(This is just lovely! Congratulations to all the young poets who participated – Paula)
Seven children, aged nine and ten, came to Palmerston North library on a weekend in March to read and write poetry. We started by reading poems from The Letterbox Cat and other poems. Scott noticed that Paula had put a space in the word ‘goose-bumps’ in her poem “When I am Cold” and then substituted other animal names for ‘goose.’ Scott liked this technique and used it to write his own poem:
When I am Sad
When I am sad
I get tear drops.
When I am very sad
I get water drops.
When I am very very sad
I get rain drops.
When I am very very very sad
I get hail drops.
When I am very very very very sad
I get ice drops.
When I am very very very very very sad
I sit by myself and try to be happy.
Shani brought a poem she wrote at home and read it to us. We liked the way she turned the mouse simile into metaphors:
The rain was like a little
mouse, quiet small and
grey. It pattered all
around the house
and then it went away.
It did not come. I
understand it found
an open window and
left tracks across the sill.
On Sunday, prompts such as ‘a word to describe the sky’ and ‘how you feel when the power goes off’ suggested lots of words and the children wrote them on the wall:
In the photo, front to back: Madeleine, Scott, Katelyn, Eva, Callie.
We had a poetry challenge. It was to pick words from the wall and use them in poems starting with “I see,” “I remember” and “I imagine.” Here is Madeleine’s:
I see Golden brown Chips.
The salt on them is sour
like millions of tear drops.
The texture is unique, it’s
soft and luscious like clouds.
I can’t wait to
eat this then
Into my tummy!
Here is Eilidh’s:
I imagine me and my friend
sitting around the fire, laughing
at old stories. The fire crackled
its smoke billowing into the
It was getting cold and
dark, the scariest combination.
Something howled in the
distance, and we could
just make out the
silhouette in the light of the moon
of a creature sitting
atop the highest rock
howling into the night.
Thanks Callie, Eilidh, Eva, Katelyn, Madeleine, Scott and Shani. We had lots of fun.
Sean and Janet.
Annual edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, Gecko Press, 2016
(pitched at 9 to 12 year olds)
If I had opened the Gecko Press Annual when I was ten I would have jumped a jig of joy under the Christmas tree.
I would have loved the bright orange cover, the gold floating leaves and bird.
I would have loved the sumptuous swirl of words and illustrations inside that meant before I read I would have to do an awful lot of looking.
When I was ten, I would have wanted the Annual to last and last for a whole year. I wouldn’t have known what to read first. Probably the poems first and the activities second.
Now that I am way-old, I still need to look at the Annual for ages before I start reading it.
This is because the Annual is very very beautiful. It is a very special book.
There are three poems written by poets (Jenny Bornholdt, Tim Upperton and James Brown) who usually write adult poetry books. I am a big fan of their poetry. There is also a handful of ninja-rhyme poems by Michael Petherick. The poems are like chalk and cheese. They give you different feelings as you read. One is thoughtful and slightly mysterious, one is madcap crazy and one is like a wonky funny found poem that is all made-up.
I find the whole question of children’s poetry fascinating -as you know! Some people say when you write a poem it should be for anyone – child or adult. This is a very popular point of view. Most poets I know think like this. I guess I feel like a fish out of water because when I write poems for children, my head fills with all the children in all the schools I visit and I feel like I am writing for them. As I write, I am wanting the words to be so infectious that children will want to jump for joy and race out and read and write poems. They feel ALIVE with poetry.
p o e t r y is a wan der playground for children
When I write poems for adults, I write for myself first. I am not writing because I want adults to jump for joy and race out and read and write poems. I don’t think about the reader at all. It all seems very different and mysterious and puzzling.
… so the Annual got me thinking about writing poems … and where I fit as a poet
For the annual, the poets were given starting points for their poems – as everybody in the Annual was (a bit like I do on Poetry Box!). This what happens now for School Journals.
So it’s not a book where people send in what they have written – but a book where authors (and comics, and illustrators and all the rest) are commissioned to do something in particular. I think that gives the Annual a particular feel. A special feel. Like an exhibition with a curator. Not a lucky dip.
There are so many different kinds of things in the Annual, it is like a magnificent magic box. You might fall upon a painting or a photograph or a comic strip or a very cool craft idea from the fabulous Fifi Colston.
My favourite story is from one of my favourite NZ children’s authors, Barbara Else: ‘Tingirl and the Crying Time.’ The story features Assistant Squint with apple stuck in his teeth, Madam Upright with a tooth that glinted silver and Tingirl who yearns to turn into a Realgirl. Oh so imaginative and deliciously written, it will make you think about robots in a whole new light. Wonderful! Gorgeous illustrations by Kieran Rynhart.
I also loved Paul Beavis‘s guide to visual storytelling. Do I want to give it a go? Yes!!!!
….. have I read the whole Annual? No! Have I tried all the activities? No! I am like that ten year-old girl because I want to make the Annual last and last.
I would love to post some reviews by children of the Annual. Give it a go! send your review to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include your name, year, age and school
Put Annual review in email subject line
I will have a book voucher for my favourite review and a copy of The Letterbox cat for another reviewer.
Deadline : November 1oth
Rona Chris Szekely, illustrated by Josh Morgan, Huia Press, 2016
Sometimes I think good junior chapter books are as rare as hen’s teeth. Yet it is a time when you are hungry to read good books. I used to gobble books up in a swizzing second when I was that age.
Chris Szekely’s new junior chapter book, Rona, is so very good. I gobbled it up in one sitting and I didn’t want it to end because it is a book that makes you feel good (and I had a sore throat!). There are lively illustrations by Josh Morgan.
Chris is the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington and is the first Māori person to hold this position.
Chris is already an award-winning author. In 2012, his book, Rāhui won the Picture Book Category at the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, as well as the LIANZA Russell Clark Award for Illustration and the Librarian’s Choice Award.
Fleur Beale (a favourite author of mine) says this ‘s a gem of a story’ and I agree.
Rona stars in her own story. She lives with her Nana and Grandad – and her cousin Jessie comes to stay one summer. Rona is brave, bold and cheeky, inventive, and she knows how to stand up for herself. She is not-quite-good because she does some mischievous things (especially in the poetry competition!). I just love this character.
The story is so like real life it shines. Chris must take notice of little things like a sharp camera and store them in his memory bank because the detail is magnificent. I loved the china teacups, the boiling hot days, the fruit soaking for the Christmas cake, the teacher who could see through lies, the ice-cold-water dive by the wharf, the set of coloured pencils. I felt like I was staying with the family for the holidays I was so grounded in the story.
I especially loved the joy of a fresh set of coloured pencils ‘like a rainbow.’
The dialogue (what people say to each other) flows perfectly. It feels real not fake.
The sentences flow and sing – the verbs dance and pop.
I love the way Chris hides clues to things.
The glossary at the back is very witty.
Nana is a strong, wise and loving grandmother. She won’t stand for any rubbish behaviour but she is there to mop your brow.
This story, which is like a kete of little stories, is all about friendship and families. Things get in muddles. Life gets a bit messy. But Rona shines through. She is new classic kiwi character that we will all grow to love!
I think every school library needs a class set of this book! And if you feel like a warm, toasty, zingy sparkling reading feeling -then this book is for you. I recommend it highly. And I do hope there is a sequel.
It is always such a treat to open a Gecko picture book because I can guarantee the book will give me a warm book glow. And when I get a warm book glow I am ready to do anything!
Today I reread three in a row. So you might just want to go Geckohunting in bookshops and libraries to find these little gems.
The first book, If I Was a Banana, is written by Alexandra Tylee. She has written two cookbooks because she is the owner and chef at the fabulous Pipi restaurant in the Hawkes Bay. They make very very good food! This is her first book for children.
The illustrator, Kieran Rhynhart, lives in Wellington and illustrated the very amazing New Zealand Art Activity Book. The pictures in If I Was a Banana are magical – they have that special glow that make you want to look and look and look. Gorgeous.
I love this book so much because it is very simple and very perfect. A young child imagines what they would be like if they were something else. For example:
‘If I were a banana I would be that one,
all yellow and fat and full of banana.’
The boy imagines what he might be like if he were a bird or mountain or a cloud for starters. If you like beautiful writing and illustrations that give you goosebumps then this is the book for you.
The second book is That’s Not a Hippopotamus! is written by Juliette MacIver and Illustrated by Sarah Davis. I am a big fan of Juliette’s writing because she fills her pen with bounce and leap and verve. Her imagination cartwheels and her sentences sing. Sarah’s illustrations are pretty cool too.
A teacher, her class and a zookeeper are on the hunt for a missing hippo – easier said than done when the children keep mistaking every animal they see for a hippo. The children are so skiddadlebubble excited they think the elephant is a hippo … and the giraffe is a hippo!
You will have to read the book to see whether they ever discover the right animal … maybe a little boy called Liam has something to do with it!
This is a fun read from one of my favourite New Zealand children’s authors. If you like words that dance and stories that leap then this is the book for you.
The third book is the book for all of us who love dogs because it is A Day with Dogs and every page is steaming with dogs. It reminds me of Richard Scarry books because every page is very busy – it takes ages to turn the page. I liked hunting for my favourite dog. There’s the flashest dog house I have ever seen. The bathroom is a disaster zone with six dogs in the tub, the shower on and the water overflowing.
You get to count things and follow a dog alphabet.
You get to see dogs at work, playing sport, making art, having a birthday, going up the mountain – and a million other things.
The author, Dorothée de Monfreid, is from France. Apparently she is very good on the ukelele.
If you like dogs and busy books then this is the book for you.
Gecko Press here
and if you want to get a stack of Gecko books:
This week I went up north to talk about my poetry at the Tai Tokerau Literacy Conference in spectacular Paihia and Russell and I discovered the Treasury I edited is now out of print.
Most of my books are out of print but this book gave me a sad day because it felt like a special book for New Zealand’s children’s poetry had disappeared. The book feels like taonga because we have so few poetry books for children in print. There has never been a book quite like it.
The publisher is sad too but they can’t reprint it because it just doesn’t work budget wise.
So I had a day of tears and then picked myself up and got back to my big book I am writing and my new collection of poems for children I have been working on.
I thought there were still hundreds of copies left because I forgot to check, so am now on the hunt to buy a few copies for myself.
I am sending out a request for Treasury hunters: If you spot a copy somewhere in NZ can you let me know where so I can buy it please? I just wanted a little pile in case there are any new children in my family tree.
I have been wondering how we can keep books like this – that are important literary celebrations of who we are – alive for children readers. I have made myself the unofficial ambassador for children’s poetry in New Zealand but this week it has felt like a very tough job.
Maybe a generous benefactor will put in an order for 1000 copies!
If you spot a copy for me, I will be over the moon! email@example.com
So many wonderful Autumn poems arrived in my mail box – it was like a big mound of beautiful leaves to shuffle through.
With so many poems it was extra hard to pick a few to post – lots of wonderful poetry so I have made an Autumn festival of poems on the last day of Autumn. Poems can do so many different things!
Thank you so much for giving this challenge a go – just as winter is about to hit us.
I am sending Finn a book.
Please don’t feel sad if I didn’t pick your poem as I got so many it took all Sunday to read them and I have to leave out so many amazing poems. I will have told you what I loved about your poem in my letter to you. I am so happy there is so much poetry buzzing in schools and families.
Do try my new June challenge on Wednesday June 1st (tomorrow)!
A Small Boat
Sailing on the
dapples the sea
Finn P age 9, Ilam School
The gentle leaves fall and flow
down from the trees.
They change to lovely colours,
They float down to the grass.
I wish I could be a leaf.
Erena H Age 6 Year 2 Epsom Normal Primary
The Autumn Wind
the autumn wind is a crunchy cookie
the autumn wind is a soft pillow
the autumn wind is a bird singing
the autumn wind is a beautiful mountain
Maddy W 7 years old Year 3 Pāpāroa Street School Christchurch
The Autumn Wind
the autumn wind is my great grandad’s wrinkly face
the autumn wind is a bird playing F-sharp minor being played on the piano
the autumn wind is a tornado blowing leaves down form the sky
the autumn wind is a swaying, turning whirlpool
the autumn wind is a cyclone lost from a breeze of wind
Jack S 8 years old Year 4 Pāpāroa Street School Christchurch
Crackle, crackle went the dry leaves as they bounced on the ground like they were on a trampoline.
I heard leaves making music as they crashed, crunched and clashed on to the ground like an enormous tom tom drum being beaten.
It made a sound like thunder.
I could see a crimson leaf swirling and twirling – twirling – twirling in the bright sunny morn. Leaves are memories floating down to be free.
I splash in pools of everlasting leaves.
Autumn, she blows the leaves.
Charlotte H 9 years 5 months, Year 5 Kohia Terrace School, Auckland.
It is a dull autumn morning.
The sun is peeping out from the clouds.
Insects are hiding in the golden leaves.
The colourful leaves look like a carpet on the damp ground.
Zihao L Year 4 Age 8 Epsom Normal Primary
The amber colours,
flutter down like soft balloons,
my cat follows the hibernating hedgehogs,
I get ready for the cold,
the blanket of sunset colours falls over me.
Ruby T Age 8, Y4, Ilam School
As the children leave school
he sneaks out of his shed
with a rake and lawnmower.
He ruffles the bushes
and attacks the grass.
He rescues the leaves
and walks home.
His day is done.
Malo G 8 years old Fendalton Open Air School
Soft breeze pushing amber
Down to the lime green grass.
Popping candy pops
When I scrunch up
Falling to the ground.
Pushing me away
From the beautiful leaves.
Oh, I love Autumn.
Abbie M, 8 years, Year 4 Ilam School, Christchurch
The brown leaves
smell like sweet cinnamon
and are as crunchy
as a twig.
Light red leaves
The ground is as bumpy
as a potato chip.
Trees are wet and bare.
William S 8 years Year: 4 St Andrews College, Christchurch
Falling Autumn Leaves
When I stepped out down came an autumn leaf
and landed swift and sound
with all the others,
all the autumn leaves in their many colours,
I watched in wonder.
By Lachie M 8yr Year 4 Mairangi Bay School, Auckland
Fire Red, Deep Brown, Pale Yellow
The Autumn leaves whirl around
like a hurricane in the chilly weather.
They have colours like fire red,
deep brown and pale yellow.
The trees, bare to the brim
are covered in sharp twigs.
It is as cold as ice.
My fingers are becoming numb
and my lips are turning blue.
Meg S, 9 years old, Year 5, Saint Andrew’s College, Christchurch.
In the sun of the Moonlight
I lay on the grass
with seven fireflies around me
I stand up and let the wind go by
I stand and say goodbye to Summer
and hello to Autumn after midnight
Seven minutes pass and I’m still
Max Wilson Aged 6 Ilam School
Leaves fluttered down.
Trees blow in the wind.
They look like a skeleton.
Crunching like a ball of fire.
Maddie Age 8 Year 4 Pāpāroa Street School Christchurch
Old ugly branches hung
like bats in their cave.
with curved witches nails.
The wind blew
like a tornado.
Leaves like red flames.
A nosy fantail followed me
By Soverin T Y5 age 9 Russley School Christchurch
The autumn wind is a blowing circus.
The wind is like a tsunami.
The autumn wind is a rumbling tummy.
Nicholas T Age 7 Year 3 Pāpāroa Street School Christchurch
It’s getting darker now
My friends and I discuss in hushed voices
About how were getting ready to fall
When mother tree tucks us in
I dream about a world on the ground
By Daisy-Jane Lowe, age 11yrs Russley School
An innocent pile of leaves,
Drying in the morning sun.
The red-brown colours,
Fluttering in the crisp air.
The pile shifts,
Ever so slightly.
Out jumps my brother.
With damp leaves in his hair.
Isis W 13 years old Year 8 Selwyn House School
Thin old leaves
hang like a wrecking ball
on the end of a chain.
A curved purple leaf
on a thick brown branch.
A bald Silver Birch
stands like the Statue of Liberty
a leaf stem
as long as a baby snake.
like a bowl of nachos.
A game of rugby on a freezing icy day,
getting thrown on the ground
walking home with dirty legs.
By Gustavo D, age 10yrs, Russley School
I Love Autumn
I love the nice and cool autumn breeze
The way it raps its cold fingers around my knees.
I love watching the leaves get blown around
Down, down towards the ground.
I love the sound of the whispering trees
Moving back and forth as they please.
I love the taste of boiling hot stew
Waiting for winter to come to you.
I love the smell of sweet apple crumble
As soon as I see it, my tummy starts to rumble.
I love the feel, taste, sound, smell and sight.
I love autumn, but try as I might
I can’t find a way
To love winter in this way.
By Paige M West End School
The sun peeked behind the dead trees.
Wind raced around the place.
Leaves float gently down to the ground.
Ella X Year 4 8 years old Epsom Normal Primary
The Autumn Poem
Leaves, crackling, gold,
like a crunchy bar. Branches,
brown, thin, like an old man’s arms.
Leaves, quivering, hanging off.
Me and my friends play
rugby union at school, I hear people
yelling from the side line, I have
dirt on my legs and I’m laughing
and I have butterflies in
by Makenzy M, age 10 Russley School
My Little Autumn Tree
My little Autumn tree,
Stands strong and tall beside me.
Flaky branches reaching high,
Fingertips just scraping the sky.
The early morning frost makes you shiver,
But the warm fiery sun makes you shimmer.
Your crisp golden leaves twinkle and twirl,
And in the wind the whirl.
But my little Autumn tree,
What happens when your leaves begin to flee?
For they leave you all alone,
Cold and bare to the bone.
You watch them fly away,
Day after day.
Scattered beneath you,
Slowly drifting far away.
But don’t worry my little Autumn tree,
You’ll always have me.
Amy B Opaki School Age 12
slowly to the cold ground.
Red, orange, yellow everywhere,
not a drop of green in site.
Running through the colourful
crunching leaves, jumping
in wet leaf mountains.
Sleeping in warm toasty bed,
when the fire is out.
Waking up to a cold damp morning, ready for a new day.
Jenna L Age: 12 School: Opaki School
brown, old and ugly
like a witch’s nose
crunchy like stale bread.
bumpy like a climbing wall
swerve like big waves.
Leaves, red like a mad man
orange like juice
yellow like hard cheese.
By Bridget Egan, age 10yrs Russley School