Category Archives: NZ Children’s poetry

A dazzling new poetry collection from Fairburn School in Otāhuhū




A few years ago I was writer in residence at Fairburn School in Otāhuhū thanks to a programme initiated by The NZ Book Council. It stands as an extra special memory.

I was so delighted when Principal, Frances Nelson, popped the 2017 book in the post for me. Staff and students get right behind the author visit and the school just hums with poetry. This year Janice Marriot and Zech Soakai got the school exploring the theme, ‘cultural identity’.

I love the book and know from experience this is only the tip of the poetry treasures popping through the school.

Congratulations on this wonderful project. I am full to the brim with poetry joy.








November challenge #2: Some favourite poems that bounce from art




I was so inspired by the updated The New Zealand Art Activity Book by Helen Lloyd I got you to write poems that leapt from one of the artworks I posted.

You all loved Sara Hughes’s gorgeous ‘Millions of Colours’. I do too!

I am posting just a few  you sent in. It was just fun reading how you made the poems pop with colour.

I am sending Daniel a copy of the activity book (Thanks Te Papa Press) because I really like the idea of dream eggs hatching colours.

And I am sending Tom a copy of The Letterbox Cat because I loved the repeating pattern of words that made the poem spin like Dick Frizzell’s dancing chicken.


You still have a change to do my Treasury challenge (I am really keen for NZ poets to be picked!). Even if you have a copy still try the challenge. See here.

Some Poems that bounce from ART:

Inspired by Dick Frizzell’s painting,  ‘The Dancing Chicken’:


The Dancing Smile

I am the dancing chicken
The dancing chicken
The dancing chicken
Watch me swirl
Watch me spin
The smiling, dancing chicken
So I won’t forget your spin.

I am the dancing chicken
Watch me twirl
Watch me spin
I’m pleased to give a smile
So I won’t forget your spin.

Tom N, Year 4, age 9, Hoon Hay School



Inspired By Sara Hughes painting: Millions of Colours


Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 5.12.47 PM.png

 Daniel, Year 4, age 9, Adventure School


Colour dots

Spot, spot, spot, it’s a dot.
Jumping on the page.
Yellow like the sun, blue like the sea,
Colours all around me!
Red as a rose
And likes to pose
On the page.

By Clementine, 9, year 4, Lyttelton Primary School



Colours jump around the page
spots and dots
lots and lots of colours to be made,
yellow like the sun,
pink is lots of fun,
violet is the queen
like a never ending scheme.

Seraphine, 9, Year 4, Lyttelton Primary School


Blurry colours

Colours everywhere make me look stand stare
Blurry like a blind man’s seeing
like a colourful human being
Red like a rose, blue like the sky
The colours that fly on morning sky

Nydia, 8, Year 4, Lyttelton Primary School


Millions of colours

The colours I see in my head
I even see them even in my bed.
When I’m asleep at night the colours stop the fright.

The moonshine makes this poem rhyme.
The colours flee but come back at May
to keep the bad monsters at bay.

This is my poem I hope you like
make sure the colour stops the fright.

By Sophie M, 8, Year 4, Lyttelton Primary School


Colours colours
I can see colours
I can see colours on a piece of paper.

Colours colours
I can see colours
I can see colours on a book.

Then I took that book and added more colours!!!!!!!!

Chloe D, 8, Year 4, Lyttelton Primary School


Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 5.16.04 PM.png

Kate, Age 10, Year 5, Fendalton School

November challenge #1: Some favourite acrobatic acrostic poems

Thanks for sending me a delicious swag of acrostic poems. I think there is so MUCH MORE room to play with in this form than you think!

I did a lot of WOW WOW WOW reading them all.

I have picked just a few to post. Because it is my last proper challenge this year, I put the names in the hat and picked out  Eileen, Phoebe and Jackson to send a copy of The LetterBox Cat.

You still have a change to do my Treasury challenge (I am really keen for NZ poets to be picked!). Even if you have a copy still try the challenge. See here.


T h a n k    y o u   !!


Some acrostic poems

Lifting animals’ fur
In a traffic jam
Going to school
Homes being thrown around
Towns empty
kNowing I’m safe
Inside a warm room
Night noises
Going around scaring pets

Lucy K,  Year 2,  7 years old  Ilam School


The Jewelry
stealing Elephant
likes To blow water

the Blue
coloured Lion
likes Orange
coloured Water

By Eileen C Age 7   Year 2  Ilam School


My Pets
My Family has 3 pets.
One Is soft and fluffy,
HaS black and dark chocolate fur,
And Her favourite toy is a warthog.
The other two pets Don’t live on land.
They swim thOugh,
And always Go in their mini shipwreck.

Phoebe, Year 5, age 10, College Street Normal School, Palmerston North


On the Pebble nest
the adElie penguin
loNgs to meet her chicks.
A Gale blows
from Under her
wInter coat
the Noise of two chicks.

Joshua P, age 13, Medbury School



The power from the lava eruption blasts out of the volcano with hot lava in it

The power Evolves
The lava Rumbles
It blasts Up
The volcano is Powerful
The lava is Terror
I Imagine
The Outstanding volcano
The Noisy eruption

Jackson R  age: 9   Fendalton School





Welcome Back Day: A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children is out again & I have a giveaway copy



A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children, ed Paula Green, illustrations Jenny Cooper, this edition, Penguin Random House, 2017

To celebrate the return of this gorgeous book to our shops (yeah I can buy more copies again!!)  I have one to give away to a child.

The wee challenge: Write a short poem for your favourite NZ poet (except I’d rather you didn’t pick me!!) Under the title write who the poem is for.  (for Joy Cowley or Margaret Mahy or Peter Bland or James K Baxter or Elena de Roo or Bill Manhire or Jenny Bornholdt or Peter Millet or Gavin Bishop or Kyle Mewburn or Janet Frame or Elizabeth Smith or Hone Tuwhare or Fifi Colston or Peggy Dunstan or Emma Neale or Shirley Gawith or Courtney Sina Meredith or Rachel McAlpine or Richard Langston or Anna Jackson or Sam Hunt or Sue Wotton or Bill Nagelkirke or John Parker or Ruth Paul or Apirana Taylor      …..    and there are lots more poets in the book including children!


The poem might be about anything.

It might borrow a title from your favourite poet.

Or borrow a character or a subject and take your poem in a new direction.

It might play with words.

It might tell a story.


Send to me by  Friday 8th December.

Include your name, age year and name of school.

Include  Treasury in email subject line.

I will post favourites and pick one to send book to on Monday 11th December.

Poetry fireworks: Storylines Hui poems from children’s authors Gavin, Stephanie, Melinda, Heather and Kerin


I took a poetry workshop at the Storylines Hui in October with about 30 children’s authors. It was fast-speed fun! We spent 90 minutes playing with words.

I loved the hui – so many highlights but what a treat to do workshops with Kate De Goldi and Joy Cowley and catch up with all my friends in the children’s book world.

I got the writers to send in some poems, even though, for most of them, poetry is NOT what they usually do. I think they are  word-sparkingly good and I just love the energy that sparks from their sounds and images and surprise!

Just the thing to say out loud in the rain!


from Gavin Bishop (who has the most amazing new book (Aotearoa A New Zealand Story) which I will review soon):




Tongue and groove dripped ginger beer

onto the bench-top, onto the floor.

Like a guinea pig to the door, I slid,

like a pig through the door – the dripping kitchen door.



Window View


The Alps zig-zag between the frame.

The foot-hills scramble across the glass.

Looking down now, with kahu eyes, the city jives beneath my gaze.



Sun Shower

The sunshine is awash with water.

A blue raincoat flaps in light.

Sparrows spray aside as my daughter splashes by,

on her hydroponic bike.




from Stephanie Mayne (who has excellent poems in A Treasury of NZ Poetry reissued this month):


In My Pocket.

A blade of grass, a rusty nail

Marbles blue as a peacock’s tail.

Pale white shells, and out of reach

Sand, from swimming at the beach.

Half bus ticket, scrunched up note

(Hard to read what the writer wrote!)

Leaf I liked, old cough lolly

One glass eye from my sister’s dolly.

Half a biscuit, apple core

Yellow crumbs and ants galore.

Soft grey feather, cicada case

Fidget spinner? No more space!



from Melinda Szymanik (who wrote the completely amazing A Winter’s Day in 1939 among other excellent things):


Water’s for Ducks

Sun’s out

Birds try

Bird bath

Clouds come

Rain drips

Slow fills

Bath, spills

Clouds go

Sun’s out

Drips dry

Birds try

Bird bath


In Your Pocket

In your pocket

Are five pink

Shrink-wrapped sausages

Wriggling worms

In close white

Knitted tight

On knuckled digits

Hand in glove

In your pocket



Here. In School

I went to work

A school visit, close to home

And because I am polite

Not rude

I put my phone on silent

At morning tea

Messages are always checked

And this time,

This time

The message was different

“Is your boy home sick?” they asked

Just checking

Because he’s not at school.

I’d seen him off that morning

Uniformed, lunch packed, back pack hoisted.

Heart sick.

I felt heart sick

My boy was not in school

As he should be

Not in school

The message was different

Had I heard it right?

At lunch

The message was different

They had not heard him


When he said “here”

In school.



from Heather Haylock whose first picture book is to be published by Penguin Random House next year (Granny McFlitter the Champion Knitter – the current Gavin Bishop Award book, illustrated by Lael Chisholm):


River Fog
Low and slow, the dampness creeping.
Hid beneath, the river weeping.
Dark and deep, moving, masking,
underneath, the dragon dancing.


My pocket left home this morning,
Full of possibilities.

My pocket came home
bulging with shame.

Two detention slips.
Another teacher’s note.
Grades too far down the alphabet.

My pocket, my friend,
hid my shame.

Until washing day.


From Kerin Casey who is busy writing children’s stories:


Griffin’s Hug


Wiry warm arms

Wrap tight around my neck

Squeezing love in

Wringing forgiveness



Snug as a bug in a rug

Griffin’s hug




This soggy day of bedraggled entanglements

Drips and slips

Through my melting fingers

Sticky and limp




In My Pocket


In my pocket is a small round stone

Sea green

Warm heart

Whipped smooth by sand on a cold surf beach

Foam flying

Waves smashing

Found, weighed, then tossed by a friendly hand

Moves on


Returns and seeks it out, desperate

Sea green

Warm heart

Smooths a gnarled thumb across its surface

And thinks of me






November challenges: reinventing acrostic poems and leaping off from art


I am going to post a few more things between now and December but these are the last challenges for the year.


I was inspired by two books:

a poem by James Brown in Annual 2 which I really really LOVED (check it out!!)

and the brand new, absolutely AMAZING  The New Zealand Art Activity Book.


There are two challenges!


I will have a copy of The Letterbox Cat and a copy of The New Zealand Art Activity Book (grateful thanks to Te Papa Press) to give away.


Send to by 27th November. I will post some favourites on 30th November.

Please include your name, age, year and name of school. I won’t post poems if I don’t have these details.

IMPORTANT:  Put ACROSTIC POEM or ART POEM  in the subject line of the email please. PLEASE say which artwork you picked under the title of your poem or in subject line of email.

First Up: Art Poems



The New Zealand Art Activity Book by Helen Lloyd, Te Papa Press 2017 (a new edition)

Te Papa Press have published a new art activity book and it is such fun. Helen Lloyd chose more than 50 artworks in the museum collection and asked 15 artists to do page works for the book especially.

You get to see old works and news works, from famous artists and not so famous artists, from Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika and Asian artists.

I really really like this book  because not only do I get to check out art but there are very cool activities. It is the perfect book for the summer holidays when you want a break from gadgets or tree climbing or boogie boarding.

You can colour in, make a tivaevae or flying sculpture, design a treasure box or patterns. There are 150 pages of things to do and look at.

I thought it might be fun to use one of the artworks as a starting point for a poem.


The challenge:

Pick an artwork. There are four images below to choose from.

let the artwork take you wherever you like!

You might take one small thing in the work that catches your eye as a starting point. Then you can leap into your imagination.

You might just use a colour and see where it leads you – mindwander on a page before you start writing. Especially for Sara’s painting.

Does anything in the painting hook a memory? Use that for your poem.

Play with colour words to make a word pattern (blue ultramarine grey). Try doing it in black font. Listen to your poem.

Try describing what you see in the painting in a poem. Play with the words.

Explore the feeling you get from the painting in a poem.

Invent a little story that your imagination hooks up from the work.

Try painting a picture with words – real things help make pictures grow.


Four artworks from four of my favourite NZ artists to choose from:



  1. ‘Millions of colours’ by Sara Hughes




2. ‘Ulumago’ by John Pule



3. ‘Untitled’ by Saskia Leek



4. ‘The dancing chicken’ by Dick Frizzell



Thank you!!!!   Activities/images reproduced with permission from The New Zealand Art Activity Book by Helen Lloyd, published by Te Papa Press. Available at all good bookstores or online here.


Second Up: Acrostic Poems


We all write acrostic poems where the first letters of each line spell a word – and often it is just one word that follows:


My cat





Sometimes the lines stretch and make the poem grow:


My cat

Catching scraps of paper

As though she is a vacuum cleaner,

The tail flicks, the whiskers quiver.


James Brown though was a very tricky acrostic poet because he made the first letters make a word and the last letters make a word. I have had a go with my cat poem:


My cat

Cheeky cat crept,  kitchen hectic

Ate the fishy pasta

That  we cooked tonight.


I decided to try putting the word in down the middle of the poem:


My Cat

The Cat sleeps on

my lAp, dreaming

of sTrange sardines.


Have fun playing with what acrostic poems can do!


And    h a v e   fun doing these two challenges.

Some favourite poems from the October challenges

I had fun writing some found poems and some book-spine poems.

I also had fun reading yours so a big THANK YOU for sending them.

This is a MAMMOTH post because there were so MANY  p o e m s.


Selwyn House School and Paparoa Street School were so enthusiastic about the book-spine poems and Westmere School cooked up a storm with found poems.

I am sending a copy of The Letterbox Cat to Te Wana class at Paparoa Street School. I loved the way you used the words in a book to take your poems off in a thousand different  s u r p r i s i n g   directions.


On November 1st, I am posting my last challenges for the year.



Here are some book-spine poems:


Juliet G, 10 years old, Selwyn School



Our story
Jumping cross country fences
Staying clean
Ice skating school
Caring for cats and kittens
Dogs and puppies
The world’s shoulders

Juliet G, 10 years old, Selwyn House School


The Other Side Of Dawn

Petals in the ashes
The white darkness
Taking off
A very unusual pursuit
Let me whisper you my story


Photo on 24-10-17 at 9.30 AM.jpg

Sylvie King Age: 11 Year: 6 Selwyn House School
The Cup Of The World

Fly Away Home
By The Monkey’s Tail
Out Of My Mind
The Deadly Dare Mysteries
The 10pm Question

Photo on 24-10-17 at 10.16.jpg

Masha P, ten years old, Selwyn House School


The pearl of one foot island
The pearl of one foot island
The colossus rises
The wind in the willows
You’ve got guts
Mao’s last dancer
Treasure hunters

Photo on 24-10-17 at 10.07 AM.jpg

Ruby A, 10 years old,  Year 5,  Selwyn House School



Through the tiger’s eye

Against the tide
No survivors
A very unusual pursuit
The spook’s apprentice
The gray king
The seeing stone
The power of one

Harriet  age 9 year five Selwyn House School

Beware of the Dark!

The dark is rising
Thief Lord
Daughter of the wind
Alone on a wide, wide sea
Chasing Vermeer
The cup of the world
The prisoner
Out of my mind
When friendship followed me home

Laura M Age 10,  Selwyn House School

What the raven saw

What the raven saw
Through the tiger’s eye
Jungle hunters
Liar and spy.

Gemma W 10 years old, Year 5, Selwyn House School


Juggling with Mandarins,
if i stay,
call me HOPE,
Forever Rose.

Photo on 24-10-17 at 11.20 AM.jpg

Alice M 10 years old, Y5, Selwyn House School


Here are some found poems:



Students from Te Wana, Paparoa Street School sent me a bunch of fabulous found poems using words random pages in the Lemonade Genie by Adrian Boote.



Spikes lemonade glitter exploded

Lemon yellow ear-rings dangly on silver

Dazzling shoes


By Noah and Toby B Year 3



Almost all-powerful genie stared

Jiggly lemon yellow eyebrow

Magnificent golden seagull a lump

Old cocker chewing-gum wishes

Could giggled Moonwood eagle



By Mason and Xavier Year 3



Lookout Tower


everything up

to the

Lookout tower



By Humnah and Esther Year 4









Disastrous knocking flapping tripping and

Horribly falling

Ooooh nooo!!


By Charlie and Liam Year 4


Young Man

Young man




Yellow shoes dangly

Huge suit

Yellow lemon


By Finn and Ciaran Year 4



Three wishes?

All-powerful genie




By William Year 4




The Lemon Poem

Lemon yellow shoes

Winked and sparkled under the classroom

Big, dangly lemon ear-rings

Yello-rimmed sunglasses

He wore a dazzling lemon yellow shirt

I’m the lemonade genie


By Elsie and Nicholas Year 3-4



Mystery Man

Young man

Winked and sparkled silver glitter

Dazzling lemon yellow lights stuck up in spikes

Yellow-rimmed sunglasses classroom exploded

Who are you?

Call me Keith


 By Romey and Drew  Year 3-4


The Super Hero





Moonwood golden



By Lucas and Fin B Year 3-4


Silver Glitter

Huge suit made of silver glitter

Stuck up in spikes


A dazzling lemon yellow

Rimmed sunglasses


By Tadhg and Isaac Year 4


Terrifying horribleness poem

Knocking chairs

Spilling disastrous

Tucking horribleness

Terrifying handkerchiefs

Shirt-tails sink in


By William and Sree Year 4


Ranger in a lookout tower

I heard a noise



Stone moving



What’s what?


By Neve, Milly and Maddie Year 4


The students from LS6 at Westmere have been finding poems in signs around the library and from their library books. Here is a sample:


Found Poem

Another code to crack,
That white hair again!
Ah, let me think…
A violin named Allegro is sparkling,
But which bridge?

(found in False Note by Susannah McFarlane)

By Hannah LS6 Age 9



Break the Glass

Break glass switch
It’s the fire alarm
Grab your hat
Discover the world
If you want to succeed.

By Neve LS6 Age 10



I can’t
I won’t
I don’t
I nod
I pray
I stand frozen
I knock
I run.

(found in Girl Underground by Morris Gleitzman)

By Neve LS6 Age 9


Just a Library

Keep calm and read Harry Potter
Driven to read
What shall I read next?
Grab your hat and read with the cat!
Look after the books, look after each other.
The more you read the more things you know
the more that you learn the more places you’ll go!

By Henri LS6 Age 10



Christian replied
Christian Fontaine cradled his chin
Christian turned and stared
Christian frowned
Christian shook his head
Christian said nothing

(found in Alice Miranda in Paris by Jacqueline Harvey)

By Lola LS6 Age 9




Gusty trees, cloudy seas
most disposed, shutters closed.
He read his story thinking,
forests sinking?
Ochre skies before his eyes.
The other day full of dismay.
“A very good morning to you, Bluejay!”

(found in Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke)

By Petra LS6 Age 10


The Library Signs

We are the world, being and becoming.
We are one world
Belonging to hands
Driven to read
Full of surprises
You need to succeed
Discover the world
With a pull of a lead
Walk do not run
We are the hands of the world.

By Petra LS Age 10


Jo’s Library

Welcome, Read
Grab your hat and read with the cat.
Discover, Graphic novels
A to Z, X to Y
Becoming, being and belonging.
If you want to lead, read.
If you want to succeed, read.
What shall I read next? Hairy Maclary?
Schnitzel von Krum, Bottomly Potts,
Doggy Ditties, Fiction, Non-Fiction.
One world, The more you read
the more things you’ll know, the
more that you’ll learn, the more
places you’ll go!
No food or drinks
Look after each other
Te Reo Maori
Reading is Fabumouse
Fire Alarm
Book marks, Book marks, Book Marks!
Returns, Exit.

By Brooke LS6 Age 10 and Isabelle LS6 Age 10


LS7 have been busy finding poems in the library, the first poem is from the signs, and the others are from library books.

In the Westmere Library

The more that you read
The more things you’ll know
The more things that you learn
The more places you’ll go!
DIAL 111
Once out, stay out.
Matariki is when we celebrate the Maori new year.
Rules for the library:
USE QUiet voices…
look after the books
Get your books issued
Look after each other.
Bring your books back each week.
And the most important rule of all…
Enjoy the Library!

By Willa LS7Age 11


Cindy and the Prince

She bellowed help! and let me out
The magic fairy heard her shout…
The prince cried NO!
He grabbed her dress.
As Cindy shouted Let me go
the dress ripped from head to toe.
She ran out in her underwear
and slipped on a stair.
Cindy heard thuds of bouncing heads upon the floor
and poked her head around the door…
Poor Cindy’s heart was torn to shreds.
My Prince, she cried, He chops off heads!

(From Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes)

By Ruby LS7 Age 10




“Let’s start at the beginning.”
“What will you do then?”
“You really think so?”
“Of course!”


(From A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett)

By Olive LS 6 Age 9





The Silver Donkey

I’m ten.
This is my sister Coco, her real name is Therese.
Because she has black hair like a poodle’s
Everyone calls her Coco.
A soldier goes to war
with a donkey by his side.
Guns fired, war started
But the donkey saved the soldier.
The silver donkey took him back safely
To Coco and the 10-year-old girl.
They lived together happily.

(From The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett)

By Amelia LS7 Age 9



The Land of Secrets

The home for Dame Know-it-all.
The home for the Enchanter wise-man.
The home for the wizard-tall-hat.
The home for Miss Quiet-mouth.
The home for Witch Know-a-lot.
The home for all secrets of the world.

(From The folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton)

By Sarah LS7 Age 11


The Twits

“I’ve come for a holiday.” said the Roly-Poly bird.
And the Roly-Poly bird watched.
“What’s happened?”
“He’ll stew us alive,” wailed the second one.
“I’ll bite off your toes.”
And everyone including Fred shouted… “HOORAY.”

(From The Twits by Roald Dahl)

By Pippi LS7 Age 10



Kasper Prince of Cats

More and more he just didn’t want to.
I wasn’t frightened, not exactly.
He was just nervous, restless and anxious.
Those children, wretched children, she fumed.
He just skipped down the corridor.
I don’t want to leave my family she said.
Go my dear, go now.
Now I would lay awake at night thinking about it.
So I climbed the stairs to look.
I hadn’t any choice.
It didn’t matter much either way.

(From Kasper Prince of Cats by Michael Morpurgo)

By Honor LS7 Age 10