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Book Reviews

March 2000

Waltzing Matilda meets Lazy Jack: 50 Australian Ballads, Poems and Rhymes
Chosen by Moira Robinson,

by Craig Smith. Duffy and Snellgrove,

1999. $16.95

If you're around 35 or over and lived in the state of Victoria in your childhood, you probably read from a set of textbooks called the Victorian School Readers; if you lived elsewhere, you may well have used something similar.

They were wonderful grab-bags of selections from the great literature of the world, including a lot of Australian poems and stories. If you never read a classic again, you would at least remember the snippets you'd read.

Unfortunately, though children in more recent times are being taught some terrific modern novels, they tend to miss out on the classics.

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Moira Robinson has collected a sample of the sort of stuff we read in the school readers, as well as some relatively modern items. There are poems by Lawson and Paterson, Oodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly Kath Walker), Judith Wright and others. There are even a few cheeky children's rhymes of the sort that June Factor collects in her series - anyone remember, 'the night was dark and stormy /The dunny lights were dim...''

Not everything can be fitted into a limited collection - for example, 'the Man From Snowy River' is missing - but Ms Robinson has done a pretty good job of selection. There's 'Clancy of the Overflow', 'the Fire At Ross's Farm', 'How McDougal Topped the Score', 'the

Man from Ironbark' and the classic 'My Country' by Dorothea Mackellar, a poem you best appreciate when you've lived outside Australia for a year or two and sniffle at the sight of a eucalyptus tree. The introduction declares the editor isn't going to do any bossy stuff like organise the poems chronologically or by theme. The book is charmingly illustrated, cartoon-style, by Craig Smith.

If you can persuade the child in your life to read poetry at all, this one is worth a dip or two.

Great stuff!

Sue Bursztynski

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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