Monthly Archives: August 2021

Poetry Box August challenge: some favourite sky poems

Sky poems have arrived from all the country.

Thank you for a galaxy of sky poems. I have received hundreds and I have loved reading them all. As you can imagine it was very hard picking just a few to post here. Remember this is not a competition – my blog is all about the love of writing.

i tried to pick a range of approaches (lots of poets used the sky as artist simile!).

I love it when children use their own words and ideas to explore the challenges I set them. Poems can be very very simple and offer such glorious delight. Poems can also be rich like a fabulous feast.

I have picked Yoshi (Helensville Primary School), Nethuki (Invercargill Primary School) and Marlon and Angelo (Pukete School) to send a copy of my book Groovy Fish and other poems. When Auckland is out of lockdown!

Let me know if I missed your email.

There are loads of poem challenges hiding in my National Poetry Day post under each children’s author video. Deadline September 10th.

September poem challenge goes up: September 1st

The poems

The Sky Above

Under a mauve sky
The world is stirring

Under a lilac sky
The world is wrapped in a morning hug

Under an azure sky
The world is focusing

Under a tangerine sky
The world is relaxing

Under a crimson sky
The world receives a goodnight kiss

Under an inky sky
The world sleeps

Daniel Age 12, Year 8, Hadlow School


 A blue and white roof that covers the whole world. 
Swirled white foam in millions of shapes and sizes.
They rise up and up and it’s so high it feels like it’s low.
And when they’re drifting across the sky, they’re slow,
Like silent snow

Jake H. age 10, Westmere School

Spring Sky

Full of birds,
Scattered rain
Full of chirps.
Cool air, still wind
Scattered hums, tiny chill.

Yoshi A, Age 10, Year 5, Helensville Primary School

Periwinkle sky

Periwinkle sky,
Skidding sheet-white clouds,
A gentle breeze. 
Aquafied colour,
A glorious day,
Breathes a sigh on the window-pane.

Juliet Y, Year 6, Halswell School

Sky Sheep

Red clouds 
wandering through the hazy evening sky 
like sheep being herded.

Marlon R, 9 yrs, Yr5, Pukete School

Maisie M, age 7, Y3, Mairangi Bay School

A Beautiful Sky

The clouds puff like smoke in the sky,
The bright and yellow sun fades away,
Pink and yellow patterns everywhere on the sky,
The beautiful white moon says ‘hello’,
Yellow, bright stars start to twinkle,
The fireflies start to sparkle and fly around the dark night,
I can’t take my eyes away from the sky.

Nethuki, age 9, Y5, Invercargill Middle School

Sky poem 

In the sky I fly,
Around the clouds 
Through the cloud I fly,
I do twists and turns and show, I don’t 
Regret being an eagle, funny smart and loud,
I am an eagle proud, strong and fast.

Phoebe, age 11, Ilam School

A Dream

I look up
into the light
fluffy clouds
imagining what’s beyond them.
I drift off.
I imagine me flying
through the sky.
I pick up a cloud
and take a bite
before I wake upon the grassy hill.

Madison C, Age: 9, Y5, Ilam School


Lightning and thunder,
marking the sky,
Birds tousled in flight 
Gusty wind howls and shrieks,
Mean, gloomy, black, staring down at me,
Torrents of rain, hurtling down, 
This storm is NOT Clowning around!

Amelia and Juliet, 11 and 10 years old, at Halswell School, Christchurch

A Miserable Day in Christchurch

Candy floss clouds zoom through the sky
disguising the sun
making Earth colder and colder.

Ducks and seagulls find their way
back to their nest to warm up.
Planes are landing and the baby blue sky
starts to go away.

Christchurch is getting darker and darker
and everyone starts to rush inside.
I hear a rumbling in the distance.
The thunder gets louder as the storm comes closer.
Streaks of lightning flash through the sky.

Farron R, Year 4, Russley School

How to List the Skies

Cold winter skies, covered in a quilt of clouds.
Warm summer skies, deep azure with a lone white cloud.
Giant night skies, dark and full of dreams.
Beautiful early morning skies, a red and orange artwork.
Sunset evening skies, dark blue and covered in colour from the brush of an artist.
Tangy hazed skies, the sign of a flame burning.
Snowy, crisp skies, celebrations of snow and ice.
Old black and white skies, a wrong that can never be fixed.
Forever amazing, kiwi skies, the sign of a beauty that can never be scarred.

Amy G, age 11, Selwyn House School


Henry T, 7 years old, Year 3, Thorndon School

Sky Poem

Sky is a sea of bright blue.
Sky is a moving piece of artwork.
Sky is a protective guardian suspended over the globe.
Sky is cool.
Sky is fresh.
Sky is sublime.

Jonathan , age 11, Year 7, Mt Roskill Intermediate


White, fluffy clouds bobbing in the bright blue sky, 
a black and white fantail flies in the bright light.

I spotted a pink, and orange butterfly gliding by
and a long, skinny, blue Damsel dragonfly with two clear wings.
It flies like a stripy painted paper plane,
floating in front of my eyes.

I went back inside quickly and got a net,
because I wanted to catch any of them as a pet.
Mum came and I explained why,
But she said they are all wild,and we should let them enjoy the sky!

Patricia C, Age: 6, Year: 3, Russley School

A decorated morning

Pink, orange and yellow
splatters across the blazing sky.
The silvery clouds
fade into beautiful snowy mountains.
Sheep awake and look
skywards through their sleeping eyes.
The lights turn on
in the milking shed.
The sky turns yellow 
With bits of blue dotted across.
A little boy sits on the crescent moon
And fishes for the sun.

Georgia, age 10, Selwyn House School

The Sky

I look up at the sky,
And I sigh,
The fluffy white cotton candy stared back down at me,
Amongst the mist, I glimpse part of the blue sky,
A blue so pure that makes me happy to be free,
Grey, navy, blue, purple, pink, red, orange and yellow, the colours of the sky.

The birds stopped singing hours ago,
And the darkness nudged me awake,
I open my eyes to see thousands of faces smile back down at me,
The moon, a friendly face, leads me back home,
I look up once again,
Goodnight my friend,
I’ll see you soon.

The sky, a home for many,
The sky, my best friend.

Jerry, Age: 12, Year 8, Churchill Park School


                                                  is a sleepy
                                                sky with paint
                                             thrown across it.

Angelo R, 7 yrs, Yr 3, Pukete School

Some Days

With fluffy puffs of white
Some days are stormy
with glinting lightning
and claps of thunder.
Some days bright
with rays of  golden sunshine. 
Some days are wet
with glistening dewdrops.
Some days have colourful arches
of multicoloured ribbons reaching 

When sunset arrives 
Sapphire blue turns into streaks of ruby red.
With bright pink and dark purple
And light orange.

When night dawns
Owls come out to play.
The dark blue skies
are dotted with silver stars.

Sophia L Age 8 Westmere School


The cotton candy sunset is a memory I could never forget.
The sky outside is plain blue.
I wish it could be a whirlpool of mixed colours.
It would be so nice if it were a striped pattern in the sky,
as right now it is just a splodge of blue.
The sky is a piece of art but
The sky is also the artist itself!
The sky is a treasure we can never lose!
So always treasure the sky!

Acsayah, 11 years old, Yr 6, Epsom Normal Primary School

The sun in the sky

Ava R, 8 years old, Year 4, Thorndon School

Sky poem

                               Seeing the sky is very beautiful   

                                The clouds are like candy floss

                                          A warm blue sky

                                 Seeing  avalanches  of clouds

                               Falling over the mountain ranges

                                      I wake up from a dream

Liam aged 9 – Year 5, St Patrick’s School


They talk of heritage
Of the winds that call your name 
The family tree that can’t be tame
And yet I’ve heard it’s a lie
They told me all kites can fly
That we all belong in the sky
And yet I fall when I try
They told me heritage is a lie
That where we came from doesn’t matter
It’s the future that should make us cry
So why can’t I fly?
Why can’t I soar?
They tell me heritage is out the door
But somehow it’s where I belong
Where has it gone?
Because not all kites can fly
Even if we try
Some days the only one who will accept us
Is the sky…

Gracie M, 11, year 7, Bethlehem College

(Note from Gracie: I’m a New Zealand Citizen, I went to a New Zealand school, I speak English and yet it’s not my culture, my heritage. It can be hard when it feels like I don’t have any place to belong. I love New Zealand but sometimes the sky is the only place that truly accepts you.)

Question Poem

What am I?
Fiery red,
Gloomy blue,
Happy yellow,
With different moods.
I’ve got a variety of clouds,
Shapes, colours, and movements 
All year round
They can be square or round 
Or even upside down.
Pink, yellow, orange, and red
In sunsets and sunrises 
When we’re in bed.
Have you figured me out?
I help make plants sprout?
I’m the Sky
Taking control over the weather,
I colour myself making pictures 
With Dye

Sophie W, Year 6, age 11, St Cuthbert’s College


The sky of wonders
Infinite array of clouds
Blue, green, hope not grey.

Edward A, age 10, Grey Lynn School

The sky is beautiful 

The sky is beautiful
Some days, the sky is cloudless and vibrant
While on others it is pink and shy

The sky can be many different colours
A dull an lifeless grey
A gorgeous and warm golden
Or a calm rosy pink

The sky is like a museum 
Home to many pieces of art
You might see a horse 
Galloping through the sky
Or maybe a little lamb 
Rolling happily around

You could dream about the sky all day
Because the sky is beautiful

Micayla L, Aged 10, Year 6, St Cuthbert’s College

Georgia A, 2 years old, Year 8, Twyford School

The sky has feelings

Rain like tears
Dripping from a big blue eye
It growls like a bear
An irritated sky
Whipping wind
An aggravated swarm
The furious sky screams
A howling storm
Thunder, a growing growl
Lightning, electrified volt
The sky is afraid
A needle-sharp bolt
The sky is lazy
Puffy clouds drifting by
As birds glide
Not bothered to fly
Perfect for a walk on the beach
Before the day is dawning
The sky is happiness
On a summery Saturday morning
So soft and tender you can’t hear it
Freshly falling snow
Beautiful sunset is awe
Washing everything in golden glow
Silhouetted by darkness
But still winking, ever so bright
All of those emotions together
Make the stars in inky black night
Though the sky is not a person
It can still feel emotions
Boiling fluid in a container
Softly lap like the ocean

Samantha M, age 12, Year 8, Kenakena School

The Sky

Blue and grey at different times 
Crystal blue by day and stormy grey by night
What is beyond?
The universe, the universe with stars and planets 
But from where I stand it is just blue beautiful blue 
Blue as the bluebird, blue as a smurf
Oh no, it is as blue as the sky when it looks nice for you. 

Stella, Class 7, age 13, Taikura Rudolf Steiner School

The Sky

The sky is beautiful. 
It’s a cloudless day,
warmth is spreading, 
and the sun is the color of hay.
It’s a rainy day,
I’m stuck inside,
avoiding the tide
of rain.
Dawn and dusk are two separate things,
but in their own way the same.
Same colors,red, orange, yellow, pink.
All painted across the sky,
like splatters of paint,on an easel.

Mia C, Age 11, Y 7, Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School

Amadeia D, 10 years, Kaurilands Primary School

Hammock view

Blue patches
between black branches

of little leaves

Birds sing
harmoniously around me

Sun beaming
through a crooked web of mānuka

My eyes close
and I dream

of blue patches
between black branches.

Sylvie W, age 7, Ravensbourne School 



My ears adjusting 
to the sound
of the birds

The wind blowing
through my hair

Leo, age 5, Ravensbourne School


The sky of wonders

Infinite array of clouds

Blue, green, hope not grey.

Edward A, age 10, Grey Lynn School

Poetry Box NATIONAL POETRY DAY celebration: 8 NZ children’s authors read a poem for you – plus poetry challenges – plus book giveaways – IDEAS for SCHOOLS and for LOCKDOWN TIME

National Poetry Day is on Friday August 27th. To celebrate I invited 8 of my favourite children’s authors to read a poem they love. I have put some poetry challenges under each reading for you to try. I am fairly sure National Poetry Day events will be reinvented online so I am sharing this poetry festival now.

Perfect for National Poetry Day but even more perfect for lockdown. Writing and reading poems is my happy place! Have a go!

I am currently in a state of drift and daze so do let me know if I have made mistakes – I am always grateful not offended.

🌻 A big bouquet of warm thanks and salty west-coast air and mānuka scent and blue skies to the eight authors who did such glorious mahi out of poetry love and the poets who gave permission. Thank you!

Listen to the authors read a poem

Try some of my poem challenges

Deadline: 10th September

Send to:

Include: name, age, year, name of school or homeschooled

Don’t forget to put National Poetry Day Poem in subject line so I don’t miss it

I will post some favourite poems on 17th September. I will have loads of books to give away! I will read all the poems and email you back by this date.

IF YOU MAKE a video – I need parental permission to post it if I pick it.

TOP TIP: Leave your poem for a day and then read it out loud. Listen again before you send it to me.

Happy National Poetry Day!

Keep safe, be kind, share the joy in poetry.

The Poets reading Poems

Vasanti Unka

Vasanti Unka reads ‘When the Lid Slides back’ by Bill Manhire

Poem challenges

Choose a favourite object and write a poem about it.

Pick five favourite words in Bill’s poem and use them in a poem of your own.

Bill loved using his coloured pencils. What do you love doing? Write a poem, long or short, about a favourite thing to do. You might start with an object or you might collect verbs to get you started.

You could turn any of these ideas into a picture/shape/concrete poem. You could make an audio or video of yourself reading your poem or even making your poem!! (need parental permission to send me)

Poem source: Bill Manhire is one of my favourite NZ poets and I especially love this poem. I picked it for A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children (Penguin Random House). It is in Bill’s collection The Victims of Lightning (Victoria University Press).

Vasanti Unka is a picture book creator who writes, illustrates and designs books for ages, 4 – 108 year olds. Over the years, her work has won a range of awards. Her latest book, I Am the Universe won the Booksellers best kids book for 2021. She was born in Pukekohe and presently works out of her sunroom in Auckland. Vasanti’s blogspot. Penguin author page

Bill Manhire’s most recent poetry book Wow (VUP) was longlisted for the NZ Book Awards 2020. He was New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate, and founded and for many years taught at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Many New Zealand poets have been through this highly acclaimed writing propgramme. In 2005 he was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in in the same year was named an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate. He has edited major poetry anthologies. You can listen to some of his poems here.

Gareth Ward

Gareth Ward reads ‘The Door’ by Daniel Stokes (written aged 10)

Poetry Challenges

Choose a portal, maybe a door or window, and build a poem around it. Your poem might be IMAGINARY or REALISTIC.

You could do a list poem. A window is … OR A door is … OR A gate is …

Or you could write a poem that uses a portal to tell a story. Think of the scene, the mood, fascinating things that might be on the other side.

Poem source: Toitoi 21. This is a wonderful journal of writing and artwork by children. You can find details about it here.

Gareth Ward, a.k.a. The Great Wardini, is a magician, hypnotist, storyteller, bookseller and author. He has worked as a Royal Marine Commando, Police Officer, Evil Magician and Zombie. He basically likes jobs where you get to wear really cool hats. He currently resides in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand where he runs two independent bookshops, Wardini Books and Wardini Books Napier with his wife Louise. He has a goldfish called Luna, a dog called Tonks and is certain his letter from Hogwarts has been lost in the post.

His first novel, The Traitor and the Thief, a rip-roaring young adult Steampunk adventure, won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award, the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Youth Novel, a 2018 Storylines Notable Book Award and was a finalist in two categories at The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. His second novel, The Clockill and the Thief was released in August 2019 and won a Sir Julius Vogel award for best youth novel. Brasswitch and Bot is Gareth’s third novel and the first in the Rise of the Remarkables series. It is set in the city of York, where Gareth went to University.

My name is Daniel, I was born in Hamilton and still live here. I am 11 years old, turning 12 in December. I live with my sister (Abby), my mum (Kate) and my dad (David). My many hobbies include Irish dancing, reading, and trumpet, which have all become very important to me. I am working towards Grade 5 for practical trumpet and music theory.  I have also developed an interest in waterpolo earlier this year. I am very passionate about that and look forward to the next season. 

The first writing I enjoyed was poetry, which my many teachers at my old school, Hukanui School, made me do all the time. That then brought me into the world of writing. In the last few years I went from disliking writing quite strongly to enjoying it very much. The problem that I had always had with writing was not the actual ideas and content, it was the physical writing and having a link between what I was thinking (which goes 100 miles an hour) to what I was writing (which was much, much slower). Poetry allowed me to think less about grammatical structure and the amount of words and more about how I could bend words to my advantage, by investigating how groups of words sound together to paint a picture.

Philippa Werry

Phillipa Werry reads ‘If you feel blue get on your skidoo’ by Margaret Mahy

Poetry Challenges courtesy of Phillipa:

Write a poem about another mode of transport that plays on its name, as Margaret does with skidoo.  You could pick submarine, double-decker bus, helicopter, train, bicycle, balloon, snowboard, lorry … or something other fascinating means of travelling. 

Write a list poem that starts If you feel ….. (some emotion). You could feel happy, sad, scared, lonely lost, cross, shy, bored … you pick!

Write a poem with some made-up words in it. 

Your poem might tell a story or just have fun with WORDS!

Let your imagine go flying!

Poem source: This fabulous poem is in Margaret’s fabulous poetry collection The Word Witch, edited by Tessa Duder, illustrations by David Elliot (HarperCollins)

Philippa Werry writes fiction, non-fiction, plays and poetry for children and young adults. She has a particular interest in history which has led to titles such as Anzac Day, Best Mates (illustrated by Bob Kerr), Waitangi Day, The New Zealand Wars, The Telegram and This is Where I Stand (illustrated by Kieran Rynhart). She has also been to Antarctica!

Margaret Mahy (1936 – 2012) is one of New Zealand’s most beloved authors. She wrote over two hundred titles from dazzling picture books for the very young to award-winning novels for teenagers. She wrote poems, novels, non-fiction, picture books and countless school readers. Margaret was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Medal which is an enormous, international honour.

Donovan Bixley

Donovan Bixley reads ‘The Circus’ by Joy Cowley

Poetry Challenges

Donovan says he loves funny poems and poems with an AH HA! moment in the middle. I do too!

Try writing a poem that is funny. It might be a funny character, a funny event, a funny place, funny food, funny jokes.

Write a poem about something funny that has happened to you.

Write a poem that has a surprise or a twist in the middle or at the end.

Poem source: Elephant Rhymes, Joy Cowley, illustrated by Brent Putzee (Scholastic) I am such a fan of Joy’s poems. Check our her Gobbledegook book (see her bio).

Donovan Bixley is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed picture book creators with over 120 books published in 31 countries. His award-winning titles span high–brow to low–brow and every brow in between, from his illustrated biography Much Ado About Shakespeare, to the hilarious hijinks of pussycats in planes in Paris in his Flying Furballs seriesHe’s most well-known for his best-selling pre-school books such as The Wheels on the Bus and The Great Kiwi ABC Book, as well as his colourful and humorous retellings of of the legends of Māui. Among his many accolades Donovan was the recipient of the 2017 Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Laureate Award, which places Donovan’s body of work alongside some of New Zealand’s most celebrated artists. His books have been twice selected for the International Youth Library’s White Raven award which annually lists the top 200 children’s books in the world, and in 2021 he was named a Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for his services to New Zealand children’s literature.Donovan grew up in Taupō and still lives beside the great lake. When not immersed in the world of picture books Donovan is involved in local theatre and plays saxophone in several bands.

Joy Cowley is one of New Zealand’s best-loved writers. Her awards include the Margaret Mahy Medal; the NZ Post Children’s Book Award 2006; the Roberta Long Medal, Alabama, USA; and the AW Reed Award for Contribution to New Zealand Literature. She is a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Gecko Pres published the utterly magnificent gathering of Joy’s poems, with illustrations by Giselle Clarkson in The Gobbledegook Book: A Joy Cowley Anthology.

Melinda Szymanik

Melinda Szymanik reads ‘Sun Sonata’ by Elizabeth Pulford and ‘Waxing and Waning’ by Elena de Roo.

Poetry Challenges

Try writing a very small poem about the sun OR the moon that shows them in a new light.

Collect sun OR moon words and make poem patterns with them. Have word fun!

Write a very small poem with both the SUN and MOON in. Test out favourite lines and pick your favourites.

Poem sources: Elizabeth Pulford’s ‘Sun Sonata and Elena de Roo’s poems are both in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children, edited by Paula Green (Penguin Random House).

Melinda Szymanik is an award-winning writer of stories and poetry for children and young adults. She was the 2014 University of Otago, College of Education, Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence, a judge for the 2016 NZCYA Book Awards and runs an online writing competition called Fabostory, for primary and intermediate age children with 9 other authors. Her most recent books are Moon and Sun (Upstart, 2021), My Elephant is Blue (Penguin, 2021) and Batkiwi (Scholastic, 2021).

Elena de Roo is a children’s poet and author who lives next to Cornwall Park in Auckland. As well as having a sweet tooth, she loves thinking up poems in her head while walking around the park. Her latest book, Rush! Rush! (illus. Jenny Cooper) One Tree House, is a story-poem inspired by a walk in Awhitu regional park. Elena also has several poems soon to appear in RoarSqueakPurr: A NZ Treasury of Animal Poems, (ed. Paula Green, illus. Jenny Cooper), Penguin Random House, due out in November. 

Elizabeth Pulford lives in a small village not far from the city of Dunedin, New Zealand, with one extra nice husband, and a gentle garden. She has two adult children and two grandchildren. She has published stories, poems and articles for both adults and children. Over sixty books for children, from early readers through to Young Adults; plus one adult’s novel. Many of her adult short stories have won competitions, while four of her children’s books, The Memory Tree (Scholastic NZ), Call of the Cruins (Scholastic NZ), Tussock (Walker Books Australia) and Finding Monkey Moon (Walker Books Australia & Candlewick USA) reached the finals of the New Zealand Children’s Book Awards.

Tania Roxborogh

Tania Roxborogh reads ‘My Sister’s Top’ by Ruth Sun (Year 7)

Poetry Challenge

Think of an everyday object that you can describe in a poem, and that says something about who you are and your place in the world.

Use someone’s favourite piece of clothing to write a poem about them.

Choose your own favourite piece of clothing and see where that takes you in a poem. You might get a story, a word pattern, a picture poem, a list poem.

Poem source: Ruth wrote this poem when she did writing workshops with Tania over six weeks in 2006.

Tania Roxborogh (Ngāti Porou) is a veteran educator and an award-winning writer of over thirty published works. Her latest children’s novel, Charlie Tangaroa and the creature from the sea, published by Huia Publishers September 2020, won the Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction and Margaret Mahy Book of the Year in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, 2021. Tania’s happy places are: her classroom, at home with her husband and her young border collie, enjoying pyjama days, and wherever she can snatch time to read – most often books recommended by her students.

From Ruth Sun: I was a massive reader all through my teenage years, at the time I really liked fantasy and always wanted to be the next Tamora Pierce or Terry Pratchett. I was at Columba College in Dunedin. I used to read and write constantly, although I didn’t actually like poetry much at the time. 

Unfortunately I don’t really do any writing anymore, although it’s something I always think about getting back into. Funnily enough I love reading poetry now, I still love Tamora Pierce and Terry Pratchett as well. I’m now a dentist based in Wellington/Porirua. I have a big collection of books but they’re all in storage at the moment. I’m sure mum still has that top somewhere!

Elena de Roo

Elena de Roo reads ‘Parcel’ by Bill Nagelkerke

Poetry Challenges

Think of a place you love and unwrap it in a poem! It might be your grandparents’ place, or aunt or uncle’s, or in another town or city, in the countryside, another country.

Hunt for detail that will make the place glow in your poem.

Poetry Source: The Night the Moon Fell Down and other poems, Bill Nagelkerke (Copy Press) – some terrific poems in this collection! PG

Elena de Roo is a children’s poet and author who lives next to Cornwall Park in Auckland. As well as having a sweet tooth, she loves thinking up poems in her head while walking around the park. Her latest book, Rush! Rush! (illus. Jenny Cooper) One Tree House, is a story-poem inspired by a walk in Awhitu regional park. Elena also has several poems soon to appear in RoarSqueakPurr: A NZ Treasury of Animal Poems, (ed. Paula Green, illus. Jenny Cooper), Penguin Random House, due out in November. 

A former children’s librarian, Bill Nagelkerke has written short stories, poems, plays and books for all ages, as well as translating other people’s books from Dutch into English. His most recent titles are a collection of poems, The night the moon fell down (dist. The Copy Press, 2019) and a ghost story, The ghosts on the hill (Cuba Press, 2020). His translation of the children’s novel I’ll keep you close (Levine Querido, 2021) by Dutch writer Jeska Verstegen will be published towards the end of the year.

Bill Nagelkerke

Bill Nagelkerke reads ‘No rhyme’ by Tim Upperton

Poetry Challenge

Tim Upperton’s poem offers lots of challenges for poets! Try writing a poem where you use your imagination and see the world in surprising ways.

Look out the window and rewrite what you see in a poem, letting your imagination soar.

Poem source: ‘No rhyme’ was published in the School Journal Level 3 August 2015 

A former children’s librarian, Bill Nagelkerke has written short stories, poems, plays and books for all ages, as well as translating other people’s books from Dutch into English. His most recent titles are a collection of poems, The night the moon fell down (dist. The Copy Press, 2019) and a ghost story, The ghosts on the hill (Cuba Press, 2020). His translation of the children’s novel I’ll keep you close (Levine Querido, 2021) by Dutch writer Jeska Verstegen will be published towards the end of the year.

Tim Upperton is a poet, writer, reviewer and teacher, living in Palmerston North. He is the winner of two international poetry competitions. He has been published in numerous literary journals and has published several poetry collections.

Poetry Box lockdown poetry challenge

Poetry might be just the ticket while you are in lockdown.

If you are Y0 to Y8 you can try my August poem challenge. I will post poems at the end of the month and as soon as i can with have books to give away.

I love looking at the sky. I love the way it has a thousand moods: gloomy bright cloudy blue. Looking at the sky I just breathe in beauty and then I daydream. I often find the sky sneaks into my poems.

For August I challenge you to write a SKY poem.

Collect sky words: colours, movement, cloud words, night, day, patterns, similes.

Write a sky memory.

Go outside and describe the sky in a poem.

Play with sky words and make a pattern poem with words.

Write your sky poem then turn it into a picture poem (a shape poem, concrete poetry).

Write a sky-story poem.

Look at the sky and skydream

Deadline: 29th August

Send to:

Include: name, age, year, name of school or homeschooled

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

I will post some favourites near end of month and have a few books to give away

I read all the poems at the end of the month and get back to you then

Poetry Box review: Julia Liu and Bei Lynn’s Leilong the Library Bus

Leilong the Library Bus, by Julia Liu and illustrated by Bei Lynn, Gecko Press, 2021

I remember how much I loved going to our local library when I was child and coming home with a TIPPLE TOPPLE TOWER of books, books about everything. Every book was an excitement package waiting for me to open and read compulsively. So I picked up Leilong the Library Bus and felt excitement buzz along my arms, especially when I read the first page:

Leilong’s friends are taking him to story time at the library.

“You’ll love it there,” Maggie tells him.

“They have books about everything,” says Mo.

I never caught a ride to the library on the back of a dinosaur as Mo and Maggie do. How I would love to have done that! Leilong the dinosaur fills with such magnificent book excitement he goes as fast as the fastest thing you can imagine. Not the best choice when he gets pulled over by a police officer. Oh dear.

There are road rules and there are library rules (although libraries are not like they were when I was a child). Libraries won’t be fond of excited and boisterous dinosaurs. Oh dear.

There is a door into the library for Mo and Maggie but is there a big door for a big dinosaur? Oh dear.

I don’t want to spoil this mouth-watering story for you. Rules are rules, as Leilong gets told. Leilong’s book excitement leads to story excitement leads to a shaking-building excitement leads to being growled at leads TO A REVIEWER (me!) in danger of giving the story away. We can’t have that. Oh dear no!

The what-next is magical. The ending is genius. The book is a heart-moving CELEBRATION of why stories matter so very much, and why some of us can’t stop reading them, listening to them, or writing them, even when you are nearly as old as the stars as I am! Stories are us. Stories are there. Stories are here.

The illustrations are EXUBERANT! So full of nooks and crannies and extra little stories for you to discover. And I love the colours. Genius.

Get a copy of the book, find someone to read it to, then dance on your tiptoes together as you fill with the joy and power of story. Yes! I ADORE this.

Julia Liu has worked as an editor of children’s fiction at several of Taiwan’s biggest and most prestigious publishers, and has published picture books, illustrated biographies of Einstein and Archimedes and a collection of fairy tales.

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 celebrates the NZ Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

Last night I live streamed the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. It was a magnificent occasion, full of warmth, song, book-joy, and book-aroha. Kate Parker who won Best First Book and Best Picture Book categories made the BEST speech I have ever heard at award ceremonies. I know these things have to run on time but this was pure joy. A GOLD CLASS speech.

I know what it is like to be shortlisted at an award and not win. And I always take away the fact the most important thing for me is writing the book. But it can be tough on the night not being picked. So four other DAZZLING books I loved to bits were Vasanti Unka’s I Am the Universe (Penguin), Sandra Morris’s North and South (Walker Books), Selina Tusitala Marsh’s Mophead Tu: The Queen’s Poem (AUP) and Bren MacDibble’s Across the Risen Sea (Allen & Unwin). Some of my favourite reads last year.

I have read, reviewed and loved FOUR of the winning books so I am sharing a taste of my reviews here. In fact these four books utterly moved me. I was over the moon when Tania Roxborogh’s Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea (Huia) was announced as winner of The Margaret Mahy Book of the Year. I LOUD whooped by the fire.

Full details at NZ Book Awards page

From my review:

‘T K’s novel is shining a light on our tilted world and how we must work together to heal the damage. I love the way in helping the Gods solve their terribly destructive argument, Charlie is also growing stronger and wiser in himself. He doesn’t let his disability stop him (and he does have pain and challenges). He doesn’t let bullies keep flattening him. He listens and he learns. He grows closer to his family.

Charlie is now one of my favourite children’s characters ever and he will stick with me for ages. Just as this glorious, beautifully crafted, rollercoaster, heart-warming story will stick with me. I adore it and I reckon children will too. Make this a must-read book to your class this year, to your own children, for yourself however old you are. This book SINGS! Read this book in Level 3 lockdown in Tāmaki Makaura Auckland.

Thank you T K Roxborogh and Huia Publishers.’

My full review

From my review:

I am feeling such terrible sadness at what we have lost and are still losing as I read this book. Tree sadness. Planet sadness. BUT this is a story of hope. Yes I am still feeling morning sadness but HOPE is in the carried seed, the planted seed, the little actions that are the tiny steps to help our planet (okay I know we need the bigger steps that Governments must put in place) but little steps can help too. Hope is in the native birds dropping seeds on the bush where I live.

Kōwhai and the Giants is clearly written by an author and artist who cares about our planet and wants to do something to help. An information page tells you to be native-plant detectives and discover more about planting native seeds / seedlings in whichever neighbourhood you live in. Once upon a time all kinds of ferns and trees and vines would have lived there!

So YES a FOREST of TICKS for Kōwhai and the Giants. It is an essential book to share with children. It is a terrific starting point for discussions – and a springboard for plantings both in the soil and in children’s own stories and artwork. A sublime gift gifted out of aroha and mahi. Thank you.

My full review

From my review:

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).

Full review here

From my review:

I have read a lot of astonishing children’s books this year ( a whole raft published by Gecko Press), but Shilo Kino’s debut novel The Pōrangi Boy has affected me like no other. I just love it. It is my children’s book of 2020. I love it because it makes me feel and it makes me think, and it foregrounds Māori characters and issues, and it is prismatic with life and wisdom.

The story is structured like a braided river, with its before, after and now strands interwoven; at the centre is the red hot event from which Nico measures time. I want you to read the book, and experience the unfolding braids yourself, so I am holding back on revelations.

Instead I want to celebrate the glorious and complicated humanity of the story. Its utter necessity. The way it radiates with life. Its dialogue glows. The Pōrangi Boy underlines the importance of Māori history, the whenua, taonga, te tikanga, te reo Māori, whānau, of our foundation document, the Treaty of Waitangi, of protest, of listening, reading, writing. Shilo is not delivering school lessons for readers, but all these critical elements are in the writing ink that drives the story. And crikey do they matter. You are held in the grip of story (I couldn’t put the book down), in how things are turning out, along with the characters and their challenges, but there are so many vital layers. There is a racist teacher (Nico’s) who makes my blood boil with her limited views on learning and teaching practice. There is a teacher who sides with Nico and the prison-land protesters, who brings food and who has always listened to Nico rather than laugh or sneer at him. There is the uncle who aligns with the developers and who beats his son. There is a 12-year-old boy ready to stand up and make the speech of his life in court.

Beautifully written, lovingly published, this is a book to celebrate and share.

Full review here

The other winners I am yet to read!

Poetry Box review: Kimberly Andrews’s Moose the Pilot

Moose the Pilot, Kimberly Andrews, Penguin Books (Puffin), 2021

Kimberly Andrews is building an excellent series of picture books featuring animals as protagonists. I especially loved Hound the Detective (shortlisted for NZCYA Book Awards 2021, winner announced August 11th). The third in the series, Moose the Pilot, is equally appealing. The illustrations are a feast for the eye, and offer a mouthwatering visual narrative. Characters and scenes dance with life and intricate detail.

For an experiment I ‘read’ the illustrations in Moose the Pilot before I read the words. I love the way I get a sense of both place and character. I spend ages on each page soaking up the visual ‘sentences’. On the first double spread I delight in Moose’s bookshelf. Kimberly has had fun playing with book titles. Yes there is my old favourite, The Moosewood Cookbook, but there is also The Old Moose and the Sea, Hairy Potter, Moose around the World.

Moose is an extremely busy pilot delivering supplies in all weathers, from the Lofty Alps to Hive Ridge to Sunray Island to all the places in between. And yes there is a map! Everywhere he goes the grateful locals give him a gift or two, and the plane-load home seems to get bigger. I love checking out what people have ordered and the gifts they give. He is taking away life jackets that need repairing, dirty washing, coconuts, and a book of Sing-along Mega Hits! And much much more. He is dropping off ribbons, straw bales, surfboards and sun lotion. And much much more.

There is a rescue mission at the end of the book, and that is what gives the story the warm fuzzies. A rescue mission can go in a thousand ways, from successful to disastrous, but this rescue mission is unexpected. It is perfectly in tune with our current need to use what we have and be kind to others. Sublime.

Moose the Pilot is all about delivering things (in a cool little plane) to out of the way places, but it is also about delivering kindness, keeping in touch, making things, looking out for our neighbours. A warm treat of a story.

Kimberly Andrews is a trained biologist and geologist who grew up in the Canadian Rockies. She has lived and worked in New Zealand, Borneo and the UK. In London, she worked for The House of Illustration, whose main ambassador is Quentin Blake. She also worked at the Natural History Museum, both in the live Butterfly House and also behind the scenes, assisting the curation of mammal specimens in the dry stores.

Kimberly’s picture book illustrations have been widely acclaimed. In 2019, the first story which Kimberly both wrote and illustrated, Puffin the Architect (2018), won the Russell Clark Award for Illustration and was a finalist for Best Picture Book in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Hound the Detective was shortlisted in the same category in 2021.

Kimberly lives with her husband and daughter in a small shipping-container house near Wellington, where she illustrates and writes, and runs her business Tumbleweed Tees, screen-printed clothing featuring her illustrations of New Zealand plants and wildlife.

Penguin author page

Poetry Box review: Leonie Agnew’s The Memory Thief

The Memory Thief, Leonie Agnew, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart, Penguin, 2021

I picked up Leonie Agnew’s novel, The Memory Thief, not exactly sure where the book would lead me (I don’t usually read the blurb on the back as I like books to surprise me). Right from the first page the tension and mysteriousness crackled and sparked like electricity. I had to keep reading as the questions mounted. Who is he? Who is she? What dangers are lurking? It most definitely feels like dangers are lurking.

This is the story of Seth, who spends half his life (day) as a frozen stone statue of a shepherd, in a fenced off area in the public gardens. The other half of his life (night) he is a ravenous troll who feeds off human memory.

It is also the story of Stella, a girl he meets in the gardens, who both fascinates and disturbs him with conversation, who lives with her grandfather, mother and brother, and who would quite like to get rid of her bad memories.

I really dislike reading reviews that give away so much of the story it takes away the joy of discovery as you read. The startle moments. The warm fuzzy moments. And I definitely don’t want to do it with this glorious labyrinth novel.

I will say it is like entering the Public Gardens, with twisty paths, fascinating clearings, surprising arrivals, knots and undergrowth. This book speaks of the power of memory to shape and nourish us as human beings. To build strength and empathy.

In Stella’s view a troll who feeds off human memory equals a monster, but it all gets far more complicated than that. To spend time with a troll is taking a big risk. If you enter the public gardens of reading Leonie’s novel you will discover whether Stella’s risk pays off. Why does she keep hanging out with Seth? Why does Seth keeping hanging out with Stella? What memories are they hiding?

The Memory Thief is a terrific mix of racing-heart as you read, cool characters, plot tension, intriguing twists and turns, brain-feeding ideas …. and it is so sweetly written. Glorious.

Leonie Agnew is an award-winning children’s author, a former copywriter, and currently moonlights as a primary school teacher. Her first story, Super Finn, won the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2010. This book went on to win multiple awards in the 2012 New Zealand Post awards: the Junior Fiction award, the Best First Book award and the Children’s Choice award. It was also a finalist for the LIANZA Esther Glen Finalist that year. Since then she has written two more novels, The Importance of Green and Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand (winner of the 2015 Esther Glen Medal). She lives in Auckland.

Kieran Rynhart is a freelance illustrator who was selected as one of Luerzers Archive Best 200 Illustrators Worldwide for 2010–2011. He creates his beautiful, distinctive and evocative images using a mixture of traditional and digital techniques, and works on a wide range of commissions from children’s picture books to commercial graphics and music videos. He is the illustrator of The New Zealand Art Activity Book by Helen Lloyd (Te Papa, 2013), If I Was a Banana by Alexandra Tylee (Gecko, 2016) and Seagull, Seagull by James K Baxter (Gecko, 2020). He lives in Wellington.

Penguin Books page

Poetry Box August challenge: sky poems

I love looking at the sky. I love the way it has a thousand moods: gloomy bright cloudy blue. Looking at the sky I just breathe in beauty and then I daydream. I often find the sky sneaks into my poems. For August I challenge you to write a SKY poem.

Collect sky words: colours, movement, cloud words, night, day, patterns, similes.

Write a sky memory.

Go outside and describe the sky in a poem.

Play with sky words and make a pattern poem with words.

Write your sky poem then turn it into a picture poem (a shape poem, concrete poetry).

Write a sky-story poem.

Look at the sky and skydream

Deadline: 29th August

Send to:

Include: name, age, year, name of school or homeschooled

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

I will post some favourites near end of month and have a few books to give away

I read all the poems at the end of the month and get back to you then

Poetry Box noticeboard: Paula Green’s school GUIDE for National Poetry Day

Do you want to design a Phantom National Poetry Day event for children? I wrote a new guide, including event ideas, inspiration poems, poetry challenges and a poetry bibliography.

You can check out all the ideas here.

I also have challenges for schools and prize poetry packs to give away.

On National Poetry Day check into Poetry Box to hear some Aotearoa children’s authors read a favourite NZ poem for children.