Gecko Press’s The Old Man is essential reading especially in a long power cut



The Old Man   by Sarah V and Claude K Dubois  Gecko Press  2018



Last Tuesday we had such a storm in Auckland I couldn’t sleep with the rampaging wind. I live near Bethells Beach where the storm really roared and rattled. It felt like the wind was going to pick our house up like a kite and whisk it down the valley to the sea. But instead the house was a strong anchor. I was glad when morning came and I could see.

We lost power for 5 nights and, even though it was a pain at times, I learnt from the experience. We had no running water because we live in the country but got buckets out of the water tank.  We couldn’t use the internet. We couldn’t have showers or flush the toilet. I went to bed early and woke up early. I wrote things in my notebooks and read novels. I listened to National Radio by candlelight.

On the radio news I heard about the terrible hurricane in Fiji and my heart went out to people who had lost so much. I heard about the war in Syria and my heart went out to the families there.

I felt like my problems were little problems.



Most importantly I read a new book published by Gecko Press:

The Old Man   by Sarah V and Claude K Dubois


The story is about a homeless man huddling under a blanket.

He could be anyone of the homeless people I see on the streets of our cities and maybe even towns.

He has nowhere to call home, he has no food, and he has no one to hug and share his stories with.

In the story a young girl sees the homeless man and offers him her sandwich and says he looks like a teddy bear. He doesn’t remember his name.

I got goosebumps as I read this book and then I cried in the candlelight.

It is so beautifully written and so beautifully illustrated and it will make you feel something about something that matters.


I read this book and it put the Auckland storm in perspective. I have somewhere to live with roof and walls and windows. I have a name. I share my life with you. I have a garden and I can restock my empty (after the power cut) fridge with food.

I have a home.

I am really really hoping you read this book because although this book is sad it is also full of hope. The little things we do matter. I love this book so very much.



Based on Gecko Press’s spectacular invention book: You still have time to do the Holiday challenge 

Don’t forget: You have until Friday April 27th to do the APRIL challenge (on the way poems – perfect for the holidays too!!).





Librarian’s choice: Desna Wallace picks A Child’s Garden of Verses





A Child’s Garden of Verses

By R. L. Stevenson





When I was asked which was my favourite poetry book of all time, there was no hesitation. Without a doubt, it was and always will be,  Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. My copy is over forty years old, a little worn in the corners but very much loved, and very well-travelled, having taken it with me when I lived overseas as I didn’t want to leave it behind.

It was bought with Christmas holiday money when I was a young child and has been treasured ever since. I owe my love of poetry to my standard four teacher Miss Leggat, who shared with the class classic poems such as Robert Browning’s Pied Piper of Hamelin, and Silver by Walter de la Mare. They were poems where we learnt to listen to the rhythm and magic of their stories and it was that rhythm I found in this collection of poems, that makes it still so wonderful today.

While first published in 1885 and perhaps a bit dated for some today, the collection still stands the test of time as the book continues to be published in different versions. The poem From a Railway Carriage stands out as a wonderful example of how rhythm can create a sense of being there and experiencing what the poet is experiencing.

A young boy watches out from the carriage of a train and shares idyllic images as he travels through the countryside.


Faster than fairies, faster than witches,

Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches; …

All of the sights of the hill and the plain

Fly as thick as driving rain


I love how we can hear the sound of the train as it rumbles over the tracks. It is of course a poem that needs to be read aloud, although all poems by default, should be read aloud.

The poems are charming, a little sentimental and very nostalgic for the innocent days  of childhood.

Everyday poems about shadows, having to go to bed even when the sun is still up, the wind and so much more. R.L. Stevenson found happiness in the everyday things and considering he spent much of his childhood ill in bed, this was a wonderful quality to have. It is also why this simple, very short poem stands out. Not brilliant, but the idea that we can find happiness anywhere and be grateful is a lovely concept.


Happy thought

The world is so full

Of a number of things,

I’m sure we should all

Be happy as kings.

The illustrations in my 1972 edition are by Eve Garnett and are simply gorgeous. I completely fell in love with them. They are simple line drawings yet they express so much warmth and emotion.

Whether it is a romantic view of the past, wonderful poems, or wonderful memories of sitting on my bed reading this book at night, I’m sure of one thing. This particular book is a real treasure.






A Poetry Box holiday challenge inspired by Impossible Inventions: Ideas that shouldn’t work (Gecko Press)



Impossible Inventions: Ideas that shouldn’t work, Aleksandra & Daniel Mizielinski and Malgorzata Mycielska, Gecko Press, 2018

Find out the book here


I have just read the most AMAZING book from from Gecko Press:


Impossible Inventions: Ideas that shouldn’t work


It gave me an idea for some tricky holiday challenges to get your poetry teeth into!


Inside the book

… you will find glorious illustrations to match magnificent ideas.

Sometimes people have thought of bold ideas that everyone thought were CRAZY and WOULD NEVER WORK.

Some make you laugh, some NEVER worked, some make you think the inventor was a GENIUS!!!!!!

Did you know Heron of Alexandria thought of automatic sliding doors 200 years ago? Everyone thought it was a trick of the gods.

You will discover the Passenger Dragon, the Bubble Messenger, the Bird Ship, a personal Cloud Maker, a Concentration Helmet, Ice Tunes and many more.

This book is RIVETING



I really love it and I think YOU will love it too!


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Three holiday poetry challenges


poems can be simple tricky smooth flowing use hardly any words use lots of words


1. Extraordinary inventions that DID work


Hunt for some extraordinary inventions. You could go to the library or use the internet with the help of someone.

We might not think it is EXTRAORDINARY now but maybe it was then.

Write a poem about the invention.

Test out strong verbs.

Use physical words to describe it.

Play with how many words you put on the line.

Listen to the poem.

Try three different endings then pick your favourite.

Make your poem tell a story.

Make a really short poem that uses the best words to describe the invention (especially verbs).

Travel back in time to when it was invented. Show me that time in your poem. Just a word here, and a word there.


2. Extraordinary inventions that DID NOT work: 

You might find one of these to write a poem about – you could write a poem about one in the book! You will get a MOUNTAIN of inspiration there. I think those 25 inventions are HUNGRY for poems.


3. OOOOOOOH   EXTRA TRICKY challenge: try writing a poem about an imaginary invention.  You imagine it!



Deadline: Saturday 27th April

Send to:

Include: your name, age, year and name of school

Important: Put Invention poem in subject line so I don’t miss it.


I will post some favourites on May 3rd and have a book surprise for at least one poet.


Don’t forget: You have until Friday April 27th to do the APRIL challenge (on the way poems – perfect for the holidays too!!).


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Come set a world record during World Poetry Month! 

I just got invited to invite you to join in this challenge! If you have always wanted to be part of a world record this could be your chance! Check out below where to send your poems – not to me!

The World Poetry Month seems to be a big thing overseas.

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From the organisers:

Come set a world record during World Poetry Month! 

Commaful is hosting a poetry contest that has been approved by the Guinness Book of World Records to attempt the record for the world’s largest poetry contest.

Every entrant will be listed on the contest page after the record is broken and the winning poems will be showcased as well! Your poem could be part of history!

 Submit your poem here.

Lit Hub recommend reading to children and the staff offer picks – plus my read aloud tips

This year on Poetry Box there will be new features!

One is In the Hammock where I share children’s books I am loving at the moment.

But I am also going to go back to old favourites – especially children’s poetry books.


My read aloud tip. We could read to:

people in hospital (old and young)

people in retirement homes

add to story times in public libraries

in schools

in bookshops (readers read aloud!)

at weekend markets (a read aloud stall)



I thought you might like to read this from the amazing  Lit Hub. Their staff sing the praises of reading to children (parents and teachers) and have picked old favourites to share:


‘Almost everyone agrees that it’s a good thing to read books to your children. Sure, it bolsters language skills, concentration, empathy and curiosity, and probably it strengthens the bond between parent and child—but also, children’s books are just fun to read. Well, some of them anyway. And if you’re someone who reads (and writes, and writes about) books for a living, chances are you started out pretty early, and with some pretty good material. To that end, the Literary Hub staff would like to recommend our very favorite children’s books, sourced from our own personal childhoods.’

See the list here.


Here is one example:

I haven’t read this book! I love the sound of it. So I am off hunting! I might read it to my cat.


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Poetry Box April Challenge  is here

Author Chris Gurney writes back to Molly, Hannah and Ari



Hi Hannah and Ari,

Thank you for your letters. I’m so glad you enjoy the Kiwi Corkers stories. Hannah, you did well to read so many books at once! I am guessing you like to read rhyming stories. Have you ever written any rhyming stories yourself? I love to write in rhyme and rhythm. It’s a bit like music, isn’t it.

Ari, you are so right – ‘The Three Cattle Dogs Gruff’ is a good story about bullying. I agree, Myles Lawford did an awesome job with the illustrations. Have you noticed the little fantail on a lot of the pages? Have a look next time you read the book!

Keep enjoying reading and writing your own unique stories.

Best wishes, Chris


Hi Molly,

Thanks for your letter. I love hearing that you are inspired to write your own stories. It was a lot of fun writing the Kiwi Corkers stories and using NZ creatures and icons. I bet you could write your own Kiwi Corker based on one of your favourite fairy tales?

I love that reading makes you happy!

Best wishes,



Poetry Box April Challenge  is here

In the hammock: Gecko Press’s The Yark by Bertrand Sartini






This is a new feature on both my blogs where I share thoughts on books I have enjoyed reading – whatever takes my fancy.

I do like the idea of lying back in a hammock with the sounds of birds and insects in the background and losing myself in a book.

I have just read The Yark by Bertrand Santini

with illustrations by Laurent Gapaillard

and translated by Antony Shugaar

published by Gecko Press, 2018



My Case History of the Yark


The Yark’s badness: The Yark is a monster who eats children

The Yark’s weak spot: The Yark only eats good children

The even weaker spot: good children are hard to come by

The stupid move: the Yark tries to trick Santa

The smart move: Charlotte knows exactly what to do in a Yark attack

The biggest mistake: Jack

The best location: the lighthouse

The turning point: Madeleine

The shiny light of the story: the power of kindness and love

The supreme delight: the illustrations

Scare rating: I didn’t hide under the couch

Eating recommendation: I gobbled this in a nanosecond it is so good


Gecko Press page

read the first chapter here



A flash challenge: you have two days to send me a poem entitle The Yark. Use my case history to imagine this monster.


Deadline: Thursday at noon   (you have 48 hours!!)

Send to:

Include: your name, age, year and name of school

Please put: The Yark in the subject line so I don’t miss your poem

I will post my favourite poem and send it to Gecko Press to read.



Poetry Box April Challenge  is here