Silly squid: poems about the sea

Janeen Brian

Cheryll Johns

Omnibus books


ISBN 9781742990965

RRP $24.99

Age 5+

Date of publication June 2015

Reviewer Neville Sandon

Don’t get an experienced teacher started!  Well, Janeen taught as a primary teacher for over twenty years before becoming a full-time writer. And we are the beneficiaries. Janeen Brian has authored picture books, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, short fiction and novels for young people and the educational market.

Don’t miss out on this one, The Silly Squid. Poems are not meant to be read so much as heard! In this collection there are wonderful rhymes and rhythms on every page to be heard of things under the sea. And bordering every page is a breakout of information about the creature that is the main character of the poem. Imagine parent and child memorizing some of these poems while driving to school and enjoying poetry.

Wouldn’t you like to have lunch with Janeen with her experience as teacher, writer and parent? She could talk to us about how to pick up this set of poems with your child in mind and work though them. Here are some of the questions she invites teachers to work with. So why not pick up on these insightful stimulating questions yourself while having dinner (I take it that the TV  is not competing in this dinner time conversation – hahem!)

What’s not to like about Cheryll Johns use of the fresh vibrant colours of the Australian sunlight in the ocean – none of the dirgey colours of Europe in her colourful graphics.

You know you can get this book cheaper than a CD or video and you can use it all the time. But in the meantime it’s in the Junior Library so be quick!

The rise and rise of poetry for Australian ears

Something we read but deaf to over the years


Janeen wrote some helpful Teacher’s notes: So take the opportunity to talk with your child over the poems. What do you think? The teachers could possibly help.

With your child, discuss your experience of the book and the poems.

  • Which is your favourite poem, and why?
  • Which is your favourite sea creature mentioned in the book, and why?
  • Which is your favourite fact from the page borders?
  • Why do you think that the author included the facts as well as the poems?
  • What facts are there in the poems? Choose one of the poems and in your own words share a fact about the creature that you have learnt from the verse.

While all of the poems in Silly Squid! use rhyme, there are a range of different rhyming patterns in the poems, and Janeen Brian has used a variety of different formats and techniques in her verses. As a class, explore some of the aspects of rhyme and rhythm in these poems and how they affect our understanding and enjoyment of verse.

6) In the Leafy Sea Dragon poem, identify which words rhyme.

– What is the pattern in the rhyming words?

– Do you know of any other poems that you have heard or read with a similar pattern?

– How do the Leafy Sea Dragon verses differ in pattern from a limerick?

7) The Stingray poem uses repetition as well as rhyme.

– Why do you think the author chose to do this?

– What impression does it give to the reader?

– Look at the words that repeat – what do they have in common with each other?

– What other words could the author have chosen that would have the same effect?

– What sort of repeating words would you choose if the poem was about you? Why?

8) The Mudskipper, Whale, and Squid poems are all two verses long, with four lines in each verse. Compare the rhyme patterns used in these three poems.

Some points to discuss are:

– How are these three poems similar?

– How are these three poems different?

– Is one of these poems an ‘odd one out’? Why/why not?

– Which of these poems has a rhyme in the middle of a line?

– How do the different rhyme schemes change the feel of the poem?

– Which is your favourite of these poems?

9) How about a discussion about the Shark poem.

– What is the rhyme scheme used?

– What is the rhythm?

– How has the poet given it this rhythm?

– Why do you think this rhythm was chosen for the shark?

– Would this rhythm have been appropriate for another animal?

– If you set this poem to music, what sort do you think would work?

And there’s more – over the holidays if you want activity around these poems go to

What do you think?

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