Monthly Archives: October 2013

come and see where I write

Last week, I said I would show you where I write, but my camera battery was dead. Now that it is back to life and busy, I thought I would post some photos for you. For a long time I wrote wherever I could find a bit of space, but now I have a room of my own with a couch and a desk and bookshelves which is pretty amazing.  The window looks out onto the garden and the door looks out onto the lawn and bush. Sometimes the dogs sleep by the door. Sometimes the dogs whine at me because they want to play. But most of the time it is really, really quiet. Peaceful! Tranquil! Dreamy! I love that. Although sometimes there are tui and kereru and fantail flicking and warbling and flapping. And I love that too.

On the wall I have two of the original Aunt Concertina paintings (one is my daughter’s). Above my desk I have all kinds of pictures people have sent me and my daughters have made over the years. One of my daughters stitched me a heart out of felt shapes and the other made  a cow mask. There is also the blue TShirt with a bird brooch which my daughter made me when I lost my  brooch (so she made me another). Special! Then on  the bookshelves it is pretty much all poetry books (adult and children), some NZ children’s picture books and NZ fiction. When I am in the middle of writing and editing things, as I am now, there are always piles. I feel very lucky to have this room. It is the perfect place to read and write and dream.

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the fabulous IF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility & a wee challenge for you

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When I was mailing my list of AMAZING NZ Bookshops that sell poetry for children  (see my page), I discovered some books I would like to buy. I can’t buy them all at once so I still have my secret eye on a few. I am going to tell you about a book I got at TIme Out Bookshop in Mt Eden (they have a lovely wee room especially for children’s books!). I saw at least one other bookshop had a copy of this book.

If: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility Edited by Allie Esiri & Rachel Kelly (Canongate, Edinburgh, 2012)

Allie was an actress for a long time (looks like she loves Shakespeare) and worked for the New York Times. She has three children.

Rachel worked at Vogue then at The Times in London. She has five children and has always loved poems.

The book is divided into sections (‘Growing Up,’ ‘Humour and Nonsense,’ ‘Tell Me a Tale,’ ‘Magic, Friendship and Love,’ ‘Animals, Nature and Seasons,’ ‘War History and Death,’ ‘Lessons for Life’ and ‘Bedtime.’  That does seem to cover a BIG range of possibilities. I can think of lots more though: Special occasions, food, home, moods, machines, things, places, people, clothes,   adventure, our bodies, space, science, mathematics … BUT! You can never fit all you want in treasury as I have discovered on several occasions now.

There are loads of very famous (world famous!) poets in the book: Shakespeare, Edward Lear, ee cummings, Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan, AA Milne. Many of the poets in this book wrote for adults more than they wrote for children, many of the poets are dead and most of the poets are men. If I had the whole world from which to gather a a collection of poem gems from I would come up with a very different mix. Lots of the poems I would pick would be written by authors who usually write for children (like Hilaire Belloc, Valerie Worth, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Caleb Brown and so on), but I would go back into the past because that is fascinating. But this is a wonderful collection full of poetry diamonds, emeralds and volcanic rock!

I adore the illustrations. They are a mix of drawing and cut-out words in lemon-yellow and white, with tiny little lemony drawings floating on pages ( a cat, a flower, a star and so on). It is a beautiful book to hold and smell and look at.

The poems take you on a fabulous poem journey. You go along the roads and paths of  poems written from the distant past until now. I loved reading writing from ages ago when I was little — discovering how poems written in the past sing in your ear in a different way.

Next week I am going to tell you more about AA MIlne and give you a special challenge but his poem ‘The King’s Breakfast‘ is in the book. I loved saying this poem when I was little:

The king asked

The Queen, and

The Queen asked

The Diarymaid:

‘Could we have some butter for

The Royal slice of bread?’

The Queen asked

The Diarymaid,

The Dairymaid,

Said ‘Certainly,

I’ll go and tell

The cow


Before she goes to bed.’

(it is a long poem so that is just the first verse. But it is really good to say out loud because it has a great rhythm and repeats itself beautifully.)

The wonderful thing about this treasury is you keep finding poem gems.

A Challenge: Try writing a poem that fits in one of the sections in the book (see above)! I will post my favourites. Send to Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email address if you like.

My big walk and a gigantic machinery challenge for you all to do with a cool prize

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Hope you had a lovely Labour Weekend! I went for a huge two-and-half hour walk around our country roads (actually I did it twice!). There are lots of hills and some are extremely steep which is always fun. It took me an hour to get to the station so I had an ice cream at the shop.

Most of the days though I read which I think is BLISS!

When I was at the beach last week I saw some gigantic bits of machinery that were all set to work on the road. I thought it would be great to do some machinery poems – especially diggers, and graders and steamrollers. It is always fun thinking up similes and sounds to use in machine poems. But I decided this was a golden opportunity to play with verbs (action or doing words).

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So I invite you to write a poem about a road machine. Make a list of all the verbs you can think of that fit your road machine. Verbs can give a poem zing and zest. Play with how you put them in the poem. You might just use one or two verbs that shine out or you might use LOADS of verbs. Over to you. You can even include a drawing that I could post too.

Send your poem to me by Thursday November 7th. Include you name, age, year and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email address if you like.

I wil post some of my favourites, but I will pick one poem to award a special prize to thanks to Scholastic. They have sent me a little blue bag containing five Little Digger books by Betty and Alan Gilderdale. These books are classic New Zealand picture books. The stories have such a good rhythm they BEG to be read out loud, time and time again. They are like a poem story or a story poem (‘So they got a bigger digger/ but the bigger digger stuck’). The rhyme is like the engine of a train because it keeps the story moving with a clackety clackety clack! I think there is an essential spot on every child’s bookshelf reserved for these books. Five little treasures, I say. Thank you Scholastic.


Ewen’s daisy looked as if it smiled

Last week I introduced Rachel Rooney‘s The Language of Cat to you. I couldn’t post her poems as I don’t have permission, but I invited you to write a poem to go with one of her titles. I have penciled a few in my notebook to try too! You can still do this.


Ewen had a go and sent me her poem. It was synchronicity again (when two unrelated events match) because just after I got Ewen’s poem I  went for a walk down our country road and saw this lone daisy waving and smiling in the wind. Ewen’s poem got me thinking it would be fun to write a poem from the point of view of a thing (so will save that idea for later). I enjoyed your poem, thank you Ewen.

Hi Paula,

Yesterday I wrote this poem to celebrate Rachel Rooney’s book. I chose to the title ‘Daisy’s Answer’.

I hope you enjoy reading my poem!


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The Grey Day gets a second draft … hmmm

Yesterday I wrote my poem using colours. Today I want to write another draft of it because it didn’t sound right to me as I read it.

Here are some things that I like to try when I edit my poems:

1. Is the first line doing its job? I try out others and then pick my favourite.

2. Is the last line doing its job? I try out others and then pick my favourite.

3. Does every line sound good? If not I play with the words a bit more.

4. Are there too many adjectives?

5. Is there something I could take out and leave the reader to guess?

6. Am I happy with the title?


Here is the first draft of my poem. I have put in bold the bits I am not happy with.



The Grey Day


out of the day glazed with grey

a black rooster with a red comb

a horse wearing a pale blue coat

a piece of orange rind on the black sand

a shrivelled yellow ball that will never bounce

footprints like stitching across the wet sand

two walkers dressed like black rocks

black rocks shivering like walkers in raincoats

purple jellyfish opening out like Japanese fans

little bluebottles that look like blue pebbles

a rusty pinecone and a pink hairclip


the misty grey racing in from the sea

is not like concrete, it’s like hairspray


there is a gull flying over me high

squawking, squawking, squawking

as if to say hello and good morning

unless they squawk and squawk

even when the beach is empty




Here is the draft I have done. I will look at it again next week to see if I am happy with it. Let me know what you think.


The Grey Day


Out of the day glazed with grey

there’s a black rooster with a red comb

a horse with a pale blue coat


On the sand, a piece of orange rind

a yellow ball that will never bounce

footprints like stitching across the wet sand


Two walkers dressed like black rocks

black rocks dressed like walkers in raincoats

purple jellyfish opening like Japanese fans

bluebottles that look like blue pebbles

a rusty pinecone and a pink hairclip


The misty grey races in from the sea

and it’s not like concrete, it’s like hairspray


There’s a gull flying over me high

squawking, squawking, squawking

as if to say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning,’

unless she squawks and squawks

even when the beach is empty



how did a red wheel barrow get to be so famous?

Yesterday I was gong to post photos of our cats and today I was going to post photos of where I write, but I can’t find the battery charger for my camera. So I will do something completely different!

But first a patch of synchronicity (a word that here means when two unrelated events match). We have a foreign-language challenge on Poetry Box at the moment so it was a real surprise to hear two surfers walk behind me on the beach this morning speaking a language I didn’t recognise. It was Portuguese, but they weren’t from Portugal they were from Brazil! That is a long way away.

Today the sky and the beach were grey, but I kept seeing colour on my way. It reminded me of a really, really famous poem by William Carlos Williams called ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’. It was written in 1923, has 8 lines (4 couplets) and 16 words. It is a snip of a poem (like hot breath leaving a mark on a cold window), but so many people have said so much about it. It shows that you can do a lot with a handful of words when you write a poem. I am not sure if I can post it here, but you could go hunting and find it on the internet. Tell me if you find it.

What I love about the poem (there is so much to love) are the two colours that shine out: ‘red’ and ‘white.’

I thought it would be fun to write a poem about my walk today but also to invite you to write a poem with colours in. You can write a short poem like Carlos or a longer one like me. You could use just one or two colours or use lots (like a garden wild with colour!). I will post my favourites (I might be able to find a book prize for one poem!)

Send to Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email address.


Here is my poem draft. It doesn’t sound right yet. So I will look at it again tomorrow! You can give me feedback if you like (like I do to you!) because this poem needs more work.


The Grey Day

out of the day glazed with grey

a black rooster with a red comb

a horse wearing a pale blue coat

a piece of orange rind on the black sand

a shrivelled yellow ball that will never bounce

footprints like stitching across the wet sand

two walkers dressed like black rocks

black rocks shivering like walkers in raincoats

purple jellyfish opening out like Japanese fans

little bluebottles that look like blue pebbles

a rusty pinecone and a pink hairclip


the misty grey racing in from the sea

is not like concrete, it’s like hairspray


there is a gull flying over me high

squawking, squawking, squawking

as if to say hello and good morning

unless they squawk and squawk

even when the beach is empty

I love The Language of Cat and 80% of People Prefer Chips to Poems

This week is all about things I love. When I launched my poetry book The Baker’s Thumbprint this year I said I wrote the poems put of love. That’s not to say it is a book of love poems but I just love writing.

So today I am going to share a book I love. Someone whispered the name of this poet to me recently, so I went on a hunt and now I want to whisper the name to you too! It is really great the way we can share books, the names of authors and titles we love.

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The book is called The Language of Cat and other poems. It is written by Rachel Rooney  and illustrated by Ellie Jenkins (Frances Lincoln, 2011).

When I read the poems it makes me want to write a poem. Words start buzzing like bees in my head and I just want to get cracking.

I don’t have permission to post a poem but there is a bit from ‘Defending the Title’ in the photo of the back of her book. It is a really cool poem.

Rachel knows how to make words sizzle and swing and snap and pop and sigh and spark on the page (oooh! ‘the clink of the fork on the china dish’).

She plays with words a lot. I love ‘Just Her and the Poet’ where the end of one line is the start of the next ( I want to try this!). But it gets even trickier as the poem ends up back where it started. Here are two lines: ‘The glow of the page, its inky print, / It’s inky print those thinking lines.’

She has a great sense of humour: There is a poem about what people swallow including a lamp post (please don’t try that!)

She has a bouncy imagination: like what it would be like if the world was the size of a pea and the sun was the size of a beach ball?

I especially love her poems about POETRY!

To celebrate this book you might like to try writing a poem using one of Rachel’s titles and i will post my favourites:

‘The Language of Cat’  (I want to do this one!)

‘80% of People Prefer Chips to Poems’  (oh and I want to do this one!)

‘This Modern Monster’

‘The Poem and the Poet’ (and I want to do this one!)

‘Counting Days’


‘Three Monkeys’

‘Daisy’s Answer’


Send to Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include the name and email address of your teacher.

My fabulous list of NZ bookshops that stock poetry for children


This week is all about things I love on Poetry Box. I love reading and I love writing so I love bookshops and I love libraries.

I am going to make a permanent page with the details of New Zealand bookshops that sell poetry books for children. This is a draft of what I have so far. I don’t know the bookshops that are in the provinces but if you know a bookshop you think I should add to the list with a comment about it please send the details to Thank you! And bookshops I am happy to change things if you want to add anything. And photos of your poetry books.

Lots of bookshops seem to have a really good display of overseas poetry books for children but not such a good showing of New Zealand ones (I know only a handful get published here but there are still some in print!). Down the bottom of the bookshop list I have compiled a list of New Zealand poetry books for children still in print (with a big thank you to Crissi Blair. Each year Crissi puts an essential catalogue together of New Zealand children’s books in print which is very useful (; Let me know of any I have missed!

The books in a shop constantly change, but I have listed some titles available beside a number of the shops to give you an idea of the range for sale.

1. The Children’s Bookshop, Auckland.  I went here recently and came home with this SWAG of poetry books (see lead photo)! Lots of terrific overseas titles on a waterfall display stand (about 30, now minus the ones I bought in the photo!), but the only NZ book was Baxter’s Basics by James K Baxter. I bought: Carol Ann Duffy’s 101 Poems for Children (MacMillan), The Book of Complete Nonsense (Vintage), 101 Poems edited by Michael Morpurgo illustrated by Quentin Blake (faber & faber), I Like This Poem edited by Kaye Webb (Puffin), Wolf and Dog by Sylvia Vanden Heede (Gecko Press), the gorgeous Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace by AA Milne (Egmont), Shel Silverstein’s Everything On It (Particular Books), Michael Rosen’s Even My Ears Are Smiling illustrated by Babette Cole (Bloomsbury), Edward Lear’s The Quangle Wangle’s Hat (Hinkler), Jack Prelutsky’s Stardines Swim Across the Sky and Other Poems (Greenwillow). I think they are wanting to stock more NZ poetry for children.

2. Unity Books, 19 High Street 09 307 0731 Auckland. They have a well selected few, including the excellent Shel Slverstein. Wellington 57 Willis Street 04 499 4245 They told me: ‘We cover modern poets such as Sharon Creech, Shel Silverstein and Carol Ann Duffy. and also stock the lovely old nursery rhymes edited by authors of Rosemary Wells and Kathleen Lines ilk. and older beloved poetry eg RL Stevenson, CS Lewis and Edward Lear. There is very little NZ poetry for children, but we carry what is available; eg Margaret Mahy, Dennis Glover and James K Baxter.’

3. Time Out Book Shop, 432 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden Auckland. 09 630 3331 Again they have a small range, with some surprising gems. They stock New Zealanders such as Margaret Mahy, James K Baxter and Peter Bland, and overseas anthologies by poets such as Carol Ann Duffy and Roald Dahl. Here is a gem: If: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility (Canongate)

4. Women’s Bookshop in Ponsonby have a medium sized but well chosen selection. From the bookshop: ‘We often have Baxter’s Basics and your Flamingo Bendalingo but we have sold out of both. And we have had the Word Witch lately. At the moment we have Red Cherry Red by Jackie Kay, Even My Ears are Smiling by Michael Rosen, Book of Complete Nonsense – Vintage, Edwards Lear’s Nonsense Birds, Revolting Rhymes – Roald Dahl, 101 Poems for Children chosen by Carol Ann Duffy we have been stocking but we are out of stock at the moment.’

Next Page Please Shop 2 445 Lake Road Takapuna  North Shore. 09 486 2453 And owner is passionate about poetry. Books displayed to catch your eye include Macaroni Moon, Classic Poetry edited by Michael Rosen, Here’s a Little Poem illustrated by Polly Dunbar, Baxter Basics, AA Milne’s When We Were Young, Peter Bland’s When Gulls Fly High, Carol Ann Duffy, Watch out Brussel Sprout, My Village, Science VerseFlamingo Bendalingo.

6. The Children’s Bookshop, 227 Blenheim Road Christchurch. 03 366 5274 With another owner passionate about poetry for children they stock over 50 titles. A terrific range of overseas titles and NZ represented by Mahy, Baxter and James Norcliffe’s Packing a Bag for Mars. ‘The Children’s Bookshop in 227 Blenheim Road is terrific – that’d be the main one. The UBS also has a small section and Scorpio Books too.’  Fiona Farrell

Two photos from the Christchurch shop. Brilliant!

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7. The Children’s Bookshop, Shop 26 Rongotai Plaza, Kilbirnie, Wellington 04 387 3905 They stock a wonderful range of children’s poetry from the classics to the contemporary, from overseas and from New Zealand (including Margaret Mahy’s essential The Word Witch and some James K Baxter). The next time I am in Wellington I want to visit the shop and will let you know what I find.

8. Rona Gallery 151 Muritai Road, Eastbourne, Wellington.  04 562 8062 ‘My local and where I work randomly is fantastic – always loads of poetry because Joanna loves it and believes in it – we sell it …They absolutely do – always a good stack of Paula Greens – and other NZ writers and then collections and anthologies from US, UK and Australia. We keep ordering books we love like The Sky is Painted Blue and Baxter’s poems. We sell a lot of christenings and new babies … and grandparental gifts…’  Mary McCallum Another must visit when I am in Wellington next.

9. Marsden Books, Marsden Village, 159 Karori Road Wellington 04 476 8066 Sarah from the NZ Booksellers recommended this shop and I can see why; they have over forty poetry titles that cover a great range from both overseas and New Zealand. Titles that jumped out at me include Peter Bland, Margaret Mahy, Let’s Celebrate Festivals: Poems from around the world, Shel Silverstein, Spike Milligan, Sharon Creech’s Love that Dog, Classic Poetry, If, Edward Lear,  (Photo of their stand coming!) Again a shop that is on my must visit list.

10. Page and Blackmore, 24 Trafalgar Street, Nelson 03 548 9992 From the Bookseller: ‘Page & Blackmore sell books of poetry for and by children. They stock a range of New Zealand and overseas children’s poetry titles suitable for a range of ages, and encourage the reading and writing of poetry by children. Page & Blackmore: Nielsen Independent Bookshop of the Year, 2013.’  A photo of some of their stock:


11. Dunedin University Bookshop 378 Great King Street Dunedin 03 477 6976 The online catalogue shows a handful of interesting verse for children.

12. Ewen is a fan of Poetry Box and told me that these Paper Plus shops in Christchurch stock poetry books including my book Flamingo Bendalingo. She recommended these branches:
189 Papanui Rd Merivale, Christchurch 03-964 3836 and Northlands Shopping Centre Level 1/55 Main North Road Christchurch 03-352 5185

New Zealand Poetry Books for Children

James K Baxter, Baxter Basics Steele Roberts 2008, illustrators include Lynley Dodd

Peter Bland When Gulls Fly High Puffin 2011, Illustrated by Joanna Bland

Joy Cowley Elephant Rhymes Scholastic, 2006  Illustrator Brent Putze

Paula Green Flamingo Bendalingo AUP, 2006 illustrated by Michael Hight (due 2014, The Letter Box Cat and other poems, Scholastic; A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children, Random House)

Something Zany: A Crazy Miscellany  Edited and illustrated by Gwen Gawith Scholastic, 1992

Margaret Mahy The Word Witch HarperCollins, 2009 Illustrated by David Elliot

Peter Millet Humpty Dumpty and other Classic Kiwi Rhymes Puffin, 2008 Illustrated Eddie Booth

My Village: Rhymes from Around the World Gecko Press, 2008 illustrated by Mique Moriuchi



using words from other languages

If you are doing this competition:

play around with words from other languages

help show the meaning by where you put the word

make a pattern of sounds with the word

don’t worry about what the word means

break the word into bits and play with those bits

use lots of words (like food, or bird names or trees) and play with the sounds

play with the look of the word on the page and the poem!

if you are using more than one word from another language play with where you will put them (you might make a pattern or a list poem)

stomp! poems

Here are some starting points for the stomp-poem competition.


You can be any age you lie but the prize is for 6 years and under.

Try using ‘stomp‘ at the start of every line.

Try using ‘stomp‘ at the end of every line.

Try using ‘stomp‘ in the middle of every line.

Use ‘stomp‘ as the title but NOT in the poem.

Use ‘stomp‘ as the last word of the poem and nowhere else.

Use ‘stomp‘ where you like in the poem.

Make a word pattern with ‘stomp’.

Send your poem to Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include your name of teacher and their address if you like.