Monthly Archives: November 2018

Poetry POPS at Campbells Bay School




This is our cat Charlie who arrived as a stray kitten and grew and grew (there’s a poem about where he likes to sleep in The Letterbox Cat!)


Yesterday I spent the whole day at Campbells Bay School doing poetry sessions in big syndicates and it was such fun – writing a huge book and having a year of accidents meant I have only been to a couple of schools in the past two years. I miss school visits!!

What a cool school to visit – thank you for the warm greetings, the saved parking space, the delicious packed lunch and my two lovely minders, Chloe and Stella. And the biggest thank you to the students for your heartwarming poetry attention.




Here are some of the poems we made up together inspired by my Letterbox Cat poems (sadly I didn’t copy the poems Y6 made up with me):



Silvery stone

lumpy and rough

star light star bright

moving slowly across the sky




Ginger fur

no tail (a long story)

loves sunny patches

and loves to scratch

miaows like a rocket

purrs like a bulldozer




On my fabulous tree

you will find

money and diamonds

honey and almonds




Hi-top shoes

Running shoes

Sprinting shoes

Rainbow shoes

Jumping shoes




Stuff about cats

Grey cat

loves to sleep


Brown cat

loves to eat cat food


White cat

loves to play ball


PInk cat

loves to jump


Two black cats

love to lick their paws




The rain pitters

the rain patters

the rain splashes

the rain drops


on the ground



My cat

Furry grey

black eyed

likes to leap

on the roof


Long tailed

skinny cat

likes to play

chase the ball


Sharp teeth

likes to eat fish

and meat

gobbles everything!



The alligator


The alligator by the lake

ate a calculator and a piece of cake




Pouring galoring

streaks of water

tiny drops

transparent tears

pattering down




Campbells Bay

Golden sand glittering

like stars

the waves are soothing

the shells cut your feet

pohutukawa red as blood

boats rocking, gulls screeching.



Thank you for a COOL time at your school – Paula











Cook’s Cook: Poetry Box talks to Gavin Bishop

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Gavin Bishop, Cook’s Cook: the cook who cooked for Captain Cook, Gecko Press, 2018



Gavin Bishop’s latest book Cook’s Cook: the cook who cooked for Captain Cook is a reading treasure trove.

Enter the book and you will go on a long sea-voyage of discovery – not from the view of the famous people on board but from the one-handed cook, John Thompson.

Cook’s Cook is a a bit like a cook book crossed with a history book crossed with a story book crossed with the most delightful picture book. There are fascinating facts, gorgeous drawings, little imaginings. Every page holds your interest. I definitely learnt new things.

Because the book was so sumptuous and filled me with such curiosity, I invited Gavin to join me in an slow-paced email conversation.

If I lived in the Wairarapa I would have gone to a Cook’s Cook event in August: you got to dine on a three-course meal inspired by the one-handed cook who fed Captain James Cook and crew aboard the HMS Endeavour. Wow!

Gavin, Tainui, Ngāti Awa, has published over 70 books and has been translated into 12 languages.



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Our conversation


Paula: I have lingered over Cook’s Cook for days because every page is full of little fascinations. What kind of research did you do for a book with such splendid detail?

Gavin: I read a lot of books about the voyage of the HMS Endeavour and Lieutenant James Cook. There are lot written about this expedition. Besides modern histories there are the logs and journals written by various people who travelled on the ship. And there are books written for adults as well as for children. The people at Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby, England were very helpful when I emailed them with questions and so were the librarians at the Australian Maritime Museum.

It was while I was reading some material on a particularly useful web-site that I came across the name of John Thompson. He had only one hand and was the cook on the Endeavour, much to James Cook’s initial disgust when Thompson was appointed by the Admiralty. There is little known about him and he was barely mentioned in any of the ship’s records, even when he died of dysentery in Batavia. Joseph Banks, in his journal, complimented him on his cuttlefish soup but that is about it. From my point of view, this was a good thing. I could give him any sort of personality I wanted to.


Paula: I get goosebumps reading the old journals! Did anyone draw or paint food? In logs or journals or in their role as artist? Tupaia for example? I loved his watercolour and pencil drawings.

Gavin: I didn’t find any drawings specifically of food. I found a few scenes of life below deck in the galley or on the mess deck where, if food was included, it was incidental. I did read though, that the ships belonging to the British navy were stocked before each voyage with provisions supplied by the Victualling Board. The admiralty had its own farms, gardens, butchers and bakers that provided meat, bread (biscuits), grain and vegetables and fruit for their ships that were setting out from England in large numbers to explore the world during the 18th century.

The only drawing by Tupaia of food that I know of, is the famous one where he is offering a lobster to Joseph Banks. Tupaia wasn’t a great artist in the European naturalistic style, but his drawings give us some very interesting and important information. A lot of people on the board the Endeavour, but probably not the crew, produced drawings. It was the only way of making a visual record of the things and places they saw. James Cook, the captain, drew a lot too and when all the official artists died after their time in Batavia the scientific men in Bank’s team and some of the officers all had to their bit with pen and paper.


Paula: I spent a few months this year cooking with one hand and it is tricky! It is hard to imagine how John Thompson did this for a ship’s crew, but your book has brought life on board alive through both drawings and words. What was the most surprising thing you discovered (apart from a cook with one hand)?

Gavin: Well, as John Thompson said himself. “It only takes one hand to stir the porridge!” To be fair, he had help. A member of the crew from each table on the mess deck was rostered for a week to help with the mixing of the puddings and the serving of the food.

I came across many strange bits of information, things I had never heard of. A ‘fother’, the name of the patch made from a sail stuck down with a mixture of teased rope and animal dung was something new to me.

I also found it intriguing to read that George Dorlton, one of the two Jamaican servants and an ex-slave, part of the Joseph Banks party, was a qualified plant collector. He had previously worked for a botanist. It was suddenly obvious why Banks, the naturalist, had taken him along on the Endeavour.


Paula: Were you tempted by any of the recipes? The albatross recipe seemed gourmet with the prune sauce and ginger but so many things made my stomach curl. Like eating albatross or dog!

Gavin: If the texture and flavour was right I think I could eat most of things mentioned in ‘Cook’s Cook’. I’m sure a vegetarian dog would make a delicious stew, but I think albatross might be a bit salty and strong, rather like muttonbird. It would be an acquired taste.

I was interested to see that quite a lot of spices, pepper and ginger were used in the cooking on ships at the time of the Endeavour voyage. Of course as the food onboard aged, it would become very undesirable. Joseph Banks mentioned that the taste of weevils in the ship’s biscuits was very spicy. Others knocked their biscuits on the table to shake the weevils out. Some crew held the biscuit over a flame to encourage the weevils to leave.

The salted beef and pork would have been a culinary challenge though, especially after it had been in barrels for a couple of years. There is mention of it being towed behind the ship in a net in an attempt to soften it up and reduce the salt content.


Paula: What was the hardest thing doing this book and what was the most rewarding?

Gavin: The most difficult thing about this book was dealing with the huge amount of information that exists about the voyage of the Endeavour and the people on board. Deciding what to include and what to leave out was a constant challenge. It was rewarding though, when I realised I could deal with this problem by concentrating on the cook’s story and trying to see the historical events that took place, through his eyes.

In my book the voyage unfolds more or less as it did according to James Cook’s journals, all the dates and places are historically correct but the emphasis on certain details is skewed by what I thought might have been interesting or important to the cook, John Thompson. Of course that had a lot to do with food, and later, when the ship was sailing around Aotearoa, it was his hope for a little bit of glory. He wanted a river or a mountain named after him. And like his captain he failed to see the country was already named by the tangata whenua, the Maori. I have shown this in the illustrations where the faces of Ranginui and Papatuanuku are seen in the sky and in the land. Their presence was there for anyone who looked with a perceptive and intelligent eye.


Thanks Gavin!

Gecko Press page

Video of Gavin talking about his new book




Poetry Box November Challenge: celebrating Margaret Mahy with poems


The hat-instead-of-a-cat poem

If I wore a cat instead of a fluffy hat

I would sneeze and sniffle

but if I had a hat in the cat basket

it wouldn’t ask me for biscuits

with a terrifying catOwail

and a frightful tabbyhOwl

before the pink light of dawn.


Paula Green





Dear young poetry fans

This is the last poetry challenge for 2018.

I might do secret popUP challenges over summer with giveaway books and a quick turn around.

But to end the year I want to celebrate the MAGNIFICENT writing of Margaret Mahy – her books and her poems, her characters and her delicious imagination.

I was inspired to do this when St Francis School sent in poems based on Margaret’s A Summery Saturday Morning poem.



Margaret Mahy POEM challenge:


Write a poem that steps off from a Magaret Mahy

picture book



one of her titles

or character

or word she invented

or tricky situation she came up with

or first line of a poem


Your poem can be or do ANYTHING!

Get imaginations BUzzING

Use your EARS and listen out for MUSIC

You might do a very short poem!

PLAY with everything – especially how many words on a line

try RHYME play and hiding rhyme like salt and PEPPER

PLAY with how it LOOKS on the page/screen

you can illustrate your poem if you want





Send to:

Deadline: FRIDAY  30th November

Please include: your name, age, year and name of school

So I don’t miss it: Put MAHY poem in subject line

I will post SOME on:  Monday December 3rd






In the hammock: Gentle Giant Wētāpunga by Annemarie Florian and Terry Fitzgibbon


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Wētāpunga is a gorgeous book – you get facts, you get haiku-sized poems and you get extraordinary illustrations that are a cross between photos and paintings. The writing sings in your ear.

A wētāpunga is a giant wētā – the largest of all. I find this ancient insect absolutely fascinating. The Wētā Recovery Group (created by DOC) are doing everything they can to safeguard its survival. The future was grim for this creature but now they are cautiously positive.

Pick up this book – and go on a voyage of wētā discovery. It is like you are entering the forest at night to explore the life and history of these tree dwellers. It feels so real and illuminating.


Some of my favourite facts:

If they get scared they hide then freeze

They can’t fly but they can hear really well

They like to keep their antennae super clean


Annemarie writes for younger readers. She also wrote Kiwi: the real story, the first book in this series on threatened species. It won the children’s choice Non-fiction Award. in 2013.

Terry is an award-winning illustrator/ photographer who cares about nature.

Bravo New Holland – this book should be in every school library and on every child’s shelf. Book page here.