Monthly Archives: December 2014

My last post on Poetry Box for 2014 — a photo album

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Dear poetry fans,

This is my last post for 2014!

I have had a fabulous year, a busy year, a year of glowing highlights.

So thanks to everyone who contributed to Poetry Box, who shared my posts, who read the posts and who sparked children to write and read poems.

This blog would not work without you.

Thanks to everyone who made my poetry tour such a rip-roaring success. Teachers you have worked so hard to help me, along with booksellers, librarians and my publishers. And thanks to Creative New Zealand for making it all possible.

Over summer, I will think about how Poetry Box will work next year. I need more time for some exciting big secret writing projects, some little secret writing projects and just to write whatever comes to me. So while I hope to keep Poetry Box going it will be a bit different as this year was a huge amount of work for me.

The good news is it is something I love to do and I would be very sad not to keep doing it. I have loved reading your poems, especially.

So a very happy summer holidays to you all. I do hope you get time to follow your poetry spark and write a poem or two. Keep a little notebook. Look back through my blog for inspiration. Use the world for inspiration. Try writing in ways you have never tried out before. Have fun with words!

Keep safe!

Love to all,


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IMG_1689-0 IMG_1693-0 IMG_1701 IMG_0497Russley

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To celebrate the past year on Poetry Box — Russley School’s performance on The Hot Spot Poetry Tour including Apirana Taylor’s ‘haka.’ Magnificent!

IMG_7681_1 Russley School hosted the Christchurch event of The Hot Spot Poetry Tour of NZ at their school. Many of their children performed in the programme. The whole event was glorious but so good to see their students on video. The event finished with their fabulous rendition of Apirana Taylor’s poem, ‘haka.’ You can watch the performance here.

To celebrate the past year on Poetry Box — an interview with Shirley Gawith — in 90s and full of wit, grace and verve


A special day, a special author!

A highlight of my year was having lunch with Shirley Gawith and her family at their place in Mahana when I was on my Hot Spot Poetry Tour. She has a few poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children so I was keen to meet her.

Shirley published several collections of children’s poetry years ago that were illustrated by her daughter. I managed to interloan them from the library. Wonderful!

We had a wee conversation before lunch. It was such a lovely place to be. We ate delicious quiche and salad and then a sweet treat. I love Shirley’s sense of humour, the sparkle in her eye and her passion for writing. I got to read some of her poems too.

What did you do as a little girl?

I was a bit of a tomboy and an outdoors girl. I like to write and at school I often came top in writing class.

What did you like to read?

Imaginative stories like those of Hans Christian Anderson and Grimm’s Fairy Tales (this would have been in the 1920s!)

Where did you go to school?

I went to Stoke in Nelson. I was Dux of the School in 1935.

What were your favourite things at school?

Language and sport.

When did you first start writing poems?

As far back as I can remember — before my teens. I lived on D’Urville Island on a farm for thirty years and my children grew up there.  I look ed after everyone and the veggie garden and taught the children until secondary school. And I wrote poems! It wasn’t easy living on an island. Sometimes I was lonely with no other women. I loved reading. I have written hundreds of poems.

What kind of poems?

Mostly for children. Limericks. Fun, playful poems. Poems that make you laugh. I think I’ve got a reasonable imagination.

I think you’ve got a terrific imagination as your poems show! What other things have you liked doing?

Painting, writing, theatrical things. I loved being on stage and I put on concerts during the war. It was a big change to move to the wilderness and live on an island.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

It can be anywhere but I would get lots of thoughts before bed and a line would grab hold of me.

What did you read your children when they were little?

Nursery rhymes and stories like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The Little Golden Books. Fairy tales.

Your poetry books are a joy to read. What do you like writing about writing poems?

They just seem to come naturally. A word comes into my head and it starts me on a poem.

Your poems are full of zest, great sounds and a wonderful imagination as we both agreed. What do you think makes a good poem?

The sounds that the words make, and the rhythm of the poem.

I think Shirley’s poems always sound good and have a delicious, bouncing imagination. It was very special to read them. Here are a few that I read over lunch:

A Puzzle

An adder can’t add, which seems rather sad,

And a cricket has never played cricket,

A bat cannot bat, it is quite certain that

Neither creature has heard of a wicket.

Butterflies flutter, but do not like butter.

©Shirley Gawith

Rain Talk

Halfway to a dream last night

I heard a whispering rain

Telling secrets softly

Against my window pane.

Faster, faster fell the raindrops,

Whispers turned to prattle,

A noisy chattering that made

My bedroom rattle.

©Shirley Gawith

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An award-winning book from Te Papa: 100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa — this is a treasure box


Te Papa Press makes beautiful books. This book was first published in 2012 and was a winner at the Children’s Book Awards. It is a fabulous, fun, facty book that really inspires me to do things!

i    l o v  e     t   h  i   s      b  o  o  k  !

This is the perfect book to have over summer because it is a DIP and DELVE book.

You can SINK into pictures and SWIM through facts and GLIDE through stories.

There are even DVDs of the TV series Tales from Te Papa.

Simon Morton and Riria Hotere were the EXPLORERS and DELVERS and AUTHORS of the book.

Some of my favourite topics so far:

Cloud of Kiwi English

Almighty Albatross

Dinosaur Tooth

Ocean Armour

Whale of a Mystery

Art of Tinned Food

Pigeon Post

Mail Order Moths

Seaweed Pantry

Snail Mail

Nature’s Hitchhikers

Pacific Princess

Ewen’s highlight poem

Ewen  wrote this poem about her holiday in Singapore & Malaysia in April and May. Maybe you can write poems about the highs (and lows) of your summer! Go on the hunt for real detail that makes what you do come alaive in the poem. Sounds like Ewen had a fun time D O I N G things on her holiday.

Basking in the Sun
Close to the equator,
basking in the sun,
tasting delicious food,
meeting with family
and friends.

Visiting theme parks,
and attractions:
sliding, jumping,
watching, hydro sliding,
getting wet, swimming
and racing.

A road trip
all around,
getting lost
in a jungle,
an ant

Seeking the best
of each place
that we’d go.

Seeking the fun:
the highs
(and the lows!).

Ewen W aged 12, Room 20, Year 7, Cobham Intermediate School, Christchurch

Māori Art for Kids by Julie Noana and Norm Heke Congratulations to the team that made this book. It is treasure box

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Māori Art for Kids, Julie Noana and Norm Heke, Craig Potton Publishing


Another gorgeous book from this publisher. It includes fifteen artists and fifteen activities. The book explores sculpture, photography, design, paint, mixed media and collage.

The images are glorious.

Each art piece has an example by an artist and information. Easy to read. Eye catching.

The activities are stunning. If my girls were younger we would be making some for sure.

These are some of things you get to try out: Heru Decorative comb , Waka huia Feather box,  Kete Bag, Hei tiki pendant, Manu Tukutuku kite


If you love making things, and you want explore Māori Art this is the book for you. I love it. Perfect for the school holidays.

Congratulations to the team that made this book. It is treasure box itself.

The last challenge! Highlights of the Year poems are a highlight for me

Thanks for sending in poems that showed a highlight of the year.  A highlight for me was most definitely my Hot Spot Poetry Tour of NZ. This morning I was searching through my photos for something and I kept rediscovering such wonderful memories. What I treat I got to do this very special thing this year.

Next year is going to be a bit different as I want to do lots of writing. Lots of time at home writing!

I haven’t posted all the poems  got but I did love reading them all. Thank you so much for sending them in!

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Here are some of my favourites.

Thanks to the wonderful Helen Parsons (she and Roger used to run the best bookshop in Auckland for poetry and NZ books, Parsons Bookshop), I am sending  Gemma and Daniel a copy of  Baxter Basics: Poems for Children by James K Baxter.   A big thanks to Helen. I have another copy she gave me I will use for James K Baxter challenge next year. This is a wonderful collection of classic poems for children.

Both Gemma and Daniel’s poems catch a moment beautifully. I was there at Te Papa so I was overjoyed to see how Daniel caught that time in his poem. Wonderful. I sent it to Te Papa too. Gemma‘s poem is a bit different and uses a list to show her highlights. I love the way she uses sound in this poem.

I also loved the way the hangi poems from Russley School made me want to go and eat a hangi. I had a really good one last summer at the music festival in Muriwai on Waitangi Day. These poems made me in the mood for another. I just picked a couple of the hangi to post plus one about first-day nerves. I know what that’s like. Every time I go to  a school I get first-day nerves! I am sending Elizabeth a copy of my poems, The Letterbox Cat.

And finally I love the way the watermelon is a highlight for Imogen. Yum! Such good detail in this poem and it also sounds good. Sometimes food is a highlight for me too. Like the fresh strawberry I just picked from my garden and ate! I am also sending Imogen a copy of my poems, The Letterbox Cat.

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Poetry at Te Papa

Heart beating fast in my throat

Butterflies on a rollercoaster inside a whirlpool in my stomach

Crunching and munching fingernails

(Not helping)

Onto the stage

Shocked to see how many people were there

200 eyes staring at me

Scanning for familiar faces

(Not helping)

Paula behind me

Sister beside me

Mum and Dad in front of me

Mrs Bennett at the back

(Not helping)

Ten big breaths

(Not helping)

Close my eyes

(Not helping)

Rescue Remedy

(Not helping)

Imagining playing at home with my toys

(Not helping)

Then I read the first word

Finally feeling better

(This is helping)

Reading on

Not worrying about anything

I loved that!

I want to do it again lots of times!

Thinking I could read a poem to the whole wide world

14 billion eyes staring at me


By Daniel L Age 5, Year 1, Adventure School Whitby


Highlight of My Year

I couldn’t choose just one highlight of the year…

So I decided to put them all down here!

January – English cousins staying with me and real Paeroa L&P

February – my new class teacher’s great and in my class are all my mates

March – My birthday shout and a mystery day out

April –Easter celebrations and ANZAC commemorations,

May –swing bridging over the Buller river, and ziplining making my mum quiver

June – Ferry rides and glacier guides

July – Designing a clock and seeing a croc

August – winning prizes and Viking disguises

September – a mountainous highlight and a sickness lowlight

October – Poetry reading and Giraffe feeding

November – School jubilee and a Zoo menagerie

December – Camping with Scouts and School reports out!

By Gemma L, Age 8, Year 4, Adventure School, Whitby



Watermelon (a yummy highlight)
Strawberry red middle,
Extreme black dots everywhere,
The juicy crunchy juice,
The nice tangy apple green

Imogen R, Age 8, Year 4 Kenakena School


The Hangi – by Elizabeth, age 7

the hangi flames were like Hades’ hair

it smelt like nothing I’d ever smelt before

because it was so good

it felt like warm roasting bones

and sounded like crashing stones

Hangi Simile Poem – by Hunter, age 8

the steam flew away like paper

it smelt like mint leaves

on a skinny tree, sleeping in a meadow

it was white hot, cooking our food

Hangi – by Tom Hayes, age 8

Flames as bright as a spotlight.

Smells like smoke.

Rocks grinding like hadrosaur teeth.

Flames boiling like overboiled soup.

Tastes like a birthday lunch!

Highlights of 2014 – by Kelly, age 10

First day nerves soon disappeared

with Capture the Flag (Halloween edition)

Getting last during orienteering at camp

Hanging out with Mrs Koster at Writing Club

Crashing the go-cart at camp

Coming 3rd in discus at Zones

Screaming to the song ‘Without You’ in Team Singing

I’m very sad the year is ending,

but can’t wait for Christmas!

A holiday treasure: The New Zealand Art Activity Book from Te Papa— this is so cool!

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The New Zealand Art Activity Book: 100+ Ideas for Creative Children from Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand

I would so have loved this book when I was young. If you are interested in drawing and art and are aged 5 upwards then this is the book for you. Helen Lloyd designed lots of art activities that are so so cool.

And then some fabulous NZ artists designed some for you too including Sarah Hughes and John Pule.

The book invites you to switch on your imagination, get some coloured pencils, scissors and glue and start filling in the pages. The possibilities are endless. I want to try!


Here are some of my favourite pages:

Cut out the parts to make crazy animals.

Tape two pencils together to do a spaghetti wiggle on the page.

Think up a name for a colour then make that colour.

Hide some words inside a picture.

Make a fast drawing in less than 10 seconds.


This book was first published in 2013, but if you don’t have a copy and you love art, you will love this. it gets you thinking and seeing and making and drawing art sideways and circleways and flipways and crawling ways and skipways.


I       a  d o r e        this    AcTiViTy    b     o     o     k    ! *************************+

Moonman by Ned Barraud — I love every bit and bite of this book

Moonman   Moonman

Moonman, Ned Barraud, Craig Potton Publishing

Ned Barraud is one of those talented people who can tell a story (author) and create pictures (illustrator). He has illustrated lots of books, including the fabulous natural-history series that I flagged on the blog (Under the Ocean is the latest one). And he works as a texture artist for Weta Workshop! I have no idea what that is but it sounds fun.

Craig Potton Publishing is producing some gorgeous picture books for children and this is no exception. This book has lovely paper, a lovely look and a lovely feel to it. This matters in poetry books and picture books.

I love the story. Moonman is the caretaker of the moon. All is good. All is normal.  But one day he catches a ride on a shooting star to a mysterious, blue planet. Then all is strange. All is definitely not normal. Something does not suit him very well at all. I love the way the story unfolds and reaches its end (I am not letting the cat out of the bag on that!).

It is like a story in the age-old tradition of stories (like fables) that has a message. Beware of the grass-is-greener pull. Or ….  travel is wonderful and surprising, new places are wonderful and surprising, but home is home!

I love the sentences: ‘Under twinkling stars he takes his broom and sweeps the moon until its clean and gleaming.’ That’s poetry — simple and clean.

I love the moody blue illustrations that fit the story perfectly. Atmospheric. They make you want to pick up a pen and draw.

Yes, I love every bit and bite of this book, so even though I was tempted to give it away, I am keeping this one to read again!

Barbara Else’s The Volume of Possible Endings: A Tale of Fontania …. magnificent marvellous magical mesmerising

The Volume of Possible Endings: A Tale of Fontania Barbara Else, Gecko Press

I loved the first two books in this series very much indeed (The Travelling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy). Both books show a dynamo imagination at work and an ear that knows how to make a good sentence. These novels sing as you read, but more importantly they take you into a world that catches hold of you on every stoney path and in every mysterious corner.

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Barbara’s new book serves music and magic in equal measure. The detail is magnificent. The sentences marvellous. The characters magical. The story mesmerising. Ahh!!

In this story, we meet the only child in Owl Town: twelve-year-old Dorrity. It doesn’t take long to realise there is something special about her, something mysterious. I love her boldness. Her cunning. The way she pays attention to things. Little things. Big things.  Dorrity tumbles headlong into a gritty adventure that hurtles her away from the peace and quiet and routines of Owl Town.

I love Dorrity as a character, but I especially love the extra strange Metalboy. As soon as I met the beginnings of him in the first pages I was hooked. He may be made of metal (at first), but he is a character you really care about. It matters what happens to him. And things do happen to him!

I love the way you can’t see everything in easy-peasy black and white. Good and bad stick to some characters like tufts of hair.

Oh and I love Owl Town. I like the way the people band together and make especially good plans and look out for the town’s only girl.

In this list of loves, I also need to mention the book Dorrity discovers that is all to do with  her — and that has five different endings for her that are very puzzling!

This book comes with a TIPTOP recommendation from me and is one of my favourite reads of the year.