Monthly Archives: October 2021

Poetry Box October challenge: some favourite first-line poems

I get sent many wonderful children’s books, some of which I review on Poetry Box, especially books published in Aotearoa. It is such a treat getting a surprise book parcel in the post and then finding a cosy spot to snuggle into reading them. I was recently inspired by some Gecko Press picture books and ending up using the first lines to write some poems.

I thought it would be a cool challenge for young poets.

I received loads of magnificent poems sparked by the first line of a book, and I love them all. I love the way these poems are all so different. Some tell stories (quite a lot). Some poems have fun with acrobatic words. Some poems have strong haunting moods and some poems make you catch the coat tails of bounding imaginations. I so enjoyed reading these poems. Just the ticket when you are still living in lockdown so thank you.

I am sending books to: Ava (Pakuranga School), Baden and Susan (Richmond Rd School) and Amadeia (Kaurilands School).

Do try my November challenge and watch out for popUP challenges over the coming weeks inspired by children’s books that arrive in my letter box.

The poems


I had a million toys and I was bored.
I have think,
and a blink,
and jump in the toys,
and all noise
is drowned. 
I have a look around,
and on the ground,
I found,
a round,
sound machine.
It made shrieking sounds
and solid

Baden, Y4, Richmond Road School

The first line is from In the Attic by Satoshi Kitamura

Outside The Great Sash Windows

Outside the great sash windows 
Trees are dull, 
The once colourful leaves now turn old,
With one witch’s snap,
Just like that,
Magic all around.
The trees turn back, 
Leaves are no longer old and pruney,
The witch’s work
Lifts the curse.

Pippa H, Year 7, Age 12, Onewhero School  

First line/title from The Year That Changed Everything by Kathy Kelly.

Bake a Cake

I have a million toys and I am bored.
But if I try to concentrate
I come up with my talent… to celebrate.
So if I imagine, everything is possible to bake
and though I like to do it
I have most fun with a birthday cake.

Now I start to wonder…
Whose is the next birthday?
Time to check the calendar right away.
We’ve had mom’s and Teddy’s
and my ginger cat’s too,
so coming up next
is my guinea pig’s – Lulu!

Now for the present.
I should write ‘from Susan.’
How about I give her a new cage
or a new ball
at a different stage?

Susan, Y4, Richmond Road School

First line from In the Attic by Satoshi Kitamura

Tiger Walk

Tiger, tiger, burning bright in the forests of the night.
Look at the eyes, look at the ears in perfect symmetry.
Look at the perfect in the claw,
Look at the perfect in the paw.
Stalking, quietly, elegantly and swift.
Quiet on leaves, snow and dirt.
Elegance in its flowing cloak of fire, ash and softness.
Padding softly on the leaves.
Cosy up, snug and warm, with a blanket of sleep,
Out of the  cloak of day.  

 Rebecca F, Y4, age: 8 Selwyn House School

From Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters, Publisher: Nosy Crow  

The Tree

the tree stretches 
her long slender branches, 
reaches through the sky 
creating a grand canopy 
of soft green leaves.
the crunch crunch beneath
my shoes as the dry, curled leaves
crumble with my every step.
I hear the tūī and pīwakawaka sing,
through the mist and the
flap flap of their wings as they
twist through the air.

Annaliese M, Y7, age 11, Selwyn House School

First line from ‘The Tree’ by Laura Ranger, in Laura’s Poems, Godwit, 1995

The darkness

Stalking through shadows,
at one with the Darkness. 
The footsteps are making the floor creak.
All you can see is scattered darkness
under the cloudy night sky. 
Fangs are approaching with yellow, green eyes. 
You hear a meowing noise 
then hissing and then all noise is gone. 
It’s calm. Darkness again.

Meallá A, Y4, age 9, Selwyn House Schoiol

Line borrowed from ‘Shadows’ by Devon Johnson, Toitoi 23

My name is Tracy Beaker.
I walk through the streets,
Waving at all the things I meet. 
At night,
When nothing’s bright,
I tuck myself into bed, 
With my dog, Shed.
When I have breakfast in the morning,
The day is still dawning.
In the middle of the day, 
I give my horses hay.
When I have dinner,
I feel like a winner!

Mia C, age 11, Y7, Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School

Line from The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson

The Mouse’s Stroll Through the Wood

A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood
By the long winding path that no mouse understood
This mouse wasn’t like all the rest of the mice
This mouse thought the wood should be awfully nice
So the mouse set off to this unknown place
And soon there was a smile on the mouse’s face
All the rest of the mice had said otherwise
So the mouse really did get a pleasant surprise  
The wood wasn’t scary, nor ugly, nor bad
For the mouse looked around and the mouse was glad! 
Beaming with glee and marching along
Bursting with joy, the mouse sang a song: 

“There are blossoming bushes and towering trees
Sweet smelling flowers and hardworking bees
Marvellous things, big and small you will find
Creatures and critters of every kind
It’s a bundle of nature, a breath-taking space
The wood is a beautiful, bountiful place!”

As the mouse romped on, it wasn’t very soon
That the mouse realised it was nearly noon
The mouse heard its stomach grumbling away
It licked its lips; it was that time of the day!
The mouse found a spot near an old oak tree
It got out its things, all ready for tea
The mouse found its friends, who then understood
Now they’re munching away in the wonderful wood

Megan L, age 11,Y7, Kingsway School

First line from The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

The Raging Storm

It was noon, and the sky was black
Thunder roared; lightning flashed
Stabbing the earth like shiny daggers
Birds seek shelter from the storm

Slow, heavy traffic
People honk their car horn
In frustration
Wanting to reach their destinations
Rain tapping on the windows

Home at last
Cuddled on the cosy couch with the family
Watching a movie
Eating sweet chocolate and sour lollies
As the storm continues outside

Denzel G, age 10,Y5, Sandspit Road School

from Chapter 1, The Beast Of Buckingham Palace by David Walliams

The Easter Bunny

Hop hop hop!
I hear things drop.
I look out the window.
High and low. 
But I do not see anything.
But I still hear hopping.
At the other side of the house
I hear my cat hissing at a mouse.
Suddenly I see a silhouette
Of the Easter bunny.

Hannah, Y4, age 9, Selwyn House School

from ‘The Easter Bunny’ by Laura Ranger in Laura’s Poems, Godwit

Mountains & Castles

A dragon was trying to hide in the storm. 
Snowdew flew to the mountains, wings heavy and worn. 

Inside the bare mountain, Duststorm lay. 
A dragon grim and dark, and old dusty grey. 

“Our home shall soon fall,” he said, with alarm.
“Very soon we’ll be pulled into terrible harm.”

“What do you mean?” the other dragon was saying. 
Before he could speak, the mountain was swaying. 

“What’s going on!” Snowdew cried with fright. 
“I knew an earthquake would come at first sign of night!’’

“Fly out of here, quick!” Snowdew called to his friend. 
They flew out, far away, until the night time would end.

“Our home is gone, has crumbled to dust.” 
“We’ll find a new home then, one just for us.”

Then they flew lower, to find a home of desire. 
“This looks good,” said Duststorm, showing a castle with a spire.

They walked to the inside, where the stone walls were bare.
They could both live there happily without much despair. 

They soon had their home looking cosy and warm. 
Into a great home it would soon transform.

They grew together, doing everything they could. 
To make the most of their time there, while the castle still stood. 

Years later, when the dragons had both grown old
They told of the earthquake that made their mountain fold. 

How it crumbled to rust and fell all to dust
Until all that was left was a pile of mistrust. 

And how they found a new life
Where there was no strife.

They all live together
Knowing they’ll be happy forever

Thinking about how everything started
And how they knew they would never be parted. 

Ava H, age: 8, School: Pakuranga Heights School

Line from Wings Of Fire, The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T Sutherland (#1)

Fruit farm

The moon is a silver hubcap
Up in the sky
Looking down
Upon the fruitpickers 
Working hard
Deep into the night
Farming to feed
Farming to survive
Only harvesting at night 
Saving the goodness
For the fruit

Phoebe J, age 13, Selwyn House School

First sentence from God’ by Laura Ranger (written age 6) in Laura’s Poems, Godwit

The village

Nobody goes there because
That’s where the fire burned out
The fire hurt families and destroyed our village, engulfing the homes

Nobody goes there because
That’s where the rivers flooded
The rivers wrecked homes and drowned everyone in waves length

Nobody goes there because
That’s where the kidnappers raided
The kidnappers ripped families apart, draining parents of their pennies

Nobody goes there because
That’s where the earthquake hit
The earthquake ripped up the ground, after quakes for days to come

Nobody goes there because
This is my village
My village is broken and abandoned after the disaster that struck
That’s why nobody comes here.

Piper S, Y7, age 12, Selwyn House School

From the poem ‘My secret skating rink’ by Laura Ranger, Laura’s Poems, Godwit


The fire crackles, 
sparks spitting, 
embers glowing under layers of white ash.
Flames rising,
like spirits,
floating in the bitter air.
Stars lie in the sky,
calling the ash to join them.
The glowing fire lights a path to the ocean,
The sparks splattering whispering to the moon,
The embers lay sleeping with the spirits.

Tilly O, age 12, Y8, Selwyn House School

The first sentence from a poem by Hana Smith – age 11 – from Toi Toi 24

Beyond the Fence

The primroses were over 
Towards the edge of the wood, 
Where the ground was covered with clovers,
And it sloped down to an old fence that miraculously withstood
The brambly ditch beyond.
The grass was long, and weeds thrive
Next to a mother duck and her ducklings in a pond,
And next to them was a hive.
The birds sang, while flowers bloomed, 
With bees pollinating all around,
And the neighbours cat grooms,
The wind is hushed and it won’t make a sound.
Wild and thick, big and small, animals and plants in it’s clutch,
Rich in green, as endless and forever changing it was, 
Undisturbed it was, from a human’s deadly touch,
It was always green as the emerald city in the Wizard of Oz.    
And as the night falls the nocturnal animals scamper. 
Soon the morning comes, and then night,                           
And it rains, but the leaves protect the forest only making it slightly damper.
Seasons come and go and the trees still stand upright,
But do you hear the hush of the wind,
Or the low whispering of the trees?
The restless stamping hooves of the mare’s kin,
Or the continuous buzzing of the bees?
Do you see the soft dirt that covers the ground,
And the branching veins on a leaf?
A squirming fly on a web that is bound,
Or the many colorful corals of the reef?
Do you feel the sharp whip of the plants,
And the tickling of the pine needles?
The mosquitos that make you dance,
Or the six legs of the beetles?
There is a magic in the air,
Something scampers out of sight.
Is it a wild bear?
The trees block out the light.
What could it be?

Amadeia D, Y6, age 10, Kaurilands School

From Watership Down by Richard Adam

Poetry Box popUP challenge: some favourite haiku

Parnell School sent me a terrific video of their haiku poems (you can watch it here) – which inspired me to do this popUP challenge. Henry sent me some haiku riddles so you can guess what they are. Angelo sent me a haiku inspired by his adventure weekend at Marokopa, earlier in the year. He found the fossil above and his mum took the photo. I even included a poem by Marlon and Angelo’s Aunty Meg – she was inspired by her shopping list! I do like shopping list poems.

I love the way the haiku are all so different, but they have one thing in common – they use a handful of words that open out into a rich image or scene or mood as you read. I love Marlon‘s flower opening out, Megan‘s snow beauty, and Mia‘s haunting puzzle. I am sending a book to Henry.

The poems

Fern and fossil

A little shell found
in a very big boulder
an ancient treasure.

Angelo, Y3, age 7, Pukete School


bitter sweet fragrance 
small purple flowers on top
straight skinny green stems.

Marlon, Y5, age 10,  Pukete School


Bananas, peppers
on my list for healthy food
eggs and batteries too.  

Marlon and Angelo’s Aunty Meg


Drifting through the sky

Swirling, twirling to the ground

Winter has begun

Megan L, Y7, age 11, Kingsway School


Owns very sharp, white teeth
The king of the seven seas
A grey moving death

A ginormous beast
Always bending and bowing
A million arms

A big red flower
A must have in all gardens
Scented and prickly

Blue velvet night sky
With diamond dancer starlight
Dreamers make wishes

In a field of grass
Swaying majestically
An evergreen tree

Sprinting through the trees
Leaping, jumping, and running
Chasing wildebeests

(Can you guess the answers to the haiku?)

Henry, Y5, age 10, from Parnell District School

War Haiku

The Nazis close in.
They’ve killed so many people. 
How could they kill more?

Mia C, Y7, age11, Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School

Poetry Box shares Parnell School’s Rūma 13 fabulous haiku video and my popUP haiku challenge

Matua Dean Whittaker’s class at Parnell school in Tāmaki Makaurau has made a fabulous video of haiku poems they wrote. I love the way the poems show how a handful of words can create striking images. Every word adds to the picture that grows in your head, and every word also adds to the music. These haiku poems sound good. Little melodies like honey in your ear. And the images unfold like origami.

Traditionally Japanese haiku have three lines with a set number of syllables on each line: first line (5 syllables), second line (seven syllables), third line (five syllables). Following haiku rules can be such fun. They help tighten the poem. In more recent times haiku still have three lines but the syllable rule is flexible. You can follow the rules or you can play with the rules.

Japanese haiku usually considered the natural world and included a seasonal reference. Nowadays haiku explore a galaxy of subjects and a solar system of moods, and may or may nor include a seasonal reference. And can still build nature images!

Rūma 13’s fabulous haiku video

Rūma 13 is a Year 5 – 6 class at Parnell District School in Tāmaki Makaurau. 

“Our class is a garden of budding artists, politicians, mathematicians, designers, scientists, writers and all the other kaimahi that make Aoteroa such a special place. 

Our teacher Matua Dean is always telling us ‘good writers paint pictures with their words”‘.

A popUP HAIKU challenge

Write a haiku poem.

You choose whether to follow the syllable and subject rules or not.

Listen to your poem.

Shut your eyes and let the poem-image unfold in your mind.

Test every word on the line. Underline the words you think are working beautifully.

Give your poem a title.

You might like to use your poem as part of an art work. (I can’t post PDFs but I can take screen shots. I don’t post surnames though)

Deadline: Wednesday October 27th

Send to:

INCLUDE: your name, age, year and name of school

Don’t forget to put HAIKU poem in subject line so I don’t miss your email.

I will read all the poems after the deadline and will post some poems on Friday OCT 29th. I will have some books to give away.

Poetry Box review: Bill Nagelkerke’s The Ghosts on the Hill

Try my October poem challenge

The Ghosts on the Hill, Bill Nagelkerke, The Cuba Press, 2020

Bill Nagelkerke writes terrific poetry for children so it is not surprising his junior novel sings in the ear. I love the novel for its attention to detail.

The story takes place in Lyttelton in 1884, and the story imagines what might have happened to two young boys who went missing on the Bridle Path in a storm. Bill has used newspaper archives to research the real-life event, but nobody ever found out exactly what happened. Their bodies were found but not the full story. So Bill gets imagining.

Elsie likes fishing and being outdoors. She does not like going to school. She feels bad, a deep sadness, at the tragedy. She yearns to know what happened. Mrs James was the last person to see the boys alive and is also plagued with sadness and regret. Mr James often fishes alongside Elsie on the pier, and has many a gold nugget of wisdom to share. She misses her dad who lives elsewhere. Especially his stories.

I muse on how different things were for children then. Choosing not to go to school. Heading off alone to cross the Bridal Path. Roaming in the neighbourhood. A ‘wild childhood’ as a terrific exhibition at Auckland Museum once said. I’m also musing on how tough it was for women who raised children on their own, doing domestic chores without modern day appliances and gadgets, working fingers to the bone. No time for themselves. As poor as can be. Different freedoms and different restrictions for both adults and children. I love how Bill’s book sparks trains of musings.

But the book explores a mystery. The scene is set. Elsie sets off across the Bridle Path to deliver hand-me-down baby clothes to her newly born cousin but, more importantly, to follow in the boys’ footsteps. She wants to get closer to what may have happened. However, just as it was for the boys, the weather is about to turn to storm.

Here is where I step back and leave the unfolding story behind a screen so you can unfold it yourself. Bill has written a layered and captivating novel that gets you thinking about regret, personal safety, how times change on the one hand and stay the same on the other. Elsie is complex and compelling character. I especially loved her conversations with Mr James.

I gobbled The Ghosts on the Hill up in a flash. And yes the title is a clue!

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 novel Old Bones (2006) was a Storylines Notable Book and Sitting on the Fence (2007) was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. In 2013 he was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal for a distinguished contribution to New Zealand children’s literature and literacy.

The Cuba Press page

Poetry Box Three Scoop challenge: some favourite poems

Try my October poem challenge

Three Scoops, David Hill, Illust Lisa Allen, One Tree House

David Hill is a writing whizz and has penned some of my all-time favourite Aotearoa fiction for children. His new book Three Scoops is genius. He has written three long SHORT stories. One is historical, one is fantasy and one is science fiction. I gobbled them all up at the weekend.

As a Poetry Box POP-UP challenge, I invited you to write poems that were either historical, fantasy or set in the future. Samantha and Jerry got right into this challenge – two very keen young writers! I have picked their fantasy and future poems to post, and you can see how poems can do anything. Poems can move in all kinds of fabulous directions. I am sending Samantha a copy of David’s book.

Lovely to end this post on Jerry’s image of hope.

One Tree House page

My review of Three Scoops


Forest Pegasus

Look into the forest
Through the fog, your jaw drops
There, a stunning Pegasus
Knee deep in the crops
Warily she advances
On a nearby stream
She laps at the water
Then she sees an eye gleam
In an instant she is off,
Barely touching the ground
Ears flicking back and forth
For behind comes a sound
Crashing, bashing of hoof beats
Wings thrashing the air
The Pegasus’s breath comes in gasps
Branches catch in her hair.
The pursuers are almost upon it
It dodges to avoid a tree
The pursuers draw closer
Despite the Pegasus’s plea
They were closing in on her
She couldn’t take any more
There was no breath left
She collapsed to the floor
There was such a pain in her chest
The Pegasus had been outwitted
She was laughing too hard
“Tag! You’re it”

Samantha M, 12 years old, Year 8, KenaKena School


A box of books is where an adventure starts,

The first few lines, will put you in place,

The next few chapters will take you through time,

The last few pages are the start of a new adventure.

Jerry, aged 12, Churchill Park School

Two FUTURE Poems

Deep down below

Deep down below
In the big blue sea
Who knows what creatures
There could be
Perhaps a magical land
A mystifying place
Never touched by a hand
Or seen by a face
There could be green cows
Pink ducks, orange sheep
There could be a fairy
That lulled everyone to sleep
There could be mermaids with tails
And beautiful hair
Palaces of shells
And yells of “BEWARE!”
There could be sand toys
A doll and a kite
There could be gold birds
And turtles that take flight
There could be a magical genie
That gives you a wish
There could be huge rides
That are shaped like fish
There could be royal dolphins
One, two, three, four
There could be ocean games
With impossible high scores
There could be something bigger
Than the big blue whale
Something enormous
Out of a fairy tale
Deep down below
In the big blue sea
Who knows what creatures
There could be?

Samantha M, 12 years old, Year 8, KenaKena School

Never Too Late

The sky, a picture of gloom,

The once green fields, now withered warriors,

A world where happiness no longer exists.

Nature is slowly fading away,

And yet, one flower stands, at its full bloom, fighting.

A spark of hope, it’s not too late.

Jerry, aged 12, Churchill Park School

Poetry Box noticeboard: Tu Meke Tune-in – a cool digital initiative for the holidays

Here’s a really cool, new initiative for tamariki Tu Meke Tune-in – which kickstarted 4-6 October.

Great news – such good numbers and fabulous engagement – Tu Meke Tune-in is on again next week: Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 October

Join author Malcolm Clarke, and a bunch of special guests, for a series of digital events that children and their whānau will be able to tune into from the comfort of home.  

Tu Meke Tune-in features trivia games, giveaways, readings and a waiata session, this free programme is fun for the whole whānau.  Giveaways of mega-bestselling book Tu Meke Tūī! hardback and reo māori, and Tu Meke Tuatara! hardback; and kid’s t-shirts (sizes 4 and 6).  

Malcolm can also do one or two personalised recorded readings for a school or whānau who would like him to read to them live over Zoom, Facebook or Facetime. He can also pre-record personalised messages and send them to competition winners. 

Here’s the platform where the live stream will happen.

Poetry Box review: Clotilde Perrin’s Inside the Suitcase

Poetry Shelf October poem challenge

Inside the Suitcase, Clotilde Perrin, Gecko Press, 2021

I love picking up a new Gecko Press book. I love not knowing what will unfold inside. I love picking up a Gecko Press book when the world is on a tilt and I am on a tilt. I love the way excellent picture books can lift you up so you float and daydream-drift like a feather. This week I have read and reviewed two delicious daydream books in a row!

Inside the Suitcase is a book of the utmost comfort and daydream-drift. I love this book so much, I wish I were the richest woman in the world and could buy a copy for anyone who needs a picture-book comfort boost.

Such love and care have gone into the production of this lift-the-flap book delight.

Behind the hills is a delightful cottage and inside the delightful cottage is a suitcase that a child is packing. Lift the suitcase flaps and you will discover what the child packs. Read the story and you will discover how each item plays a part in the child’s journey into the great unknown. The mysterious and fascinating elsewhere.

I loved the way this book surprised me every time I started flap lifting, so I am sure in primroses not going to spoil the delights for you. I smiled the whole way through. I warm glowed the whole way through.

The illustrations are warm and full of exquisite life.

I love the epigraph at the start: ‘A good traveller has no set plans and no destination.’ Lao-tzu.

We are inventing new ways of travelling in our tilted world. But we are also reclaiming old ways of travelling, such as reading picture books, both fascinating and excellent.

The epigraph is also my maxim for writing: setting sail into the great unknown, whether writing a poem or a story, because I never know exactly what will happen when I start writing.

I would like to gift a copy of this book to one person who would benefit from a comfort boost. Message or email me, or leave a comment, if you can recommend someone.

Inside the Suitcase is a lift-the-flap book of joy and discovery.

EXTRA for keen young readers and writers: For my October poem challenge I have invited children to use the first lines of books to kickstart a poem. I did three sample poems. I used the first sentence of Inside the Suitcase for one example. I actually wrote the poem before I read the book – so my poem is completely different. It was such fun to do. Give it go!

Clotilde Perrin is an illustrator and author living in Strasbourg. She has published over 30 books including the international lift-the-flap bestseller Inside the Villains.

Gecko Press page

Poetry Box review: Joy Cowley’s ‘The Tiny Woman’s Coat’

Poetry Box my October poem challenge

The Tiny Woman’s Coat, Joy Cowley and Giselle Clarkson, Gecko Press, 2021

Sometimes all you need is a book that is as good as a bowl of comfort soup. A book that fills you up with warm glows so that even the gloomiest day brightens.

I was feeling really glum, the sky outside was dismal grey, I had a head full of little worries that together grew together like a snowball.

So I picked up Joy Cowley’s The Tiny Woman’s Coat with illustrations by Giselle Clarkson. A perfect choice. The story is sublime. The illustrations are sublime. Double dose of sublime.

I read the book in one sweet gulp and truly the sky lightened, the birds started singing, and the icy snowball in my head melted away.

This beautiful book is comfort at its very best. The tiny woman, shivering and shaking, needs a coat, but she doesn’t have anything to make a tiny coat with! So she heads out wondering where she will find what she needs. Yes! The tiny woman plans to make a coat, not buy a coat. I love that! She will need cloth and scissors, a needle and thread, and buttons. Everyone she meets (a grey goose and a friendly horse for a start) has the perfect gift for her.

The illustrations are exquisite: the colour palette perfect, and the lines deliver life and animated character with a lightness of touch.

Three words resonate as I read: simplicity, lightness and KINDNESS. Three perfect words to carry on days of gloom and grey.

Thank you Joy, Giselle and Gecko Press for this gift of a book. I am going to savour the story and the illustrations again today.

EXTRA for keen young readers and writers: For my October poem challenge I have invited children to use the first lines of books to kickstart a poem. I did three sample poems. I used the first sentence of Joy and Giselle’s book for one example. I actually wrote the poem before I read the book – so my poem is completely different. It was such fun to do. Give it go!

Gecko Press page

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.

Giselle Clarkson is an illustrator from Wellington, New Zealand. She once drew a picture of some biscuits that was shared online so many times that they put her on TV. As well as illustrating children’s books, Giselle is a regular contributor to the NZ School Journal. She writes a comic about children’s books for The Sapling, and makes educational comics about important and exciting environmental topics. She loves to have adventures at sea and on remote islands best of all. Giselle has a degree in photography from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.

The Tiny Woman’s Coat

Poetry Box October challenge: Borrowing first lines

I get sent loads of fabulous children’s books published in Aotearoa to review on Poetry Box. This inspired October’s challenge.

I am fascinated by the first sentences in BOOKS and how they HOOK us into the STORY. It might be a picture book or a novel. I thought it would be fun to borrow first lines from a book and then see where your poem goes. Remember to acknowledge the author and book you have borrowed from. I have done some for three books that arrived in my letterbox today.

TOP TIP: Wait at least one day and listen to your poem again before you send it to me.

TOP TIP: I can’t post PDFs.

the first-line poem challenge

TOP TIP: Use the first line as a title, or as your first line, or just as the starting idea and then see where you travel. It is simply a launch pad for a poem about anything you like.

Your poem might tell a tiny story, or celebrate a place or person or experience.

Your poem might be funny or serious or playful or surprising or mysterious. Imaginative. Realistic. Short. Long.

Your poem might have short lines or long lines – or mix it up.

Your poem might be really simple or rather tricky. Both work.

Don’t forget to tell me the name of the book and the author you got the first line from. See how I put it under each of my poems below.

Deadline: Thursday October 28th

Send to:

INCLUDE: your name, age, year and name of school

Don’t forget to put FIRST LINE poem in subject line so I don’t miss your email.

I will read all the poems after the deadline and will post some poems on OCT 30th. It can take me several days when I get hundreds of emails! I will have some books to give away.

My poems

The Firebelly Toad Knocks on Hedgehog’s Door

Rat a tat tat
Tap a tap tap
The firebelly toad is hungry
for hedgehog’s pancakes,
but hedgehog is so busy sizzling
his silken pancake mix in the buttery pan
sizzle spit splatter sizzle spit splatter
he doesn’t hear his hungry friend knocking
until his his hungry friend rat a tap taps
on the kitchen window.

Paula Green

First line from No One Is Angry Today, Toon Tellegen and Marc Boutavant (Gecko Press)

Away behind the hills

Away behind the hills
a tabby cat sleeps on a warm stone
dreaming she’s asleep by a crackling

hot fire in a toasty toasty cat basket,
but the blazing summer sun wakes her
and she stretches and meows and cat ambles
back over the hills to the shady box
on the shady verandah by the shady tōtara
and dreams she is cat ambling over the hills
to a warm stone by a view of the sea.

Paula Green

First line from Inside the Suitcase Clotilde Perrin (Gecko Press)

The Tiny Woman Wanted a Coat

The tiny woman lived in a tiny house
with a tiny cat and a tiny dog
and tiny books and tiny cups
and tiny windows and tiny shoes.

The tiny woman wanted to go
on a tiny walk up the tiny road
but a tiny wind made her a tiny bit
cold so she shivered and jumped

to keep herself warm, but the tiny wind
grew bigger and fiercer and it blew
ice and snow on her tiny cheeks
and the tiny woman skipped and spun

in tiny circles all the way home to her
tiny house with her tiny teapot and her
tiny pets, and she made some hot cocoa,
and buttered and honeyed some tiny toast

and then piled all her scrap material
in a tiny heap on the tiny floor and scissored
and stitched and sang and whistled as she
made herself a tiny patchwork coat.

Paula Green

from The Tiny Woman’s Coat, Joy Cowley & Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press)

I will review these fabulous Gecko Press books on Poetry Box in the coming weeks. I used the first sentences to invent three completely different ideas in poems. I used them all as my titles.

Gecko Press page

Poetry Box noticeboard: Whitcoulls Top 50 children’s books

The announcement of Whitcoulls Kids’ Top 50 Books this week is well timed, as we korero about mental health and look forward to the school holidays. 

Books with a focus on helping children understand their emotions is a strong theme in this year’s Top 50 and many of them are by Kiwi authors, including the Aroha Series and How Do I Feel? by Craig Phillips & Rebekah Lipp; and The Rainbow in My Heart by 

Here are some other notable things about the Whitcoulls Kids’ Top 50 Books:

  • Harry Potter got the most votes
  • Almost half the books voted for are books in a series, suggesting kids binge read books
  • Close to 25 percent of the list comprises Kiwi authors
  • There are 15 new titles in the Top 50.

Happy Reading