Monthly Archives: February 2013

James Norcliffe’s Packing a Bag for Mars

Packing a Bag for Mars by James Norcliffe with illustrations by Jenny Cooper. Published by Clerestory Press, Christchurch.  $27

The School for Young Writers in Christchurch commissioned James Norcliffe to write a book of poems for students. This book isn’t just a collection of poems though. It is like a packed suitcase that you can take on your own poetry adventures to the sea, the moon, the city, foreign countries, the zoo, the park, home or school. I think poets are like explorers and our bags are backed with all the books we have read and all the poetry techniques we have played with. So I think this the perfect title for a poetry book.

James has also included an interview where he answers questions about writing; questions about punctuation, new lines, redrafting, whether poems need to rhyme and much much more.

Each poem comes with a poetry-launch pad. James comes up with an idea for you to get started on your poem. They are so good, instead of writing this review I wanted to be writing a poem about what I might pack if I were to travel the length of the Nile in case strange and wonderful things happened to me.

At the end of the book there are notes on all the poems. James tells you where he got the idea for the poem from, what some of the words mean and reveals some of the poetry techniques he uses. It is like he opens a window for you to peek through and get a wider and more splendid view of his poem. Usually poems are places where we get to go exploring on our own (and this great too!)

e8ddac4442f962d4ffff8961ffffd524 9f60254a87ca85a9ffff800effffd523 Packing a Bag for Mars

What I love about James as a poet is that he is prepared to test out all kinds of things when he writes. His poems can make you think about things differently and feel things differently. He writes about all kinds of subjects from sports to celebrations to superstitions to dressing for peace.

James has written a book of poems that is full of challenges so it is a book that will inspire many of us to write more and to write in new ways. As a poet I always like to try things I haven’t done before. I like to set myself new and exciting challenges.

I see this book as a real gift for students from Year 5 or 6 right though to Year 13.

PS James has also written the award-winning The Loblolly Boy (I loved the imaginative stretch of this story published by Longacre Press!) and The Loblolly Boy and the Sorcerer (I am looking forward to reading this). The Enchanted Flute was published in 2012. The latter two were published by Random House NZ.

Interview reminder

Don’t forget to send in your interview questions by 5 pm today!

See Monday’s post for details.

I was delighted to see some children posting comments yesterday.

If you have questions you can keep emailing me at but if you think others might be interested in the question you can post it as a comment so other children, parents and teachers can see my answers.

Watch out soon for my post on James Norcliffe’s new book of poetry for children.

A Poem by Elena de Roo

I was walking along the beach this morning and the wild west-coast waves seemed really mild. The water was warm and not tugging at me to go in a thousand directions. I only ever go knee deep and look carefully for signs of rips before I swim because the ocean is dangerous here. When I got home I read Elena’s poem and it seemed the perfect poem to post today.

Elena de Roo is the author of The Rain Train and Ophelia Wild, Secret Spy (both published by Walker Books Australia). These are story books but you can tell this is an author who loves poetry. She has written lots of poems that I love. She knows how to make words sing and dance and leap and skid and flip and stretch and soar. She knows how to use words to make them roar and to be very quiet. Her poems can tell you a story, take you to surprising places and show bits of the world she loves.

I love this poem because Elena hardly uses any words but every word matters. I like the way the lines are different lengths. I like the way the rhyme helps the poem flow. I like the crunchy delicious sounds in the middle of the poem. It is like the poem has a full tummy.

I love the ending of the poem. You start with the hugeness of sea and sky and you end with the ‘black dot’ that is the poet. Often I am the only person walking on the beach early but this morning I saw a black dot way down the end and it was my friend walking her dog. Sometimes I must be that black dot!

Winter’s Beach


grey sea

grey sky

black-backed gulls cry


sharp sand whips by

white-frothed foams fly


wind-washed waves high



no one

just I

black dot

big sky




The Rain Train            1324339100805

Poetry Box Tip #2 Listen listen listen

Poetry Box Tip #2 will be useful when you are writing your poems for The Fabulous Poetry Competition.

It is really good to LISTEN to your poems. Say them out loud. I always say my poems out loud as I am writing them. Then when I have finished a draft I read the whole thing out loud to the birds and the dogs and the cats. My ears will catch a word that doesn’t sound right, or a line that doesn’t seem to belong.

Listen to the rhythm of each line. Do you stumble on a line when you say it like you have hit a traffic jam?

Listen to the word at the end of the line. Listen out for words that sound really juicy, delicious, surprising.

Listen to someone else read a poem. Which word catches your ear?

I am going to give lots of tips on sound over the next year but for now think of your ears as an important tool when you write poetry.

When I say my poems out loud, I like to listen to the sound of one word when it is next to another word.

Remember there is no one right way to write a poem. Poems are golden opportunities to PLAY.

Poetry Box Challenge #1

Ata marie

Welcome to the second week of Poetry Box. Today I am going to post a challenge for you, on Tuesday I will post  a poetry tip, on Wednesday I will post a poem, on Thursday I will tell you all about James Norcliffe’s new book of poetry (it has a great title!) and on Friday I will post the winner of Monday’s challenge!

I had great fun at the weekend emailing all New Zealand primary schools about the blog and the Fabulous NZ Poetry Competition. I decided the names of our schools are like a gigantic poem.

POETRY BOX CHALLENGE #1 Think of 5 questions you would like to ask me about my books, my life as a writer, poetry or whatever interests you. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail by 5pm on Thursday 28th February.

Sometimes when I visit schools a student will ask me a question so surprising I will give them a copy of my book.

I will pick a winner, answer the 5 questions and post the interview on Friday. Please include your name, your age and year at school, the name of your school and the email address of your teacher or parent.

I will send the winner a copy of my chapter book The Terrible Night. I had such fun writing this book! It was published by Random House and illustrated by Chris Grosz.

The First Poem Winner

Outstanding Outside

What I like about the outside are the birds chirping in harmony
What I hate about the outside is when I fall on my knee
What I love about the outside is the whisper of the leaves
What I hate about outside is the CRASH of falling trees.

What I like about the outside is the shine of the summer sun
What I hate about the outside is when there is no more fun
What I love about the outside is the crash of the waves
What I hate about outside is the big concrete pavers.

By Skye
Room 7, Redcliffs School, Christchurch
Year 4, aged 8

Congratulations Skye. This is a wonderful poem. When I say it out loud it sounds great.

I love the way you have different kinds of rhyme — the way sun and fun rhyme and waves and pavers rhyme.

I love the alliteration of the shine of the summer sun.

It is okay in a list poem to break the pattern a bit so you have the birds are chirping because there are lots of birds.

I also liked the different kinds of things happening in your poem. Hurt knees and whispering leaves. The sea and the sun. Quiet and loud.

List poems can do all kinds of things as your poem shows. They can make music, they can surprise you and they can make some part of the world come alive (for you it was the outside).

Well done for doing a good job of proof reading too.

Brava Skye, a copy of Macaroni Moon is on the way to you.

I also want to congratulate Lucy and Mia from Room 7. I really enjoyed your poems too. I look forward to seeing some more from you all!

Finally a big thumbs up to Michaela George’s class at Southbridge School in Canterbury. I had fun reading your list poems too.

I am keen to post more poems so keep sending them. I will set the first Poetry Box Challenge for all you young poets on Monday so watch this space.

Reminder to send your poems in

Don’t forget to send your poems in by today. I am on the hunt for the Poetry Box’s first poem by a child to post tomorrow.

Thank you to everyone who has sent a poem already. It is going to be hard choosing.

You have until 5pm.

The winner gets a copy of my book Macaroni Moon with Illustrations by Sarah Laing (she did the amazing header for this blog!).

Poetry Box Tip #1 Read Read Read

I think a poetry box has lots of secret compartments and is rather wonderful because there is no end to what can fit in it. That goes for poems and that goes for poetry tips.

My very first tip is an oldie but a goodie. If you want to get good at writing poems you need to read other poems.

Read all kinds of poems. Poems that make you laugh. Poems that make you a little sad. Poems that make you think. Poems that puzzle you just a little. Poems that tell a story. Poems that are so short they are over in the blink of your eye. Poems that are so long they might fit along the Great Wall of China. Poems that are really easy to understand. Poems that challenge you. Poems that rhyme. Poems that don’t rhyme.

I love all kinds of poetry so I love reading all kinds of poems. Sometimes I like to sit curled up on the sofa. Sometimes I like to read under a tree with one of our dogs listening as I say the best lines out loud.

Perhaps you could tell me the name of a poem you have read lately that you love and I will go hunting for it to read.




Your Very First Poem at Poetry Box

Macaroni Moon

I want to post a poem by a child next week. To celebrate the very first children’s poem on the site I will send the young poet a copy of my book Macaroni Moon.

This offer is available to New Zealand school children from Year 1 to Year 8. Please tell me the name of your school and teacher and your teacher’s email address. Don’t forget to tell me your name and what year you are in!

Please send the poem to

Closing Date: Thursday 23rd February  3pm. I will post the poem on Friday 24th February.

PS Please write on the bottom of the page  it is for the Very First Poem at Poetry Box

A Fabulous Poetry Competition for Children

I am editing an anthology of poems for children to be published by Random House in 2014.

I would like to include five poems by children and I am inviting primary and intermediate schools the length and breadth of New Zealand to enter poems.

The five winning poems will be included in A Treasury of New Zealand Poetry for Children.

The five winning poets will also receive a copy of the book.

Conditions of Entry
*Eligibility: Year 3 to Year 8 students enrolled in NZ schools
*Closing Date: April 30th 2013
*Send to: Paula Green PO Box 95078 Swanson Waitakere 0653
*Please include: Name of student and school, school year, age, contact name and email address of teacher on entry form
*Poems can be on any subject, in any form but no more than 20 lines.
*The poem must be original and the work of the student.
*Copyright remains with the individual writers. Random House reserves the right to publish the prize-winning entries without further payment.
*Schools will be notified of the results by June 30th 2013.
*Entries must be accompanied by an entry form (please print form below).
* Further queries:

Please print clearly.

Name of School:
Contact teacher name and email:
Please confirm that this is the original work of the student:

First Name:
Last Name:
School Year: 3 4 5 6 7 8 (please circle)
Title of Poem:
Name and Phone Number/Email address of a Parent/Guardian: