Fiction, Film and other Texts a support document for the English Years 7–10 Syllabus

The Watertower Gary Crew, illustrated by Steven Woolman

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The Watertower
Gary Crew, illustrated by Steven Woolman

Martin International in assoc. with Era Publications – ISBN: 1863743200
Dark and mysterious; black endpapers effectively open to a disturbing scenario that will be different for each reader according to his/her unique imaginative response to the textual and pictorial ambiguities of this picture book. Two boys in a small rural town climb inside the old town reservoir for an illicit swim. Simultaneously, the watertower is at the centre of some unseen, momentous happening to which the mesmerised townsfolk are eerily drawn. Text, illustration and book design unify to create a tantalising reading experience.


Gary Crew, illustrated by Shaun Tan

Lothian Books – ISBN: 0850919835

The evocative illustrations and sensitive text explore a century of war involving four generations of one family. The book has stunning visual as well as tactile appeal, using photorealism to convey factual authenticity. The colour is muted, although varied, enabling the past and the present to merge effortlessly. Tan’s illustrations reflect Crew’s implied and literal meaning without embarking on a detailed description of war.

The Rabbits
John Marsden, illustrated by Shaun Tan
Lothian Books – ISBN: 0850918782

The boldly original text sets up an allegory and ends with the question ‘Who will save us from the rabbits?’ An historical metaphor for an invasion or domination in its many guises, the story is extended by the illustrations to allow wide reader interpretation. Imaginative visual images suggest references to Olsen in the delicate wading birds and Bosch or Heath Robertson in the hellish dark red machines. Even the blank white page before the endpaper suggests further questions in this brilliant integration of design and text.

The Red Tree

Shaun Tan

Lothian – ISBN: 0734401728
This picture book celebrates the visual imagination. It is a young person’s emotional journey from forlornness to exhilaration. Each double page contains a single sentence, and an illustration that matches the words in utterly unpredictable and witty ways. The drawings are so flamboyantly wonderful they enrich and excite the human spirit. This book confirms that it is imagination that makes sense of our journey through this world. Short-listed, Picture Book of the Year 2002.
The Staircase Cat

Colin Thompson, illustrated by Anna Pignataro

Hodder Headline – ISBN: 0733610056
This is a haunting and thought-provoking picture book aimed at a slightly older audience. Thompson’s gentle story of a cat left alone to fend for itself during the war years is beautifully supported by Anna Pignataro’s watercolour drawings which use colour to reflect mood and suggest emotion. Muted, colourless ghost figures are contrasted with the warm tones of family life before and after the war. This story is told with great depth yet elegant simplicity.

Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks

Allen & Unwin – ISBN: 1864484659
Fox is an accomplished picture book concerning complex and familiar moral dilemmas rendered translucent through narrative and image. Fox sinuously and maliciously disturbs the supportive relationship between the one-eyed Dog and the burnt and maimed Magpie, threatening their very existence. Established literary and environmental connotations about foxes come together in this archetypal tale of ‘less than perfect’ characters. This story of friendship, freedom and loyalty is a multilayered parable in which the hand-lettered text and visually stunning pictures are fully integrated. This is a rich book masterfully composed from spare, elegant language and a vibrant earthy palette built up and inscribed across each page.


The English Syllabus Years 7–10 requires students to read and closely study a wide range of types of poems. In Stage 5 students are required to read and closely study a variety of poems drawn from different anthologies and/or study one or two poets. An important purpose of this list is to reaffirm the creative power of poetry in the lives of young people. In addition to reading individual poems, students are encouraged to write their own, to make anthologies and collections of favourite poems, to read widely in poetry and to use it to illuminate and complement other textual experiences. This list should help teachers, parents and students in these activities.
The list consists primarily of anthologies. Some contain an unembellished collection of poems, or feature a complementary blend of poems, pictures and illustrations; others intermingle poems with questions, exercises and teaching suggestions. Many of the anthologies contain poems that are translations as well as a number from Australian writers of different cultural and language backgrounds.
In addition, some anthologies are entirely contemporary in content while others also contain traditional poetic forms and historically important poems that students will still enjoy. Classic poems could be selected from the annotated anthologies. Teachers could use as staffroom references:

  • The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 4th edition, Norton, 1996.

  • The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry, John Tranter and Phillip Mead (eds), Penguin, 1991.

  • The Oxford Book of Modern Australian Verse, Peter Porter (ed), OUP, 1996.

Some classic poems that would be accessible to students are:

Arnold Dover Beach

Auden Unknown Citizen

Blake The Tyger

Blight Death of a Whale

Brontë, Emily Remembrance

Browning The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Byron She Walks in Beauty

Dickinson Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Frost Out, Out

Gray Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Hopkins Pied Beauty

Keats La Belle Dame sans Merci

Lawrence Last Lesson of the Afternoon

Lawson Faces in the Street

Milton On his Blindness

Paterson The Man from Snowy River

Poe The Raven

Sassoon Does it Matter?

Shakespeare Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?

Shelley Ozymandias

Slessor Beach Burial

Tennyson The Lady of Shalott

Thomas Do not go Gentle into that Good Night

Whitman On the Beach at Night

Wordsworth I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils)

Wright The Surfer

In addition, the list contains a small number of books by individual poets who would be particularly accessible to students. Either individually or in class sets, each of the texts on this list can be used as an encouragement to wide reading, as the basis for small personal anthologies or simply as a source of specific poems for sharing or analysis. The variety of poems represented in most of the books here will also give student writers the confidence to experiment with language, to create new sounds, overturn sense and take risks.
Poetry can also inspire many other aspects of English. Poems are short enough to allow students to see how much difference changing a word or a line here or there can really make to the poem. And any one of these poetry books will show students the enormous range of subject matter for any poem.

Poetry Stage 4
Australian Imaginings

Jill Bryant

Cambridge University Press – ISBN: 0733606938
This is the Stage 4 companion text to Australian Visions. It is an integrated large format text of Australian poems and paintings, arranged according to themes, such as Mother Nature, Up and Away, Fire and Fear, Heroism and Causes, and Lasting Laughter. There has been a deliberate attempt to avoid themes, poems and paintings that characterise primary school English courses. Each section ends with a range of activities and tasks traversing many learning styles. The design and layout of the book is imaginatively enriching.
Rhyme Stew

Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Penguin – ISBN: 0140343652
Roald Dahl retells a range of traditional stories, legends and fables in simple verse. From The Emperor’s New Clothes to Hansel and Gretel, Dahl transforms old tales into jaunty modern poems. Apparently simple language and contemporary settings will draw readers into Dahl’s topical satire and social comment. The collection is rather narrowly focused on English social behaviour and values. However, this is balanced by the range of themes that cover such things as the pretensions of the upper class and moral pomposity.
The Power of Poetry

J Eshuys and V Guest

Nelson – ISBN: 0170102173
This broad collection of poetry and ideas about responding to and composing poems will appeal to teachers and students. It has a wide coverage of poetic themes including Childhood and Youth, School, Friendships and Family, and includes sections on why write poetry, the poet’s toolbox and different types and shapes of poems. It is a well-structured text with poems that reflect humour, sadness, real life and fantasy.
A Book to Write Poems By

Rory Harris and Peter McFarlane (eds)

Australian Association of Teachers of English – ISBN 0909955425
Poems here are arranged by a combination of poetic forms (eg recipe poems) and theme (eg environment poems). Page layouts are interesting and there are offbeat black-and-white drawings as illustrations. The book is intended as a recipe book for student poets and includes student poems. It includes insert blocks by the poets explaining the origins of some works.
Take a Chance: An Anthology of Performance Poetry

Rory Harris (ed), illustrated by M Rashleigh

Australian Association of Teachers of English – ISBN 0909955360
The title suggests the intention here as these poems are ideal for individual or group performance. Many are written by students. Interesting, offbeat black-and-white illustrations are included and interspersed with quotes devoted to succinct observations on the nature of poetry.
The Oxford Treasury of Classic Poems

Michael Harrison and Christopher Stuart-Clark

Oxford University Press – ISBN: 0192761870
This selection of classic poems features poems from W B Yeats and John Milton, to Charles Causley, Christina Rossetti and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The poems are skilfully illustrated with colourful and black-and-white drawings. The anthology gives teachers and students access to a wide and valued collection of poems.
The Oxford Book of Animal Poems

Michael Harrison and Christopher Stuart-Clark

Oxford University Press – ISBN: 0192762133
This anthology of poems celebrates the world’s creatures and their environment. Many of the poems are written by local people about the animals living in their own countries. The colourful and creative illustrations enhance the poems and the collection provides a good model for students’ own anthologies.
The Spangled Drongo: A Verse Novel

Steven Herrick

University of Queensland Press – ISBN: 0702230952
Older primary school readers as well as younger secondary readers will enjoy this verse novel. It conveys a real passion for soccer but also deals with the development of a friendship between a boy and a girl, along with the trauma of loss. Both characters give their point of view that provides humour and adds depth to the story. The use of photographs enhances this collection of thought-provoking free verse poetry.
By Heart: 101 Poems and How to Remember Them

Ted Hughes (ed)

Faber and Faber – ISBN: 0571192637
This selection emphasises the joy of memorising poetry for recitation and ranges from Shakespeare and Keats through to Auden and Heaney. In his introduction Ted Hughes argues for more students to come to poetry through learning it off by heart.
The Highwayman

Alfred Noyes, illustrated by Charles Keeping

Oxford University Press – ISBN: 0192723707
Charles Keeping stunningly illustrates Alfred Noyes’ famous poem of the highwayman and Bess, his lover who gives her life to try and save him. The way the images at the end of the poem are reversed in negative tones is very much in keeping with the poem’s themes.
100 Great Poems

Selected by Victoria Parker

Miles Kelly – ISBN: 1902947541
An anthology to delight the senses and stir the intellect, this collection features one hundred poems old and new. Writings from ancient times to the latter part of the twentieth century are published under thematic headings. Brief notes on individual poets and poems are included along with colourful illustrations that convey the mood and cultural origins of each selected work. Ranging from simple ballads to complex pieces, the poems in this volume have appeal for a wide age range. This is the kind of treasury a student would enjoy returning to over many years.

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