Every time I think about chickens, I get C.J. Dennis’ ‘The Feast’ or ‘The Famine’ stuck in my head. Do you know them? They’re from his Book for Kids, which we had in a precious old illustrated hardback copy, and also an audio version narrated by Noni from Playschool. And also several recent hard hitting dramas, but shoosh. Noni was my second favourite (who could beat John? And now I’m grown up I love him even more). On the other side of the tape was ‘Meanie and the Min Min’ which is another excellent Aussie kids story. Magically creepy, too, in that way that kids love to be creeped out. (Ps the good guys win.)
Cackle and lay, cackle and lay! How many eggs did you get to-day? None in the manger, and none in the shed, None in the box where the chickens are fed, None in the tussocks and none in the tub, And only a little one out in the scrub. Oh, I say! Dumplings to-day. I fear that the hens must be laying away.
And then, on the next page;
Cackle and lay, cackle and lay! How many eggs did you get to-day? Two in the manger, and four in the shed, Siz in the box where the chickens are fed, Two in the tussocks and ten in the tub, And nearly two dozen right out in the scrub. Hip, hooray! Pudding to-day! I think that the hens are beginning to lay.
My favourite poem in the book was The Ant Explorer, although it’s hard to choose. The profession ones, like ‘the pie man’ or ‘the porter’ are lovely little snapshots of ordinary life, too. I haven’t thought about this book for a long time as such. Although phrases will stick in the mind. Whenever I hear the word ‘tannin’ my brain automatically runs “‘You’ve taken too much tannin!’ jeered the jug” from Tea Time, for example.
Anyone else got any lovely aussie kids books like this tucked away in their childhood? I might just see if I can get my hands on a copy. And I need to retrieve ‘Honey Sandwich’ from my mother’s house before it goes missing – another classic, although from a more recent era!