Monthly Archives: October 2022

Poetry Box October challenge: some favourite WONDER poems

Why is the unleashed dog
sniffing the dogs-on-a-leash sign?

What a treat to read through all the wonder poems that arrived in my mail box. Some poems asked questions as a way of wondering and some poems told stories. Some poems looked at something and filled with wonder (awe).

It was very hard choosing a few to post. I tried to get a range, so lots of great poems missed out.

It is helpful to leave your poem for a day or so and listen to it again. Make sure you are happy with every word and how the poem flows. I get sent so many poems, I end up picking poems that surprise me, that delight me, that aren’t the same as all the other ones.

I am sending books to Hayden, Sofia P, and Mina.

Do try my November challenge.

the ocean is frothing ice
and sun gleams

The poems


What is wonder? 
Wonder calls out to you like paint spilling onto paper.
I wonder when we all fall asleep, where do we go?
Wonder feels fresh like a breeze of air, free and easy. 
Wonder evaporates into lifelong dreams and ideas. 

By Hayden, Age 11, Year 6, Glen Eden Primary School

These Things Need to Happen

I wonder why the Sun is bigger than Mars.
I wonder why rainbows have colours.
I wonder why bees can fly, and we can’t.
I wonder why the Earth is SOOOOOOOO BIG!
But Jupiter is WAYYYYYY bigger than Earth.

Lucas C Age 7 Westmere School

Wonderful Things 

Loud waves crashing
against the shore
Dark black dog fur
covers the couch head to toe
Cold ice tea, swishes
around in my glass
Sweet smell of pelargoniums
just a few feet away  
As I walk along the sand
it gets stuck in between my toes

Adrianna P, Age 13, Y8, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School  

The Most Wonderful Things

The taste of nana’s cheese scones melting on my tongue
Grandma’s cookies
The love from a miniature schnauzer bringing joy to my day
The way the glistening snow tickles my palms
The tickle of shallow waves hugging my ankles
The smell of grandma’s delightful roses in her garden
Heavy rain hitting my roof as I drift off to sleep
The heat of hot popcorn on a movie night

Morgan C, Age:12, Y7, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

Going to the Beach

I watch the glittering waves
crashing on the beach
with Granny

I carefully lift the bucket off
the delicate sandcastle

I place some clam shells
and a little red flag
at the top

Maia S, ge 7, Year 3, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

The Wonder Poem

I wonder what I’m going to write.
I wonder why I doodle
I wonder why I coodle
I wonder why I noodle.
I wonder why I’m trying to rhyme?
I wonder why I’m human,
and a mooman,
and a coomon.
I wonder why there are Dalmatians,
and Playtatians,
and Maytatians.
I wonder if this is the end?
I wonder…
This poem is getting too long!

Chloe H Age 8 Westmere School

Things that are Wonderful

These things are wonderful.
Popcorn, ice cream, cotton candy, chocolate…
All the lovely things.
Pizza, cats, dogs, frogs…
These are lovely things.
Rainbows, clouds, sun…
What lovely things.
Friends, movies, walks, beaches…
These things are wonderful.

Chloe P Age 8 Westmere School

Wonder List

The smell of freshly cut grass
Booming thunder in the dark night

Mouth watering, chicken rice ball
with fresh avocado laid out on the table
Bacon crackling in the oily pan

The scent of pure white lilies dipped
into water standing perfectly

Ruby W, Age: 11, Y7, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School


I lie in my bed listening to the crisp rain and thunder
Soothing jazz makes me fall asleep
The scent of my grandma’s fresh cooked salmon
The milo sitting on the counter while the jug boils
The constant thought of a capybara being my pet.
I lie with all of these dreams

James Q, age 11, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

I Wonder About Things

I wonder about fork lightning.
I wonder why fork lightning makes a big BOOM!
I wonder about ice cream
I wonder how they get it that texture.
I wonder about movies.
I wonder how long it takes to make them.
I wonder how paint is made.
I wonder how much random water there is.
I wonder how cars are made.
I wonder how long it takes to make them.

Immy Age 7 Westmere School


Kids want to be adults.
Adults want to be kids.
But kids have something adults don’t.
I find it annoying when a little kid keeps asking, What is this? Why is this called a car? How do plants grow? Why do we have fingers?
But little do I realise, I do that too.
And that is a treasure.
Use wonder well,  you will not keep it forever.
For the adults you ask, may not know the answer, because they don’t wonder.

Adelaide K, age 10, Year 6, Kapakapanui School

Wonder – by Taylor Henderson, Year 7

The sound of the rev limiter crackling and sparking
the sparkle of shiny chrome
the smell of gasoline

Taylor H, Year 7, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School


If you wonder about something you think about it with curiosity
Wonder creeps into your dreams
I wonder about things that are new and different
I wonder where my sense of pride comes from
Wonder is a feeling of surprise

Alaska L, 10 years old, Year 6, Glen Eden Primary School


Can it do that?
I wonder as I watch the rat
I can’t see it can’t hear it 
Can’t feel it, not near it,
But the rat is there
I can see its hair

Can it do that?
I wonder as I pat the cat
I can’t see it can’t hear it
Can’t feel it, not near it
But the cat is around me
I can hear its heart pounding

Can it do that?
I wonder as I observe the bat
I can’t see it I can’t hear it
Can’t feel it, not near it
But the bat is close to my hat
I can feel its wings flap

Can it do that?
I wonder as I look at the mat
I can’t see it I can’t hear it
Can’t feel it not near it
But the mat is somehow near me.
And I figure that I’m dreaming.

Mina, age: 9, Y4, Hobsonville Point Primary School

My List of Wonderful Things

feathery penguins waddling across a vast landscape
unexplored jungles with tangly vines

flying to Africa to see lions and majestic flamingoes
riding a giant eagle across a vast desert

eating an icecream
with 9 scoops of goody goody gumdrops dipped in chocolate

Isabelle H, age 7, Year 3, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

A Visit From Dinosaurs 

Running through acres of little indigo lavender buds.
Tiny black and yellow spots buzz around the new bloomed flowers.
My footsteps are steady and fast through the uneven ground.
I catch my ankle on a root and stumble over.
I sit up startled, my head in a blur. 
As I bring myself to stand up I hear a loud buzzing sound around my head.
I feel a sharp pain in my lower jaw.
I yelp it hurts, it hurts and grasp my throbbing cheek.
I suddenly feel dizzy and doze off to sleep.

I wake up confused and surprised.
My soft palms press the dry crumbly ground as I try to stand.
Massive mountains tower above me.
Cries of horror and fear rise all around me.
I look at the orange sky and back down to my feet.
I can’t believe my eyes, I’m standing in the middle of a colossal footprint.
I find it hard to breathe for a second or two, until I nearly freeze to my place.
A ginormous Tyrannosaurus Rex soars over my head I scream with the last of my breath.
But I’m too late.
I feel the T- rex’s warm breath on my neck and I see its huge white teeth scaringly close to my head.
This is the end I think out loud.

My eyes flash open, the past flashes around in my sore head.
I’m alive I’m really alive I think.
I suddenly remember my painful cheek.
I rub my quivering finger over it.
I wonder what it would be like in the time of the dinosaurs.
Having to fight for life and never leave your house or a Pterodactyl might swoop down,
pick you up and carry you home for lunch. 
My bee sting feels like a gentle kiss from a butterfly.

I’m glad it’s not the time of the dinosaurs.
But I wonder, I wonder.

Georgia M, age 11, Selwyn House School

A Ghost of Starlight 

A thousand silent stars glittering 
On a sleeping child’s face. 
Filling the room 
With a hopeful silver light. 
A ghost of starlight in a child’s dreams. 
Filling her mind 
With wonder. 

Radha G, Year 8, age 12,  St Andrews’ College 

Wonderful Cats

Cute, fluffy tips poke out at me
as I gently touch a wet, soft nose\

leaping, frolicking

eyes shining a warm welcome
this amazing kitty steals my attention

like a snake she slithers to my
hand playfully

a fluffy paw bats a butterfly
this way and that

Victoria P, age 8yrs, Year 4, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

The Farm at Maungati

The farm is a wonderful place,
full of cattle, sheep,
and best of all, lambs.
It’s dark outside.
The wind is blowing.
I hear the wind
whistling very loudly.
It sounds ghostly.
The sky is almost black.
It looks like a thousand steam trains
driving around Maungati.
The tulips, as gentle
as the mountains.

Sofia P, 8 Years old, Y4, Selwyn House School

The wonder of cats.

The cats are full of confidence
and cuteness.
They are explorers on missions
to find food.
The cats can jump, run, sprint and hunt
in the sun or rain.
The cats hear the tiny footsteps of mice and birds. 

Abigail Z, 9 yrs old, Year 4, Selwyn House School

The City of Stories

As I wander over the broken mossy bricks,
the sound of voices yearn for their stories to be told.

Through expansive emerald courtyards,
feeling the breeze of ancient peoples stream past my face.

Along the edge of towering constructs of lichen and of stone,
visions of decorated bodies marching across the city.

Shards of vases scattered in rooms, each telling a tale of its own,
gently touching the doors to the souls within the houses.

A labyrinth of wild things, the jungle powerful and free,
the smell of humid air with a scent of regret.

I wonder what became of these stories and the people of this place.

Bill K, Age 10, Year 6, Mind Plus/Brooklyn Primary School, Wellington

Maui dolphin

I remember the clear, clean water
I remember the pod in huge numbers 
Off the coast of Akaroa
I wonder why I’m alone
I wonder why human plastic is swimming with me
I wonder why my food is gone
I remember the feeling of being so full I couldn’t swim
I haven’t felt that in a long time
I don’t remember what happened
I don’t even remember the day
I wonder where my family is 
Or even if they are alive
I’m all alone and scared
Trying to stay away
From people who hurt me
People who litter my home
People who take my food
My family
My freedom
I feel like a caged animal
With no place to go
The open ocean will be worse
For a young one like me
If only the world will stop
Stop this change
Stop torturing dolphins like me
Stop taking my food
Stop taking lives

Izzie C, age 12, Y7, Selwyn House School

I Wonder Why

In the coat of the night
Stormy skies and thunder warnings
Ranginui sky father drenching us all
Rain streaming down the windows
Grey darkness fills the sky
I feel as lonely as a gloomy corridor

Isabella L, age 9, Y5, Selwyn House School

The Wonder of Spring

The sun finally returns
to the little suburbs of Hillsborough and Opawa. 
In the front yard of our little brick house 
roses wake from a long sleep called winter.
Many colours fill the skies as cherry blossoms,
Daffodils and lavender say good morning. 
Like us all the flowers fall asleep at night
closing their petals and whispering 
“See you in the morning”

Hattie L, Age: 10, Y5, Selwyn House School

I wonder

The little fur ball rolls around 
The Kowhai tree sways like music
The wind dances teasing me 
The mouse squeaks
The stars gleam
The hat gets caught 
The bird picks up the berries 
The sky turns pink  
The sky turn navy 
The moon, beams in the night
Delightful  as a cherry blossom tree

Lena S Age: 10, Y5, Selwyn House School


My hand sinks into the fluffy soft fur
of a red fox

I lie down on dry grass
filled with flowers

Tulips, marigolds, daisies and
lady’s slippers
fill the air with their sweet scent

rain drops fall from a dark cloudy sky

I squeeze my soft teddy
it feels like cotton candy

Bella Z, age 9yrs, Year 4, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

Watching the Moon

Watching the glistening moon
stare blankly
as it slowly rises
lightening the starry sky

I see silvery stars shining brightly
forming pictures and shapes

I feel the cool breeze sweep past me
swirling around

Slowly I fall

Angela C, age 7, Year 3, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School

Poetry Box children illustrate poems: Issy illustrates Peter Bland’s ‘The Night Kite’

by Issy (11)

The night kite

I flew our house
the other night.
It makes a lovely
bright box kite.

Like a big square moon
it slowly rose
tied to a reel
of garden hose.

As for the tail …
I’d had the sense
to borrow a length
of our front fence.

It floated all night
above our back lawn
while my sister sneezed
and my brother snored.

What shall I tell them
when they awake
about hoses that float
and houses in space?

I’ll tell them nothing.
It wouldn’t make sense.
I’ll just reel in the house
and sit on the fence.

Peter Bland

from The Night Kite (Mallinson Rendel, 2004)

Issy is 11, Year 7 and is homeschooled in Palmerston North. The last book series she read was Sailor Moon and she just finished The Railway Children by E Nesbit. She loves Harry Potter, anime, cats, walking to the dairy with her friends, and listening to music. She has read some poems with her mum by Banjo Patterson and James K Baxter, but finds them a little difficult to understand. 

Peter Bland is a poet and actor. He has a distinguished place in New Zealand theatre history as co-founder of Downstage and its artistic director 1964–68. Peter has published a large selection of poetry volumes in New Zealand and the UK and his memoir was released in 2004. He has written terrific poetry collections for children, including The Night Kite. The Night Kite was a finalist in the picture book category at the 2005 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It won Best Use of Illustration at the 2005 Spectrum Print Book Design Awards, and was listed as a 2005 Storylines Notable Picture Book.

Poetry Box children illustrate poems: Olivia, Ray and Georgia illustrate Richard Langston’s Lighthouse

by Olivia C (10)


I stand on rock.
I shine & turn.

In the dark,
I talk to the moon,

stars & sea.

In spray,
flying rain, crying wind,

flying waves,
I stand.

I turn & turn.
I watch you pass

sailor, dolphin, bird.
The beam of my

flashing eye.

I am all weathers
I am the world.

Richard Langston

by Ray (11)

by Georgia (11)

The illustrators

My name is Olivia. I am 10 years old and I am in Year 6 at Fendalton School. I love books by Noel Streatfield, J.K. Rowling and Lauren Child. My favourite book is Tennis Shoes by Noel Streatfield. I love writing poetry and stories when I can. I also like rhythmic gymnastics and sports.

I’m Ray and I am 11 years old and go to Fendalton Open-Air School. I love reading The Hunger Games and Manga. In my spare time I enjoy playing ping pong, and swimming.

I’m Georgia L and I’m in year 6, aged 11. I like to read books by David Walliams especially Gangsta Granny which is my favourite book by him. When I have the chance to, I love to do art, mainly colouring in. I also enjoy gardening, dance and writing poems. 

The poet

Richard Langston is the author of six books of poems, and is delighted to have had poems published in two beautiful books,  A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and Roar Squeak Purr – A New Zealand Treasury of Animal Poems. ‘Lighthouse’ is previously unpublished.

Children illustrate poems: I sent out an open invitation inviting children to illustrate poems and the response has been wonderful. So many keen young illustrators replied I have had to make a waiting list. I will carry this series on next year so hopefully everyone will get a chance at some point. Paula

Poetry Box children reviewers: Emily (9) reviews ‘North and South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres’ by Sandra Morris

North and South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres, by Sandra Morris, Walker Books, 2021

This story is about animals, what parts of the world they live in, what habitats they live in and how they live. The title doesn’t tell you much about the story as it is just two directions but the pictures show lots of animals all around the title giving you a good clue.

My favourite part was the facts about the mountain hare. Did you know that a female gives birth to 1 to 4 babies at a time and she might have as many as 3 litters in each year!

The book tells us facts about all the different animals: in fact 24 of them. How crazy is that, so much information. The book made me think about how many different creatures there are in our world and sadly how many of them are endangered.

The illustrations are pretty amazing. Although some weren’t super realistic there was lots of detail and so I thought I was really among the animals Another book I like similar to this is about Nature and is called From Tiny Seeds (by Emile Vast).

North and South takes you on an adventure. It is exciting, fun and very informative.

Emily W

I am Emily W, aged 9 at St Francis in Point Chevalier. I like to sail, ski and play netball. A couple of books I have read lately that I enjoyed are The Key to Finding Jack by Eva Jozefkowicz and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. I like to write mystery and fictional stories.

Sandra Morris is an award-winning author-illustrator. Her books Sensational Survivors and A New Zealand Nature Journal were both finalists for the New Zealand Book Award and the LIANZA Children’s Book Award.

Poetry Box reviews: New Zealand’s Backyard Birds by Ned Barraud

New Zealand’s Backyard Birds, Ned Barraud, Potton and Burton, 2021

This is the time of year when we cast our votes for Bird of the Year. The Forest and Bird Society run an annual competition that puts our native birds centre stage, especially birds that are under threat and endangered. I always vote for the dotterel that scurries and scampers at Te Henga Bethells Beach.

Our backyards can be bird magnets. Some of them are native birds (tūī, pīwakawaka, kererū, korimako) and some of them are introduced (thrush, sparrows, blackbirds). Ned Barrud’s new book is an essential guide to backyard birds. He writes about the different shapes and sizes, the parts of a bird, their nests, their eggs and chicks. He then goes into detail, with beautiful illustrations and facts on specific birds.

Ned introduces his book with a fascinating fact: ‘The birds found in our backyard have ancestors that were dinosaurs.’ He informs us there are over 10,000 bird types. The albatross has the longest wing span, the ostrich is the tallest, and the bee hummingbird is the tiniest. Not that you will spot those three in your backyard,

Because I am surrounded by acres of protected bush where I live, we get loads of birds living alongside us. That means a chorus of bird song, the beauty of birds darting and dancing and swooping, birds feeding and birds sleeping. I love watching the song thrush hunting for food on our lawn. I didn’t know they return to ‘the same rock or hard surface over and over’ to smash open a snail. I didn’t know the pīwakawaka have survived so well because they have lots of babies. I didn’t know the ruru has special flight feathers that mean it can hunt silently.

Backyard Birds is a treasury of information, a perfect handbook to learn more about the birds that live in or visit your backyard. Sublimely illustrated, clearly written, this book is a must!

Ned Barraud has been illustrating children’s books since 2000, after studying art at Victoria University. He has illustrated seven books in the highly successful ‘Explore and Discover’ series about different ecosystems in New Zealand, and seven other books on his own, including Watch out for the Weka, and 2018’s acclaimed book on insects New Zealand’s Backyard Beasts. Always fascinated by the form and beauty of the animal kingdom, Ned produced Where is it? A wildlife hunt for Kiwi kids, in 2020, and since then What happened to the Moa, New Zealand’s Backyard Birds, and Incredible Journeys: New Zealand Wildlife on the Move.

Potton and Burton page

Poetry Box Reading Back, Reading Forward: Laura Shallcrass on Joy Cowley’s ‘Bow Down Shadrach’

Bow Down Shadrach, Joy Cowley, Penguin, 2000

Bow Down Shadrach by Joy Cowley was a formative reading experience for me. I have always been an animal lover and gravitated to them from a young age (apparently my second word was dog). I remember reading Bow Down Shadrach early in my solo chapter book reading journey and it made a lasting impression. I felt seen and understood, I empathised with characters who would do anything to save a beloved creature, and with troublesome siblings who while only doing their best often got in the way. Fittingly I now have a geriatric clydesdale of my very own. Giddy will not be going to “Rest Home for Aged Equestrian Friends”, he’s going to live with me, forever.

Laura Shallcrass

NOTE: The child in the photo is my son Boston, the horse’s name is Giddy, he’s a 23yo Clydesdale cross. The snow photo was taken in July this year during a quiet moment between the horses rolling and scratching themselves on the fences. Sands is the name of the pony in the background.  Laura

Joy Cowley is a prolific, widely-published and much-celebrated writer of fiction for adults and children. Joy began her career writing short stories and novels before moving into the realm of children’s literature. She has published numerous novels, as well as short stories that have featured in journals, anthologies and book-length collections. She has written a remarkable range of children’s books and stories, often illustrated by renowned artists. Joy was made a Distinguished Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit for services to children’s literature in 2005, and she was awarded a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for Fiction in 2010. In 2018, Joy was made a member of the Order of New Zealand. Gecko Press published The Gobbledegook Book which contains Joy’s poems. (Read NZ)

Laura Shallcrass is an award winning illustrator and author who creates artwork for publishing, packaging and editorial. She works in gouache, oil, graphite and digital media.

Laura’s passion is to create artworks which celebrate natures beauty, with the aim of emphasising our duty as caretakers of the natural world. Thematically her personal work has recently focused on mental health, preservation of the environment and female power. Her storytelling uses a quiet poetry which leaves the reader to discern their own meanings based on their unique perspectives, with multiple visual narratives and hidden details a signature of her work.”

Poetry Box children’s reviews: Manon (7) illustrates and Ava (9) reviews Paula Green’s Hedgehog and Goat

Poetry Box October challenge

Illustration by Manon (7)

Little Tales of Hedgehog And Goat by Paula Green is a sweet story about a Goat who hears a crying voice and goes to see what is happening. Then, she meets Hedgehog, and they become the best of friends and go through many adventures and face many problems throughout this wonderful children’s book. 

One thing I really enjoyed about Hedgehog And Goat was its creativity. Goat loves to dance around the farm, and invent her own moves, but sometimes, she and Hedgehog just like to lie around and watch the clouds. It’s a very imaginative story, and the activities, conversations, and poems that the two friends have really show that theme.

Goat is an optimistic, happy creature with a lot of emotions, whereas I see Hedgehog as more of the quiet, calm type, who also has a lot of emotions. We get to learn about these two a lot in the story as there isn’t just one point of view — both Goat and Hedgehog’s perspectives are featured throughout the book. Another character who is frequently shown throughout the story is Horse — who is deaf, but isn’t treated any lesser because of that. I feel like this isn’t something often seen in chapter books aimed at younger kids, and I felt that it gave a deeper aspect to this tale. Horse loves dancing and munching on the grass near the fence, and she is kind. Aroha is the little girl that lives up on the pink house at the top of the hill, which is luckily right next to the farm! No matter what happens, these friends will always have fun!

Each chapter of this delightful story brings something new to the narrative, that is enough to make it feel like its own mini-tale. In one chapter, a show-off Kaka joins along to boast about his journeys in front of the two friends, and in another, Hedgehog and Goat discover a package with “moon gold”! I think this style of writing for the chapters is unique, and that is something that makes this book stand out.

No matter what chapter you’re reading, you’re bound to enjoy the funniness and kindness in this wholesome story, and you will adore the illustrations from Kimberly Andrews. The dancing was expressive, and every line of each character flows well with the story, which made it pretty hard to put down. Little Tales of Hedgehog And Goat is a book that people of all ages are going to love! 


Little Tales of Hedgehog And Goat, Paula Green, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews, Penguin, 2022

Ava, age 9, Y5, Pakuranga Heights School. My interests are reading, writing, poetry, gaming, playing piano, and both traditional and digital art. I like to write about fantasy, animals, and magic! Cool books I have read lately: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Little Tales of Hedgehog And Goat, and The Okay Witch.

Manon, aged 7 years old (my birthday was 6 October and this year I spent it in Auckland). I live in Castlecrag in Sydney with my 2 pet guinea pigs (blackheath fuzzy and cookie cane-cell), my 4 pet yabbies,  my stick insects (which are currently having a lot of babies!), my aquarium water worms and snails and my worm farm. I love animals, reading, drawing and imaginative play. My favourite animal is a Serval (which I saw at Auckland Zoo), I also love eels and have touched one! I can’t choose a favourite author as there are too many to list but I mostly enjoy books that start in the middle of drama and are funny. My favourite foods are lasagne and mango. I want to get more pets and my next one will be a bearded dragon. I would also like to have chickens. I like making people laugh. 

Paula Green is a poet, writer, reviewer, blogger and anthologist. She has written and edited a great many collections of poetry, including several for children. Her most recent poetry anthology is Roar Squeak: A New Zealand Treasury of Animal poems (Penguin, 2022). She has also published two novels for children, The Terrible Night and Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat. Her poetry collection The Letter Box Cat and other poems won Children’s Choice at the New Zealand Post Book Awards, and she has won a number of Storylines Notable Book Awards for her books for children. Paula is also the creator of the popular NZ Poetry Shelf and NZ Poetry Box blogs. In 2017 Paula received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry and was made Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Literature and Poetry.

Poetry Box review: Emily Joe’s ‘My Real Dog’

My Real Dog, Emily Joe, Beatnik Publishing, 2022

Beatnik Publishing are another Aotearoa publisher that creates books with love and care. Emily Joe’s My Cat Can See Ghosts was a finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and YA (2022). I enthused about this gorgeous book here. Emily’s new book, My Real Dog, is equally delightful. I love the design, the blue orange colour palette, and the doggy endpapers that would have been perfect wallpaper on my bedroom as a child.

My Real Dog: The parents have a thousand reasons why their child can’t have a dog – although I note they are wearing excellent dog walking shoes!

The big question is: What is a REAL dog? We are introduced to the child’s dog and it is a TOP NOTCH dog that is not massive and has three black spots. It is the kind of cuddly dog that never gets muddy or too yap yap yappy. There are loads of ticks in the ADVANTAGE list and zero ticks in the DISADVANTAGE list.

Ah, if you are after a warm glow picture book, with a feel good ending, then this the perfect book for you. I am sitting on the couch GLOWING from head to toe, looking at the real coffee cup, the real tūī in the mānuka, and smiling at the real dog grinning back at me from Emily’s glorious book.

Emily Joe is an author, art director and animal lover based in Auckland, New Zealand. For Emily, inspiration is never very far away, sometimes even in her own backyard or lounge room, thanks to the crazy antics of her two chickens and two cats, who make sure there’s rarely a dull moment in the Joe household.

Beatnik Publishing page

Poetry Box reviews: Belinda O’Keefe’s Journey Through the Cat Door

Journey Through the Cat Door, Belinda O’Keefe, illustrated by Monica Koster, Bateman, 2022

Enzo Haxtendorf is a Russian Blue Cat. The owner tries to entice Enzo through a new cat door but he is extremely suspicious. Not even food bribes work. Furthermore! The door opens onto the backyard. But the cat door opens onto an unfamiliar world: Enzo spies a river, some forest and a big black bear.

Only three things will drag Enzo outside: the scary cupboard monster, a call of nature, and the number 3 child treating him like a toy again, with pulls and yanks and tugs.

The mysterious cat door is not everyday ordinary. It is a portal that leads to exotic places across the globe. Not just any old exotic place, but exotic places with endangered species.

Enzo is invited to join PAWS (portals for animals working as spies). Their mission is to protect endangered animals and to stop Professor Olga Stone in her evil tracks. Be warned! The Professor is a chef who loves to capture and cook endangered animals from all over the world.

Enzo is a terrific protagonist – such good company as you travel with him and the daring PAWS crew. He has a captivating voice that can be fierce, determined, vulnerable. You care what happens to him, and terrible possibilities lurk at every turn.

Journey Through the Cat Door is an action-packed, character-rich, hold-your-breath adventure. The novel is hard to put down until you get to the end. Questions are raised. Issues introduced. Problems solved. There is satisfying complexity: you can’t pin the cat characters down to a single trait. The writing is fluid. Monica Koster’s illustrations catch the characters perfectly. A must-read, gripping novel.

Bateman page

Belinda O’Keefe has a degree in Japanese and has worked in tourism. Her previous books include, Partners in Slime (Scholastic, 2021) and The Day the Plants Fought Back (Scholastic 2019). She lives in Christchurch with her husband, two sons and their cats, including a Russian Blue called Enzo.

Monica Koster’s paintings have been exhibited in Ashburton and Christchurch. She is studying Fine Arts and caterbury and has two adventurous cats.

Poetry Box reviews: The Secrets of Cricket Karlsson

Poetry Box October challenge

Poetry Box seeks children to illustrate poems

The Secrets of Cricket Karlsson, Kristina Sigunsdotter, illustrated by Ester Eriksson, trans Julia Marshall, Gecko Press, 2022 (originally published by Matur & Kultur, 2020). Winner of the prestigious Swedish August Prize 2020.

Kristina Sigunsdotter’s The Secrets of Cricket Karlsson is a spiky, humorous, outrageous read that is full of sad bits, gloomy bits, happy bits and bad bits. It is a book for older readers that catches your heart and makes you laugh in the same surprising breath.

Ester Eriksson’s illustrations are inky character-driven drawings that leap off the page and startle your eye. They hook your attention as they spark with life, movement and quirkiness.

The protagonist Cricket introduces herself: she is aged 11, has chicken pox and her best friend is called Noa.

In the very next paragraph, Cricket re-introduces herself, because her best friend Noa dumped her for the Horse Girls when Cricket was at home for two weeks with chicken pox.

‘Life is now a CATASTROPHE!’

The Horse Girls hold all the POWER, have tattoos and are extremely mean to Cricket.

HOWEVER! Cricket shows there is more to life than mean girls at school. On the inside she is vulnerable (and on the outside, when she floods tears in the bathroom basin!). But she also CARES. She cares she is always the last to be picked at school. She cares her best friend broke her heart, AND she cares her favourite Aunt Frannie is in a psychiatric hospital. Like her aunt, Cricket wants to be an artist. She loves drawing. When she is at her glummest and gloomiest she draws. She visits her aunt and tries to cheer her up with drawings.

Cricket also loves writing LISTS. A novel always sings a little brighter when it has lists shining out from the pages (I love a good list poem! Which is kind of what Cricket’s lists remind me of). There’s a list of secrets, a list of things Mitten is scared of (he has a crush on Cricket), a list of things she has patience for, for a start!

Definitely a brilliant novel for older readers (as old as Cricket say) – maybe it will inspire you to do inky drawings of your own, to make lists, and to tell a story that leaps and catapults like this one. Magnificent!

Kristina Sigunsdotter is a Swedish writer, artist and playwright with a degree in ethnology, English and journalism, currently living in Malmö, Sweden. Her play Systrarna Stormhatt och det stora fågeläventyret has been played at the Royal Dramatic Theatre and Stockholm City Theatre. She is the founder of The Poetry Factory, a poetry workshop for children.

Ester Eriksson is an artist and cartoonist. Her earlier published works include the graphic novels Jag, Esters rester and Det finns ingenstans att fly.

Gecko Press page