Leah A, Ten silly poems by a ten year old (Review)

Leah A, Ten silly poems by a ten year oldPREFACE AND DISCLOSURE: As some of you know Son Gums is a primary school teacher. One of the programs he likes to run with his class is “the Passion Project”. Part of the theory behind this project is that kids don’t always get to do in class the things that really interest them so, over one 10-week term in the school-year, each student chooses a project s/he is passionate about to work on. Some time is allocated in class each week, and the rest is done at home. At the end of term, the students present what they’ve produced or created, which I understand can (and has) included games, computer programs, websites, artworks, live or animated films/videos, novels and cookbooks. This year, one girl wrote, illustrated and then published on Amazon a book of ten poems. I have bought and read the book and been given permission to write about it here.

NOW, THE FUN PART, THE BOOK: I titled my brief Amazon comment/review, “Edward Lear watch out”, because this gorgeous little (in size, not value) book reveals a lively, cheeky mind just like, I imagine, Edward Lear’s was. And like Edward Lear, Leah (hmm, I didn’t notice that homophone until now) is both writer and illustrator. Her ten silly poems are written in a variety of styles, including Lear’s favourite, the limerick.

The first two poems are not limericks, however, but 8-line rhyming couplets about her parents. They reminded me of when our children (one being, of course, Leah’s teacher) were growing up and showing an interest in writing. I decided then that I needed to let go of my ego and be prepared for my less endearing qualities to be revealed to all. Leah’s parents have clearly realised they must do the same, if they are to encourage her talent. Mum gets away with it this time, but Dad doesn’t come out quite so well:

You’re very handsome and oh so cool
Even though you sleep and drool.
(from “Dad”)

Lucky Mum eh?

Several of the poems are about animals and their adventures, usually involving food. “Lightning”, with its nicely controlled a-b-c-b rhyme, tells of the secret behind this horse’s speed (“All his speed and fastness/Was due to eating sauerkraut”)! Isaac the dog, on the other hand, finds that he needs to be a little careful about what he decides to “bite, bite, bite”. Like many of the poems, “Isaac” also uses the a-b-c-b rhyming pattern, but here Leah changes the form a little by ending most of the stanzas with the refrain “bite, bite, bite”. This use of a refrain comprising repeated words enhances the poem’s mood of silliness, but Leah also has the confidence to break the pattern in the middle of the poem, before taking it up again, to provide a needed change of pace. She’s not afraid, in other words, to mix it up a bit.

Leah A, Ten Silly Poems, hen imageMost of the poems are narrative, and tell humorous little stories, as you’d expect of the nonsense verse tradition within which Leah is writing. “Carolina Reaper”, for example, tells of a birthday girl who ignores the advice of a Mexican restaurant waiter, to her detriment, while the two delightful “Turbo Turtle” poems play with the commonly held assumption that turtles are slow.

Turbo Turtle, Turbo Turtle
How fast can you go?
Compared to me a cheetah
Is oh so very slow.
(from “Turbo Turtle”)

Occasionally the rhythm falters, but this is offset by the sure sense of story, the cheeky sense of humour, a clever use of language, not to mention the delightful illustrations. And anyhow, what can you expect when you have to write, illustrate and publish a book in ten weeks! Ten silly poems by a ten year old is not only an entertaining read but an impressive achievement. If you have a mind to support young authors, and you have a Kindle (or the Kindle app on your tablet), you might like to buy a copy for yourself at the Amazon link below. At AUD1.31, it’s a steal.

awwchallenge2016A, Leah
(Illus. by Leah A)
Ten silly poems by a ten year old

Available at Amazon (Kindle only) for the amazing price of AUD1.31

Monday musings on Australian literature: Silly names for the silly season

Burrumbuttock sign

22 kms to Burrumbuttock (Courtesy: Carolyn I)

It’s nearing Christmas, and I’m getting busy, so today’s Monday musings will be short …

Ever since I started this blog series, I have wanted to write about Australian place names. We are not, I know, the only country to have interesting or fun place names – and I’d love it if you shared your favourites in the comments – but we do have some good’uns Downunder.

Names to make your tonsils chatter

(From “Patter”, by Ronald Oliver Brierley)

Oodnadatta and Parramatta are just the beginning. What about Cabramatta, Wangaratta and Coolangatta? And then there’s Woolloomooloo. You have to concentrate to spell that one! (It’s a bit like, I suppose, Mississippi, isn’t it?) Many of these places appear in Lucky Starr‘s tongue twisting “I’ve been everywhere” song. You can listen to it online if you like… I love all these names. They tend to sound silly and poetic at the same time, and because of this many of them have found (and still find) their way into Australian verse and song.

Kurri Kurri Hotel

Kurri Kurri Hotel, Kurri Kurri, NSW

But, there is a type of name that is rather endemic here, and that is the reduplicated place name. The best known one is probably Wagga Wagga – “Don’t call Wagga Wagga Wagga”* – but it’s just one of many. Here are some of my favourites: Bong Bong, Drik Drik, Gatum Gatum, Grong Grong, Kurri Kurri, Tilba Tilba and Woy Woy. You can find more in Wikipedia. English comedian Spike Milligan‘s parents moved to Woy Woy in the 1950s, and Spike wasn’t above making fun of the town. In his novel Puckoon, he wrote

There is, somewhere in the steaming bush of Australia, a waterside town called Woy Woy (Woy it is called Woy Woy Oi will never know).

Finally, in a related but somewhat different vein, is the poem, “The Integrated Adjective” about the great Australian adjective. If you don’t know what that is, you soon will. The poem was written by John O’Grady, who wrote, under the pseudonym Nino Culotta, the 1957 novel, They’re a weird mob, a comic tale of an Italian migrant’s struggles to understand and fit into his new country. Anyhow, “The Integrated Adjective” is set in a bar and is the narrator’s record of the bar-time talk he overhears:

“…. Been off the bloody booze,
Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos.”

Now the bar was pretty quiet, and everybody heard
The peculiar integration of this adjectival word.

The town of course is really Tumbarumba, but do we let that spoil our story here? Abso-bloody-lutely not!

*Song by Greg Champion and Jim Haynes.