Monthly Archives: March 2013

TaraDada The winners of the sound-good challenge

Here are my three top picks for a poem that sounds good.


Sam has written a poem that sounds great. I love the way the ‘eek’ sounds run through the poem like the squeaking door. I also like the way the title says one thing (something scary!) and then the poem says another (something ordinary!). I like the way Sam has a few words on each line — it adds to the atmosphere of the poem. Awesome job Sam (BTW everyone Sam told me he is a boy). I look forward to seeing more poems by you. There must be something in the water at your school because Ohaupo School is sending in very cool poems. Sam will get a copy of Margaret Mahy’s The Word Witch thanks to HarperCollins NZ.

Spook in the Night


Eeeeek  eeeeek

is the sound

of our door

in the night



I am in bed

and the creak

gives me

a fright



Mum gets some oil

to fix

the loud




And now

I find

that I can


Sam S  aged 8, Year 4 Ohaupo School


Luke’s poem has lots of different sounds. It sounds great read aloud. There are some words that shine in the lines ( like ‘pop’ and ‘bright blur’). I love the fierce energy and then the way the ending catches you by surprise. It is a poem I want to read more than once. Magnificent job Luke. Luke will get a copy of Margaret Mahy’s The Word Witch thanks to HarperCollins NZ.


The Ferocious Giant


I look out the window

There are trees swaying side to side

Leaves flying towards the sky

Clouds pushing and shoving

Sudenly red eyes pop out and sharp black teeth from inisde a mouth

It opens and gets deadlier

There’s a bright blur behind the ferocious giant

It gets smaller and smaller


Rain drops like a busted water balloon!

Luke W aged 10, Year 6 Manurewa East Primary


Madeleine shows how you can play with the number of words on line, use rhyme here and there, and use a word or two that shines (swooped). Her poem sounds good! I loved ‘silent wings’ and then in the next line ‘swooped.’

I will pop a copy of my poems Macaroni Moon in the mail for you (there are only a few copies left as it is out of print!). Great job Madeleine!


The Haunted House


As I walked into the Haunted House,

I heard a creeping on the floor,

I turned around …

and a scary Ghost flew straight through the door.


I was shaking,

not knowing what to do,

then on silent wings

a Morepork swooped down and whispered “BOO!”


I slowly backed away.

‘This was not my favourite day,’

I say!


Madeleine P aged 12, Year 8 Campion College Gisborne




An Easter-break Challenge for Young NZ Poets

I will post the winners and my favourites in the Margaret Mahy sound-poem challenge sometime after the 5pm deadline today. Two lucky young poets will get a copy of Margaret’s The Word Witch.


An Easter Challenge: You can tell by now I love the beach. It is my favourite place to go in the morning. This is what it looked like early today. I took a photo but I could have written a poem.

I won’t be posting over Easter (back on Wednesday April 3) but here’s a little holiday challenge: write a poem using no more than 20 words about your favourite place to go at the weekends. Check out my tips to help you write it.

Make the place come alive with the words you pick. Send to Include your name, age, year, name of school and write Easter Challenge. HAPPY EASTER! Send to me by Tuesday April 2nd 5pm but I will post any I like over the long weekend (get Mum or Dad to help you send them).

Writing poems is sometimes like making soup & Mahy’s Mr Whistler

Writing poems is sometimes like making soup ( I love making and eating soup in winter). You need just the right amount of ingredients, but I reckon we all have a different idea of what those ingredients might be. Too much salt and the soup tastes yuk! Not enough salt and the soup tastes yuk! Not enough liquid and it’s not really soup. Pumpkin and ginger — a match made in heaven.

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Margaret Mahy knew how to make a good soup poem and a good soup story. Just as I showed with The Moon & Farmer McPhee, Margaret used her ear when she wrote Mr Whistler. Sometimes a whole sentence will be full of shiny words, but often she writes a plain sentence with one word that shines:

‘Last of all he clapped his hat on his head.’

Margaret could have said ‘put his hat on’ but clapped just adds music and zing to her story. She uses just the right amount of salt (shiny words).

Mr Whistler sounds good but it is also a great story. Mr Whistle gets dressed. He is off to the station, dancing and tapping with a song in his head.  He is really worried he is going to lose his ticket. I don’t want to spoil how this delightful story unfolds — you will just have to read it.

Gavin Bishop, one of our very best illustrators, did the illustrations. The illustrations dance and tap across the page like the song in Mr Whistler’s head. I love them! I always get curious about the pictures and wonder what the illustrator used to do them. These look like a mix of water-colour and ink on special water-colour paper. I always wish the publishers would give us this information. Gavin Bishop lives in Christchurch.

Mister Whistler was published by Gecko Books in 2012. This is what it says inside: ‘For more curiously good books see’  Congratulations Gecko Press, this book is one of them!

Jack’s Wild Water poem on NZ Poetry Box

I think Jack has done a great job on this poem. It flows well. He took up the alliteration challenge and sprinkled the ‘w’s through so they are like little waves of water in the poem.

I also like the way the poem changes. It looks like a waterfall — skinny to start and then a fat little pool on the bottom.




Hi  my poem has some alliteration, some rhythm and some onomatopea!

It is called Wild Water:




Water splashes

Water moves

Water streams

Water pours

Water  flows

Water goes…

Boom! Crash! Splash!

Falling from the rocks

Wild water is a wonder to watch.


Jack Prebble Age 8, year 5

Fendalton Open Air School

Alliteration Challenge

Poetry Box Poetry Play #3 Word Walks

I love walking. I love walking on the beach early every morning. I love walking on the sand looking for surprises. I love walking in the bush. I love walking along the city streets hearing the hubbub of people and cars (it’s quiet where I live so it makes a change!). I love walking alongside streams and in places I have never been to before. I loved walking through the Abel Tasman National Park with my family. I even love walking up steep hills.

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So I decided it would be fun to do some word walks. I have had a go at two. See what you can do. There are no rules. When you do a word walk you get to play with words. Send your word walk to Don’t forget to include your name, age, year, name of school, teacher’s email if you can, and which challenge it is for.




Down the zig

up the zag

by the pohutakawa

across the wet

with my dogs

to the warm.



Down the path

up the tree

over the fence

under the bridge

by the sea


Down the tree

up the fence

over the bridge

under the sea

by the path


Down the fence

up the bridge

over the sea

under the path

by the tree

Word Puddles by Emily and Athena

Two more word puddles. I tried saying both out loud and I listened to each word as it dropped into air. Great job Emily and Athena.

Roar drip crash hush

Cool soft sooth freeze

Slivery silver drips splosh

Feather mossy falling ferns

Drippy rocks slimy shimmer

By Emily S 11 Year 7 Ohaupo School






Humid warm weather

Hot dry dust


Falling plump drops

Wet cold showers



Athena B 12yrs Remuera Intermediate School

Poetry Box Tip #6 Alliteration

Margaret Mahy’s stories and poems are full of alliteration. Have a hunt for some and see how she does it!


1. When you write a poem you can collect words that start with the same sound and huddle them together:

The pink pepper pot is hot


2. You can have different huddles:

The pink pepper pot is hotter than sizzling sausages,

ferocious fires and the black sand in summer.


3. Or you can sprinkle your alliteration through your poem:

My dog loves to dash and dart

at the beach on the sand,

but she does not dare go in the water

because she dog paddles like a duck.


Give it a go! Send me a poem if you like. Don’t forget your name, age, name of school and the name of the challenge (alliteration)

Why Tierney likes Margaret Mahy’s ‘Bubble Trouble’

 I really enjoyed reading this letter from Tierney.  NZ Poetry Box is mostly for children up to Year 8 but every now and then I will post something by an older student. I agree with what Tierney says about rhyme. I plan to do lots of posts on rhyme in the future. Thanks for picking your favourite Margaret Mahy poem.

Hi Paula,


My name is Tierney.  I am thirteen years old, a Year 9.  I am homeschooled by my mother.


My favourite Margaret Mahy poem is ‘Bubble Trouble.’  I love the way it sounds when read aloud; each word seems to fit so perfectly!  It’s a very clever poem, and I think that it is the sort of poem that sounds amazing as you were talking about in the 3rd Poetry Challenge.  I have been told before that “poets should never rhyme”, but I disagree- don’t you?  I think it gives a poem a lovely feel, the words dance rather than roll off the tongue.  I know there are some poems that seem “forced” if made to rhyme, but I still think that rhyming is a perfectly fine thing to do.


I also liked ‘Bubble Trouble’ because of its use of so many techniques; there was alliteration, assonance, I think, rhyming of course, and plenty of other clever ways to make the words fit together.  I have read other Margaret Mahy poems before, but I think that her ‘Bubble Trouble’ poem was the cleverest, cutest and best of all her poems!


From Tierney.

books   books   books   books


This week on NZ Poetry Box – More Mahy

Wow! About a month old and NZ Poetry Box has had nearly 6,000 views. I am delighted — thank you.

Cheers to all those children who have been trying NZ Poetry Box challenges. This week we are still celebrating the writing of Margaret Mahy. On Monday I will tell you what I love about Margaret’s long poem, A Summer Saturday Morning and later I will post Tierney’s poem pick (congratulations!). On Tuesday I will give you a perfectly playful poetry tip, on Wednesday it will be Poetry Box Play time, on Thursday I will tell you what I love about Margaret’s story Mr Whistler. Easter caught up on me so I will post the winners and my favourites in the sound-poem challenge sometime after the deadline on Thursday (5pm).

I won’t be posting over Easter (back on Wednesday April 3) but here’s a little holiday challenge: write a poem using no more than 20 words about your favourite place to go at the weekends. Make the place come alive with the words you pick. Send to Include your name, age, year, name of school and teacher. HAPPY EASTER! Send to me by Tuesday April 2nd 5pm but I will post any I like over the long weekend (get Mum or Dad to help you send them).

Last week I invited you to tell me which of Margaret’s poems you love and why (Tierney did a great job on this!). Perhaps this week you could tell me which of Margaret’s books you love. If you are like me you will have trouble picking because you like so many of them.

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I used to read A Summer Saturday Morning with my girls when they were young. There are two stars in this long poem: rhythm and repetition. These two stars make it a fabulous poem to read aloud by yourself, with your family or class, to your dogs or your cats.

The rhythm is a bouncy, ‘wiggly track’ rhythm that makes you want to get up off the sofa and get your cats and dogs and head off down the track to the beach — walking and wiggling, walking and wiggling, walking and wiggling.

Each verse is four lines long and all the lines are about the same length so that helps make the rhythm wiggle and bounce, wiggle and bounce.

The repetition is everywhere and is what gives the poem zing! I love the sound of the last line of each verse (always the same): ‘On a summery Saturday morning.’

Repetition is in the middle of each verse. You get to hear a phrase three times (marvellous!). My favourite: ‘the tangled green,/ The tangled green, the tangled green.’

And of the end of the lines you have simple rhymes that punch out that beat: ‘peace’ and geese’.

To top it all off Margaret has found words that sound magnificent together: ‘flap and hiss.’

I don’t have permission to post this long poem, but you can find the book itself and you can find the poem in The Word Witch published by HarperCollins (this week’s prize!).

A Summer Saturday Morning was published by Penguin UK in 1999 with illustrations by Selina Young and published in NZ by Puffin in 2010.