Poetry Box bonus sun and moon poems from Joy

 The Moon

A luminous orb, a lopsided smile,

Waxing, waning, all the while

Never dimmed, though darkness approaches

 Never ceasing to beguile

The Sun

Shrouded in cloud


Kissed by mist


 looming in gloom


But mellow though stark

To scatter the dark


Joy, age 12, Year 8, South Wellington Intermediate

Poetry Box noticeboard: NZ Book Award for Children and Young Adults finalists announced

June poetry challenge FAVOURITE WORDS POEMS here

This year’s Picture Book Award shortlist beautifully combines delicate illustrations that connect to and enhance sometimes delicate themes. There are laughs, tears, sighs (both contented and wistful) to be had in equal measure.

Picture Book Award Finalists

Hare & Ruru: A Quiet Moment, Laura Shallcrass (Beatnik Publishing)

Hound the Detective, Kimberly Andrews(Penguin Random House NZ)

Kōwhai and the Giants, Kate Parker (Mary Egan Publishing)

The Hug Blanket, Chris Gurney, illustrated by Lael Chisholm (Scholastic New Zealand)

This Is Where I Stand, Philippa Werry, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart (Scholastic New Zealand)

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award Finalists

Across the Risen Sea,
Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)

Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea, T K Roxborogh, illustrated by Phoebe Morris (Huia Publishers)

Red Edge, Des Hunt (Scholastic New Zealand)

The Inkberg Enigma, Jonathan King (Gecko Press)

The Tunnel of Dreams, Bernard Beckett (Text Publishing)

The top contenders for the Young Adult Fiction Award speak to the power of young people to profoundly influence the world around them, and don’t shy away from topics such as environmental destruction, oppression and injustice.

Young Adult Fiction Award Finalists

Draw Me a Hero, N K Ashworth (Lasavia Publishing)

Fire’s Caress, Lani Wendt Young, (OneTree House)

Katipo Joe: Spycraft, Brian Falkner (Scholastic New Zealand)

The King’s Nightingale, Sherryl Jordan (Scholastic New Zealand)
The Pōrangi Boy, Shilo Kino (Huia Publishers)

The judges found the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction a particularly strong category this year, stating “to say there is something for everyone is an understatement, this list has everything, for everyone”.

Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction Finalists

Egg and Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook, Alexandra Tylee, illustrated by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press)
Mophead Tu: The Queen’s Poem, Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press)

New Zealand Disasters, Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivančić (Scholastic New Zealand)

North and South, Sandra Morris (Walker Books Australia)
You’re Joking: Become an Expert Joke-Teller, Tom E. Moffatt, illustrated by Paul Beavis (Write Laugh Books)

The judges faced an outstandingly strong and large pool of entries for the Russell Clark Award for Illustration. The finalists are characterised by a diversity of styles and media, but the books all have in common an expert use of colour and line to communicate emotion and pace and skilfully add texture to the narrative.

Russell Clark Award for Illustration Finalists

Hare & Ruru: A Quiet Moment, Laura Shallcrass (Beatnik Publishing)

I Am the Universe, Vasanti Unka (Penguin Random House NZ)

Kōwhai and the Giants, Kate Parker (Mary Egan Publishing)

Moon & Sun, Malene Laugesen, written by Melinda Szymanik (Upstart Press)
Te Uruuru Whenua o Ngātoroirangi,
Laya Mutton-Rogers, written by Chris Winitana (Huia Publishers)

The finalists in the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for books written entirely in te reo Māori will appeal to a broad range of abilities. Te reo in its simplest form will lift the language for beginners, while there are also titles with a depth of language to send the imaginations of confident speakers soaring. The judges were pleased to see a marked increase in the number of books written in te reo Māori, rather than translated from English.

Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award Finalists

Aroha Te Whai Ora, Rebekah Lipp, illustrated by Craig Phillips and translated by Karena Kelly (Wildling Books)

Mihi, Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)

Pīpī Kiwi, Helen Taylor, translated by Hēni Jacob (Penguin Random House NZ)

Ngake me Whātaitai, Ben Ngaia, illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers (Huia Publishers)
Te Uruuru Whenua o Ngātoroirangi, Chris Winitana, illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers (Huia Publishers)

Finally, the finalists for the Best First Book Award left the judges reassured that the future of children’s literature in New Zealand is in good hands. In fact, the standard is so high, that four of the books are also finalists in one or more of the main categories.

Best First Book Award Finalists

Laura Shallcrass for Hare & Ruru: A Quiet Moment (Beatnik Publishing)

Kate Parker for Kōwhai and the Giants (Mary Egan Publishing)

Jonathan King for The Inkberg Enigma (Gecko Press)

Amy Haarhoff (illustrator) for The Midnight Adventures of Ruru and Kiwi, written by Clare Scott (Penguin Random House NZ)
Shilo Kino for The Pōrangi Boy (Huia Publishers

Poetry Box review: Melinda Szymanik and Vasanti Unka’s My Elephant is Blue: a book about big, heavy feelings

Poetry Box June challenge: favourite words poems

My Elephant is Blue: a book about big, heavy feelings

by Melinda Szymanik, illustrated by Vasanti Unka, Penguin (Puffin imprint) 2021

Melinda Szymanik and Vasanti Unka have produced an exquisite combination of words and images, story and illustration, for My Elephant is Blue: a book about big, heavy feelings. First up you have to run your fingers over the big blue elephant on the cover and feel the folds of skin. Penguin have done a terrific design job and I love the generous size. You need a big picture book to hold big feelings and a big blue elephant.

The first sentence will surprise you and most certainly encourage you to keep reading: ‘One morning I woke to find an elephant sitting on my chest.’

As you can imagine getting up was a problem, letting alone moving around, brushing teeth, when the big blue elephant just wouldn’t move!

Melinda has created the most inventive heartwarming story about what to do when a big blue feeling won’t budge. In an interview with Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, she explained what prompted her to write the story:

I was having some big heavy feelings of my own. I’ve often found writing can help me process my own thoughts and feelings, and the story that results can provide some sort of solution or way forward and that was definitely the case here. And the best thing is it doesn’t just help me, it can also help the young audience for whom I write.

The child’s parents chip in with suggestions, research elephants by reading books and phoning specialists, by helping the child do things and do more things, go walking round the block, pack a picnic. Even with the big blue elephant in tow.

The premise of the story is significant – we all have heavy feelings to manage, both as children and as adults. The elephant metaphor is genius. The sentences are so sweetly and economically crafted, they serve the big heavy feeling beautifully. The persistence of child and parents to solve the weight of the big blue elephant is crucial. The ending is significant, genius, beautiful.

Vasanti’s illustrations are tone perfect. Both the child and the big blue elephant will enhance the mood that grows inside as you read. And I adore the delicate soft-palette of the background, where the scene borders on transparent. Her colours keep step with the story, from the pale windows with the pale outside to the explosion of picnic colour to the final scenes: significant, genius, beautiful.

My Elephant is Blue is a very special book. It dares to go into a tough zone, to make human experience achingly real, and to offer the little steps that lead to hope and lightness. I love this book so much.

One day an elephant came and sat on my chest.
I found it hard to get up or move around, to breathe or talk.

“I’m Blue,” the elephant said.
“Can you please move, Blue?” I asked.
“I don’t want to move. This is a good spot for me to sit.”
“You’re crushing me,” I said.
“Yet I find you very comfortable,” said Blue.

Melinda writes picture books, short stories and novels for children and young adults. She has been a finalist for a number of awards, and five of her titles are Storylines Notable Books. Her picture book, The Were-Nana, won the New Zealand Post Children’s Choice Award in 2009, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Sakura Medal. Her novel, A Winter’s Day in 1939, won Librarian’s Choice at the 2014 LIANZA Awards and her picture book Fuzzy Doodle, was a 2017 White Raven Selection. She lives in Auckland with her family, and loves watching movies, eating out with her favourite people, and travelling abroad when the stars are aligned. She strongly believes that you can never have too many books, and you can never be too kind.

Vasanti Unka is an award-winning writer, designer and illustrator noted for the originality of her storytelling, her riotously colourful and inventive illustrations and the gorgeous design and production of her picture books. Vasanti is the illustrator of award-winning Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn. The Boring Book (Puffin 2013), which Vasanti wrote, illustrated and designed, was named the 2014 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and also took out the Best Picture Book Award category. Stripes! No, Spots!, published by Puffin in 2015 and described by poet Paula Green as ‘scrumptious in every way’, was lauded as a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book and was simultaneously published in the UK and US. Vasanti lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she juggles creative work and numerous book projects.

Penguin page

Interview with Read NZ Te Pou Muramura

Poetry Box June challenge: FAVOURITE WORDS poems

a favourite word gathering

I love words

I love stringing words together and listening to the way they spark and zing, whisper and hum. I love long words and short words. I love words I don’t know the meaning of. I have truckloads of favourite words like honey and caterpillar, wild and trickle. It’s not only the meaning or picture of the word, but the way the word sounds when you say it aloud. Poets love saying words out loud.

My love of words has given me a crazy idea for the June challenge.

I challenge you to hunt for words you love

(say 1 or 5 or 10 or 20 or 30). Over to you how many words you collect. You could do what I did in the picture above!

Then use some of them in a poem

(say 1 or 3 or 5 or 7). Over to you how many favourite words you use. And ADD as many other words as you like as you write.

Try playing with your words before you write the poem

make strings of words that sound good

short or long lines

play with patterns of short words and longer words

use your ears and listen to your word strings

Now write your poem and let the words FLOW

Your poem can be about anything

Your poem can be long or short

You can set the poem out however you like

This is your poem and there are no rules

Have fun and send me your poem:

Deadline: 26th June

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Include: name, age, year, name of school or homeschooled

Don’t forget to put FAVOURITE WORDS POEM in subject line so I don’t miss it

AND I will post some favourites near end of month and have a few books to give away

I read all the poems at the end of the month and get back to you then.

I have trouble accessing GOOGLE DOCs unless you give me permission so send poem in email or as Word file.

Poetry Box April challenge: Some favourite sun and moon poems

The other night I stayed up late to watch the blood-red super moon and it was magnificent. I sat out in the cold and watched the bright light turn to salmon and brick red. Such beauty. This morning I took this photo of the moon in the sky while the sun shone on the marshmallow clouds. Beautiful.

I recently reviewed Melinda Szymanik’s gorgeous picture book Moon & Sun and it inspired me to do this challenge!

I so loved reading all your poems with the sun and the moon and I felt very sad I couldn’t post them all. I could tell how much you all love writing. It shows! Thank you so much for sharing them with me.

This is not a competition but I am giving a copy of my book Groovy Fish to Elise (Ilam School), Sylvie (Westmere School), Chloe (St Andrews School) and Penelope (Richmond Rd School).

I do hope you try my June challenge – I am very excited about this one and can’t wait to see what you write. I am posting it on June 1st! Please don’t send me Google Doc links as I can’t read them!

The poems

The sun and the moon

The sun is a ball
The moon is a banana
So bright at the beach
At night

Elise C, Year 2, age 6, Ilam School

The light and night

The sun shines bright

The moon glows in the night

The sun shines bright

Battling for brightness or darkness

To cover the world

Neither are right

People like bright and night

The sun shines bright

Max Dixon age 8 year 4 Ilam School

Recipe for a moon and sun

To start off get some dark matter

Then some gas from a supernova

Wait for some billions of years

Watch it burst into flames all over

Next, gather some rock from outer space

Then carefully mould it into place

Bake in the heat of the sun

Wait ‘til it’s dusty

Then you’ll know it’s done!

We recommend you take care of this Moon and Sun.

‘Cos you can’t make another one.

Charlotte, Age: 12, Y 8, Selwyn House School


an eclipse blocks the sun

a sudden gust through the crust

an eclipse blocks the sun

bad luck for everyone 

shops closing down

the sun dawning now

an eclipse blocks the sun

Amanjeet, Year 6 age 10, Ilam School

The moon and stars bright

Singing each other  to sleep

The moon and stars bright 

I sit under them

I wish I was up there with them

They look down at me 

The  moon and stars bright 

Nalani W, Age 8  Yr 4, School St Andrews Collage

Hot dawn

the sun and moon

share breakfast

between a cherry tree

Chloe, age: 8  Year 4, St Andrew College

The Sun and The Moon

A bright yellow orb shines in the sky.

Leading plants to grow.

After a day’s work,

I retire to my den, 

And let my sister

Have a go instead.

A dazzling sphere,

Hangs alternatively there.

The stars dance behind me,

But they are no match for me.

Carolyn X, Age: 10, Fendalton Open-Air School

How to make a sun and moon cake

Pick up a teaspoon and fill it

with sunshine.

Slop in a glistening, rainbow sunset.

Pour in some scents of

a lavender bush.

Cut up some moon cheese and throw it all in.

Grab a cup and pour in some 

Chuckles, laughter, fun.

Lure in one gaze at the

bright, bold moon.

Stir in some wet grass and

put it in the oven.

Now you have a sun and moon cake.

Alice, age 9, Year 5, Selwyn House School

Sun and Moon

I am a lonely blob high up in space. 

People think I’m yellow, though I’m really white.

Shining brightly in the day then I go at night.

Beaming my white light on the earth.

Then I take my brother’s place,

High up in the starry space.

Crystal, Age 10, Year: 5, Fendalton Open-air School

Sun vs Moon

The days go by as the 

Moon and sun have their battles

both want the sky 

They refuse to share 

So day and night

They just fight and fight.

Sometimes the sky varies,

From light to dark,

when it’s dark the moon wins,

And the world goes gloomy,

 when it’s light the sun wins,

And shares the warm happiness.

But when one loses a battle,

Say the moon takes over,

The sun will sit and watch,

Then will cry in the sky,

as the tears drip from clouds,

And makes the world go damp.

And when the sun wins,

The moon goes mad,

And causes chaos in the sky,

So the sun shields the world with ease,

The sun is most loved,

By the birds in the trees.

The bats are all booing, 

as the sun wins again,

The kiwis, owls and rats,

Go to their burrows.

Sun vs moon is a very troubled time,

But they both take turns around the world. 

Holly, age 9. Year 5, Westmere School


One blazing and dazzling

Other gloomy and usual

Both Brightly shining over the land at day and night

Keeping the light around 

Making sure we see

Both Brightly shining over the land at day and night

Sun and Moon,

Sister and brother

Both Brightly shining over the land at day and night

Leona K, age 11, Y 8, Selwyn House School

The Star and the Small Bit of Earth

The hot summer sun with its blinding light.

 The crater-filled moon in the cold of night. 

Under the sun you eat ice cream.

Under the moon you have peaceful dreams.

Sylvie F, age 10, Westmere School


The ruru’s chirps fill the sky

As the moon rises.

Behind you, the sun slowly sets behind the soft swaying sea.

The bats swoop in front of the moon.

And a smile spreads across your face.

Emily, age 10, Westmere School

Sun and Moon

Beautiful sunset beaming with orange colour,

the bright orange sea.

Black as midnight sky,

with the moon beaming with light 

but all alone in the void.

Meer, age 10, Year 6, Ilam School

Ra me te Marama

Orange moon,

Orange leaves,

Dancing through the wind

Brighton Beach

His hokey pokey ice cream

Melting the sand

Tilly, 12 years old, Selwyn House School

Sun and Moon

The moon and sun never see each other.

Only at dawn.

Only at dusk.

My question is


Mia C, age: 11, Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School

My sun moon day

I wake up in glee 

the sun is shining at me.

Time for the park 

I see a dog near.

I get in the car we get there.

We get ice cream 

it melts in my hand.

I eat all my cold ice cream

 it cools me down.

I swing on the monkey bars and slide down the slide.

It’s time to go it’s getting late.

I come home half asleep 

i didn’t even get to eat.

The moon is shining bright as a light.

I climb my way into bed. 

By the moon I am led.

Cold wind a bright moon

 just one of those cold nights.

The moon the sun they are one.

Mia, age 9, Y 5, Selwyn House School

Light and Dark

Sun and moon

Moon and sun

Light and dark

Dark and light

Loud and quiet

Quiet and loud

Happy and calm

Calm and happy

Night and day

Day and night

Dawn and dusk

Dusk and dawn

Stars and clouds

Clouds and stars

Cheers and snores

Snores and cheers

Gold and silver

Silver and gold

Play and sleep

Sleep and play

Fire and stone 

Stone and fire

Brother and sister

Sister and brother

Both together

Light and dark   

Penelope, age: 9, Richmond Road School

The Night the Sun Disappeared

Moon light poured into the cracks,

the door closed

and smothered everything in darkness.

People still remember

the light golden spray

when they open the curtains. 

They whisper, “ Sun show yourself.”

But the sun never does.

Lucy, age 10, Y 6, Selwyn House School


Long ago

There were thousands of planets.

A lot of them

Joined together

To make one hot sun.

The others

Joined together

To make one moon.

The moon

Tormented the sun.

The sun cried;

Her tears

Were bits of planets

That flew away

Got colder

Turned white

And formed hundreds of stars.

The moon

And the sun


At peace.

Josie, age 9, Ilam School

Sun and Moon

The Sun.

A vast ball of fire.

You can’t look at it.

Bathing in its warmth,

Without the sun no plants would grow and everything would die.

The Moon.

There is no oxygen.

If an asteroid crashed right behind you wouldn’t even hear it.

A magnetic grey,

With cavernous craters.

Sometimes you can see the moon at daytime.

The sun and moon are like brother and sister.

Day and night.

Harry, aged 9, Y 5,  Saint Kentigern Boys School

Sun and Moon

The moon shines in


when all the kids are


The sun is at its


when kids are happy 



Lea, age 8, Richmond Road School

The Sun and the Moon

The two brothers.

The sun shining bright

in the day.

The moon glowing bright 

in the night.

Sascha, 8, Richmond Road School

Poetry Box review: Hannah Gold’s The Last Bear

The Last Bear, Hannah Gold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold, HarperCollins, 2021

What a delicious book to read on a gloomy Sunday with nowhere to go but into the warm glow of a story. Hannah Gold’s debut junior novel is a treat. The sentences are crafted so very beautifully, but the memorable beauty lies in human behaviour: friendship, compassion, caring, determination, inventiveness.

Winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, Levi Pinfold’s illustrations are exquisite as you can see by the cover. A perfect match for the story.

April Wood’s mum died when she was four. She lives in a house with her father: ‘It was tall and thin and looked ever so slightly unhappy around the edges, and inside it always felt cold’. Her dad is a scientist studying weather patterns. He works very very hard and keeps odd unpredictable hours. She spends most of her time in the back garden where a family of foxes offer endless fascination.

One day April’s father gets a job on an island in the Arctic Circle for six months, and she gets to go too. All her hopes of more father time are squashed because her father seems to work even harder studying the weather patterns. So April gets to go exploring. She gets to go exploring out in the wild and the cold of an arctic island for a whole summer. April the explorer. April the curious.

Her father says she is just like her mother and the best word for them is a Norwegian word: Friluftsliv finding joy in the great outdoors. They both love wild life.

One day, against all odds, against everything it says in the books, April is sure she spots a polar bear in the distance. It is not ruining the story to say that after days of looking she discovers it is indeed a real live polar bear. A real live polar bear who is hungry and lonely and wounded. April has to dig deep into herself to decide what to do next. And that is the story I am not sharing and spoiling for you. That is the delight and warm glow of reading and letting it unfold for yourself.

All good books make you feel and make you think. And that is exactly what The Last Bear does. You think (and feel!) about the damaged planet, about threatened wildlife, about what it is to be brave and stand up for what you believe in, about a young girl whose father is too too busy to spend much time with her. All this and so much more.

I am so hoping you will a find a copy of this glorious book and get reading – whatever the weather patterns are like outside. BECAUSE IT IS GLORIOUS!

Hannah Gold worked in the film and magazine industries before taking time out to pursue her dream of writing. She lives in Lincolnshire with her tortoise, her cat and her husband. This is her middle grade debut.

HarperCollins page

Poetry Box in Featherston: Magnetic Poetry

What fun to do poetry with children in Featherston (and some mums who joined in too!). I read some of my poems, we made up long long snaking poems, we made up poems using our ears, and we made up poems using our eyes. I loved the way everyone joined in and the pens went scratching like tiny poetry mice on the paper. A SPECIAL DAY!

So a big thank you to all the children (and mums) who filled the room with a poetry glow – I was still glowing as I drove over the Rimutaka range on Monday and flew home! I was waiting for someone to ask what my glow was all about, so I could say it was a Featherston Booktown glow from all the poems the children wrote.

I am so sorry not all my photos turned out so I have just shared a few with you! Honey-rose only half your Platywawa poem was in the photo!

Here are a few of the poems

Animals Are Fun

The Snake

I’m a slithery snake

I’m a slow shedding snake

I’m a red banded snake

I’m a mountain dwelling snake

I’m a dynamic ssssssing snake

I’m an awesome smelling snake

I’m a LONG snake

Isaac, age 9, St Teresa School


I’m tiny teeny chihuahua

I’m a sleepy weepy chihuahua

I’m a fat rat chihuahua

I’m a kind windy chihuahua

I’m a cheeky sneaky chihuahua

Honey-rose, age 9, St Teresa School

I’m a Horse

I’m a lightning speedy horse

I’m a stinky muddy horse

I’m a raspberry lemonade horse

I’m a loving loving pretty horse

Sarah, age 8, Queen Margaret College


I’m a sausage roll cat

I’m a pink polka dot cat

I’m an orange stripy cat

I’m a crunchy munchy cat

I’m a sweet lolly cat

I’m a loved loved cat

Evie, age 8, Greytown School


The cat is stripy and fluffy

and cute and a good cat.

Emilia, age 6, Featherston School

Imaginary Animals


The lizarpus likes to eat the fungi

The lizarpus doesn’t like to eat pie

The lizarpus likes to eat chocolate

The Lizarpus likes to drink juice

The lizarpus likes rocks

The lizaropus swims in the sea

The lizarpus loves clouds

The lizarpus is AWESOME!

Isaac, age 9, St Teresa School

The Sniger

A sniger likes to eat meat

A sniger likes to play catch the ball

A sniger likes to slide and snooze

And you have to watch out for its tail

or you might turn into kale!

India, age 7, Featherston School


Eletamus grow in the forest

Bathes in the mud

Plays with sparkling sequins

East dry hay

Elatamus makes your day

Azalea, age 7, St Teresa School

The Snakog

The snakog likes to eat mouse

and tigers.

The snakog likes to play

with his ball.

Lulu, age 8, Queen Margaret College

And some picture poems for our mums

My Mum

Long silky black hair,
Smile as wide as the sun,

Eyes as brown as cocoa,

Eyebrows as dark as the midnight sky,
Posture proud as the sun.


Poetry Box May and June update

Dogs catching up at Bethells Beach

Dear young poetry fans

Thank you so much for all the sun moon poems you sent for the April challenge. That is now closed (too late to send more!) but I have a very busy fortnight coming up. I won’t be reading these and posting favourites until later on in May.

AND I won’t be able to post a May challenge – I will post the next challenge on June 1st.

Next week I am going to be away at Featherston Booktown festival. I am doing a fabulous poetry-playground workshop for children on Saturday May 8th (1.30 – 3.30). There are still some places left, so if you live in the Wairarapa or Wellington and want to come and write poetry with me now is your chance (age 6 to 10). You can book a spot here.

I am sorry you have to wait a whole month to get your next challenge and to see the poems I pick this month. I need to make sure I don’t POP with too many things to do!

I do hope to post a few reviews of children’s books I have loved reading.



Poetry Box review: Ulf Stark’s Can you whistle, Johanna?

Poetry Box April poetry challenge

Can you whistle, Johanna? Ulf Stark, illustrated by Anna Höglund, Gecko Press, 2021

One of my favourite memories as a children’s poet was taking children to read their poems to old people in retirement villages. It was so very special. The young and the old loved it equally, especially talking to each other at the end. There were warm glows on everyone’s cheeks! Wide smiles. Sadly I just don’t seem to have time to do it at the moment but I do hope some other energetic poet gives it a go.

I think this shiny memory added to my delight in reading Ulf Stark’s Can you whistle, Johanna.

Ulf has a grandfather whom he loves dearly. They eat cake together on birthdays, go out to tea, and swap presents (five dollars and a cigar). The grandfather always eats pigs’ trotters. Ulf’s best friend Berra doesn’t have a grandfather and that feels like one terrible aching impossible-to-fill gap even though he doesn’t exactly know what grandfathers do.

Ulf comes up with a cunning plan and they go visit a retirement village where there are truckloads of old men. The boys definitely want one who eats pigs’ trotters and takes you out to tea and can teach you to whistle.

Ah, this is the sweetest most heartwarming story you can imagine. I laughed out loud and I felt good inside as I read. I especially love the bit about eating cherries from Mr Gustavsson’s extremely high tree in the dark. Oh and wanting to fish when there is no lake for miles but making something wonderful by making do with what is nearby (something rather special).

Sometimes you read a story and it sticks with you for days and you stop hanging out the clothes and writing the poem and weeding the garden and a little bit of the story lights up inside you. That’s how I feel with this glorious book.

I adore Anna Höglund‘s illustrations with their exquisite textures and colour palettes. I do wish children’s books included more details on the illustrations. It reminded me of the smell of crayons and pastels. Anna also illustrated the heavenly The Stone Giant.

Julia Marshall both translated and published the story. The sentences flow like clover honey and the book feels just right in your hand. Can you whistle, Johanna? was originally published in 1992 and made into a film. I can see why it is an international classic. I am so grateful to Gecko Press for continuing to publish books for children that are so very precious, and that always uplift stories with wisdom, verve and humour. When you read a Gecko Press book you get to feel the world.

I do hope loads of grandchildren read this to loads of grandparents – oh and truckoads of grandparents read it to truckloads of grandchildren.

Gecko Press page

Ulf Stark was a much-loved, award-winning Swedish writer. He has written around thirty books for children and young adults, and has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Anna Höglund is a Swedish illustrator and author. Her work has been recognized with Swedish and international awards. She has worked with many well-known authors including Barbro Lindgren and Ulf Stark.

Poetry Box review: Penny Chrimes’s Tiger Heart

Poetry Box April poetry challenge

Tiger Heart, Penny Chrimes, Orion (Hatchette UK) 2020

This year I hope to post little reviews of some of the children’s books I have loved reading. One because I love reading children’s books so much and two because children’s reviews are hard to spot in New Zealand. I am hoping some of you will be inspired to hunt down a book I have loved and see what you think. In bookshops and in libraries!

I will include a link to the monthly poetry challenge at the top of the review!

All Easter I have stayed at home and read books! I especially loved Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes. Penny worked in Fleet Street (London’s newspaper zone!), and then in television as a news journalist. This is her first novel.

Tiger Heart is a cracking good adventure with all kinds of important ideas bubbling beneath the surface. You will read it in a TIGER FLASH it is so gripping. Fly was abandoned in a basket outside a workhouse in London and ended up working for a mean man cleaning chimneys. One day she climbs down the chimney into a room with a tiger and the GRIPPING adventure begins. The tiger doesn’t eat her. In fact he believes she is a princess and wants to help her.

Dark forces make it hard for Tiger and Fly to do everything they need to do. Rescue the people and animals the wicked men have enslaved. Find their way home. She does discover she has special powers!

Penny is a whizz at making up words and using words that might send you to a dictionary: nick-ninny, flummery, termagant, trot-box, drowndead, humdudgeon.

I so loved the action, but I also loved the Tiger’s wisdom and the importance of friendship. I loved the way Fly got to be stronger and wiser. I like the fact GREED and CRUEL behaviour are not options. Kindness matters. Leading a country with kindness matters.

So when you are in the mood for a cracking good adventure, with whizzbang dialogue, fascinating characters and excellent ideas hiding in the nooks and crannies, then this is the book for you.

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