Monthly Archives: November 2020

Poetry Box review: James Norcliffe’s Mallory, Mallory – The Revenge of the Tooth Fairy

James Norcliffe, Mallory, Mallory: The Revenge of the Tooth Fairy illus Emily Walker, Penguin Random House (Puffin) 2020

I love opening a book without reading the blurb or reviews. I read the title and that is my entry in. I like being surprised and taken on a book adventure. After James Norcliffe’s excellent The Loblolly Boy (2009) I knew I was in for a treat, and yes, a surprising book adventure.

James’s new novel for junior readers is an utter delight. I gobbled it up on a rainy Sunday morning in bed, but it would work just as well under a shady tree on a shimmery hot summer day or in a refuge on a mountain in the falling snow . With a nod to Dr Seuss, you could read this book anywhere: in a tree hut, in the sand dunes, in a huge comfy armchair, in a hot-air balloon, on a train, a plane or at the kitchen table.

Emily Walker’s quirky illustrations are misty and magical – and a perfect match.

Mallory is the meanest, cruellest, most unpopular girl in the universe. She hatches the meanest plan: she decides she will kidnap the tooth fairy when she puts her wobbly tooth under her pillow and demand a ransom.

Arthur is her best friend (let’s face it her only friend) and he is loyal and kind and sensible. He is also good at asking questions and immediately spots flaws in Mallory’s cunning plan. He is not very good at going against her wickedness.

Hmmm! Now I come to the tricky bit, because I want to tempt you to read the book without giving away SPOILERS! This story has the surprising twists and turns of a twisty labyrinth.

The tooth fairy is also cunning! The title tells us that. So yes mean old Mallory catches the tooth fairy, but what happens next is pure reading delight. This is a story of cunning and trickery, but it is also a story of loyalty and friendship – and learning curves!

In order to get the ransom, the tooth fairy insists they must travel to the Chancellor of the Hex Checker in Orolia. All very mysterious. This is the land of teeth and truth. Like all good stories there will be obstacles, things will not always be as they seem and there will be epiphanies (brain and heart flashes of new understandings). There will be mysterious looks and mysterious undertones. You will hear the fierce cry of canines and you will meet the Molars who are Giants who are Pie Chefs who have enormous appetites for enormous pies.

This book has humour spots. At the Customs Gate, Arthur asks the tooth fairy if he should knock and the tooth fairy strongly advises him too, ‘or we’ll be waiting outside the door for a very long time.’

Sometimes humour and logic mix. When Arthur asks the tooth fairy how far to go he gets this perfect answer: ‘about twice as far as halfway’. Love it!

Sometimes you get storybook wisdom: ‘Sometimes the journey is far more pleasant than the destination.’ I feel like that about writing!

I like the way James plays with a saying in order to share a little truth. The tooth fairy reckons Mallory doesn’t always see ‘the wood for the trees’ and Arthur wonders what that means. I love the answer: ‘I think your friend Mallory only sees the world from a very small place called Mallory.’ I hugged that thought!

Mallory, Mallory is a treasure of a book with its story bends, its very cool characters, its wisdom gleams and its excellent ending. I finished this book and I felt warm inside. It is a quiet book that will show you the woods and trees, the tooth and the truth, and make you hungry for more! Which is fortunate as there is a second one in the pipeline: Mallory, Mallory Trick or Treat. Bravo James Norcliffe!

James Norcliffe is an award-winning poet, educator, editor and author of books for adults and children. The Loblolly Boy won the 2010 NZ Post Junior Fiction Award. Since then he has published the sequel, The Pirates and the Nightmaker (2015). You can find details of his other children’s books and awards on the Penguin Random House link below.

Emily walker has twice been shortlisted for the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration (2017 and 2019) and in 2019 she was also a finalist in the Margaret Mahy Illustration Award. Mallory, Mallory: The Revenge of the Tooth Fairy is her first book commission.

Penguin Random House page

Poetry Box review: Egg & Spoon by Alexandra Tylee and Giselle Clarkson and the food poem challenge

Egg & Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook written by Alexandra Tylee and illustrated by Giselle Clarkson, published by Gecko Press, 2020

I am a cookbook squirrel. I think I might have more than a hundred cookbooks. I love cooking old favourites and I love cooking things I have never cooked before. Cookbooks are my passports to new places, new taste sensations. I love how food connects friends and family, and how food keeps our body engines running beautifully.

Gecko Press have just published Egg & Spoon, the best cookbook for children (and adults) ever. It is written by Alexandra Tylee from the excellent Pipi Café in Havelock North. Such scrumptious food served there, it is not surprising the recipes are mouth-watering, tongue-popping DELICIOUS. Anytime I am in Havelock North I pay a visit!

Whizz image maker, Giselle Clarkson, has done the scrummy illustrations. She makes comics, cartoons and illustrates books (I loved the work she did for The Gobbledegook Book, Secret World of Butterflies, Hazel and the Snails).

A good cookbook makes you want to run into the kitchen and bake. Sometimes I put tags on recipes I want to cook – or make a long list. There are so many things I want to make from Egg & Spoon, I think I want to try everything! I want to COOK the BOOK!

I really like Alexandra’s philosophy: Cooking is very individual – there are no rules …well there are, but I’ve never taken them too seriously. Just trya recipe and see how it works for you. If you feel like adding a bit of this and some of that, then I say go for it. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.’

I think it works for poetry: ‘Poetry is very individual – there are no rules …well there are, but I’ve never taken them too seriously. Just try a poem and see how it works for you. If you feel like adding a bit of this and some of that, then I say go for it. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.’

The recipes

Alexandra’s recipes are very easy to use.

You are guaranteed something that is very tasty and very good for your body engine.

You are guaranteed to have fun making things and even greater fun eating them.

I want to make the baked beans. I love home-made baked beans – Alexandra adds a parmesan rind which is a very Italian thing to do! MMM baked-bean lunch tomorrow for me! I want to make the teriyaki salmon on sticks for dinner tonight. AND I am itching to make the apple slice.

This gorgeous gorgeous book inspired me to have FOOD POEMS as my last Poetry Box challenge for the year.

I’m giving away two copies of the book to children who try my challenge – to celebrate Gecko Press, Pipi Café, Alexandria Tylee and Giselle Clarkson … and of course poetry. You can find the food-poem challenge here (deadline is Monday 30th November).

Gecko Press have kindly given permission to post four recipes from this exquisitely-produced, treasure of a book!

Recipes extracted from Egg & Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook written by Alexandra Tylee and illustrated by Giselle Clarkson, published by Gecko Press, RRP $39.99

have fun cooking

Poetry Box November food poem challenge

I love noodles and broth and seaweed!

This weekend I got to meet Ōtautahi Christchurch children who have sent me poems and who have had poems published on this blog! It was very special and I came home to Tāmaki Makaurau with a warm poetry glow.

My last challenge for the year is inspired by the magnificent book of recipes for children called Egg & Spoon. The recipes are written by Alexandra Tylee, owner and chef of the fabulous Pipi Café in Havelock North. The drawings are by the magical illustrator Giselle Clarkson. It is published by Gecko Press and I am going to do a feature on the book soon. I adore it – there are SO MANY things I want to cook from the book.

So …. to celebrate this mouthwatering book I am challenging you

to write poems inspired by food and/or recipes.

This is not a competition, but I love giving books away, so will give at least one copy of Egg & Spoon to a young poet.

TOP TIP: Keep the poem for a few days before you send it to me – so you can read and listen to it one more time!

Ideas for food poems

Use food to hook a favourite memory of a place, a person or an experience. Jot down words that help bring the memory closer. The memory might funny or happy or sad or thoughtful – or any mood you like. Now write your poem.

Write a poem full of food you love or food you loathe. Use your taste buds to make the food sizzle and pop and simmer in the poem. Hunt for good taste words and verbs.

Write an ode to your favourite food (an apple, a toasted cheese sandwich, an avocado, pasta, roasted kūmara, salmon sushi. Use all your senses to make the food you pick come alive in the poem.

Write a food list poem – it might be holiday food, special occasion food, hot or cold food, winter or summer food, breakfast lunch or dinner food, food your gran or grandad make you.

Write a recipe in the form of a poem! A poem in the form of a recipe. It doesn’t need to be about food. Let your imagination go leaping. But it could be about food!

Write a poem to do with anything and include one or two or three mentions of food.

You can include a photo or a drawing!

Have fun!

Listen to your poem!

Read your poem to a friend or your mum or dad or brother or sister or gran or grandad.

FOOD challenge: I will give at least one copy of the book to a child that sends me a fascinating food poem.

Deadline: Monday 30th November


Include: name, age, year, name of school

Don’t forget to put FOOD POEM in subject line so I don’t miss it.

I love making big family dinners on special occasions.

Poetry Playground at WORD Festival

My poetry playground at the WORD writers festival in Christchurch was rather special. I read poems from most of my books, but we were also like a poetry family making up poems together. So good to meet Ameer, Libby, Ivy, Brian, Liam, Franklin, Isla, Emily and other children. Thank you for coming and sharing in the DELIGHTS of poetry.

Here are a couple of poems we made up together (most of my photos were too blurry!).

The Tūī Poem

A fluffy scattery


blue TŪĪ!

Hot Air Balloon

OFF we go!

There are dinosaurs with giant jaws

lots of water bottles and lots of books

an elephant with a giant tongue

cats and snacks

a big black cat and a cricket bat

in our magnificent high-in-the-sky

hot air balloon.


I am

Jumping over a bicycle



Prancing down the street

Looking at the haunted house

On a horse

Running through the woods

Walking through a cave

On a rocket

Stopping at an ice-cream shop

Dancing on the road

Zooming by a pet shop

Zinging on a zonk-a zaurus

Going all the way home

To our two cats sleeping

The bush birds singing

And my pockets full of WORDS!

Thank you WORD – thank you CHRISTCHURCH – thank you young poetry fans – I had a wonderful time.

In the next day or so I will post my last poetry challenge for the year.