Category Archives: NZ children’s book

Poetry Box audio spot: Barbara Else reads ‘Selina Tusitala Marsh’ from Go Girls


selina marsh_Ali Teo.jpg

Illustration by Ali Teo



Barbara Else reads ‘Selina Tusitala Marsh: Poet‘ from her book Go Girl: A Storybook of Epic NZ Women published by Puffin, 2018.


Barbara Else has held the University of Victoria Writing Fellowship and the University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children’s Writing Fellowship. She also holds an MNZM for services to literature and has been awarded the Margaret Mahy Medal for services to children’s literature. In her opinion she has simply been doing what she loves best, writing and working with other writers on their manuscripts. Her most recent novels for children are the Tales of Fontania Quartet (Gecko Press), starting with The Travelling Restaurant and ending with The Knot Impossible.  She loved working on real life stories for a change, in Go Girl.


Read my review of the book here.

Find my May challenge inspired by the book.

Puffin author page.




Poetry Box May challenge: a festival of epic NZ GO GIRL poems


This month the challenge is inspired by Barbara Else’s magnificent book: Go Girl: A Story of Epic NZ Women.

See my review here.

I love the idea of boys and girls writing poems about girls and women who are EPIC.


EPIC women might be famous. You might need to go hunting in your library. You might discover someone we don’t know much about.

EPIC women might be someone we know like our sister or mother or grandmother. You might need to go hunting in your family tree or your neighbourhood.

EPIC women might be in the news on TV or on the radio.

You might be inspired by the EPIC women in Barbara’s book and choose one of those.


I will have a poetry book for at least one poet who does this   CHALLENGE  !  And I will buy one of you a copy of GO Girl because I love it so much.



Some writing tips

Before you start writing collect words and details you might or might not include.

Do some research. Ask people questions. Look in books.

Do you want to write a plump poem full of many details or a skinny poem that picks some key things? Both are good. Try it both ways.

Show what is epic without using the word epic. Small kindnesses can be as epic as running as fast as a cheetah. Find the things that fascinate you about this person.

Pick the three most important adjectives about this person  and then try to find ways of showing these qualities without using the adjectives you picked. Now there’s a poetry challenge! If she is strong, how is she strong?

How many words will you put on the line? That changes the beat and the look of the poem.

Read your poem out loud.

Don’t send the day you write it. Read it again the next day to see if you are happy with every word.


Deadline etc

Deadline:  Tuesday Monday 28th May

Send to:

Include: your name, age, year and name of school. You can include your teacher’s email if you want

Important: To make sure I read your email put GO GIRL poem in the subject line


I will post poems on May 31st.


H a v e   f u n















In my hammock: reading Barbara Else’s Go Girl: A Story of Epic NZ Women




Go Girl: A Story of Epic NZ Women, Barbara Else, (multiple illustrators) Penguin Random House, 2018


This is my new feature where I share children’s books from any time or place and of any genre. I am only sharing books I love so you can track down a book that is really good!

Yes, I love Barbara Else’s new book so very much.

It has a bright cover designed by the very cool author and illustrator, Vasanti Unka.

Barbara’s writing sings in my ear ever so sweetly. Ah, what divine sentences. Check them out! Each entry is a fascinating read because I discover something new.

The illustrations are so full of life and are by 9 different women: Sarah Laing, Phoebe Morris, Sophie Watson, Sarah Wilkins, Rebecca ter Borg, Vasanti Unka, Fifi Colston, Helen Taylor and Ali Teo.



I am writing a big book about NZ women poets because I love reading them but also because for a big chunk of the twentieth century people just did not GET them! So their poems were often not published in anthologies or books.

Barbara’s book celebrates epic women that might be famous and that might be unknown to us.

History is a place full of dark corners where extraordinary women were doing extraordinary things.

Now we want to know about these women.

Barbara’s book shows us women both dead and alive who are epic.

She covers all kinds of women – from scientists to athletes to writers to political activists to astronomers.


A book like this shows that girls can do anything. We can speak out and we can invent and we can be daring and we can be strong. In the past girls and women were often thought to be weak and encouraged to be silent.

And of course boys can do anything too!

This book fills me with hope for a better world. I am so inspired by this book my May challenge is going to be a festival of poems about epic women (and that might be our aunt or grandmother or best friend!!). I have posted it here!


Here are some of the women Barbara picked (how hard it must have been choosing!!)





This book is a sumptuous, eye catching, heart warming, brain boosting, muscle strengthening, feet leaping   T R E A T  !

I dare you to race out and find a copy to share.

Let me know what you think!

The Penguin Random House page

Term 2 on Poetry Box


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I do hope you had a great holiday, made discoveries and enjoyed your free range time.


This term on Poetry Box I am going to:


post a challenge on  the first of the month

post some favourite poems on the last day of the month


post Librarian’s Choice – children’s librarians share a favourite children’s poetry book (if you want to do this email me


post audio clips of children and children’s authors reading poems


post surprising popUP poetry challenges where you only have 48 hours to do it – I will have at least one book for a young poet


post children’s books I love reading in my new feature called In my hammock (from any time or place and any genre)


if you don’t want to miss out scroll down the side bar and join the blog so you get an email when I post anything


happy poetry days!

Author Chris Gurney writes back to Molly, Hannah and Ari



Hi Hannah and Ari,

Thank you for your letters. I’m so glad you enjoy the Kiwi Corkers stories. Hannah, you did well to read so many books at once! I am guessing you like to read rhyming stories. Have you ever written any rhyming stories yourself? I love to write in rhyme and rhythm. It’s a bit like music, isn’t it.

Ari, you are so right – ‘The Three Cattle Dogs Gruff’ is a good story about bullying. I agree, Myles Lawford did an awesome job with the illustrations. Have you noticed the little fantail on a lot of the pages? Have a look next time you read the book!

Keep enjoying reading and writing your own unique stories.

Best wishes, Chris


Hi Molly,

Thanks for your letter. I love hearing that you are inspired to write your own stories. It was a lot of fun writing the Kiwi Corkers stories and using NZ creatures and icons. I bet you could write your own Kiwi Corker based on one of your favourite fairy tales?

I love that reading makes you happy!

Best wishes,



Poetry Box April Challenge  is here

A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors wrap up – yes my dance for joy!


We made 102!  First time I have posted a video so not very good quality – but here is my dance for joy as promised!!!


If you want to get emails that tell you when I post something new you can follow my blog! Check out down the side.


Thank  you so much for all the letters – I received over a hundred which is outstanding!

Thank you to all the authors who replied – it meant so much to the children.

I was especially delighted when Cathy Mahoney told me she was making a display of the letters (children and author’s) in her school library.

I found the whole thing heartwarming – which is while I will repeat it again next year.


if I missed your letter let me know!!


This was never a competition but I do like to spread the book love with a few giveaways!



I am sending few books to St Francis School Library including a copy of A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Thanks for all the hard work Cathy!

I am sending few books to Westmere School Library including a copy of A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children.  Thanks for all the hard work Jo!

Thanks to Toitoi, Elsa (Raumati School) will get a subscription to their very cool magazine.


I am sending a copy of The Letterbox Cat to Kōwhai (6) at Newton School.

I am sending a copy of The Letterbox Cat to Poppy (10) at Fendalton Open Air School.

I am sending a copy of The Letterbox Cat to Isabella (10) at St Francis School.


Thank you so much everyone – lots of people read your letters both young and old.


I am posting our April challenge tomorrow and lots of things in between that and the next.




… time for a catnap after all that work! then an Easter egg ! and a hot cross bun !







# 102 A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Diane McCarthy (long-time fan) writes back to Joy Cowley

Thank you Joy.

I talked with Megan by cell last night. Megan accurately confirmed the plot and characters, and the misunderstandings between the parents and children that led to their actions to protect Shadrach. Megan’s highlight was the foal that was born afterwards! Megan now writes and performs indie music and teaches young emerging musicians at Naenae College. Still the writing about kiwi stories goes on!