Cackle and Lay

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.)

The Famine

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;

The Feast

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!

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8 thoughts on “Cackle and Lay

  1. “sister dyed her hair!
    Distgusting!
    Put the kettle on mother and we’ll all have a cup of tea”
    I no longer have the book but our entire family used to do the deeeeeestgusting! put the kettle on mother and we’ll all have a cup of tea. In response to the slightest provokation.

    Also Franciscus Henry, the original children’s hippy, I loved his book LP. I have very fond memories of roll a bowl of goldfish down the street.

  2. Ours were the Cautionary Tales for Children.

    “and when Matilda shouted fire
    they only answered Little Liar”

    and are we talking John Waters and John Hamblin from Playschool? Because John Waters is a spunk and he’s lovely but John Hamblin was a GENIUS. We have this very good version of We’re Going On A Bearhunt with him and Noni and it cracks me up every time. And the kids. It’s the way he says “Ooh, thick oozy mud”

  3. The CJ Dennis has been re-released, so you can get yourself a brand spankin’ new copy if you like. I have a new edition I found at a second hand shop, either a mis-judged present or a reviewer’s copy. The kid enjoys them, the Bloke and I have flashbacks. The cd of classic Seasame Street songs has much the same effect (except for the Elmo Song, because the Bloke and I are too old to have heard that first time round).

    My mother still talks fondly of the day every mother in Flemington and Ascot Vale rang every other mother to make sure they knew that John Waters was taking his shirt off on Playschool, but John Hamblin was my favourite. The new presenters are ok, but they’re not Funny John.

    My new favourite Australian kids book is Glenda Millard’s Applesauce and the Meaning of Christmas. I don’t often borrow things from the library and think “We must buy our own copy of this”, but I did with this one.

  4. I still have my childhood copy of that book – very old and battered now – and the little sugar ant who made up his mind to roam, far away far away far away from home was definitely my favourite. I think I can still recite the whole thing. Up and down a fern frond, round and round a stone … etc

    Also the hist! hark! a mopoke in the dark! Every time I hear the mopoke owl round here I think of that poem.

    I once saw John Hamblin in the Qantas lounge at Tullamarine and it took every ounce of my strength not to go up to him and gush in an embarrassing manner.

  5. wow i missed that story called meanie and the min min i tried looking it up but i can’t find a single trace of its existence except in that little bit someone wrote saying ” On the other side of the tape was ‘Meanie and the Min Min’ which is another excellent Aussie kids story.” does anyone know where i can find the story or a website about it or who wrote it?

    1. A favourite of mine from when I was a kid. Tracked down a copy online as it’s been out of print for a while. Try ebay etc for a copy.

      Meannie and the Min Min

      by Shrapnel, Pamela

      Publisher…… Angus And Robertson

      Year of Publication……. 1990

      Binding…………………….. Softcover

      Illustrator: Terry Denton. Category: Children & Young Adult; Teenage Fiction; Teens & Young Adult. ISBN: 0207167028.

  6. I am looking for Meanie and the Min Min as well — so if anyone finds it please let me know where.
    Thanks 🙂
    Chloe

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