Monthly Archives: March 2022

Poetry Box March challenge: some favourite bird poems

A kereū in our cabbage tree!

What a flock of fabulous bird poems flew into my email box over the past four weeks! And what fun I had reading them all. I loved the way your word choices brought BIRDS alive in your poems.

It was so hard picking just a few (out of hundreds) to post. Sometimes a group of children used the same model (for example, recipes or what’s inside something and inside something else). I only usually pick one or two to post of the same poem model so some of you will be disappointed not to be picked. I also like to spread my picks across schools and across the country which is why it is important to let me know your age, year and name of school.

I loved the way some poems were imaginative and made me laugh out loud. I loved how some poems showed me the bird so beautifully I thought it would fly out of my laptop screen. Some real-bird poems needed to do some bird fact checking! Not all birds are good fliers or can go high in trees.

This is not a competition, but because I love sharing books, I am sending a book to Charlotte G (Selwyn House). Charlotte sent me a bird poem every few days. I suggested she put them in a little notebook. She could even illustrate them. Also sending a book to Cooper at Westmere School, Alfie from St Andrew’s and Porou at Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School.

One thing that shone through this month is:

💜 children in Aotearoa love writing poems 💜

I will post my April challenge in the next day or so.

The poems

The Perfect Bird

The perfect bird is definitely 
A Tūī, why I think it’s perfect
Is because its plume is as
White as a cloud and it has
Blue and black feathers
And that’s why I think it’s the perfect bird.

Maisie M, Age 8 yrs, Year 4, Tāmaki Makurau


car door thief
fast creeper
foggy feather
mist climber
star stealer
quick jet
feathery flapper

Leo, Ilam school

The Tūī

black small feathers
ruffle against its body
short wide wings spread out ready to soar
black beak ready to feast

by Lachlan T, Year 5 Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School


Mice eater
Or rabbit eater
Reaching to grab his prey
Eating silently now
Perching to go to sleep
Outside in the sun, birds play together
Raining outside birds hide under leaves, but Morepork is safe in his tree
Keep on sleeping now.

Liliana R Age 8 Westmere School

A Tūī’s Dream

I fly over Matariki
I dance on the moon
I hear my tūī friends calling,
in the blackest of nights
I play in the fields of green
I sleep under the kōwhai tree        
I dive through the forest of Tāne
I hear my name over sing over Aoraki
I hear the Harakeke calling me
I am free of worry and fear
I suck out the kōwhai nectar
I am free to dream

Isabelle H, Year 5, Age 9, St Andrews College Christchurch

Kea Recipe

5 cups of cheeky essence
2 rambows for wings
Half a cup of rocky mountain
5 teaspoons of alpine grass
1 scoop of the Tasman Glacier
1 tablespoon of snow
Mix it all and carve into a bird shape.

Kobe F, Y5, age 9, St Andrews School

The Tīeke

The rare exotic Tīeke
Foraging for food on the forest floor
Being a little bit cheeky
He is so majestic
I think that he would be loved
Anyone in the forest will know his name


Living on the brink
Feasting on grubs
He’s always stopping to think
Loving being a Tīeke
Looking for a drink
All he’s doing is being himself


Charlotte G, Y5, age 10, Selwyn House School

The Kea

As cheeky as a 4-year old stealing a doughnut
the Kea is a very intelligent bird

Squawking and cawing
a trickster with flaming orange underwings
gliding across the mountaintops
hail shattering across the sky

Preening its wings with care
it can steal your lunch!

by Porou R, Year 4 Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School


He’s watching me
From the history of the forest shelf
He’s watching me
The tall totara swaying in the breeze
I’m in the forest by myself
My short name is Alf
He’s watching me

Alfie L, Y4, age 8, St Andrew’s College


Inside the Ruru, a red poppy. Inside the red poppy, chocolate brown feathers. Inside the chocolate brown feathers, the screech of joy. Inside the screech of joy, the red summer pōhutukawa. Inside the red summer pōhutukawa, the beak as yellow as the sun. Inside the beak as yellow as the sun, the R7uru.

Dante A, Ilam School

Black Robin

Wings are still
Sometimes moving.
Beaks and heads tucked under mother.
Feathers and fluff flying everywhere
Papa’s home, time to eat. 
Cheep, cheerp, cheep
Delicious to eat. 

Ruby R, Y4, Age 8

Hunting Owl

went owl
as he soared
through the
cold black sky.
As cold as ice
and black as coal.
Then out of the corner of his eyes
some prey, he spies.
A mouse a rat,
a squirrel, a bat.

Cooper O age 8 Westmere School

The Bird

Its wings are made of manukā
Its beak is made of moana
Its feet are made of the spirit of Rangi
Its eyes are made of Matariki
The bird is leaving tonight
The trees are swaying

Jessie, Y4, age 7, St Andrews College


There once was a kiwi named Fred
Who stopped at the lake to eat bread.
The bread was quite rotten
Now Fred is forgotten, 
Because poor old Fred is quite dead.

Anais B age 8 Westmere School

The Black Bird

I am a blackbird flying high in the sky,
A model city of ants is below on the ground,
Swooping down brings the volume up,
The sound of engines and people.

Jakob D, Class 5, Taikura Steiner School in Hastings


brave albatross flies
above the foggy dark forest

huge wings glide
through puffy clouds

yellow beak pecks
at fish like chopsticks

fast albatross dives
smelling its prey 12 miles away

by William H, age 9 Year 5, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

The box of all time

I will put in the box the first drop of light
I will put in the box the sky on the ocean floor
I will put in the box a golden gap with goodies as gold as the sun
To this day I will put in the box the fangs of a giant bird
as good as the best trained dog ever
I will put in the box the silk of the early morning as shiny as silver
I will put in the box the sky in the sunny bay
I will put in the box sand as golden as gold
I will put in the box the first thing that was ever made
I will put in the box the cutest toy in the world
I will put in the box the first fish ever
I will put in the box the pīwakawaka’s call
I will put in the box the pines of the trees
I will put in the box the tūī’s song

Xander S, Age 8, St Andrew’s College


brown chest beating
swaying side to side
black white feathers fan out
chirps like cracking chips
white banded face brushes on fern

By Elise M Year 5 / Age 9 Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

The Phoenix

Born from the ashes, 
Red flaming feathers,
Born from the ashes,
The Phoenix dives in swoops,
It squawks,
It flies.

Ruby F, Class 5, Taikura Steiner School in Hastings

The Phoenix Curse

Phoenix flies with the wings of fire,
Lighting up the sky all through the night,
It drives with talons outstretched,
Like a comet hurtling through the sky,
It captures a mouse which turns to ashes,
The Phoenix curse will be forever.

Brendan F, Class 5, Taikura Steiner School in Hastings

Wheo – Blue Duck

A feathered flyer
A river swooper
A cold water diver
A current glider
A swimming master
A daring fisher
A dream chaser
A water champion
A wetland sleeper

Saskia F, Y6, age 10, St Andrews School

JJ the Bird

It has red feathers.
And it loves the food.
It eats worms, dogs, cats, birds and snails.
And it zaps people in the arm.
Super hard!
And sometimes it’s kind.
It only does zapping when it is super angry.

Hugo J age 8 Westmere School


A moon-eater,
A lazer-bird,
A naughty bird,
A long-nose bird,
A beautiful bird,
A room 9 bird.

Benjamin R, age 6, Y2

That’s the sound that the chickens make

Cock a doodle doo that’s the sound that roosters make.
Buk buk bukawk that’s the sound that the hens make.
Scratch scratch, scratch that’s the sound that their feet make.
Peck peck peck that’s the sound that their beaks make.
Puff puff poof that’s the sound that the dustbathing hens make.
Bawak bawak bawak that’s the sound that an egg laying hen makes.

Marlon, Y6, age 10, Pukete School

Flapping birds

Birds flapping.
Birds fluttering.
Feathers falling on the ground.
Cheep cheep.
The birds are back.

Angelo, Y4, Age 8, Pukete School


Rustle, rustle, rustle
goes the kiwi on the ground.
Peek, peek, peek
kiwi got a worm!
He eats it quick
and then he goes back to his den.
His wife is in
and his twin
is in too.
And then he played some cards.

Rory age 8 Westmere School

Red Rosella

Bird on a branch
Red, yellow, blue
Bird on a branch
Stuck like glue.

Bird on a branch
Yellow, blue, red
Bird on a branch
Read in bed.

Bird on a branch
Blue, red, yellow
Bird on a branch
Just say hello!

Ava J age 8 Westmere School

I Want To Be

I want to be a Kingfisher and fly where the corn is overgrown and water runs freely,
And not the sea that bathes in silver moonlight,
I want to be a Kingfisher that swoops through the pond catching the fish that swims with glowing pride 
And not the stars that you see glistening in the darkness of the moon,
And don’t come looking for me through the darkness of the night,
I’m going to hop away,
I’m going to fly away,
I’m going to run free through the corn fields and the sparkling morning lake.
I’m going to be free

Aveline F, Y6, age 10, Selwyn House School

The Birds

The birds sing my last lullaby as I cry all day,
they chitter all night when I smile at them.
The Pīwakawaka dances,
The Tūī sings,
The Kiwi runs in circles,
The Moa cries,
The Kea Jumps up and down to the fabulous noise.

Our Bellbird flies to the mountain under the Bright, Smiling Moon,
She leaps and dances all the way till dawn.
Aunt’s Kōtare flew all the way around the country in the dull night sky,
As soft as a feather, she whispers “good night ” to each little child
And flew happily home.

Grandpa’s Kōtuku died last winter,
But he’ll always remember her life all the time.
He’s lonely, he lives near the river as it stares at him feeling sorry.
He misses his colourful life,
Now, it’s nothing but darkness in his mind.

Michelle Z, Y6, age 10, Ilam School

A Day In The Life Of A Kea

I soar through the blue sky with the wind beneath my wings
A warm fuzzy feeling attacks my body
Silky white clouds just above my head
The blazing sun shining on my green feathers 
Lunch has arrived a colony of beetles hide in a log
I fly down grabbing each beetle faster than ever
I swallow each beetle whole with legs sticking out of my beak 
The peanut buttery taste bursts in my mouth when I bite down
I feel my stomach churning and doing somersaults
The beetles aren’t still alive……….. 
Are they?

Holly S, age 12, Year 8, Selwyn House School 

The Morepork

In the pine tree above,
A feathered brown creature 
Is peering down at me.
Its large yellow eyes
Loom out of the tree
Staring curiously.
With strong claws gripping the branch,
It cocks his head at me,
Having an internal battle 
Whether I’m friend or foe.
Opening its beak,
It lets out a peculiar sound
Almost as if it is demanding “More Pork!’’
It spreads its wings wide
Revealing a speckled brown belly.
With a whoosh,
It is off into the starry night,
Catching a meal if he’s lucky.

Phoebe Y8, age 12, Selwyn House School

Kiwi running

The kiwi eats insects 
A kiwi is soft
It’s hard to see at night 
It digs a hole
As big as a moon.

Zachariah C, Y2, age 6, Ilam School 


Yellowish-green eyes
stare into nothingness

Dark brown
Huddling in the shadow

Shark hook
Piercing your food

Yellow feet
Stuck to the tree

Dark brown
Spotted white feathers

Creamy brown breast
Stands out in the darkness

The call of more-pork
Fills the forest

Hidden in a

You sleep
I wake

by Bryn D, Year 7 Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

Poetry Box congratulates Beatnik Press: Best Children’s Publisher of the Year, Oceania (Bologna)

Kia ora,

We have some exciting news to share. In a live ceremony from Bologna, Italy, earlier this week, Beatnik was announced the winner of the Bologna Prize, Best Children’s Publishers of the Year, Oceania.

The prize, organised by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and the Italian Publishers Association in partnership with the International Publishers Association, awards those publishers who have most distinguished themselves for their professional and intellectual skills in each of the six areas of the world: Africa, Asia, Europe, Central and South America, North America and Oceania. This annual award acknowledges the best publishing houses from all over the world, so Beatnik is thrilled to have won this prestigious international award!

Beatnik is indebted to the children’s book authors who have trusted us to publish their books. Authors represented at Bologna include the sensational Laura Shallcrass, Dana Winter, Ross Murray, Emily Joe, Louise Cuckow, Toby Morris, Kat Patrick and Lauren Marriott.

During these difficult times it’s lovely to be able to stop and take a moment to celebrate and acknowledge those that have supported us over the last 15 years. So THANK YOU and have a lovely weekend.

Ngā mihi,
From Sally and the rest of the Beatniks.

Beatnik Press children’s books page

Poetry Box review: The Tale of the Tiny Man by Barbro Lindgren & Eva Eriksson

The Tale of the Tiny Man by Barbro Lindgren with illustrations by Eva Eriksson,

Gecko Press, 2022 (first edition 1979)

What a treat it is to get surprise book packages from children’s publishers in Aotearoa. I am such a fan of Gecko Press books because they always fill me with book joy and book wonder. I always want to give a copy to a friend.

The Tale of the Tiny Man by Barbro Lindgren with illustrations by Eva Eriksson is a delight.

The tiny man is very lonely. At the start of the book, the illustrations match the gloomy mood of the tiny man as he thinks his gloomy thoughts. He puts up a sign advertising for a friend, on a tree on his front lawn. And he waits, and he waits, under his gloomy cloud.

After what seems a very long time, the best possible surprise turns up. A surprise that licks and bounds away even the tiniest gloomy cloud. The tiny man has a canine friend.

The sentences are as sweet as honey (translated by Julia Marshall), even on the gloomiest page. The illustrations are warm and alive and captivating.

Like all good stories there is a twist in the tale that makes the friendship story even stronger.

The story was originally published in 1979 (a classic!), these illustrations in 2010, and this English translation edition in 2022.

How grateful I am to have Gecko Press bringing classic stories to translation, stories that touch upon issues that affect us all: loneliness, kindness, empathy, sadness, the importance of connections.

Another precious book that deserves to be read by thousands, let’s say millions!

Barbro Lindgren is a pioneering children’s author from Sweden. She has won many international awards. In 2014, she received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Eva Eriksson is one of the best-loved illustrators in Sweden, whose awards include the Astrid Lindgren prize and the August award.

Gecko Press page

Poetry Box review: Sally Sutton’s Crane Guy

Crane Guy: A game of I SPY from up high, by Sally Sutton, illustrations by Sarah Wilkins

Puffin – Penguin Random House, 2022

Sally Sutton’s large format picture book is a delightful form of I SPY, with exquisite illustrations by Sarah Wilkins. Instead of looking out a car window on a long road journey, you are sitting in the cab of the crane driver, hunting for things.

Crane guy, up so high,
Building towers in the sky,
Tell me, tell me  what you spy.
Something beginning with …

The crane driver will spot some things for you, and then it is your turn to go eye scavenging. The language is lively. The kind of language that is FUN to read out loud because it is brimming with alliteration and leap-hopping sounds: ‘Shrieking, swerving, swirling, looping’.

You get to SPY on the sky, the ocean, city streets, a bridge, a playground.

I had such fun hunting. The illustrations are ABUZZ with movement and hidden things. In case you have missed something, there is a chart at the back of the book listing everything under the FIVE letters.

I especially love the HAPPY ending where you get to hunt for someone not something!

Inside the book Carla Sy’s DESIGN is brilliant. She brings the words to DANCING DIVING DANGLING life on the page.

Crane Guy is such a captivating read, I am wondering if it could be the first one in a series. I’d love that! Maybe playing I SPY in unexpected places, from the eye of an adventurer: underwater, in space, in a desert, on a high mountain, along the longest river in the world. I recommended this book H-EYE-GHLY.

Aucklander Sally Sutton has been writing picture books, children’s novels and plays for two decades. Her stories are celebrated for being ‘busy with joy, and colour, and words that boing off the page’ (The Spinoff) – making reading her stories a magical moment between parent and child. Sally has been awarded several Storylines Notable Book Awards for her work, and in 2009 she and illustrator Brian Lovelock won the Picture Book category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for Roadworks. Her 2018 story about a cat’s amazing true journey, The Cat from Muzzle (illustrated by Scott Tulloch),was a bestseller. Read more about Sally at her website

Sarah Wilkins was born in Lower Hutt. The middle child of seven, she dreamt of becoming a solo explorer. Dreaming and drawing, which she loved, go together, so she became an illustrator instead. Her award-winning images can be found on buildings, buses, bags and many other curious places around the world, but they feel most at home on the pages of beautiful books. Sarah works from a light-filled studio perched high on a hill overlooking the Wellington Harbour. She is curious about visually communicating science for young and old, and illustrated Abigail and the Restless Raindrop while completing her Master in Science in Society. Find out more about her work at her website.

Penguin Random House page

Poetry Box review: Elephant Island by Leo Timmers

Elephant Island, Leo Timmers, trans James Brown, Gecko Press, 2022,

‘Arnold found a use for everything.’

This sublime picture book, written and illustrated by Leo Timmers, is utterly fitting for our catastrophic times.

Arnold is an elephant who loves seafaring BUT one day his boat sinks. In the case of CATASTROPHE, he always puts what he has to excellent use. Like his trunk. Even the tiniest island imaginable (see cover!). You need to read it to discover Arnold’s genius for yourself!

Leo’s illustrations are intricate, tactile and fill me with a warm picture-book GLOW.

The story is simple, imaginative, funny, WISE.

‘Arnold did his best to salvage the situation.’

You will laugh out loud, you will wonder inside, you will ponder. You will soar like a kite with the joy of reading a book that surprises and delights.

Elephant Island is like a fabulous fable that might be about conservation, or refugees, or human connections and kindness, or community survival. It is also a terrific story for the sake of story and I love it to bits. I am giving a copy of this book to a friend. I recommend you get a copy for yourself and then choose a child or an adult to give a second copy to. GLORIOUS!

‘Good songs travel fast.’

Leo Timmers was born in Belgium in 1970. Trained in graphic design, he illustrates for Belgian magazines and papers as well as illustrating picture books.

Gecko Press page

Poetry Box review: Jeska Verstegen’s I’ll Keep You Close

I’ll Keep You Close, Jeska Verstegen, Levine Querido, 2020 (trans 2021)

‘Now I know their names, They are still strangers but known strangers.’

Bill Nagelkerke is a poet, children’s author and translator living in Ōtautahi Christchurch. He sent me copy of a children’s novel he translated from Dutch as he thought I’d like to read it. And he was so right. I’ll Keep You Close by Jeska Verstegen is exactly the book to be reading now. It is a book that makes you feel and think about the times we are living in, but it is a novel that transports you pack into the past.

Based on stories buried in her own family, Jeska begins with an image of her mother playing Mozart, hiding away with curtains pulled, keeping her handbag close at all times: ‘If she could, she would let the world dissolve like sugar in warm tea’. When her Grandmother calls her by another name, the young Jeska is puzzled. When she does a unit on the Second World War at school, her teacher asks, ‘Could ordinary life carry on during a war?’ More and more, the mysterious past calls her, a past with its dark and dreadful secrets. She looks in family albums, her father’s encyclopaedia collection, she visits her grandmother in a nursing home and asks questions, she goes to the local library. There is personal history and there is national and local histories, and the tyranny of World War Two impacts upon both.

‘I know that some things in your memory can carry on hurting.’

Jeske comes up against issues that we face in different ways today (not the same, not at all): how to survive in a time of global pandemic, how to survive crippling divisions that spark hatred and violence and invasions. In order to understand the contemporary hatred and divisions, stories from the past flash as warning lights. Jeska faces the importance of who we are, how we name ourselves, how we survive. She uncovers a dark secret and she keeps living her day. She adopts a stray cat, makes an island out of craft material, connects with friends. She talks to her grandmother whose mind drifts in and out of reality.

Rather than spoil your reading passage with a detailed plot summary, I want you to read the book yourself, be moved by it, explore its nooks and crannies.

‘I understand silence can be louder than shouting.’

I love this book, yes because it is beautifully written but, most importantly, because it tells a story that resonates in our current global circumstances. So many people are working hard for the good of communities, working hard to respect, support and value difference, to challenge hatred based on gender and ethnicity. To value human life when a pandemic refuses to or when cruel leaders don’t.

Jeske goes hunting in her personal past to understand history and, in doing so, re-views the present. I’ll Keep You Close is a glowing, necessary gem of a book that will wrap you in a hug that is so very warm and human and wise.

‘Could ordinary life carry on during a war?’

Jeska Verstegen is an author and illustrator living in Amsterdam. She is a descendant of Emanuel Querido, the revolutionary Jewish-Dutch publisher who was captured and killed by the Nazis in World War II. Jeska began her career in 1990 as an illustrator for magazines and children’s books. The white sheet of paper feels to her like a stage where you can perform any role, and one day she decided to paint pictures with words as well. Writing I’ll Keep You Close re-acquainted her with herself and also gave her a new color palette of diligently chosen words. I’ll Keep You Close is her debut novel, based on the true story of her own family history.

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.

Levine Querido page

Poetry Box March Challenge: Bird poems

We have always had loads of birds at our place but, since our three cats have all died, we have even more. This summer I’ve been captivated by birds that share our bush and garden. There is an inquisitive thrush that pecks about when we have breakfast on the deck (see blurry photo). There are kererū that swoop and dash and circle. There are the singing tūī, the flit-flitting pīwakawaka, the swallows, the hawks, the moreporks. When the news on the radio seems too much, I switch it off, find a sweet spot, and delight in the bird life.

I’ve been writing a little poem every day after I finish my Wordle challenge, and post the poem and Wordle result on Twitter. Birds are often finding their way in to my lines. Not surprising because this is my summer of birds.

I am inviting you to write a bird poem. Check out my starting ideas below. All going well I will read your poems at the end of the month, write back, pick some to post and send a few books out to some young poets (it is never a competition, I just like sharing books!).

Bird Poem Ideas

Collect fascinating bird words (movement, sound, colours, food, where they live and so on) to get in the bird mood.

Use bird words to write bird lines then use them to create a drawing/ artwork.

Write a poem that celebrates a native bird.

Invent a bird for your poem.

Write a poem after watching a bird closely.

Tell a bird story in a poem.

Share a bird experience.

Write a poem as though you are a bird.

Write a bird poem using short lines (or long lines!)

Come up with your own idea.

Always listen to your poem. Read it the next day, or even the next week before you send it to me.

Send to:

Include: your name, school,age, year

Put BIRD POEM in the email subject line so I don’t miss it.

DEADLINE: March 27th

I aim to post on March 31st

Happy Bird Poem Writing

Have FUN!

Poetry Box update

Over summer I have been mulling over what I want Poetry Box to do in 2022. I want it to be a hub for children (and teachers and parents) who love reading and writing poetry.

Poetry Box is a place to share poetry we create and poetry we love. A place of reviews, interviews, audio, videos, ideas, features. Whatever takes my fancy.

I will review children’s books of all genres published in Aotearoa that I love.

However, this year is slightly different for me as I have a serious health issue. Doing my blogs and writing books gives me energy and heart. I love doing Poetry Box. I love the way it brings us together. I love the way it runs on a kindness and good will. Delights in words and what they can do. The way it is the place of PLAY!

This year I may not answer your emails, I may or may not review all the books I want to, I may not answer the phone. At times there may be radio silence. I definitely won’t be venturing out-into the world because it is just too risky.

But Poetry Box is a way of creating a poetry community for children beyond my kitchen and garden.

Tomorrow I will post the first challenge

May your days gleam with poetry.


I will post the first challenge.