Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Gecko Press Annual is a sumptuous swirl and it got me puzzling (and there’s a challenge with a book voucher for you!)

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Annual edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, Gecko Press, 2016


(pitched at 9 to 12 year olds)


If I had opened the Gecko Press Annual when I was ten I would have jumped a jig of joy under the Christmas tree.

I would have loved the bright orange cover, the gold floating leaves and bird.

I would have loved the sumptuous swirl of words and illustrations inside that meant before I read I would have to do an awful lot of looking.


When I was ten, I would have wanted the Annual to last and last for a whole year. I wouldn’t have known what to read first. Probably the poems first and the activities second.


Now that I am way-old, I still need to look at the Annual for ages before I start reading it.

This is because the Annual is very very beautiful. It is a very special book.


There are three poems written by poets (Jenny Bornholdt, Tim Upperton and James Brown) who usually write adult poetry books. I am a big fan of their poetry. There is also a handful of ninja-rhyme poems by Michael Petherick. The poems are like chalk and cheese. They give you  different feelings as you read. One is thoughtful and slightly mysterious, one is madcap crazy and one is like a wonky funny found poem that is all made-up.

I find the whole question of children’s poetry fascinating -as you know! Some people say when you write a poem it should be for anyone – child or adult. This is a very popular point of view. Most poets I know think like this. I guess I feel like a fish out of water because when I write poems for children, my head fills with all the children in all the schools I visit and I feel like I am writing for them. As I write, I am wanting the words to be so infectious that children will want to jump for joy and race out and read and write poems. They feel ALIVE with poetry.


p o e t r y   is a   wan   der     playground for children


When I write poems for adults, I write for myself first. I am not writing because I want adults to jump for joy and race out and read and write poems. I don’t think about the reader at all. It all seems very different and mysterious and puzzling.

… so the Annual got me thinking about writing poems … and where I fit as a poet


For the annual, the poets were given starting points for their poems – as everybody in the Annual was (a bit like I do on Poetry Box!). This what happens now for School Journals.

So it’s not a book where people send in what they have written – but a book where authors  (and comics, and illustrators and all the rest) are commissioned to do something in particular. I think that gives the Annual a particular feel. A special feel. Like an exhibition with a curator. Not a lucky dip.


There are so many different kinds of things in the Annual, it is like a magnificent magic box. You might fall upon a painting or a photograph or a comic strip or a very cool craft idea from the fabulous Fifi Colston.


My favourite story is from one of my favourite NZ children’s authors, Barbara Else: ‘Tingirl and the Crying Time.’ The story features Assistant Squint with apple stuck in his teeth, Madam Upright with a tooth that glinted silver and Tingirl who yearns to turn into a Realgirl. Oh so imaginative and deliciously written, it will make you think about robots in a whole new light. Wonderful! Gorgeous illustrations by Kieran Rynhart.


I also loved Paul Beavis‘s guide to visual storytelling. Do I want to give it a go? Yes!!!!


….. have I read the whole Annual? No! Have I tried all the activities? No! I am like that ten year-old girl because I want to make the Annual last and last.



I would love to post some reviews by children of the Annual.  Give it a go! send your review to

Include your name, year, age and school

Put Annual review in email subject line

I will have a book voucher for my favourite review and a copy of The Letterbox cat for another reviewer.

Deadline :  November 1oth

an extra handful of imagination


I was very excited to get a selection of imagination poems from Room 4 at Pauatahanui School in Wellington because when I was training to be a teacher a very very very long time ago I did my sole-charge section at this school. I was in charge of the whole class for a whole month before I headed out to my own class the next year. It was such a lovely school in a lovely setting.

Room 4 missed the deadline but I felt I just had to break my rule for them and post a few poems. I loved the playful rhyme, the acrobatic words and the zing-pop imaginations. The class had fun writing these!

The students are Y3-4, aged 7-9.



What if dogs were as damp as hogs?

What if clogs when on dogs?
What if hogs were as big as dogs?
What if hogs were as smart as dogs?
What if mats were as smart as cats?

What if cats were as scary as bats?
What if my cat had a hat?
What if a bat ate my cat?
What if a fly was as big as a fox?

What if John Key lived in a box?
What if I had really stinky socks?
What if I had lots of clocks?

All of this could be true

I just have to believe and you do too!

 Marcus S


What if?

What if trees were as flat as pancakes?

What if animals always ate cornflakes?

What if dogs had pet cats?

What if people ate their mats?


What if he was as small as a bee?

What if you could be me?

What if everyone road in paper boats?

What if everybody forgot their goats?


What if pencils were as smart as foxes?

What if houses came in boxes?

What if I had a pet bat?

What if I slipped on hats?


All of these things could actually come true

I just have to believe and you do too!

Ashleigh G


What if?              

What if bats were as fast as horses?

What if elephants had to do courses?

What if salt ruled the world?

What if there was no dream world?


What if dictionaries could fly like bees?

What if trees lived in seas?

What if dinosaurs came back to life?

What if no one had a wife?


What if a hat was as calm as a cat?

What if I went splat?

What if taxi drivers were dolphins?

What if everyone lived near goblins?

All of these things could actually come true

I just have to believe and you do to!

Giarna O


 What if ?   

What if a cow was as hot as a stove?

What if Wellington was as pretty as Cathedral Cove?

What if sparklers never glow?

What if plants never grow?


What if plastic was as hard as rock?

What if crystals were as smelly as socks?

What if flashlights were as dark as caves?

What if sloths were as fast as waves?


What if turtles were as fast as rockets?

What if sharks were as powerful as sockets?

What if lighting was as slow as snails?

What if clothes were as wet as wails?


All of these things could actually come true,

I just have to believe and you do too!

Chris Szekely’s Rona – The story is so like real life it shines

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Rona Chris Szekely, illustrated by Josh Morgan, Huia Press, 2016

Sometimes I think good junior chapter books are as rare as hen’s teeth. Yet it is a time when you are hungry to read good books. I used to gobble books up in a swizzing second when I was that age.

Chris Szekely’s new junior chapter book, Rona, is so very good. I gobbled it up in one sitting and I didn’t want it to end because it is a book that makes you feel good (and I had a sore throat!). There are lively illustrations by Josh Morgan.

Chris is the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington and is the first Māori person to hold this position.

Chris is already an award-winning author. In 2012, his book, Rāhui won the Picture Book Category at the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, as well as the LIANZA Russell Clark Award for Illustration and the Librarian’s Choice Award.

Fleur Beale (a favourite author of mine) says this ‘s a gem of a story’ and I agree.


Rona stars in her own story. She lives with her Nana and Grandad – and her cousin Jessie comes to stay one summer. Rona is brave, bold and cheeky, inventive, and she knows how to stand up for herself. She is not-quite-good because she does some mischievous things (especially in the poetry competition!). I just love this character.

The story is so like real life it shines. Chris must take notice of little things like a sharp camera and store them in his memory bank because the detail is magnificent. I loved the china teacups, the boiling hot days, the fruit soaking for the Christmas cake, the teacher who could see through lies, the ice-cold-water dive by the wharf, the set of coloured pencils. I felt like I was staying with the family for the holidays I was so grounded in the story.

I especially loved the joy of a fresh set of coloured pencils ‘like a rainbow.’


The dialogue (what people say to each other) flows perfectly. It feels real not fake.

The sentences flow and sing – the verbs dance and pop.

I love the way Chris hides clues to things.

The glossary at the back is very witty.


Nana is a strong, wise and loving grandmother. She won’t stand for any rubbish behaviour but she is there to mop your brow.

This story, which is like a kete of little stories, is all about friendship and families. Things get in muddles. Life gets a bit messy. But Rona shines through. She is new classic kiwi character that we will all grow to love!


I think every school library needs a class set of this book! And if you feel like a warm, toasty, zingy sparkling reading feeling -then this book is for you. I recommend it highly. And I do hope there is a sequel.

Huia author page

October Poetry Challenge: some favourite imaginative poems

… I am bit late posting these as I have in bed with a sore throat …

What a lot of fun you had using your imaginations – to get them sizzling and bouncing and popping in poems. Sometimes the poems made me laugh out loud. But imaginative poems can also be thoughtful, show you different ways of seeing the world. Invent worlds. Imagine how other people do things.

I couldn’t post all the amazing poems – so here is a selection of some I enjoyed.

I am sending a copy of The Letterbox Cat to Oscar and to the class at Greenhithe School.

Do try my last challenge of the year that I am posting tomorrow.

I posted Daniel’s poem first as I loved the way he imagined a world with no imagination!


Without Imagination

Imagine a world

Without imagination

There would be no inventions

No new things

No modifications

No songs

No pictures

No stories

No adventures

No fun at all

I am glad I cannot imagine

A world without imagination

 By Daniel L, Age 8, Year 3, Adventure School, Wellington


I got a terrific bunch of poems from Greenhithe School. They all zinged with imagination. What great fun you had writing these! Here are just a few:


Have a Look

A moment in time

is like a lime sitting still

on the windowsill.

The sun is brightening

As the lime is ripening.

Then the moment passes.

By Ferguson Mc, Age 10, Year 5, Glenhithe School


When the Pie Danced with the Tie


The pie danced with the tie when the bread turned red

The pie danced with the tie when a rock ate the clock

The pie danced with the tie when my hand joined a band

The pie danced with the tie when Jill ate the hill.

But did those things really happen?


The pie never danced with the tie.

By Maria S, Age 10 years, Year 5, Glenhithe School


Brussel Sprout Land

What if the world was made of brussel sprouts?

People would be passing out

from the smell.

You wouldn’t be able to write.

You wouldn’t be able to play a ball sport because the ball would keep disintegrating.

Your house would keep rolling around and

you wouldn’t be able to watch TV.

Just a brussel sprout.

By James D, Age 9, Year 5, Greenhithe School


And here are some poems from all over New Zealand:


I went to bed and closed my eyes
and I saw red and suddenly my bed
lifted off the ground and my room turned
oval round.

I floated out of bed and through the ceiling
and saw rainbows and werewolves and foxes and monsters.
Suddenly I dropped back through the ceiling and my Mum peeked
through the door and told me off for making too much noise.

Oscar Mc, Age 8, Fendalton Primary School


Coloured World

If the sky was green
What about the trees?
Would they be green too?
Or would they be blue?

Would the seas be purple?
Or would that make everyone gurgle?
Would they revolt,
With orange lightning bolts?

If the sun was indigo
Would we need some mistletoe
Made out of red teacups,
Brewed by Monkeys DeluxeⓇ?

So I must say,
Be careful on your way,
In hope you don’t meet,
Some flowers with very yellow feet.

By Freya D, age 12, Tamatea Intermediatee, Napier




Hands gripping pencils,

breaking through paper.

Imagination racing.

Words into sentences,

sentences into paragraphs,

paragraphs into stories.

This is writing.

Jonathon Y, Gladstone School, Auckland


What If?

What if the world was made of cheese?
Would cheddar be the land, would edam be the seas?
What if all 3 of your little black cats?
Owned an illegal black market for purple top hats?

What if a pug called Swipp Woolly Lee?
Ruled over the world, how crazy would that be?
What if your granny was a world renowned thief?
And her hideout was under the great barrier reef?

What if all milk tasted like trash?
Would the dairy industry suffer a financial crash?
What if it was impossible to flush the loo?
Would the whole wide world smell like poo?

What if your teacher worked for some top secret spies?
Could she spy on you using robotic flies?
What if you lived in the sewer of a train station?
Thank goodness this only in our imagination.

By Jackson S, 12, Year 8 Tamatea Intermediate School, Napier


Running Away

When Imagination ran away with me

He took me by the hand

And led me away on an adventure

Adults wouldn’t understand


He showed me glorious green forests

And silvery snow capped mountains

Ancient ruins and relics

And exploding fantastical fountains


He took me to a magical world

Where dragons roam

Cauldrons foam

And children save the world alone


He showed me what the world could be

If no one put restraints on me

Gemma Lovewell, Age 10, Year 6, Adventure School, Wellington


Imagination Sampler
The colorful rainbow flows onto the paper,
White never to be seen again.
A shield of sun protects me from the rain.
Icing the bright blue sky.
The love for bananas is never enough.
Cross country,
A soft patter of feet as you pass the finish line
Ant size but giraffe size in flavor.
What kind of message does it carry?
Ice Cream,
Deliciousness slips down my throat.
Every corner you turn fun is blocking the way.
The colours never end.
The skies necklace
Queen of jewels.
Paint covers your lips like a hat.
Your brain the imagination station.

Evie J, Age 11, Selwyn House School, Christchurch



The    Best    Creation    Ever!

a small computer with a hard shell to protect it,

two projectors to sense where it’s going,

Many engines to work different parts,

all close together to stay running,

a cage, able to hold the many engines in place,

a pipe for fluids, to keep on moving,

a hole on each side of the computer to hear and interact.

A squishy yet solid material, all over,

Layers of soft material, covering everything, to make it look even better,

This machine is the best creation ever!

It is you and me…… Human beings.

Winter Dragon

Cold biting fingers and nose
Snow white on the trees and ground
Sun rising in golden robes
Setting the snow alight

Movement out of the corner of an eye
A snow sparkle on bluish white scales
Crest of icy horns
Arctic blue eyes
Sparkling white wings

A gasp escapes an open jaw
A dragon turns
Cold air escaping an open maw
Eyes glittering
Joined for a moment
Sun turned white scales gold

Leaping up into the air
Breathing ice on frozen trees
Rising higher
Caught in golden light
Then vanishing in the sunrise

Running feet to a small house
Excited voice shouting
I saw the winter dragon!

by Sarah-Kate  Age 11 Homeschooled


#nzbookshopday I am reading at Auckland’s Children Bookshop on Saturday 11.15am

Dear young poetry fans,

Come and say hello and pick a poem from The Letterbox Cat for me to read.

On Saturday bookshops all over NZ are doing exciting things because they love books and we love books.

I can’t decide which poems to read yet so let me know if you have  FAVOURITE that you think I should pick!  Add a comment here or email me

The Children’s Bookshop is in Jervois Road and it has loads of good books.

Happy NZ Bookshop Day,

from Paula

Three gorgeous Gecko picture books to tickle your toes – and a very good Gecko challenge for a hungry hunter-reader

It is always such a treat to open a Gecko picture book because I can guarantee the book will give me a warm book glow. And when I get a warm book glow I am ready to do anything!

Today I reread three in a row. So you might just want to go Geckohunting in bookshops and libraries to find these little gems.


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The first book, If I Was a Banana, is written by Alexandra Tylee. She has written two cookbooks because she is the owner and chef at the fabulous Pipi restaurant in the Hawkes Bay. They make very very good food! This is her first book for children.

The illustrator, Kieran Rhynhart, lives in Wellington and illustrated the very amazing New Zealand Art Activity Book. The pictures in If I Was a Banana are magical – they have that special glow that make you want to look and look and look. Gorgeous.

I love this book so much because it is very simple and very perfect. A young child imagines what they would be like if they were something else. For example:

‘If I were a banana I would be that one,

all yellow and fat and full of banana.’


The boy imagines what he might be like if he were a bird or mountain or a cloud for starters. If you like beautiful writing and illustrations that give you goosebumps then this is the book for you.


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The second book is That’s Not a Hippopotamus! is written by Juliette MacIver and Illustrated by Sarah Davis. I am a big fan of Juliette’s writing because she fills her pen with bounce and leap and verve. Her imagination cartwheels and her sentences sing. Sarah’s illustrations are pretty cool too.

A teacher, her class and a zookeeper are on the hunt for a missing hippo – easier said than done when the children keep mistaking every animal they see for a hippo. The children are so skiddadlebubble excited they think the elephant is a hippo … and the giraffe is a hippo!

You will have to read the book to see whether they ever discover the right animal … maybe a little boy called Liam has something to do with it!

This is a fun read from one of my favourite New Zealand children’s authors. If you like words that dance and stories that leap then this is the book for you.


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The third book is the book for all of us who love dogs because it is A Day with Dogs and every page is steaming with dogs. It reminds me of Richard Scarry books because every page is very busy – it takes ages to turn the page. I liked hunting for my favourite dog. There’s the flashest dog house I have ever seen. The  bathroom is a disaster zone with six dogs in the tub, the shower on and the water overflowing.

You get to count things and follow a dog alphabet.

You get to see dogs at work, playing sport, making art, having a birthday, going up the mountain – and a million other things.

The author, Dorothée de Monfreid, is from France. Apparently she is very good on the ukelele.

If you like dogs and busy books then this is the book for you.


Gecko Press here

and if you want to get a stack of Gecko books:





Daniel and Gemma find poetry boulders

I do love getting letters from you! Gemma and Daniel just wrote with news of their holiday. They were very excited as they have had some poems accepted for Toitoi (I will be telling you where to submit for another issue soon).

Meanwhile they discovered these in Blenheim (I thought it was such a great idea!):



‘Firstly, in the school holidays we went to the South Island and did the DOC Kiwi Guardians challenges there.  One that we went to was in Blenheim, called the Taylor River reserve.  They had a writers’ walk with “Poetry Boulders” … huge boulders with plaques that have poems, written by local school students on them!  The poems raise awareness of environmental values.  We thought they were so cool! Here is a photo of one of them.’


October Poetry Box Challenge – Imagination leaps



I love letting my imagination set sail when I write poems (amidst a thousand other things).

So for October, I challenge you to write a poem with a dollop of imagination.

I suggest letting your poem sit for a few days before you send it to me so you can spot things you might like to improve – or mistakes.


Here are some tips and starting points:

Ask some what if questions. What if I could fly? What if the world were made of broccoli?

Imagine you are a character from a book.

See things in the real world completely differently. A world of tall things. A topsy-turvy world.

Invent some animals as I did in my poem ‘Anifables.’

Write an ordinary poem about ordinary things but then give it an extraordinary ending.

Imagine something strange happens in your back garden.

Imagine you have a secret.

Invent a new food or tree or machine.

Imagine you meet a famous person.


….. or surprise me … with your own imagination             l   e   a   p


Hunt for really good detail before you start writing your poem.

Listen to every line.

Test out three very different endings.

Remember to give it a title.


How will you set your poem out?

Hide a surprise in your poem somewhere.


Imagine something that happened in history very differently.  Like landing on the moon.


h a v e     f u n    !


SEND your poem to

DEADLINE Friday October 28th

Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include your teacher’s email if you like.

P l e a s e    p u t   ‘Imagination poem’ in the subject line of your email.

I will pick some favourites to post on the blog and have a book for at least one reader and maybe even a book for a class.

I will post on  Monday 31st October.




I am on the hunt for A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children



This week I went up north to talk about my poetry at the Tai Tokerau Literacy Conference in spectacular Paihia and Russell and I discovered the Treasury I edited is now out of print.

Most of my books are out of print but this book gave me a sad day because it felt like a special book for New Zealand’s children’s poetry had disappeared. The book feels like taonga because we have so few poetry books for children in print. There has never been a book quite like it.

The publisher is sad too but they can’t reprint it because it just doesn’t work budget wise.

So I had a day of tears and then picked myself up and got back to my big book I am writing and my new collection of poems for children I have been working on.


I thought there were still hundreds of copies left because I forgot to check, so am now on the hunt to buy a few copies for myself.

I am sending out a request for Treasury hunters: If you spot a copy somewhere in NZ can you let me know where so I can buy it please? I just wanted a little pile in case there are any new children in my family tree.


I have been wondering how we can keep books like this – that are important literary celebrations of who we are – alive for children readers. I have made myself the unofficial ambassador for children’s poetry in New Zealand but this week it has felt like a very tough job.


Maybe a generous benefactor will put in an order for 1000 copies!


If you spot a copy  for me, I will be over the moon!