I am working on Post Graduate studies in the verse novel technique for children/YA. I am always fascinated by the genre both as a poet and reader.
And first up I have written a review of the wonderful poet Kat Apel's new verse novel, 'What the Snail knows' available from UQP.
Kat Apel has given us a wonderful verse novel in ‘What Snail knows,’ UQP illustrated by Mandy Foot.
Lucy is in her early years at school, and the plot theme is stated immediately. Dad says, ‘It’s just you and me Lucy.’
It becomes a refrain through the first half of the novel.
But a new motif challenges this. Lucy has a new companion, a snail, already equipped with travelling baggage and adaptable. But Lucy can’t be that adaptable to constant change.
As Lucy goes to yet another new school, the text evolves to shape moving down the road. The titles of the poems are portals to enter the narrative.
Features that stand out for me are the dialogue of the student, so economical. It provides a rhythmical read. Here’s a sample involving the topic ‘Homework’.
Roxie: This week, it really is home work!
Jack: Can we cook toast? Does that count?
Heidi: What if we don’t have a dog?
Kat weaves environmental themes throughout her narrative. What a triumph is the rhyming Cane Toad poem as the class is challenged by their teacher to become involved in caring for the environment. There is even a recipe for beeswax wraps!
Concrete poems are also weaved throughout the text – like the heart shaped poem called ‘I heart the Harts’, towards the end of the book.
There is much for the reader to savour in the unfolding plot, the richness of the classroom compared to the spareness of Lucy’s caravan life. And we are thrilled as all the threads come together in a satisfying ending. A great read! A great addition to Australia’s innovative verse novel stream.
I have let this blog slip, not intentionally, our 'unprecedented living times'- yes a cliche has put me a bit off kilter, but rest assured I am still writing and submitting, but success at publications are indeed hard.
But I continue to write poetry and here the 'School Magazine' NSW has created a little you- tube of my largest poem to be published in School Magazine November Touchdown edition.
I will always write a poem when I wish to teach one of my strategies and this is a short poem but every word counts.
By Claire Saxby Illustrated by Jess Racklyeft
Iceberg by Claire Saxby illustrated by Jess Racklyeft 2021 Published by Allen and Unwin
I have been a fan and friend of Claire for a long time now and am just blown away by this non-fiction Picture Book. The poetry in the text mirrors the splintery, cold and icy world of the Antarctic.
‘In the pale morning an iceberg calves- shears from a glacier
and plunges to the ocean in a haze of sparkle-frost.
The iceberg is flat-topped, sharp and angular
and carries ancient weather in its layers of ice-clothing;
a coat for each year volcanoes blew
and black ash fell like snow.’
Claire uses repetition: ‘If this world looks empty,
Look closer.’ It forms a motif and a continuity for the narrative.
And as the narrative unfolds and the gorgeous blues, white and black of Jess Racklyeft’s artwork also unfolds. Then the colour of summer delights with orange, smudged yellow and the most delectable squid and jellyfish are revealed in fold out flap pages. We have a whole undersea panorama of movement reflecting shadow and filtered sunlight.
The world around the iceberg reverberates with squid, krill, birds, orca and short-tailed shearwaters. It is fascinating to be drawn into this icy world and to recognise the importance of an iceberg calving! Love that description! I remember when Claire first shared her Iceberg poem and I pointed out that I found an iceberg calving strange (as an ex dairy farmer) She reassured me this was the correct terminology and what a visual and literary feast we have now in this book. A precious gem to read, share and reread again.
Thanks Claire and Jess for a great book!
But who's counting...
It's been a big journey but the destination is so worth it- with input from great editors to rewrite, delete, reorganise and now the novel is back in the very original version of poems with titles. A new format for a verse novel from me. And a new setting- a high school, a new era 1969 and world shattering events.
Man on the moon and Australia's involvement with the Vietnam War.
I had mementos I'd kept from the 1960's... yes ancient I know. This moon landing event has always fascinated me. I was able to use some amazing facts that Lewis, Sharnie's cousin uses.