Poetry Box review: Victoria Clean and Isobel Joy Te Aho-White’s Lost in the Museum

Poetry Box October poem challenge here

My Whitcoulls Top 50 Kids’ Books popUP poem challenge here

Lost in the Museum, Victoria Clean, Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, Te Papa Press, 2022

I have missed going into museums and art galleries. I once wanted to write a children’s poetry collection inspired by objects in a museum – but that idea is still sleeping! However in New York Pocket Book (Seraph Press), loads of my poems are inspired by New York galleries and museums.

I went to the old Immigration Centre on Ellis Island and it affected me deeply. I got lost in a small pair of boots that had belonged to an immigrant child. I’d spent so many years at university doing my Italian degrees, going to Italy, reading truckloads of Italian books, speaking Italian. I fell into those dear empty boots and the emptier they felt, the fuller they grew. They made me think of my own daughters, of my love of Italy, of how tough it has been for immigrants across the centuries, across the globe, of how it was for those new arrivals, so full of hope and loss. I am picturing those dear little boots again now, and thinking of refugees, right at this moment in time, of their hope and loss, despair and pain.

Today I want to celebrate Lost in the Museum. It is sublime. It is a book that resonates on so many levels. Isobel’s illustrations are like resting bays in the narrative. So absorbing. So full of life and mood and connections.

Victoria’s narrative is equally absorbing. A family is in the museum but, when it’s time to go home, Pāpā is lost. The woman at the information desk knows exactly what to do and takes them to Rongomaraeroa, to the pounamu with its powerful energy. The family learns that a person might have a special attachment to a taonga and lose themselves in its world.

Together they place their hands on the pounamu, they learn te hononga is when they form their own connections with a taonga. And that is what happens as they think of all the taonga Pāpā may have been drawn to.

“If te hononga is strong, a person can lose themselves in the world of the taonga.

A taonga is not just an object in a museum – it is rich in story, human connections and personal resonance. Every person feels an object, a treasure, a taonga, in different ways. There are multiple pathways through a museum.

At the back of the book there is a glossary with details about the taonga we have encountered in the narrative : Hīnake (eel trap), Britten V1000 motorbike, Tauhunu vaka (canoe), Cheongsam (woman’s dress), South Island giant moa, a kauri painting.

I love this book so much. It is a book that hugs you, that inspires you, that sets you musing and thinking. The writing is fluid and fluent, the story engaging, informative, journey-making, experience enhancing. Reading this book is as good as a trip to the museum as it open doors and leaves you enriched. I do hope it is in every school library and on every family bookshelf.

Thank you for this gift, this pukapuka, this taonga.

Victoria Cleal works as a writer and editor at Te Papa. She worked on the Nature | Te Taiao exhibition and several stories for the children’s TV series He Paki Taonga and its associated book. Her first book, also based on a treasure at Te Papa, and illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, was Whiti: Colossal Squid of the Deep, winner of the Best Children’s Book at the 2021 Whitley Awards for zoological literature.

Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Ngāti Kahungungu ki te Wairoa, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Irakehu) is a graphic artist with a diploma in Visual Arts (UCOL) and a Bachelor of Design (Hons) majoring in illustration from Massey University. She has illustrated for Huia Publishers and the School Journal (Lift Education), as well as several of the stories for the children’s TV series He Paki Taonga and its associated book.

Te Papa Press page

Poetry Box Reading Back, Reading Forward: David Hill on Falter Tom and the Water Boy

Poetry Box October poem challenge here

My Whitcoulls Top 50 Kids’ Books popUP poem challenge here

Falter Tom and the Water Boy, Maurice Duggan, Kenneth Rowell illustrator, Kestrel Books, 1959

Auckland author Maurice Duggan wrote Falter Tom and the Water Boy way back in the late 1950s. Falter Tom is an old, lame Irish sailor who tells many stories of his life. But none of them match what happens in the book, when one day he’s walking on the beach and sees a small dolphin playing in the waves. No – it’s not a dolphin. It’s a young boy, with green hair and copper-coloured skin, who leads the old man into all sorts of adventures and astonishing places beneath the sea. They become friends. They face danger. They find treasures. It’s a book full of magic, wonder and secrets, and it won prizes and praise in several countries.

David Hill lives in Taranaki, where he has been a fulltime writer for 40 years. His novels and stories for young readers have been published in several countries and languages. His new book, Below, the story of a boy and girl trapped deep underground when a tunnel collapses, will be published next March.

Maurice Duggan (1922-1974) is one of New Zealand’s greatest exponents of short fiction, despite a small output. His 1957 Falter Tom and the Water Boy was one of the first internationally successful New Zealand children’s books. In 1960, Duggan was the second recipient of the Burns Fellowship. His Collected Stories was published posthumously in 1981.

Poetry Box 72 hour popUP challenge: celebrating Whitcoulls Kids’ Top 50 Books

Aotearoa New Zealand’s younger readers have an insatiable appetite for book series, Whitcoulls announce, as they unveil their Kids’ Top 50 Books List today, Tuesday 27 September 2022.

Now in its 24th year, the Whitcoulls Kids’ Top 50 Books is a calendar event and hotter than ever with more votes received than ever before – up nearly 4 percent from last year. More votes came through online than in previous years and as they rolled in some trends emerged: the popularity of books in a series, local New Zealand books and adventure stories.

Whitcoulls Book Manager Joan Mackenzie says, “The importance of New Zealand books for children can’t be overstated – it’s so important they see themselves in some of these stories, and see their own environment reflected back to them. Our local authors, illustrators and publishers do a wonderful job and Whitcoulls loves being able to showcase their work.”

Sixteen of the titles voted on to the List are books in a series, with ten of those appearing in the top 25. Significantly, nearly 40 percent of the titles are books by New Zealand authors and illustrators, both new faces and leading names, including Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (#2); Aroha Series (#7); The Little Yellow Digger (# 9); and How Do I Feel? (#10). Keeping young readers engaged is a huge factor in keeping them reading and book series enhance their enjoyment.

More than half the books, 28 in total, are new to this year’s List and perennial favourite, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series is again voted into the number one spot. Other titles of note are Dav Pilkey’s fun Dog Man Series (#3), Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (#4), and Tui T. Sutherland’s dragon adventures Wings of Fire Series (#5).

To celebrate Whitcoulls sharing a love of books, I am hosting a 72 hour popUP poem challenge. I will have some books from the list to give away and will post some favourite poems.

What: Choose a book title from the list and use as the title of a poem (you don’t need to include word ‘series’!).

How: Write the poem anyway you like – use your imagination, or real things, or even the book itself as an idea. Over to you!

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Include: Your name, age, year, name of school

Deadline: 9 pm Friday 30th SEPTEMBER

Don’t forget: to put LIST POEM in email subject line so I don’t miss your email.

I will reply to all your emails, post some poems, and give some books away.

Poetry Box Reading Back, Reading Forward: Renee Liang on Mischief and Mayhem: 30 New Zealand Stories

Poetry Box October poem challenge here

Mischief and Mayhem: 30 New Zealand Stories ed. Barbara Else, illustrations Philip Webb (Random House 2005)

We found this book on a share bookshelf in a motel in Rotorua when I was there for a conference. The kids took it back to our room, and in between spa dips and exploring tree tops and hot pools, fought over the right to have this book in their possession.  Eventually my husband resorted to taking control of the book himself so he could dole out the stories by request, equitably.  But our bedtime routine got longer as we stretched to ‘just one more’ story.   It was easy to see why – the short stories, all by NZ authors (some familiar names such as James Norcliffe and David Long, others less recognisable) are wry and amusing, often with a twist, and undeniably Kiwi. Our homecoming day arrived – and we knew we’d have to take the book with us.  So we chose which of our books to leave behind in its place…. and took our new friend home, where from time to time the kids still disappear into a couch or the attic with it.

Renee Liang is a poet, playwright, paediatrician, medical researcher and essayist who has collaborated on visual arts works, film, opera and music, made theatre works, dramaturged, taught creative writing and organized community initiatives like New Kiwi Women Write, a writing workshop for migrant women. Renee has written, produced and toured eight plays including The Bone Feeder, later adapted as an opera, one of the first Asian mainstage works in NZ. In 2018 she was appointed a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to the arts, and won Next Woman of the Year for Arts and Culture. Her poems for children can be found in A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children (Random House, 2010) and Roar Squeak Purr: A NZ Treasury of animal poems (Penguin, 2022)

Poetry Box 72 hour popUP poem challenge: Hedgehog and Goat word list poems

Ha! I just spotted this activity sheet on Penguin and thought it would make a cool poem challenge for a LONG weekend.

Use at least FOUR words from the list to write a poem.

The poem can be about ANYTHING you like.

You can write the poem ANY WAY you like.

Let your imagination and eyes and ears go ROAMING!

You can try the activity sheet here

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Include: Your name, age, year, name of school

Deadline: 9 am Tuesday 27th SEPTEMBER

Don’t forget: to put Hedgehog POEM in email subject line so I don’t miss your email.

I will reply to everyone, post some favourite poems, and give away at least two signed copies of my new book Hedgehog and Goat.

Poetry Box review: Hiroshi Ito’s Free Kid to a Good Home

Poetry Box October poem challenge here

Free Kid to a Good Home, Hiroshi Ito, trans Cathy Hirano, Gecko Press 2022, originally published 1992

Free Kid to a Good Home is an Japanese bestseller and I can see why. It has a comic feel and is a joy to read.

A sister is completely thrown when her new baby brother arrives. She thinks he looks like a potato and all he ever does is CRY! EAT! POOP! And nobody pays the sister the slightest bit of attention. She is feeling extremely LEFT OUT!

Only one thing left to do: run away! She advertises herself as a Free Kid to a good home. She sits in a cardboard box with her sign and dreams of the ideal home. She waits and she waits and she waits. Things turn up but not exactly what she expected.

You will have to read the book yourself because no way I am spoiling the surprises (I loathe spoiler reviews), but oh my gosh this book is so HOPEFUL! And there was a page where I felt extremely sad.

Hiroshi’s writing flows like a gentle stream and the illustrations are beguiling. They are simple fluid drawings of the characters, and it feels like they have stepped out of an ultra cool cartoon.

As for the ending (shsh! can’t tell you what happens!) it is utterly perfect.

This is a GEM of a book and I can see why it is a bestseller! Highly recommended.

Hiroshi Ito was born in Tokyo, Japan, and graduated from Waseda University with a degree in education. He began creating picture books while still a student and has since published many award-winning books.

Gecko Press page

Poetry Box poems in the wild: Henry (3) ‘Moon, Moon Go To Sleep, The Sun’s Not Going Down’

Poetry Box October poem challenge here

Richard Langston saw this poem on the wall while making a Country Calendar episode. It was written by a 3 year old boy – dictated to his mother – and Richard thought it was rather good. And so do I! I also love his bee idea he shares in the little interview below.

I don’t usually post writing by children under five as the blog is for primary and intermediate school children in Aotearoa. But I love the idea of sharing children’s poems we come across when we least expect it.

So this might be the first of an occasional series of Poems in the Wild!

The poet

Henry is now 5. He lives in Rangitīkei and attends South Makirikiri School.

What are your interests?

Um, playing with Owen at school and also, I really like maths. Oh, I really like going on the plane. I love climbing the maple tree. I really like doing farm jobs with Dad and chasing sheep because Dad goes really fast. I love visiting Charlotte because Eddie is so cute (Charlotte is my aunty, and Eddie is my cousin.)

Do you have any favourite books or authors? 

My favourite book is one of my Māori books, the bird one where there are only 40 birds left (Wildlife of Aotearoa by Gavin Bishop).

Does you still like writing?

Yes! I also like doing sheets with the numbers on them. Actually we could do another poem, like the one I did at school. The bee one. Bees flying out the hive and we cut them out and glue them around the bee hive and we colour them in and the hive. There’s five bees, but we talked about two bees and I did a rainbow bee.

Poetry Box Reading Back, Reading Forward: Bill Nagelkerke on Buster Bee Stories

Poetry Box October poem challenge here

Buster Bee Stories by Barbara Murison

Barbara Murison was eighty-five when she died in 2017 but her four-year old self lives on in her book Buster Bee Stories published in 1977.

This collection of eight semi-autobiographical tales was published by Price Milburn in their Kea Book series (a series which, incidentally, also featured the first ever children’s book by William Taylor, Pack up, pick up and off). Despite their age, the stories in Barbara’s collection remain timeless in their appeal. Set in Ohakune (another link with Taylor who was mayor there for a time) and Wellington in 1936, the stories were already period pieces when they were first published and it’s best to approach them as such.

An indoor flush toilet is a great novelty; night trains run regularly between Auckland and Wellington (“Ohakune Junction, time for refreshments!”); cars are rarities and novelties. Buster Bee lives with her parents “in a house built on a railway station” (her father is a track engineer) and her life is pleasantly constrained by her immediate surroundings: “Mummy and Daddy and all the safe, familiar things she saw every day were all that Buster Bee wanted or needed.” Buster’s world expands following a potentially fraught visit to competing grandparents in Auckland and, later, when the family moves to Wellington for her father’s new job. At the end of the book, school looms and a new friendship is made.

Each story is carefully constructed; words are used precisely and with economy; humour is balanced with age-appropriate drama; the world is seen from Buster’s perspective, albeit elaborated upon a little by the authorial voice, about which Betty Gilderdale in her seminal work A sea change writes: “There is a great deal of valuable information about the period, but it is always incidental to the story and didacticism is never at any point allowed to triumph over art.” The black and white illustrations by Judith Trevelyan capture the mood perfectly.

Long out of print but perhaps still available from some library collections, Buster Bee Stories is worth seeking out.

Bill Nagelkerke

Writer, translator and former children’s librarian Bill Nagelkerke has a great interest in keeping alive the memory of New Zealand children’s books, those long out-of-print but still deserving recognition.

Poetry Box Reading Back, Reading Forward: a new series

one of my overflowing children’s bookshelves in our spare room, with books hiding behind the first row, and not counting the children’s poetry shelves

An Introduction to Reading Back, Reading Forward

I recently emailed a number of children’s authors in Aotearoa. I shared my plans to revitalise Poetry Box along with my commitment to create a small hub for children’s books and writing. Local books yes, but also sublime books from overseas. All categories, and for readers and writers up to Year 8.

Loads of authors (and school librarians) are offering support and it feels like the Milky Way keeps landing in my inbox with glints and gleams.

I feel even more compelled to do this since the editors of Annual 3, in a radio interview, suggested their anthology and the School Journal are the books worthy of attention, when there are scant good books available for readers aged 8 to 12 in New Zealand. Annual 3 is wow! – it’s magnificent glorious inspiring, but I’m suspicious of statements from any editors that are universalising, patronising, hierarchical. But, grumble aside, I can’t wait to review the book, plus there will be a review from one of my young reviewers. The anthology is to be celebrated along with so many other equally good local books. My current aim is to promote and showcase children’s books and authors on Poetry Box, and to open up wide, far-reaching, multi-hued paths through the world, both real and imagined, for young readers and writers.

My new series is one way of encountering New Zealand books for children. Of returning to past words and stories in order to move in refreshing ways through the present and towards the future. In Annual 3, there is a brilliant essay by Madison Hamil, ‘Harry Potter and the Missing Letter – and me’. Sometimes you cross the bridge into a piece of writing and the luminous connections spark and sparkle. Madison shares her reading life as a child, and how she emerged from ‘background character’ to confident. Books can be transformative!

Oh and I have other series in the pipeline.

Reading Back, Reading Forward

Bill Nagelkerke came up with the idea of shining light on forgotten New Zealand children’s books. Or books that are out-of-print. He wrote:

I’ve always thought it would be nice to look back at good NZ children’s books long out of print, but worth remembering and worth hunting for in library store rooms and second hand book shops.” Bill Nagelkerke

I loved the idea so much, I invited some authors and librarians to join in, either with a one-off piece or a now-and-then contribution. The books can be any category but suitable for readers up to Year 8. So watch this space!

Most of my own children’s books are no longer available, and that is the same for many other local writers. We are such a small publishing industry in New Zealand, I understand why. But it does make me a bit glum, especially when I think of just the right person to give a copy of something to. Especially Aunt Concertina and her Niece Evalina, with my partner Michael Hight’s gorgeous oil paintings (Random House, 2009) or Flamingo Bendalingo with Michael’s magnificent acrylic paintings of animals (AUP, 2006). Same goes for beloved treasure by other New Zealand authors whose books are no longer available to buy or are hard to track down in libraries.

When I went scavenging for poems for the children’s anthologies that I have edited, I was heartbroken at how few children’s poetry books were still in print. Poetry is like the skinny shadowy corner of our children’s books market – so few get published, probably because so few by individual poets get bought. Yet poetry is such a cool way of unlocking the reader and writer in every child, with rich music, intriguing miniature stories and expanding wonder. And of course the ever present, wide ranging POETRY PLAY!

I love hunting for book treasures in second-hand bookshops and in library archives. Such fun as you never know what you will discover.

I am remembering the glorious novels by Barbara Else (especially The Travelling Restaurant series, Gecko Press, 2011- 2015), every glorious book Margaret Mahy ever published because not all are still available, the earlier brilliant poetry books of Joy Cowley (Mallinson Rendel, 1991) and the equally brilliant poetry of Shirley Gawith (d’Urville Press, 1991). Not only did I track down copies of Shirley’s children’s poetry books, I got to visit her in Nelson! We enthused about books and writing! She was maybe in her seventies or eighties, and she was over the moon that, after so many decades, her out-of-print poetry books were getting attention and her poems had appeared in A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children (Random House, 2014).

Meeting Shirley Gawith in 2014

I do hope this new series spurs you to go scavenging for out-of-print books, to remember and celebrate examples from the past, to read new and fascinating pathways both towards the future and within the present. Reading shapes us. If we are what we eat and breathe, maybe we are what we read, especially when the world is abrim with astonishing books, ideas, feelings, flavours. Bon appetit!

May your days shine with good BOOKS

Poetry Box October challenge: WONDER poems

A few years ago, UK editor Julian Rothenstein discovered Poetry Box and picked some poems to include in his beautiful anthology of children’s poetry. In a recent UK newspaper article, he said he was inspired by the poems on Poetry Box in his hunt. As you can imagine this touched my heart. Julian used the word joy in his interview, and that is the word I carry with me as I read books, write books and work on my two blogs (Poetry Shelf is not quite awake yet, small steps at a time while I am on my long, slow, bumpy bone-marrow transplant recovery road!).

The anthology is called: A Gift: from artists, poets and photographers (under 13) (Redstone Press, 2022)

On the back of the book, Julian included these words from young NZ poet Paige L (age 10):

               Wonder comes to us, creeping into our heads

               Adults throw wonder away, like a moth-eaten blanket.

               But children treasure it.

So to celebrate the arrival of my two new children’s books, and Poetry Box waking up, I am challenging you to write poems that make links with WONDER.

How you do this is over to you. Your poem can range in any direction, can hook something that fills you with wonder.

I am posting a bit earlier as the school holidays might give you less time to write at school (or more time to write at home!).

Some Tips

Listen to the music your poem makes.

Listen to the word on the end of the line.

You might write about something in the world you see or taste or touch or hear or feel.

Go outside and look at the sky or a hill or a tree or a bird and sit quietly and wonder. Now write a poem.

You might think of wonder as a verb and what gets you wondering about something.

Hide a question in your poem as a way of WONDERING.

You might use wonder as a stepping stone to imagination.

Your poem might return to a wonder memory.

Listen to a piece of music and wonder. Now write a poem.

Your poem might make a picture on the screen or page (concrete poetry, visual poetry). You can send a photo of it.

Your poem might make a picture in your head as you read it.

Your poem might be wide or thin, long or short.

Go for a walk and wonder. Now write a poem.

What animal fills you with wonder? Write a poem!

Your poem might be a prose poem (like a paragraph that sounds good when you say it aloud).

Play with the poem’s beginning and the poem’s end.

Make a wonder word pattern.

Talk to your grandparent or parent about the past and wonder. Now write a poem.

Make a poem that fills you with wonder as you write.

Save the poem for at least a day, read it again before you send it to me. Are you happy with every word? The way the poem moves as you read it? The way it gets you wondering?

Sometimes poems about the simplest, most ordinary things fill me with WONDER.

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Include: Your name, age, year, name of school

Deadline: Thursday 27th October

Don’t forget: to put WONDER POEM in email subject line so I don’t miss your email.

I will reply to everyone, post some favourite poems and give at least one copy of my new books Hedgehog and Goat (Penguin, out now) and Roar Squeak Purr: A New Zealand Treasury of Animal Poems (Penguin, out mid October) to young poets.