kindergarten to use  “Tier 2 vocabulary to extend and elaborate ideas” with Tier 2 words being defined as “high utility for mature language users and are found across a variety of domains” which “add power and precision to written and spoken language” and this collection has all that is necessary to support that outcome.  Even if it is not used in the classroom formally, the images that are built as the words roll so naturally off the tongue to make the ordinary extraordinary make this just the best introduction to the poetry genre for young people and while the illustrations are exquisite, the words themselves are enough to just shut your eyes, listen and imagine.  

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