Monthly Archives: December 2021

Poetry Box review: Stacey Morrison & Jeremy Sherlock’s Kia Kaha – A storybook of Māori who changed the world

Kia Kaha: A storybook of Māori who changed the world, Stacey Morrison & Jeremy Sherlock, Penguin, 2021

E huri tō aroaro ki te rā, tukuna tō
ataarangi ki muri i a koe

Turn to face the sun and let your
shadow fall behind you

(Georgina Beyer page)

Kia Kaha: A storybook of Māori who changed the world is my favourite children’s book of 2021. It is groundbreaking, ground restoring, remarkable in its reach and empathy. Stacey Morrison and Jeremy Sherlock have gathered together Māori who deserve recognition and celebration (they acknowledge there are so many more they wanted to include). Stacey and Jeremy share the stories in a lovingly produced book that is like a meeting place, a heart lounge, a conversation map.

The book includes Māori who have excelled on the sports fields and courts, those who have worked hard to make the world a better place by fighting for the rights of Māori, of the Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ communities. Those who have done amazing things in law, health, politics, education, the promotion of te reo Māori. Those who work hard in film, the arts, music, comedy, literature. Those who are activists. There are navigators, entrepreneurs, fashion designers. There are teams of people (the Māori All Blacks, the 28th Māori Battalion, the Māori Women’s Welfare League) and there are numerous individuals (Dame Whina Cooper, Dame Tariana Turia, Stan Walker, Patricia Grace, Taika Waititi, Ralph Hotere).

It was a genius idea to select twelve illustrators: Akoni Pakinga-Stirling (Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāi Tahu), Haylee Ngāroma Solomon (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu), Jessica Kathleen Thompson Carr aka Māori Mermaid (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine, Ngāpuhi, Pākehā), Josh Morgan (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata), Kurawaka Productions, Miriama Grace-Smith (Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Toarangatira and Ngāto Porou), Ngaumutane Jones aka Ms Meemo (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Tainui, Ngāi Tūhoe, Whakatōhea), Reweti Arapere (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa), Taupuruariki Whakataka-Brightwell (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa, Te Arawa), Xoë Hall (Kai Tahu), and Zak Waipara (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Ruapani). The artwork is dynamic, fresh, full of life. Glorious.

As I read each story I feel like I am sitting beside the editors on a warm rug (I have never met them) but it is though they are speaking to me, to all of us readers, and we are listening spellbound. Each story flows like honey, like everyday conversation. Glorious.

I also love the sayings that head each story. Little pieces of wisdom that catch important things about each person.

I see this magnificent and important book, this gift, this taonga, as a waka that sets sail into the future with song and recognition, ideas and heart, mahi and aroha. This is my favourite children’s book of 2021, no question.

E kitea ai ngā taonga o te moana
me mākū koe

To see the gifts of the ocean,
you must get wet

(Sir Hekenukumai Busby page)

Stacey Morrison (Te Arawa, Ngāi Tahu) is a radio and TV broadcaster whose projects have spanned 25 years. She is also a mama to three young tamariki who have been brought up with te reo Māori as their mother tongue. Stacey herself didn’t learn to speak Maori until she was an adult. It required a lot of research, determination, wonderful mentors and the support of a community to achieve her goal of becoming fluent by the time her children were born. Stacey and her husband Scotty co-wrote Māori at Home to help other families use te reo in everyday settings, and Stacey’s first children’s book, My First Words in Māori, became a number-one bestseller. Both Stacey and Scotty work with many groups and families to build Māori-language friendships and community for whanau. Stacey has also been an advisor on pre-schooler and children’s TV shows, which, along with her experiences with her own children, has helped her identify the words children pick up early in their language learning. As a winner of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori Champion Award in 2016, and the winner of Waipunarangi – Te Reo and Tikanga Award 2021, as well as a graduate of Te Panekiretanga o te Reo (the Institute of Excellence in Māori Language), Stacey loves encouraging the learning and use of our country’s beautiful native language.

Jeremy Sherlock (Tainui, Ngāti Awa) was born and raised in the small town of Coromandel. Growing up, he loved sport, music and drawing and was always a bit of a bookworm. At the time, there wasn’t much of a selection of books written about and for Māori, but his grandfather’s tall stories, family histories, and Peter Gossage’s picture books about the myths of Aotearoa made a big and lasting impression. A couple of decades later, he joined the publishing industry as an editor of non-fiction. Over the years, Jeremy has worked in New Zealand and Australia for Reed, Penguin and Penguin Random House, specialising in biography and memoir, sports, history, pop culture and all things Māoritanga. He currently lives and works in Tamaki Makaurau as a freelance publishing consultant and writer. Kia Kaha, a collaboration with Stacey Morrison, is his first book.


Poetry Box celebrates new books: Favourite animal poems

T Is for Tuatara: Amazing animals from A to Z
Jo van Dam, illust. by Deborah Hinde, PictureBook Publishing, 2021

To celebrate Jo van Dam’s collection of animal poems, I invited young poets to come up with their own.

I challenged young writers to choose a letter, a quirky animal and write a little poem. To try tricky rhyme, Dr Seuss rhyme, hiding rhyme and/or salt and pepper alliteration (sprinkled through poem).

You can read my review of T Is for Tuatara.

I loved all the poems. I could tell the poets had fun writing them because I had fun reading them. And they are all different just as poems should be! Glorious.

I am sending a copies of Jo’s book to Isabelle and Maelie (Richmond Road School).

The poems

M – Maned Wolf

Mika the Maned Wolf has a fluffy red coat,
She eats fruits, leaves, and rodents – like stoats.
Her legs are so long! Her legs are so tall!
And no one would dare fight her,
no one at all.

Penelope Age: 10, Richmond Road School

C is for cat

A cat and a bat have the same last letters,
A and T but a bat has a B and a cat has a C.
A cat has claws and very small paws
And is related to something that roars!

Isabelle and Maelie, age 9 and 10, Richmond Road School

C is for Centipede

A centipede is really long.
A centipede is never gone.
They have 45 legs…
Some say 110,
Or their name is Ben
Do they have lice?
Do they eat mice?
Do they burp?
Do they lurk?
We’re not quite sure…
They live in the dirt
Of that we’re sure

Isabelle and Maelie, age 9 and 10, Richmond Road School

The Rockhopper Penguin

There once was a Rockhopper Penguin
Who always jumped around talking
Wishing he could glide
He loved to sing with pride
“I wish that I could fly
Across the great blue sky
I guess I can try and thrive 
Yet I would fall, then dive
Into the ocean, wide and vast
Where I could swim, at last”.
So from then on he knew 
His dreams could still come true
If he thought about the ocean and all
He’d dive into it, and heed its call.

Ava, age 9, Pakuranga Heights School

B Is For Bob The Blobfish

Bob the blobfish lived deep in the sea,
Where no one could see.
He bounced up and down with a frown,
Living life with a starfish crown.
Bob’s crown went running around,
Shouting out loud………. Help me,
Help me, I don’t want to be his crown.
Then  a crowd of fish that were very proud,
Came around fighting for the starfish crown.
But then………
Ms Blobfish came slopping around and snorted out loud….
Leave my BOBBY,
All the proud fish,
That were proud before
Went swimming away.
Hip! Hip! Hooray!
Thank you blobby mummy!
Oh, no worries honey.
And Bob the blobfish,
With his crown, the starfish,
Went bouncing away.


Coco, Y6, Richmond Road School


A black figure crept through the night like a dense 3D shadow,
The tree branch creaked as the stealth master slid below,
As the full moon’s light beamed through the dark, silent jungle,
A colossal cat slunk past the burrows making the animals huddle,
The blanket of darkness had already cloaked the green land that lies beneath,
Making animals vulnerable prey to the meat eaters that lurk in the shadows,
Black figure creeping, tree branch creaking, colossal cat slunk,
Meat-eaters lurking, a predatory animal, the panther of black.

Holly, age 10, Westmere School


A prey to hunters and an enemy of fish,
But overall salmon is their favorite dish.
A black fur coat and a defining growl,
Ursus americanus is back on the prowl.
A predatory animal with quite an appetite,
And a jaw so strong that he doesn’t need to fight. 
He attacks and wins with a delicious meal,
Surviving an encounter with a black bear…
Now that would be a big deal.

Holly, age 10, Westmere School


As blackness enclosed over the land one figure emerged from his home.
The only noise was the rustle of leaves as a cool breeze forced its way into the forest.
Pit, pat, pit, pat.
The figure saw something in the corner of his eye. 
He pressed himself against the wet, dense forest floor.  
It came closer and closer.
The moonlight slipped between the gaps in the trees above, lighting up the clearing.
Rustle, rustle.
The animal was so close he could almost smell it.
As he crept forward, the smell got stronger and stronger.
Then he pounced. 
The terrified animal tried to escape but two paws grabbed her and sharp claws dug into her skin. 
There she was, helpless before this mysterious animal. 
The predator finished its meal and crept away into the silent and eerie forest after a good night’s hunt. 
But first a quick stop to howl at the moon before bed.

Georgia, age 9, Westmere School

Poetry Box review: Laura Shallcrass’s What Colour is the Sky

What Colour is the Sky? Laura Shallcrass, Beatnik Publishing, 2021

I am a big fan of Laura Shallcrass books and a big fan of the sky. I sit at my kitchen table daydreaming as I gaze out the wide open doors to the wide open sky. It makes me feel good to sky gaze just as it makes me feel good to read a new picture book by Laura.

Pīhoihoi wonders what colour the sky is. Pīhoihoi has a sky puzzle to solve. How would you answer the question?

Pīhoihoi asks Hedgehog but that just makes it even more confusing. So they decide to go on a big QUEST to solve the mystery. They ask snail and they ask mouse and they ask frog. And on the quest goes. A seed of an idea starts to grow in Pīhoihoi’s head and it grows into a GENIUS answer!

I love the simplicity of the story and how musing and questing is such a good thing, especially about something tricky. I love the tremendously BEAUTIFUL illustrations. Works of art! I love the learning notes at the end that tell you more about why animals see things differently. Fascinating.

This book is sublime SKY treasure! Beatnik Publishing have put their usual love and care into the making of the book and produced something special.

Laura Shallcrass works from her home in the hills near Queenstown, where she lives with her husband and children, along with an ever-growing zoo of furry friends. So far these include three horses: Giddy, who is enormous but kind, Taffy the pony, and Cash, who is overexcited and likes to party, Kota, the Labrador, and Frida, the whippet.

Laura’s first book, Hare & Ruru, won the Russell Clark Award for Best Illustrated Book at the 2021 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Beatnik Publishing page

Laura Shallcrass webpage

Poetry Box review: John R Lewis’s What Do You Need Little Rhino?

What Do You Need Little Rhino?, John J Lewis, Upstart Press, 2021

John J Lewis is a stop motion animator, writer and director who lives in Christchurch. What Do You Need Little Rhino? is his first picture book and it is one of the best picture books about feelings EVER! My all time FAVOURITE.

John got the idea when his daughter Harriet had a tantrum. He had no idea why she was angry. He discovered that when he gently asked her ‘What do you need little rhino?’ the situation was diffused. So he used this technique as the starting point for a story about a little rhino who is stamping mad. The rhino’s mum and dad keep trying to find out what she needs but the little rhino just doesn’t know. I know the feeling. Sometimes the pile of tantrum or angry or upsetness is so hard to explain. To ask what I need is a cunning and useful diversion. Genius. And I love the ending. So perfect.

John has used real art materials such as watercolours for the oh-so-pink illustrations, and they are simple and rich in feeling – especially the ink splots and splashes. Harriet (now 8) handwrote the dialogue text and deliberately mixed up capital letters and lower case. She also came up with the idea for the end and title pages. Beautiful.

Every home deserves a copy of this book – no matter how old you are. And we might all sometimes need someone nearby saying ever so gently – ‘What do you need little rhino?’ GLORIOUS!

John Lewis is a stop motion animator, writer, and director. He is best known as an animator on the feature film Mary and Max, the TV series Kiri & Lou, and the short film The Story of Percival Pilts which he also co-wrote and co-directed. John lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he spends his days playing with plasticine dinosaurs, riding an electric unicycle, rock climbing, and being a father.

Upstart Press page

Poetry Box review: Jo van Dam’s T Is for Tuatara: Amazing Animals from A to Z (with popUP challenge)

T Is for Tuatara: Amazing animals from A to Z, Jo van Dam, illust. by Deborah Hinde, PictureBook Publishing, 2021

So few poetry books for children get published in Aotearoa! The arrival of a new one is a celebration day for me. Jo Van Dam’s previous book, Doggy Ditties from A to Z, gained many fans. Her new book assembles a collection of ditties that give life to “weird and wonderful creatures”. The animals include some I am not familiar with (from dugongs, to zebu to numbats) and some I am (from the kiwi, to rhinoceros, to skunks). Each page has fascinating facts as well as the poem. The exquisite illustrations add further layers of fascination.

At the back of the book are extra facts about the creatures, quiz questions and tips for writing poems. Jo’s poems brim with fun and beg to be read aloud. She loves playing with rhyme. There is rhyme at the end of the line: Dr Seuss kind of rhyme and words that almost rhyme. There is alliteration and there is rhyme hiding along the line. There are short lines and there are longer lines. All these devices (things you choose to do when writing a poem) add up to a feast of sound. Here is one poem. Have a read and see if your ears can hear what the poem does with sound:

Ee – emu

There once was an emu named Eve,
Who dined on small reptiles and leaves.
She swallowed a lizard
Which stuck in her gizzard
now Eve prefers fruit, bark and seeds.

I love all the ducking and diving and dancing sounds in this poem!

POP-UP Challenge: I challenge you to choose a letter, a quirky animal and write a little poem. Listen hard to every line. Try tricky rhyme. Try Dr Seuss rhyme. Try hiding rhyme. Try salt and pepper alliteration (sprinkled through poem).

Deadline: Tuesday 14th December
Include: Name, age, year, name of school
Don’t forget to put ANIMAL POEM in the subject line so I don’t miss your email.
I will pick one poet to give a copy of the book to. Will post some favourite poems on Wednesday or Thursday.

Poetry Box interviews Daniel, poem-writing fan from Y0 to Y8

My cat Flubber

My cat Flubber
is made of blubber
he wobbles like rubber
But I don’t care
I love her.

Daniel (2014)

Daniel Lovewell (Year 8) started writing poems for Poetry Box when he was in Y0 and has been writing them ever since. I have loved watching his poems spark and sparkle in multiple directions across the years, and always delighted in reading and responding to them. Next year he is off to secondary school and will move on from Poetry Box. I wanted to acknowledge his magnificent contributions with an interview and a selection of his poems.

I begin with one of the first poems he sent me and close with a very recent one he wrote on a school camp. I sent Daniel a whole bunch of questions, and asked him to pick and choose, but he answered the lot! I found his answers inspiring. I will miss Daniel just as he says he will miss Poetry Box. However other young poets who have followed Poetry Box, through primary and intermediate school, are now being published as young adults. I look forward to seeing where Daniel’s poetry goes next!

So it is a big thank you for this wonderful interview Daniel, and very best wishes for the future. I am popping a book surprise in the post for you.

Why have you liked writing poetry for such a long time?

When I was little I had to do lots of handwriting and this is something I found really hard – and still do really.  Poetry let me tell stories using less words, so it quickly became the way I liked to write. Over time I kind of started thinking in poems as well.

Which challenges did you especially love?

 My all time favourite was the Treasury Challenge back in 2014: Writing poems and then putting them in fascinating places in fascinating ways.  I was only 5 but I still remember writing in ice and getting all angry because my writing kept disappearing!  Other people wrote in the sand or with marbles…all sorts of crazy fun. We even had a visit from Paula to our school and did cookie poetry. I also loved the challenges where I learnt about different kinds of poems like Haiku and concrete poems. 

Ice writing poems in 2014:

Which was the trickiest to do?

The last one I wrote, the Villanelle, was definitely the hardest!!! How can they put so many rules in just one kind of poem?  But I loved the challenge, even if there is room for improvement in the poem! You can read it here.

What do you love to do in a poem?

Mostly I like to just set my imagination free.  I like starting and just seeing where the poem takes me.  I really like playing with different ways of using description – not only similes and metaphors but also things like personification and onomatopoeia (which is also pretty much the coolest word ever).

Son of a Son

If the Sun
Had a son
Would it say
“Come son, let’s play in the sun!
Would the son have a sunny disposition
Or a fiery streak
Would the Sun tell the son
To rise and shine
To reach for the stars
Would the son
Look up to the Sun
Wondering if one day
He could rise up
And burn as bright

(2021, after Dick Frizzell)

I often get asked this! What inspires you as a young poet? Do you have favourite subjects?

Oh that’s hard.  I think nature is my biggest inspiration.  Certainly I think I write best when I am outside, and I often write when I’m sitting in or under a tree.  Actually a lot of the times I come up with poems while I’m out hiking.  And I used to make them while I was bored, sitting watching my sister play cricket! But another inspiration is my cats – I do love writing about my cats!

Poetry is Like Lego

Poetry is like Lego
You take little pieces
Just ordinary on their own
You build them together
Up, down, across
To turn something plain
Into something fantastical
If you muddle the pieces
You can make something totally new
That belongs to only you


Pick several poems across the years you were especially proud or fond of.

I’m definitely proud of the poems that have ended up in printed books, like ‘Above the Blaze’ that went in the School Journal, and ‘On Anzac Day’ (2015), which won the NZ WWI Their Stories Our Stories competition. I also loved the ones we wrote on our travels to USA because they are great memories.

Riding on the Range (Big Sky, Montana)

Along a beige trail
Amongst emerald trees
Through silver streams
Across ivory snow
Under cyan sky
Beneath golden sun
Chasing the stripes of a Montana rainbow

2019 (You can read Daniel’s suite of USA poems here)


Above the Blaze

Throb, Throb, Throb
The rotors beat against the rancid air
Weaving in and out of the smothering smoke
The sound engulfed in the merciless blanket

Trying to extinguish the raging inferno
Trying to calm the monster
Trying to evade the combusting maw of fury

Throb, Throb, Throb
The rhythm of the mighty machine
Runs through the pilot’s body
In time with his racing pulse

Courageous pilot
Calculating risks
Confronting Mother Nature’s wrath from above

Throb, Throb, Throb
The onlookers’ hearts pound
As they watch trees falling into a sea of flame
The merciless beast getting ever closer to their houses


They fight for their animals
They fight for their homes
They fight for their town


Throb, Throb, Throb
The heroes fight the fire
The fire fights the heroes

Who will win?


A top tip for growing writers is to read widely. What books have stood out in your primary and intermediate school reading?

Um, I read A LOT.  I’ve been reading since I was three so there have been lots of favourite books! I love a good series you can get lost in for a long time.  I have read the Harry Potter series 13 times and will happily read it again.  I love Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five. And everything by David Hill and James Patterson. When I was younger I loved listening to the rhyme of Dr Suess and the Hairy McLary books. I learnt to read with Paul Jennings’ Rascal the Dragon series, and after that read my way through almost every book from Joy Cowley. Good old Mrs Wishy Washy! I think being read to is also really important and my family always have a read aloud on the go when we are all together – most recently John Marsden’s Tomorrow series. Sometimes writers annoy me though when they make funny descriptions that make no sense, such as “my heart was beating like a horse galloping with a broken leg”…wait, what?!?! But often I like the kind of imagery writers use and copy that style into my own writing.  

What else has fascinated you?

Other countries and cultures fascinate me. Before Covid our family travelled a lot so there was always plenty of imagining and planning, and my mum always had us learn about new places before we went, then would immerse us in the history and tastes and “must do’s”  wherever we went.

What other interests or activities have stuck with you?

I’ve been cooking since I was five and I still love to cook, there is just something about creating something you can share that makes me happy.  My family often request my minestrone and my magnificent omelettes! I also love animals – especially cats and sheep.  I have a busy life with sport and stuff as well.

Speed of Light 

In the dark
The cheetah stalks
Muscular legs
Moonshine eyes

A bush moves
The cheetah sneaks
Twitching tail
Bristling fur

An animal races
The cheetah chases
Desert plains devoured
Fast as the Speed of Light

In the dark
The cheetah dashes
Successful attack
Deadly predator


A Summer Scene

On the river bank
(Or if you prefer, the flank)
Going hither and thither
Like a mouse in a dither…
Can I be bold
And brave the cold?
Edging over stones
That would rattle my bones
Finally floating along
Hearing only nature’s song
A river in summer
Simply couldn’t be funner!


Has living in the time of a pandemic affected you at all? I was so delighted when The Herald published your poem from my lockdown challenge last year.

I liked that lockdown challenge because it was a good time to stop and think about what we were living through.  I was excited for the poem to be published!  I actually quite like lockdowns, because our whole family is together and we can manage our time our own way without being tied to timetables.  Because we live rurally we have plenty of space and things to do, so we are lucky.  But now pandemic life is getting tiring.  So many cool things at school got cancelled. I don’t want to go anywhere people-y because it is too hard with scanning and masking up and that sort of thing.  It’s easier just to stay home.  Our family all miss travelling overseas because it is part of who we are…but it will be a while before we go away again, and my sister and I will be so much older, I am not sure what it will be like.

The Heroes
New Zealand

1 April 2020

Dear Supermarket workers,

Thank you.
For putting up with this epidemic enough to keep us eating.
It must be hard having to leave your bubble
To sort out food fights
And toilet paper turmoil
And disinfectant dramas
And rationing rules
Keeping up with ever changing regulations
Not knowing if the people who visit your store are sick
Or if you might get sick
Or what will happen next
You soldier on for the greater good
Spending your days on the front line
In the war against Covid-19
You are the everyday heroes
And on behalf of the people in my isolation bubble I say

Thank you.
Yours sincerely

A boy in a bubble

2020 (Also published in NZ Herald in lockdown)

What do you hope for the world?

I really hope that the world can settle back down into some kind of sensible way of being.  It all seems a bit crazy right now with the virus and crimes and the climate, so it’s kind of hard to imagine the future.  I think world peace is an impossible dream, but maybe a world with less fear could be something to hope for.

What would you like to be writing next year at secondary school?

Hopefully next year I will be writing poems that get used in school exams or get bought by advertising companies like my sister has!  I think I will be doing more story writing next year, because that’s what you do at school, but I will be using lots of poetic techniques in my writing because that’s what I do.  I hope we still get to write poems as well though – and study some too like Shakespeare’s sonnets. But I might start working on my own book of poems because I don’t want to stop writing them.  One day I might even write a book like Paula!

What have you liked about your time with Poetry Box?

Everything!  Paula is so encouraging and the time she takes to give everyone individual feedback is amazing.  I have had so many incredible opportunities though Poetry Box – even getting my name with my sister’s on the back of the book Annual 2. I love reading everyone’s poems on the blog every month, because everyone has different ideas they bring to the challenges.  And I guess best of all I have liked seeing my own writing get better.  I am going to miss Poetry Box a lot.

Seaside Sunrise

The waves greet the beach
With the roar of a thousand azure lions
Beyond, horizon merges with sky
In seamless symmetry
The sun casts a warm glow
As a blessing
Flowers flicker in the gentle breeze
While the ever changing dunes
Are slowly blown away
Not content to rest
Beside the endless ocean sprawl
Where waves like wild stallions
Toss their heads as they gallop towards the shore.

November 2021

Poetry Box review: Mary-anne Scott’s The Tomo

The Tomo, Mary-anne Scott, Onetree House, 2021

Sometimes you pick a book and before you know it you are in the grip of a story that you can’t put down until you have finished it. Mary-anne Scott’s The Tomo is that kind of book. Gripping, moving, character rich.

Phil’s dad has to go to Auckland for cancer treatment so he is packed off to work on a sheep station. The good news is he gets to take his father’s dog Blue, but the bad news is the station manager (Chopper) is as grumpy as they come and thinks Blue is no good as a sheep dog. Phil is missing his family, hates where he is, but knows he has to stay for the sake of his dad. The other good news is that Emara, Chopper’s step-daughter comes to stay, and she is good company.

I don’t want to spoil a heart-in-the-throat story but when Phil is ordered to fetch a ram, and Blue falls down an extremely deep and dangerous hole (a tomo), nobody seems willing to rescue Blue. Phil’s dad is back home and wants Blue … well now the story shifts gears. Lives are at threat. I couldn’t stop reading.

Mary-anne was inspired to write this story because of one her grandfather used to tell her about the perilous rescue of a dog that fell down a tomo. The novel is in debt to family stories, a much loved location, Te Tairāwhiti, and to kōrero with Richard Niania, a historian and trustee of Pōhaturoa Station.

I loved this book so much. There is nothing like a story that grips you, but when you add in a family crisis, uncertainty, a bully, an ally, along with personal epiphanies – well the mix is irresistible.

Mary-anne Scott lives in Havelock North. Many of her previous titles have been shortlisted for the YA section of the Children’s Book Awards: Snakes and Ladders (Scholastic); Coming Home to Roost (Penguin) and Sticking with Pigs (One Tree House).  Sticking with Pigs published in 2018 and was Shortlisted for the Children’s Book Award Trust Copyright Licensing NZ YA Award in 2018 was Shortlisted for the 2018 NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival and was named a 2019 Storylines Notable Book. Her latest titles, Spearo and Fantastic Mr Bean were published in 2020. Mary-anne’s website

Onetree House page

Poetry Box November Challenge: some favourite form poems

Skinny Dip: Poetry, eds Susan Paris & Kate De Goldi, illustrations by Amy van Luijk, Massey University Press, 2021

Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, editors of the popular and best-selling Annuals, have edited a lively, much-needed, and altogether stunning anthology of poems for middle and older readers. I review Skinny Dip: Poetry here, plus you can hear some poets read a poem. (Skinny Dip page at Massey University Press)

I was so inspired I invited children to write a poem that plays with various poetic forms as my November challenge. What a truckload of poems arrived – it has taken me ages to read them all and reply to you (do let me know if you haven’t heard back from me).

I might post some popUP challenges with giveaway books over the next few months while Poetry Box takes a part-time holiday.

I am sending copies of Skinny Dip to Eabha (Russley School) and Sophia (Royal Oak Intermediate) (thanks Massey University Press!) and I am sending a copy of my book Groovy Fish to Ashley and Leo (Ilam School), and James (Russley School).

The Poems


Cherry blossoms

Dancing around the trees

Confetti for the ants

Piper S,12 years old, Y7, Selwyn House

My Poetry Box Finale (villanelle)

It seems the time has come to say goodbye
So many years have passed and seen me grow
My poem box is full, and so am I

At first writing poetry I was shy
When I began my poems came quite slow
It seems the time has come to say goodbye

Now poems come from me easy as pie
I like to share and have them out on show
My poem box is full, and so am I

Poetry makes me feel like I can fly
I like the way the words go to and fro
It seems the time has come to say goodbye

This poem is the last that I shall try
Now it finally seems that I must go
My poem box is full, and so am I

So now I finish this one with a sigh
Poetry Box I leave with much sorrow
It seems the time has come to say goodbye
My poem box is full, and so am I

Daniel L, age 13, Year 8, Hadlow School

A Tanka 

It was a still day
People walking talking and
Kea screeching yes
Screeching cicadas talking
Today as loud as thunder

Leo F, 7, Year 2, Ilam School


a bright lily pad
taking a little frog home
in the cool river

Lucy P, age 10, Y 6, Selwyn House School

Summer Sun (acrostic)

Sun shining
Umbrellas shading
Mums lathering on thick sunscreen
Mum sunbathing on the chair
Eating sticky ice creams
Racing on the hot sand to the water

Summer waves tickle the sand
Unusual blue crabs scurrying away from sandy little hands
Nice cool waves glistening like a diamond

Amelia Y, Y8, Russley School

The Amazing Fireworks (acrostic)

Fascinating fire, flickering
I give them 100 out of 100.
Roaring in the night sky.
Ooooooo la la….
Red, blue, gold and silver.
KABOOM! I see a rainbow.
So amazed, so ecstatic, so happy.

Miha, age 5, Phoenix age 6 and Jessie age 5, Westmere School

Poems (acrostic)

Poems are awesome
Open your mind and release the creativity in you
Enthusiastic in all ways 
Treats for me to make
Relax and open the creative lock 
You and I know poems are the best.

Baden, Year 4, Richmond Road School

The Leaf (rondel)

The young leaf
Flying around the world
Pure joy filling its heart
Little does it know that the wind will end soon

That one little leaf
Its tree home flying beyond the horizon
The young leaf 
flying around the world

Just as the fear begins to kick in
The wind turns around the leaf again
The young leaf
Flying around the world

Amelia W, Year 7, Selwyn House School

Mum (ode)

Oh, your hair is as brown
sweet melted chocolate

Your eyes are pools
of glistening blue water

Your cooking would make 1000 people
want to stay for dinner

You have humour that would only
make a dad laugh

Sophia E, Year 4, Russley School

Push ups, an instructional poem

Read in two breaths.

Move into a planking position making sure your hands are parallel to your shoulders and the small of your back is not arched then you must squeeze your core tight and hold your breath before beginning to bend your elbows which is when your body should start to get closer to the ground and after repeating this a few times you may breathe again. But you must hold your breath immediately afterwards and your upper arms and core will begin to feel like it’s about to implode but if you do too many push ups you will collapse to the ground in a heaping mess.

Eabha D, Year 8, Age 13

Space (acrostic)

A star,

Shines bright from far,

Tearing through the vast sky,

Raced the clouds but still hurtled by.

One evening the moon,

Naughtily comes after noon,

Oh, don’t go at night!!!

My don’t the stars shine bright!

Young and old are they,

A star no longer their today,

No longer exists,

Dreary Saturn spins his ring around his wrist.

Astronaut takes his first step on the moon,

Saying “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind” one afternoon.

Trouble brews as an asteroid comes in contact with earth,

Rolling on dinosaurs and 65 million years after we have humans birth,

Orange and red, the sun burns bright,

Lashing out whips of fire yet nothing gets set light,

Omniscient zodiac scattered across the sky,

Great, old wise ones way up high,

Ye stars shine bright, and as the morning comes, we say goodbye.

Amadeia D, Y6, age 8, Kaurilands School

Writing My Poem (sonnet)

When the challenge appears, I grin
I plan, I brainstorm, I write
Ideas come flowing, my head starts to spin
Keeping me up all night
I get inspiration, I go with the flow
I use the best words I can
I jot it all down, it all starts to grow
Soon, my poem looks good
I examine each line, I edit with care
And I leave it for a day
I read it again, add some things here and there
With a smile, I put it away
I submit with a click, and my job is done
The next challenge will be even more fun

Megan L, age 11, Y7, Kingsway School

Ode to the Best Ball

You fly through the air like a hawk with a back wind
You are as bouncy as a trampoline
as grippy as newly bought shoes
as orange as a freshly grown carrot
When you swish it makes me feel like Steph Curry

Some people find your continuous bouncing annoying
Some people think your game has too many rules
Some people think mouth guards are uncomfortable
Some people don’t like you

but you appeal to me

James D, Age 10, Year 5, Russley School

Ode to Mr Walker

Oh, your hair is as dark as a log.
Your tie is fastened like a seat belt.
You run the classroom like a
world-wide famous comedian.
You teach the whole class properly
but still you add a lot of
silliness into learning.
When you come up to the
microphone at assembly, you fill up with joy
like a hot air balloon ready to take off.
You are simply the one and only
Mr Walker.

Moaz A, Yr 5, Age 10, Russley School

Misa, age 12, Y7, Blockhouse Bay Intermediate (haiku)

Winter Nights (sonnet)

On this winter night
The water turns to ice

The fire’s alight 
You’re fully fed
You turn off the light 
And go to bed

The blanket though itchy
Keeps you warm
And the pillow so fluffy
Keeps you comfy

Your eyes flutter closed
And the dreams begin to swarm

As the water turns to ice

Sophia R, age 11, Yr 7, Royal Oak Intermediate

Grandmother (acrostic)

Grateful like a river in the afternoon.   

Respectful like a ruru fling in the wind.

Amazing like a kea jumpy up and down.

Nice like a Māui dolphin swimming. 

Delicate like a kiwi.

Mindful like a mouse watching for predators.

Openminded like a moa running.

Thankful like a little penguin feeding on fish.

Hopeful like a hedgehog sleeping soundly.

Elegant like an eagle swooping.

Responsible like a tuatara sunbathing.

Isabella B, age 10, Selwyn House

Alone (rhymed free verse)

Alone on the streets,
For she is a stray,
Looking for somewhere safe to stay.

Up some stairs, off to the side,
There sits a small box with a blanket inside,
There she nestles, hidden from prying eyes.

She licks herself clean, 
Confused and Unsure,
Because now she is looking after four more.

(Note from Lily: My Grandparents live in Greece, and in Greece, there are stray dogs and cats EVERYWHERE. A couple of days ago my grandma and grandpa found a stray cat in their cat’s little outside house, and they went to go and move her, but then four tiny little faces appeared beside her and they realised that the cat was a mum who had literally just given birth in their cat’s little box. So now they’re looking after Lucky (I named the mum cat) and her four kittens. The kittens are adorable, but it’s so sad that they are strays. I thought that doing a poem about this was a good idea because it’s about something recent in my family and it relates to a problem that I have always been interested in fighting.)

Lily R, Year 8, Age 12, Royal Oak Intermediate

Ashley C, Age 9, Y4, Ilam School (acrostic)

Moving On (tanka)

My blazer buttoned

Tears streaming, waiting for my 

Name, walking up steps

Smiles from teachers giving hope

Running through the past

Violetta D, age 12, Selwyn House School

Summer (acrostic)

Sun shining on the yellow bay.

Umbrellas are wasted in this heat.

My legs burn from the scorching temperature.

Magazines escape the hands of sunbathers and fly into the sun.

Energetic children splash in the low tide.

Rat-bag seagulls steal my hot chip lunch and gleefully glide away.

Micheala E, Eabha D, Year 8, age 13, Russley School

Ode to Our Tears

Thank you, little droplets streaming from our eyes.
For leaving us there,
For when we can rise.
Thank you, small drips of frustration.
For letting us think,
For our bodily precipitation
Thank you rivers full of emotion,
For making us realise,
For us stepping onward with motion.

Ameer, Year 6, Ilam School

ablaze (rondel)

My motivation melts away,
I’ll gather the wax and create another candle, for another day.
Burning as I dip myself in,
the paraffin encases my limbs.

A week since I last moved, my surroundings were new.
I dash and cling on to what I can,forcing myself to move.
My motivation melts away,
I’ll gather the wax and create another candle, for another day.

Latched onto a barbed wire fence,
dangling off the edge of a cliff.
I’m taking everything down with me.
My motivation melts away,
I’ll gather the wax and create another candle, for another day.

Abigail Nathan, 13, Year 8, Royal Oak Intermediate

Ode to my future cat

Oh kitty cat,
oh kitty cat.

Your luscious silver fur
drapes down your body.

If you didn’t exist neither would I.
Oh kitty cat, when you purr mountains shake.
Oh kitty cat your long and elegant tail curves like a snake when you are happy.

When you’re hungry I can only serve you the most posh on earth.
Oh kitty cat, I dream of our future together.

Marlon 10 yrs, Pukete School Yr. 5

The Cat Comes (haiku)

Pad pad pause pad pad.

Cat comes running swiftly now.

Slumber soundly cat.

Rebecca F, age 8, Y4, Selwyn House

Riding on the Donkey (cinquains)

Hee haw!
The donkey brays
I post the floaty trot
The black donkey canters smoothly
Hee haw!

Clip clop
From walk to trot
Playful rhythmic bounces
The donkey’s hooves go up and down
Clip clop

Wind screams
Yellow sand blows
Riding on the donkey
Ocean waters swallow the air
Wind screams

Josie P, Age 10, Ilam School

Ode to Isla

Your fur is as dark as the midnight sky
Your eyes shine like the stars at night
Your nose is as dark as a blackberry
Your howl sounds like a balloon deflating
Your tail wags like leaves blowing in the wind

You are as playful as a pixie with fairy dust
In the car you are as calm as the sun setting
On walks you bounce around like a basketball
You’re always hungry, like a panther who hasn’t eaten for days

When you are excited, you zoom around the house
like a ferrari on a race track
It is summer every day with you here
You are cunning, cute and courageous
I couldn’t imagine life without you

Sara T, Age 10, Y6, Russley School


Ode to Summer

Your ice block melting weather
makes me want to be outside
Oh, you make the crops and flowers grow
to the peak of perfection

You make the tennis stars come out to play
You let the gardeners snip away
at their bushes and trees
You let the school fields be open

You are my saviour from the freezing cold
Your heat waves make the parents
give in to the mr whippy ice cream
Oh, summer what would I do without you?

Lucas Y, Age 10, Year 5, Russley School

Ode to Our Librarian

Oh, Mrs Ussher,
hair as bright as a sunflower,
glasses perched on your nose

You run the library
like the queen
of a castle

issuing books
faster than the speed of light

Your book fairs are magnificent
like a room full of treasure

You’re simply the best
librarian ever

Moaz A, Lucas Y, James DW, Sophia E, Sara T, Chloe S
Y5 and Y6, Awa Nui Writing Club, Russley School

Poetry Box celebrates new books: my Donovan Bixley drawing challenge picks

Draw Some Awesome: Drawing Tips & Ideas for Budding Artists, Donovan Bixley,
Upstart Press, 2021

I loved Donovan Bixley’s drawing book so much I gave children 48 hours to draw the shape of a fruit or vegetable and then transform it into something else. I got the idea from the book! You can read my glowing review here.

The drawings were ALL so amazing – thank you!! Such imagination. I have picked four to post. This is not a competition but I put all the names in the hat and am giving a copy of the book to Stephen.

Try the Donovan Bixley drawing competition on the Upstart page. You have until December 17th.

by Stephen G, age 7, Year 3, Ilam school

by Ava H, age 9, Pakuranga School

by Ye Wong L, age 7, Year 3, Ilam School

by Dante A, age 7, year 3, Ilam School