Present and past entwined – Catching Teller Crow

Catching Teller Crow is an intriguing mystery, told in two voices through poetry and story.

Sixteen-year-old Beth begins the tale, introducing her death and the need to look out for her father since the accident. He is the only one who can see her (she is a ghost), and she hopes to be able to help him move on with his life. She is also there to help him work through mysterious happenings in their home town, in an effort to get him back to police work.

In crime story tradition, events and clues are revealed gradually, and both Beth and her father have differing interpretations of what they mean.

Some clues are provided by strange revelations from Isobel Catching, who is the second voice in the novel. Her voice differs from Beth’s. Using poetic form creates a wariness in her character and at times implies a reluctance to help solve the mystery.#

Authors, Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, have created an enthralling, though somewhat disturbing novel, which reflects some of Australia’s past attitudes and actions. The main characters (Beth, Catching and Crow) are Aboriginal, and have each suffered due to that. However, themes of love and family, along with their spiritual beliefs are also strong in the story. When they finally bond together, they become strong together.

A ghost story as well as a psychological thriller, Catching Teller Crow seamlessly weaves together the poetic and everyday life – Justine Larbalestier

Catching Teller Crow goes straight to the heart of Australia’s darkest history – Margo Lanagan

Sister and brother, Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina speak briefly here about the writing process, and their own personal need to tell their story – “We wanted the strength of those (past Aboriginal) generations to flow through the pages like a river.”

Catching Teller Crow is more than just a crime story. It reaches into the past, hoping to make an impact on the future. It will make you think – what really happened? who is to blame? and finally, who has suffered as a consequence?

Can Beth ultimately be able to let go?

How many similar episodes like this actually happened? 

# This poetic form wasn’t as obvious in the audio version of this book, though the different character voices were well defined by the narrator, Miranda Tapsell. A great option!

He’s a poet, who knows it! Steven Herrick

herrickWriters watch

and observe

and create. 

Scratchy notes

scribbled on a serviette 

or in a tattered notebook

become a story through their crafting.


This week, Steven Herrick shared his observations, transformed into poems, with students at school – in a time of performance art and great merriment. He explained the ways in which his ideas come together, from simple beginnings, daily events and everyday life, while the audience hung on his every word and action. (Thanks for your visit, Steven.)

‘Another Night in Mullet Town’ is also like that. In his typical form of verse novel*, Herrick portrays the life of friends, Manx and Jonah, as they move through days of school, and nights with friends, in a lakeside town facing change. As Manx bemoans:

People like you and me, Jonah,

we drag down the price of everything we touch.

Conflict exists in several predictable but realistic forms – between male student rivals, between rich and poor, and between the locals and new residents aiming to develop the town for ‘bigger and better things’. Friendships and evolving love interests are also handled genuinely and delicately, as are the sometimes strained relationships of Jonah’s parents, and thus, his family situation.

In simple but succinct language, Herrick wastes no words at all – and in his usual finely-honed manner, so this should appeal to many teens. Australian teens, in particular, will enjoy visiting the coastal town he depicts, acknowledge the school situations he describes and may even stop to ponder some of the community and family issues ‘Another Night in Mullet Town’ presents.

And, once you enjoy ‘Another night…’, there are many other award-winning verse novels from Herrick to read – ‘Love Ghosts and Nose Hair’, ‘A Simple Gift’ and more.

For a taste of Herrick’s poetry performance, watch ’10 things your parents will never say’:

*A verse novel is a type of narrative poetry in which a novel-length narrative is told through the medium of poetry rather than prose.


The teacher took my tennis ball…


Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark veranda)?

Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn’t got a penny,
And who weren’t paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the din?
And the hip! hop! hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the swirl and the twirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of the clapper to the spin
Out and in–
And the ting, tong, tang of the guitar!
Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn? (Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc)


I had a little beetle
So that beetle was his name
And I called him Alexander
And he answered just the same
And I put him in a matchbox
And I kept him all the day
But nanny let my beetle out
Yes nanny let my beetle out
She went and let my beetle out
And beetle ran away…. (part of A.A. Milne’s poem, Forgiven)

The Teacher Took my Tennis Ball

The teacher took my tennis ball

She took it for the day

Just because it broke some glass

She said I couldn’t play… (part of The Teacher Took my Tennis Ball by Libby Hathorn)

Each of these poems, and many others, hold a special place in my life. The first one , Tarantella, echoes the rhythmic introductions of a special teacher in Grade 3 (Thanks, Mr Simmons). Other memorable poems performed by this teacher included A.B. Paterson’s, the Man from Ironbark, and of course, the Man from Snowy River – I can always remember the gasp from the class when “Murder! Bloody Murder!” was pronounced.

Later as a parent, I wanted to show my children the best of the old and the new – poetry I enjoyed from my parents’ introductions and the new from authors of the day. Thus, poetry memories for my children include those of A.A. Milne and Libby Hathorn (with quirky poems like the Teacher Took My Tennis Ball).

My thoughts on poetry were revived again by the launch of a new poetry collection at a recent CBCA conference held in Sydney. Libby Hathorn was there to promote her poetry anthology, The ABC Book of Australian Poetry. To quote Libby:

I have been concerned that works of certain classic Australian poets may be slipping out of sight, while the fine works of poets of our time may never be heard or read by young people. This anthology gave me the opportunity to invigorate classic works and highlight contemporary Australian voices, using the metaphor of the river of life for each section and reflecting so aptly on the phases of our history.

As I reflect on the poetry I was introduced to early in my schooling (primary school years), I too desire that today’s youth is exposed to both classics from the past, and new and upcoming poets. Indeed to be inspired to become poets themselves. As a start, students could look at Libby’s Poetry Parade  to submit their own poems. Those already writing their own poems should, as other writers do, read widely, to discover their own interests and style of writing while experiencing a varied and diverse taste of poetric styles. Indeed, a reading through the ABC Book of Australian Poetry reveals the different styles of poetry around us – writing to inspire us, as we look back in fondness to poets of Australia’s past, and forward to those of the future.

abcbookofaustralianpoetryRhythm or rhyme?

What’s your style?

What does it take

To make you smile…?

(Or frown).

What gets you down?

Or makes you think?


Whatever it is –

Just take note now

To have it there for all to see.


## For ideas have a look at: