Category Archives: NZ Children’s poetry

A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Frankie, Eme and Maddie write to Jo van Dam




Dear Jo van Dam

I love your books, I love how they rhyme. I love the way the they make me feel. They make me feel happy. My favorite one is “kaia the korora” because of the adventure feel and I myself love adventures.

Best wishes!!!


Age: 10

School: richmond road school




Dear Jo

I like your stories because they are funny

rhymes and I like the way that you can imagine

The pictures in the story.

But my favorite book you have is the Doggy Ditties, the dog book.

My favorite funnest part of the story is when you say

Roxy the foxy loves to dig dig dig.

Roxy the foxy isn’t big big big.

Watch as she dances a jig jig jig..

Roxy the foxy in a wig wig wig.

By Eme L  Age 10 Richmond Road School




I am a person…… I am indeed.

I am a fan of  your book……..

Or did you write more than one book?

Why yes you did….

You did indeed.

We seem to be overloaded with facts we never knew……

Or did you know?


Are you as fat as a whale or as skinny as a skinny something?

Or did I know?


Enough of the indeeds!

Enough indeed!!!!!!

When I was a little………what gender am I again???? I seem to have forgotten.

Well anyway I thought Jo was the perfect name for a bowl of porridge….

I did indeed!!!!!!!

Ah porridge. You should write a book about porridge.

You are a librarian……

You are indeed!!!

Find me a book about porridge.

While I am reading it, GET BUSY!!!!!!

Hairless cats are dead to me.

Who would be there to put hair all over the couch so my dad would get angry and I can watch and laugh.

Who indeed?????

If you have read this far I thank you……

I do indeed.

I might be ten years old…….

But then again I might be two thousand.


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PORRIDGE!!!!!!!! Dont forget.

From Maddie Richmond Road School

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


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 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


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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