Category Archives: NZ children’s book

Making up new Groovy Fish poems at the Dorothy Butler Children’s bookshop




A very big thank you to Cuba Press, The Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop in Auckland and all the children, mums, nanas and other adults who came. A special thank you to the lovely Mary from the bookshop for writing down our poems when our words were whizzing fast!

You still get a chance to win a drawing if you send in a poem to my Groovy Fish challenge. All the names will go in the hat and I will pull out one or two. Plus I will give away a few Groovy Fish books.

These two launches have been really special – it felt like the bookshops filled with warm poetry glows and I took poetry glow home with me.

Thank you!

Here are some photos – and under that are some poems we made up together using titles from Groovy Fish.









Thunder Monkey

Thunder’s in the sky

bang crack

boom crash

coupled with lightning blue


The monkeys are in the trees

swinging, revelling, trembling

in the storm


Thunder monkeys are lit up by lightning

thunder monkeys are super monkeys

and are fine in the storm


Lollipops and Chicken Pox

I have chicken pox

but I really like lollipops


I have measles

but I really like weasles


I have the flu

but I like the colour blue


I have a cold

but I make paper folds


I have diabetes

but I really like sweeties   (uh oh!)


But today I’m well

and I’m writing a poem


The Little Fish

The little fish lives

in a deep dark watery cave.

It’s as little as a pin

and black

and has an electric blue fin.

It makes a ginormous friend.


They play and splash

on a bright summer’s day.


The Biscuit Thief

Chocolate cream biscuits

sitting in a jar

on a picnic blanket

by a feast of cakes.


Ants take the cake

to their ant hill

but the ants are in cahoots

with the imperial cruisers

and the biscuits are lost in space.


Tap Dancing Fish

Glorious, blindingly beautiful

tap dancing fish

tappity tappity tap tap tap


jumping stomping leaping

in a disco fish bowl

right on top of the high cabinet


The fish jump so high

out of the bowl

kissing the ceiling

they land on the floor

crash bang wallop

and tap dance away

never to be seen again


What a fun day we had!





Making up new Groovy Fish poems at the Children’s Bookshop in Wellington

A very big thank you to Cuba Press, The Children’s Bookshop in Wellington and all the children, mums, dads and other adults who came.

You still get a chance to win a drawing if you send in a poem to my Groovy Fish challenge. All the names will go in the hat and I will pull out one or two. Plus I will give away a few Groovy Fish books.

And if you live in Auckland you can come to my Groovy Fish launch event at the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop on Tuesday 16th July – 11 to 12. We will do exactly what I did in Wellington. See invite at the bottom of this post.



Happy because it is nearly time to start! Thanks for the divine coffee and orange juice Ruth xx


In 2014 children gave me the titles to kick start poems for my new Groovy Fish book

so I decided to give the titles back to children

when I launched the book in at Children’s Bookshop in Wellington on Wednesday.

What a gorgeous shop full to the brim with children’s books.



Helen and Austin

Ruth had set up an inviting space with cushions and an easel with paper – children turned up aged from maybe three to maybe eleven! Even adults came including the fabulous poet Belinda Wong. Poet Helen Rickerby brought her godson Austin – an extra keen young poetry writer! And the very lovely team from my publisher Cuba Press were there to join in: Mary, Sarah and Paul. (Mary did a stellar job writing down our group poems!


Reading from Groovy Fish, onlookers include Samantha, Oscar, Austin and Max (Max was writing a cool polar bear poem in his notebook!).




Samantha chooses a poem title.


I had cut up all the titles from my book and got children to pull one out of the fish bag – and then we made up poems together. Such fun! I am posting some below.

I had drawn groovy fish on paper so children could find a quiet spot and write their own poems and get to keep a drawing. I had also drawn little fish children put their names on – we pulled a few out and gave some of my original illustrations from the book away.




Oscar wrote a cool fish poem to take home inside the fish I drew.



Samantha got to take home the tap-dancing fish illustration.



And book signing time – which means more fish drawings! This for Anneke.


Here are some of our poems – all ideas were welcome – imaginations were springing to the moon and back! No words from me! Chocolate came up a lot!


The Highway Rat

Galloping on a cicada

the highway rat is off

to the shop to buy

chocolate to eat

with the fairies

in the tree house.



Lick Lick Riff

A very very very

very very very big

chocolate ice cream

melted to the ground

and an ant that had

been starving for weeks

on end licked

it all up!

Lick lick lick

lick lick lick

lick lick lick!


Tea with Aunty Lee

Aunty Lee is at the zoo

running skipping

farting observing

BUT!! an emu

is screaming, ‘LOOK OUT!

there’s an escaped

lion on the loose!’

The Tree House

Inside the tree house

a battered sofa

next to the leaves

like lollies

in the trees,

magical fairies eating


birds tweeting.


Swimming with an Alien



the green alien

with two heads

(well it’s lonely!)

has ten fingers on each hand

and is floating

like a squiggly worm.


Thank you everyone what a MAGNIFICENT occasion. I just loved it.





Poetry Box review: I Would Dangle the Moon by Amber Moffat




I would Dangle the Moon, Amber Moffat, MidnightSun Publishing, 2019



Ah I love moon poems and I love moon picture books. Amber Moffat’s debut picture book is a little gem. I adore the illustrations – my favourite so far in 2019. The colours are exquisite – a mix of pitch black night and sumptuous blues, purples and greens. I love the way the drawings are dreamlike yet real. they really are something quite special.

And now for the terrific story. The opening painting shows a mother telling her daughter a  bedtime story – this story! – and the listening girl becomes part of it.

The moon story builds along a refrain (a repeated start to the idea on each part):


If I were a farmer, I would plant the moon

in the middle of my field so you could watch

it crack the earth as it grew.


Turn the page and the farmer becomes a snail who carries the glowing moon on her back and takes the girl flying. All the house rooftops look like a patchwork quilt. It is utterly gorgeous.

You will find out what a jeweller, mountain, mother hen, baker, tree, ice cream maker,  dog and wave will do with the moon. And then you will reach the end of the story and find out what the mother and her daughter do.


It    is         m o o  n    s h i n e     g l o r i o u s!


Amber’s imagination leaps and drifts.

The writing is simply beautiful and beautifully simple.

The ideas make shiny pictures glow like the moon in your head.


If I was an ice cream maker

I would scoop up the moon,

put it in a cone for you,

and sprinkle stars on top.


I love this book so much I am going to make my August poem challenge a moon poem challenge.

Find a copy of this beautiful, heart-warming book; then find a cosy cosy chair and lose yourself in the gleaming pages. Exquisite. Let me know what you think of it! (


Amber Moffat is a writer and visual artist living in Western Australia but Dunedin is her hometown. She was awarded a Paper Bird Fellowship in 2018 and completed the art work for I would Dangle the Moon (her debut picture book) during her residency at Freemantle’s Paper Bird Books and Arts.


MidnightSun Publishing author page








My new book – Groovy Fish celebration 2: an invitation to NZ children use one of my titles to write a poem


Groovy Fish and other poems  The Cuba Press, out early July



When I did my Hot Spot Tour of NZ in 2014 I collected amazing titles for poems from children. It was such fun I am tempted to write another book getting titles from children! Oh and I LOVED doing the drawings.

I thought it would be cool to get YOU to write a poem using one of my TITLES from the book. So I am sending them back to you! See the contents pages below.

I will pick one poem per title to post at the end of JULY.

I will give away 2 of my drawings and 2 copies of the books – lucky dip style!


Deadline: July 26th

Include: your name, age, year, name of school

Send to:

Don’t forget to put GROOVY FISH CHALLENGE in the subject line so I don’t miss your email.






h a v   f u n

h a v e   e x t r a    s p e c i a l   p o e t r y   f u n









Cook’s Cook: Poetry Box talks to Gavin Bishop

GAVIN BISHOP 2018 .jpg

Gavin Bishop, Cook’s Cook: the cook who cooked for Captain Cook, Gecko Press, 2018



Gavin Bishop’s latest book Cook’s Cook: the cook who cooked for Captain Cook is a reading treasure trove.

Enter the book and you will go on a long sea-voyage of discovery – not from the view of the famous people on board but from the one-handed cook, John Thompson.

Cook’s Cook is a a bit like a cook book crossed with a history book crossed with a story book crossed with the most delightful picture book. There are fascinating facts, gorgeous drawings, little imaginings. Every page holds your interest. I definitely learnt new things.

Because the book was so sumptuous and filled me with such curiosity, I invited Gavin to join me in an slow-paced email conversation.

If I lived in the Wairarapa I would have gone to a Cook’s Cook event in August: you got to dine on a three-course meal inspired by the one-handed cook who fed Captain James Cook and crew aboard the HMS Endeavour. Wow!

Gavin, Tainui, Ngāti Awa, has published over 70 books and has been translated into 12 languages.



Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 7.42.02 AM.png


Our conversation


Paula: I have lingered over Cook’s Cook for days because every page is full of little fascinations. What kind of research did you do for a book with such splendid detail?

Gavin: I read a lot of books about the voyage of the HMS Endeavour and Lieutenant James Cook. There are lot written about this expedition. Besides modern histories there are the logs and journals written by various people who travelled on the ship. And there are books written for adults as well as for children. The people at Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby, England were very helpful when I emailed them with questions and so were the librarians at the Australian Maritime Museum.

It was while I was reading some material on a particularly useful web-site that I came across the name of John Thompson. He had only one hand and was the cook on the Endeavour, much to James Cook’s initial disgust when Thompson was appointed by the Admiralty. There is little known about him and he was barely mentioned in any of the ship’s records, even when he died of dysentery in Batavia. Joseph Banks, in his journal, complimented him on his cuttlefish soup but that is about it. From my point of view, this was a good thing. I could give him any sort of personality I wanted to.


Paula: I get goosebumps reading the old journals! Did anyone draw or paint food? In logs or journals or in their role as artist? Tupaia for example? I loved his watercolour and pencil drawings.

Gavin: I didn’t find any drawings specifically of food. I found a few scenes of life below deck in the galley or on the mess deck where, if food was included, it was incidental. I did read though, that the ships belonging to the British navy were stocked before each voyage with provisions supplied by the Victualling Board. The admiralty had its own farms, gardens, butchers and bakers that provided meat, bread (biscuits), grain and vegetables and fruit for their ships that were setting out from England in large numbers to explore the world during the 18th century.

The only drawing by Tupaia of food that I know of, is the famous one where he is offering a lobster to Joseph Banks. Tupaia wasn’t a great artist in the European naturalistic style, but his drawings give us some very interesting and important information. A lot of people on the board the Endeavour, but probably not the crew, produced drawings. It was the only way of making a visual record of the things and places they saw. James Cook, the captain, drew a lot too and when all the official artists died after their time in Batavia the scientific men in Bank’s team and some of the officers all had to their bit with pen and paper.


Paula: I spent a few months this year cooking with one hand and it is tricky! It is hard to imagine how John Thompson did this for a ship’s crew, but your book has brought life on board alive through both drawings and words. What was the most surprising thing you discovered (apart from a cook with one hand)?

Gavin: Well, as John Thompson said himself. “It only takes one hand to stir the porridge!” To be fair, he had help. A member of the crew from each table on the mess deck was rostered for a week to help with the mixing of the puddings and the serving of the food.

I came across many strange bits of information, things I had never heard of. A ‘fother’, the name of the patch made from a sail stuck down with a mixture of teased rope and animal dung was something new to me.

I also found it intriguing to read that George Dorlton, one of the two Jamaican servants and an ex-slave, part of the Joseph Banks party, was a qualified plant collector. He had previously worked for a botanist. It was suddenly obvious why Banks, the naturalist, had taken him along on the Endeavour.


Paula: Were you tempted by any of the recipes? The albatross recipe seemed gourmet with the prune sauce and ginger but so many things made my stomach curl. Like eating albatross or dog!

Gavin: If the texture and flavour was right I think I could eat most of things mentioned in ‘Cook’s Cook’. I’m sure a vegetarian dog would make a delicious stew, but I think albatross might be a bit salty and strong, rather like muttonbird. It would be an acquired taste.

I was interested to see that quite a lot of spices, pepper and ginger were used in the cooking on ships at the time of the Endeavour voyage. Of course as the food onboard aged, it would become very undesirable. Joseph Banks mentioned that the taste of weevils in the ship’s biscuits was very spicy. Others knocked their biscuits on the table to shake the weevils out. Some crew held the biscuit over a flame to encourage the weevils to leave.

The salted beef and pork would have been a culinary challenge though, especially after it had been in barrels for a couple of years. There is mention of it being towed behind the ship in a net in an attempt to soften it up and reduce the salt content.


Paula: What was the hardest thing doing this book and what was the most rewarding?

Gavin: The most difficult thing about this book was dealing with the huge amount of information that exists about the voyage of the Endeavour and the people on board. Deciding what to include and what to leave out was a constant challenge. It was rewarding though, when I realised I could deal with this problem by concentrating on the cook’s story and trying to see the historical events that took place, through his eyes.

In my book the voyage unfolds more or less as it did according to James Cook’s journals, all the dates and places are historically correct but the emphasis on certain details is skewed by what I thought might have been interesting or important to the cook, John Thompson. Of course that had a lot to do with food, and later, when the ship was sailing around Aotearoa, it was his hope for a little bit of glory. He wanted a river or a mountain named after him. And like his captain he failed to see the country was already named by the tangata whenua, the Maori. I have shown this in the illustrations where the faces of Ranginui and Papatuanuku are seen in the sky and in the land. Their presence was there for anyone who looked with a perceptive and intelligent eye.


Thanks Gavin!

Gecko Press page

Video of Gavin talking about his new book




In the hammock: Gentle Giant Wētāpunga by Annemarie Florian and Terry Fitzgibbon


Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 9.09.18 AM.png


Wētāpunga is a gorgeous book – you get facts, you get haiku-sized poems and you get extraordinary illustrations that are a cross between photos and paintings. The writing sings in your ear.

A wētāpunga is a giant wētā – the largest of all. I find this ancient insect absolutely fascinating. The Wētā Recovery Group (created by DOC) are doing everything they can to safeguard its survival. The future was grim for this creature but now they are cautiously positive.

Pick up this book – and go on a voyage of wētā discovery. It is like you are entering the forest at night to explore the life and history of these tree dwellers. It feels so real and illuminating.


Some of my favourite facts:

If they get scared they hide then freeze

They can’t fly but they can hear really well

They like to keep their antennae super clean


Annemarie writes for younger readers. She also wrote Kiwi: the real story, the first book in this series on threatened species. It won the children’s choice Non-fiction Award. in 2013.

Terry is an award-winning illustrator/ photographer who cares about nature.

Bravo New Holland – this book should be in every school library and on every child’s shelf. Book page here.






A poem from Peter Bland’s fabulous new collection for children




Peter Bland is one of my favourite local poets who writes for children. He has new book

The Happy Garden: New & Selected Poems for Children

Steele Roberts 2018

which I think should be in every school library and on every children’s bookshelf.

Peter writes with exactly the right ingredients: a trampoline imagination, a whizzing ear for rhyme, eye for things that surprise, sparkling humour. Peter’s poems are like little chemical reactions where things fizz and change and react and connect. Or little surprise parcels for us to open.

The Happy Garden does all these things and more! Peter has kindly given me permission to post a poem on my blog. Steele Roberts page.



The tiny tiny spider

A tiny tiny spider

is crossing the bathroom floor.

I leave him tiny tiny crumbs

he chooses to ignore.

The bathroom floor’s a desert.

I think the spider’s lost.

I think he thinks he’s a camel

and a desert has to be crossed.

Keep going, tiny spider

until you find a cave

in a crack in the tiles

or a hole in the wall

that’s cosy, warm and safe.


©Peter Bland





You might  like to check out my popUP

holiday poem challenge (deadline from Friday!!)

and my October poetry tree challenge