Monthly Archives: September 2020

Poetry Box review: My Little Book of Bugs: Taku pukapuka iti mō ngā pepeke

My Little Book of Bugs Taku pukapuka iti mō ngā pepeke Te Papa Press 2020


Julia Kasper is Curator Terrestial Invertebrates at Te Papa

Phil Sirvid is Entomology Manager at Te Papa


Jean-Claude Stahl is an imaging specialist at Te Papa known for his detailed photographs of the natural world.

My little Book of Bugs Taku pukapuka iti mō ngā pepeke is a small hardback book designed for children from 18 months to 3 years. Each page features an astonishing photograph of a bug with a sentence in English and in te reo Māori. You get one fascinating fact but you also get photographs that are visual discovery channels.

You discover bees collect pollen with their hair and then when you look at the photograph you can track where the hair is. Such a contrast from the soft hair to the fragile patterned wings and the black sheeny back. I have been sitting looking at this photograph of a bee pī for ages.

The other joy is you get to read the fascinating fact in both English and te reo Māori. These three discovery joys (the fascinating fact, the astonishing photos and presence of te reo Māori) open the book to a wider range of readers. I challenge older children to look at the photograph and produce a poem or piece of writing, or their own artwork.

I loved the simple sentences: I never knew beetles hid their wings under their ‘strong armour’!

I find children’s books are a brilliant aid as I learn te reo Māori – so this book is also a very cool language aid no matter how old you are.

What a treat of a bug book – Taku pukapuka iti mō ngā pepeke. The bugs in the little book can be found in Te Papa’s collection, but this book is a fabulous way to get discovering when you can’t manage a museum visit. The next time I am in Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara I will be checking out Te Papa’s bug section. In the meantime I am loving my bug discovering.

Te Papa Press page

Poetry Box review: Elspeth Alix Batt’s I Love Bugs

I Love Bugs Elspeth Alix Batt, One-Tree House, 2020

Elspeth Alix Batt has been an illustrator and artist for over forty years. Her illustrations have appeared in School Journals, Ready to Read books, on cards, flags, book covers, school banners, books of many genres. I love Bugs is the first book Elspeth has written and illustrated.

Elspeth’s exquisite illustrations take you into the ‘wriggly jiggly’ ‘spiny shiny’ world of bugs. Each page glows with such colour and detail you feel like you are in the scene. The insects are magnificent.

The writing is equally captivating. It is like a poem pattern. A scrumptious list poem. And it is an excellent poem to read aloud because it sounds magnificent. I find some rhyming children’s books clunky and unappetising, but Elspeth knows how to make words sing and connect like music. Sometimes surprising. Sometimes making me wriggle and jiggle.

Yes there is a surprising and PERFECT ending!

Yes there is an excellent bug-information page at the back.

Yes this book is a rip-wriggling, tingly-tickly, bug-catching SUCCESS!

I love it.

One-Tree House page


Poetry Box review: Vasanti Unka’s I Am the Universe

Go here for September Poetry Box challenge

I Am the Universe, Vasanti Unka, Penguin Books, 2020

Vasanti Unka is one of my favourite children’s authors. Last year I was on a Storylines Tour with Vasanti (and a few other very cool authors) in the Kaikoura region, and I loved it when I shared a school session with her. I felt so inspired. Vasanti’s books are so captivating: her playful words match her playful illustrations.

Vasanti is an award-winning writer, designer and illustrator of children’s books. Check out her backlist – it is fabulous! She lives in Auckland, has a Masters in Design degree and tutors in this field.

It’s celebration time because a glorious new Vasanti Unka book has arrived in the world. It is scintillating. It gleams and it glimmers.

Vasanti says: ‘This has been one of my favourite books to work on, from writing to design, every step has felt like it was really sprinkled with star dust! I spent ages on the illustrations but I loved every minute of it. I can’t wait for you to see it.’

The book was due to come out a few months ago, but got delayed by covid so I have had my copy sitting on my desk and I have been itching to share this twinkling treat with you too!

Vasanti takes us on a tour of the universe with her glistening illustrations and writing. The story is like a bright list poem!

I am the Sun,

a mighty fireball

of blazing starlight.

I am the Moon

an orbiting satellite

spellbound by Earth.

We will travel from the glittering Solar system, we’ll land on earth’s gravel and rock, move though oceans, mountains, cities and neighbourhoods, and end up in the snuggly nook of home and family.

I love every page, but perhaps most of all the ending. The book goes full circle with the stars, sun and moon looking down on us at the start, and us looking back up at them at the end. In the final page the girl’s bedroom is mysterious purple-black, just like the universe. The child is wearing her starry pyjamas, her cat is waiting for a cuddle and games, but she is looking out the window at the glinting stars, with a big smile on her face and a head full of luminescent dreams.

That is what this heavenly book can do – fill you with glittery dreams. You can stall on any page and stories will flow. The neighbourhood page has my eyes darting and dashing from one sparkly spot to the next: children are scooting, skipping, tree-climbing, ball-kicking, cape-wearing, toy-playing, book reading.

The universe is a many-spangled thing. It is full of movement and shine, as well as darkspace and mystery. Vasanti’s book holds the universe up for us like a prism so we can bask in its many astonishing lights.

Yes, I love love love this book. I do hope it finds a home on a universe of Aotearoa bookshelves. Our borders might be closed, but our dreams and our readings are not.

Penguin Books author page

Poetry Box review: Bei Lynn’s ‘Bibbit Jumps’

Poetry Box September challenge is here

Bibbit Jumps, Bei Lynn, Gecko Press, 2020

This gorgeous junior chapter book is a delight.

Bibbit Jumps has the cutest drawings – the little frog loves to jump more than anything in the world. Bei Lynn has captured the jumpy frog so beautifully, I thought the book and the frog might jump off my kitchen table onto the green-grass lawn and go leaping.

Yes! This frog LOVES jumping!

But sadly sadly for a frog, Bibbit does not LOVE going in the water. He is not a very good swimmer.

This feels like a good jump-pad for a story that will hook you! And it is. I don’t want to give the story away but there are swimming lessons, a surprise picnic, a birthday, a very large apple that needs eating, a big bustling city, what to do when you don’t feel well, a kind moon.

The story flows like honey so you can gobble it up as a sweet treat!

The drawings are exquisite and make each page shine with froggy life.

The book is all about friendship – and that seems to be a very good thing to celebrate in our challenging times.

Bei Lynn is an award-winning Taiwanese illustrator who has written and illustrated over 20 picture books, stories, magazines and comics.

Her works have been recognized by various awards and honors, including Hsin-Yi Children Literature Award, China Times Best Children’s Book of the Year, Taipei Public Library Best Children’s Book, and the Best Chinese Children’s Picture Book of Feng Zikai Chinese Children’s Book Award.

Gecko Press page

Poetry Box review: 12 Huia Birds 12 Manu Huia by Julian Stokoe and Stacey Eyles

12 Huia Birds 12 Manu Huia by julian Stokoe, illustrated by Stacy Eyles, Oratia Press, 2020

Oratia Press have reissued this popular picture book to include a te reo Māori version. I am keen to hear this book read aloud, to hear the music of both English and te reo.

(Note from Paula: The publicist read this review and wrote to me! ‘You can actually get your wish to hear the book read aloud, by the wonderful George Henare in both English and te reo Māori, in the free 12 Huia Birds app. Here is a link to the app for young readers to hear and learn more.’

This new edition sold out in flash – but new copies will be ready mid September!

I love the way the book does a loop – starts with 12 huia alive in the forest – counts back down to 1 huia looking for her mate – and then ends with 12 huia that, these days, are only alive in the poems, stories and paintings we make.

The counting rhymes bring the huia to life – this beautiful bird that once filled the bush with song and feathered flight is now something we can only dream of. You could say the book is an aide to keeping huia in our minds, making losses from the past precious.

The illustrations are equally animated. The curve of the huia’s beak, the black sheen of feathers, the eye-catching tail are exquisitely alive on the page.

As much as 12 Huia Birds 12 Manu Huia reminds us of the treasured bird, of its passage to extinction, it reminds us to work even harder to protect the birds we do still have with us. The book comes with an app that offers more information on huia, and the environmental message that drove the ink of the author and colours of the illustrator.

Oratia Books page

You can find Poetry Box September poetry challenge here

Poetry Box September challenge: Nature Activity Poems

The Nature Activity Book, Rachel Haydon and Pippa Keel, Te Papa Press

I recently sang the praises of the extremely wonderful The Nature Activity Book on Poetry Box and said it filled me with a galaxy of poem ideas.

Elephant Sand

The grey sand at Te Henga beach

wrinkles and crumples

like elephant skin.

I listen for trumpets and rumbles,

but all I hear is the sweet cheep

of the scuttery dotterel.

Paula Green (inspired by Patterns in Nature)

So for September I am creating some poem challenges based on ideas in the book. You can pick one or more. Thanks to Te Papa Press I have up to four books to give away to young poets whose writing really catches my attention.

I suggest you don’t send your poems / artwork the day you write but wait for a week and see if you’d like to change anything. I think part of being a writer is letting things simmer and then seeing how the flavours change in a few days time.

The tip for these challenges is to GO OUTSIDE and explore, using all your senses, rather than imagining. This is when science and poetry join hands and you use words to show what you discover as a nature explorer. Two challenges get you to use your IMAGINATION.

You might like to do a drawing, comic strip or painting to go with your poem.

I will read all your poems at the end of the month and write a letter back to you.

DEADLINE: 28th September

The Challenges

Sound scavenging

Find a place to sit and scavenge for sounds. It might be in your garden, a park, a paddock, in the bush or when you go the beach.

Write down all the sounds you can hear.

Beside each sound find words to describe the sound, what it reminds you of.

Now use your sound collection to make a poem. The sound will help the place where you are sitting come alive in the poem.

Patterns in nature

Nature is full of glorious patterns.

I love walking on the beach and hunting for patterns (see my elephant poem).

You can find patterns on leaves, insects, animals, honeycomb, sand, bark, plants, shells, spiders webs.

Find a pattern in nature that fascinates you.

Jot down words as you look and discover.

Try writing a little poem that explores the pattern.

Little things

Hunt for some little objects. You might like to study them with a magnifying glass.

You could hunt for tiny seeds, marbles, nuts, flowers, pebbles, grass blades …

Beside each object jot down what you see and what you feel when you touch it.

Look at the colours, patterns, shapes, textures.

You might go hunting for similes.

How many words can you jot down beside each thing.

Now use your discoveries to write a poem.

It might be about one object or several. Over to you!

Listen to your poem.

Underline the words that shine on the line.

Mythical habitats

A habitat is the place where an animal lives in nature.

This is a chance to use your IMAGINATION!

Make up a habitat for an imaginary creature.

Jot down what the habitat looks like. You could even sketch it to help picture it.

What plants, animals, water, weather might you find? What is the land like?

If you shut your eyes what would you hear?

What movement do you see?

Now use your imagination to write a poem about your habitat.

Your poem might tell a story.

It might be like a photo of the place.

Mythical beasts

Stories are treasure troves of mythical beasts: think of dragons and phoenixes, griffins, yetis and unicorns.

Invent your own mythical beast. You might like to draw it to help picture it.

Jot down ideas before you write your poem.

Think about eyes, ears, skin, legs, tails, feathers, fur, scales, noses.

Does it have any special features?

Find words to show how it moves, the sounds it makes.

Where does it live? Sleep?

What does it eat? Do during the day or the night?

Now choose what you put in your poem.

Listen to how your poem flows.

Will it tell a story?

Will it create a picture of the animal?

Birds and beaks

For this challenge you need to do some research – either in books, online or outside.

Make a set of sketches of the beaks of birds.

What do you discover?

Why do they look different?

What do they have to do?

Make some notes for each beak.

Now write a bird beak poem.

Hunt for similes and verbs.

Hunt for words to show shape, texture, colour.

Listen to your poem before you send it to me.

Watching kapua

I love watching kapua, the clouds in the sky.

Find a good cloud-watching spot and make a list of what you see.

Jot down what the cloud looks like.

Can you find out what kinds of clouds they are – the English or te reo words?

What facts can you discover about the type of cloud you see?

Poets have always loved writing about clouds.

Write a cloud poem that uses what you see and maybe what you have researched.

You don’t have to include everything.

Try writing a longer cloud poem.

Try writing a small poem about one type of cloud.

Listen to how your poem flows.

Which words add to the cloud picture?


INCLUDE: your name, age, year, school

IMPORTANT: Put Nature Activity Poem in subject line so I don’t miss your email

DEADLINE: September

I will reply to all letters at the end of the month, pick some poems to post early October and have four books to give away thanks to Te Papa Press.