Category Archives: NZ Children’s poetry

Poetry Box children illustrators: Alyssa (9) illustrates Joy Cowley’s ‘Sea Cat’

Poetry Box November challenge: Bird poems

by Alyssa (9)

Sea Cat

There was a cat called Moggy
Who used to swim in the sea.
It made her whiskers soggy
But it got her fish for tea.

Joy Cowley

(from Pawprints in the Butter, Mallinson Rendel, 1991)

Alyssa G, Year 4, 9 yrs, Maraetai Beach School. Loves to read everything and anything and usually has at least three books on the go. At the moment she’s reading: Little tales of hedgehog and goat (independently), Charlotte’s Web (with Mum) and Bad Dad (with Dad). Bookcase is full of Weir Do, Donovan Bixley, Baby-sitters little sister, David Walliams, Roald Dahl, pick-a-path books and still has a huge collection of picture books she loves to reminisce over.Alyssa loves to write her own stories and has journals full of these. They often feature talking animals. Alyssa plays the piano, loves gymnastics and enjoys playing with her dog, Jaxon. 

Joy Cowley is a prolific, widely-published and much-celebrated writer of fiction for adults and children. Joy began her career writing short stories and novels before moving into the realm of children’s literature. She has published numerous novels, as well as short stories that have featured in journals, anthologies and book-length collections. She has written a remarkable range of children’s books and stories, often illustrated by renowned artists. Joy was made a Distinguished Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit for services to children’s literature in 2005, and she was awarded a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for Fiction in 2010. In 2018, Joy was made a member of the Order of New Zealand. Gecko Press published The Gobbledegook Book which contains Joy’s poems. (Read NZ)

Poetry Box children illustrate poems: Mia and Harry illustrate Paula Green’s The Polka Dot Cat

Poetry Box November challenge: Bird poems

by Mia (10)

The Polka Dot Cat

When the polka dot cat

sleeps on the polka dot cushion

you can’t tell cushion from cat

until her ears prick up

at the sound of the fridge door

                                             o     p     e     n      i       n        g

Paula Green

by Harry (11)

I’m Mia G and I am 10 in year 6. I love reading books by Sharon M. Draper, Raina Telgemeier and Gale Galligan. My favourite book by Sharon M. Draper is Out of my mind because it tells you that you can achieve more than you know, even if you have a disability. I love reading in my own time and I also love drawing and singing.

I’m Harry, year 6 aged 11 and I go to Fendalton Open-AIr School. I love books by Anh Do and David Walliams. My favourite book by Anh Do is Pow Pow Pig. I also love sports and painting.

Poetry Box November poem challenge: Birds

One plump kererū feeding in the cabbage tree

Last week I voted for the tuturiwhatu dotterel as The Bird of Year 2022. It has never won but I love watching them scamper and scuttle at Te Henga Bethells Beach. At this time of year, we have to do everything we can to protect them, especially keeping dogs on leads.

The winner of The Bird of the Year 2022 is pīwauwau/ rock wren.

This week I read two excellent bird books: Backyard Birds by Ned Barraud and One Weka Went Walking by Kate Preece and Pippa Esnor. I have had so many ideas for our November poem challenge, but in the end have opted for bird poems, because the two books were so inspiring.

You have until November 27th. I will read all your poems at the end of the month, pick some favourites to post, and have a few books to give away.

One plump kererū sitting on a wire

Because SO MANY CHILDREN are illustrating poems by adult poets for Poetry Box, I thought some of you might like to do an illustration to go with your poem. You can do a drawing, painting, collage, or even printmaking. You could use paint, coloured pencils, ink, collage material, charcoal, ordinary pencils, felt tip pens, crayon and dye, the sand at the beach. 

Have fun! You are in charge of your poem – so it is over to you how you do it, but check out my top tips below.

Our neighbour’s hen drops by for a visit!


Go for A BIRD WALK stop and look at any bird you spot. Sketch it with words. Draw it!

Hunt for favourite birds and bird facts IN THE LIBRARY.

Descriptive poems Collect a page of bird words that describe what a bird looks like. Look at the bird and hunt for words that show its feathers, shape, beak, wings, how it moves. How many verbs can you find to show its movement, the sound it makes and how it feeds. Use the words to bring a bird to life in a poem.

Bird facts Investigate bird facts and turn them into a poem.

Picture poems Hunt for words, especially verbs and nouns, that describe a bird. Try writing short lines. Longer lines. Use your words and lines to make a picture of a bird. You can call this a shape poem or concrete poetry.

Memory poems Do you have an interesting bird memory? Put it in a poem.

Word pattern poems Pick up to five bird words and then play with them to make word patterns. Change the order of the bird words on the line.

Invented bird poems I love inventing birds. Give it a name, a habitat, a curious feature or trait or three! What sounds does it make? How does it move? What does it look like? What is special about it?

Nonsense bird poems I love having fun with poems and writing madcap silly poems that make me laugh. So many poets are good at this. Give it a go.

Story poems Tell a bird story in a poem. Listen to how the poem flows.

Short poems I love short poems! Use a handful of words to show something about a bird. You might put a surprise in the poem.

Acrostic poems Test out loads of lines for each letter then pick your favourites.

Rhyme poems I adore playing with rhyme. Try hiding rhyme in your poem, or doing Dr. Seuss rhyme, or finding words that almost rhyme.

Idea poems You might like to write a poem that considers endangered birds.




INCLUDE: name, age, year, name of school

DEADLINE: November 27th

DON’T FORGET to put BIRD POEM in email subject line so I don’t miss your email (I get so many!)

I often can’t access poems sent via Google Docs.

have fun!

The information kiosk at Te Henga Bethells Beach – spot the Tuturiwhatu dotterel!

Poetry Box Reading Back, Reading Forward: a new series

one of my overflowing children’s bookshelves in our spare room, with books hiding behind the first row, and not counting the children’s poetry shelves

An Introduction to Reading Back, Reading Forward

I recently emailed a number of children’s authors in Aotearoa. I shared my plans to revitalise Poetry Box along with my commitment to create a small hub for children’s books and writing. Local books yes, but also sublime books from overseas. All categories, and for readers and writers up to Year 8.

Loads of authors (and school librarians) are offering support and it feels like the Milky Way keeps landing in my inbox with glints and gleams.

I feel even more compelled to do this since the editors of Annual 3, in a radio interview, suggested their anthology and the School Journal are the books worthy of attention, when there are scant good books available for readers aged 8 to 12 in New Zealand. Annual 3 is wow! – it’s magnificent glorious inspiring, but I’m suspicious of statements from any editors that are universalising, patronising, hierarchical. But, grumble aside, I can’t wait to review the book, plus there will be a review from one of my young reviewers. The anthology is to be celebrated along with so many other equally good local books. My current aim is to promote and showcase children’s books and authors on Poetry Box, and to open up wide, far-reaching, multi-hued paths through the world, both real and imagined, for young readers and writers.

My new series is one way of encountering New Zealand books for children. Of returning to past words and stories in order to move in refreshing ways through the present and towards the future. In Annual 3, there is a brilliant essay by Madison Hamil, ‘Harry Potter and the Missing Letter – and me’. Sometimes you cross the bridge into a piece of writing and the luminous connections spark and sparkle. Madison shares her reading life as a child, and how she emerged from ‘background character’ to confident. Books can be transformative!

Oh and I have other series in the pipeline.

Reading Back, Reading Forward

Bill Nagelkerke came up with the idea of shining light on forgotten New Zealand children’s books. Or books that are out-of-print. He wrote:

I’ve always thought it would be nice to look back at good NZ children’s books long out of print, but worth remembering and worth hunting for in library store rooms and second hand book shops.” Bill Nagelkerke

I loved the idea so much, I invited some authors and librarians to join in, either with a one-off piece or a now-and-then contribution. The books can be any category but suitable for readers up to Year 8. So watch this space!

Most of my own children’s books are no longer available, and that is the same for many other local writers. We are such a small publishing industry in New Zealand, I understand why. But it does make me a bit glum, especially when I think of just the right person to give a copy of something to. Especially Aunt Concertina and her Niece Evalina, with my partner Michael Hight’s gorgeous oil paintings (Random House, 2009) or Flamingo Bendalingo with Michael’s magnificent acrylic paintings of animals (AUP, 2006). Same goes for beloved treasure by other New Zealand authors whose books are no longer available to buy or are hard to track down in libraries.

When I went scavenging for poems for the children’s anthologies that I have edited, I was heartbroken at how few children’s poetry books were still in print. Poetry is like the skinny shadowy corner of our children’s books market – so few get published, probably because so few by individual poets get bought. Yet poetry is such a cool way of unlocking the reader and writer in every child, with rich music, intriguing miniature stories and expanding wonder. And of course the ever present, wide ranging POETRY PLAY!

I love hunting for book treasures in second-hand bookshops and in library archives. Such fun as you never know what you will discover.

I am remembering the glorious novels by Barbara Else (especially The Travelling Restaurant series, Gecko Press, 2011- 2015), every glorious book Margaret Mahy ever published because not all are still available, the earlier brilliant poetry books of Joy Cowley (Mallinson Rendel, 1991) and the equally brilliant poetry of Shirley Gawith (d’Urville Press, 1991). Not only did I track down copies of Shirley’s children’s poetry books, I got to visit her in Nelson! We enthused about books and writing! She was maybe in her seventies or eighties, and she was over the moon that, after so many decades, her out-of-print poetry books were getting attention and her poems had appeared in A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children (Random House, 2014).

Meeting Shirley Gawith in 2014

I do hope this new series spurs you to go scavenging for out-of-print books, to remember and celebrate examples from the past, to read new and fascinating pathways both towards the future and within the present. Reading shapes us. If we are what we eat and breathe, maybe we are what we read, especially when the world is abrim with astonishing books, ideas, feelings, flavours. Bon appetit!

May your days shine with good BOOKS

Poetry Box noticeboard: A UK anthology includes Poetry Box poets

Julian Rothenstein got in touch with me as he wanted to include some young poets from Poetry Box in a new anthology he was editing. I tracked down the children, got permission, and now the book is out in the world. It is simply gorgeous. It is called A Gift (Redstone Press, 2022), and indeed, it is a gift of a book. It shines and it gleams and it inspires.

A Gift is divided into five sections: wondering, feeling, messaging, playing, looking. It includes children’s poems from various countries, with a strong representation from Aotearoa New Zealand. As it says on the back, the book is ‘an invitation to wonder, creativity and play‘.

Also included is a fabulous range of artwork by both children and adults: photographs, drawings, paintings, doodles, collages. And some fascinating found messages – a bit like found poetry.

It is the kind of book that belongs in every school library and on the bookshelf of keen young writers. I am so hoping some booksellers in in New Zealand will stock a few copies as I am dead keen to buy some to give away once I get Poetry Box back up and running.

I am still on the long rocky recovery road after my bone marrow transplant and I am making good progress. But it is slow and my energy pot is really low. I am managing to read a mountain of books (and listen to audio books), eat little plates of food, go for little walks, and dream and doze by our cosy fire.

I am so excited Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat is out in the world now – you might spot little stacks of it in your local bookshop ❤️

Oh and a special thank you to Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School for the gorgeous poems and card you sent me. You cheered me up no end!

Keep safe and well young poets.

I look forward to working with you all again.



Redstone Press page

Poetry Box celebrates a new anthology: Ben Brown, James Brown, Lynley Edmeades & Ashleigh Young read from Skinny Dip

Skinny Dip: Poetry, eds Susan Paris & Kate De Goldi, illustrations by Amy van Luijk, Massey University Press, 2021

Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, editors of the popular and best-selling Annuals, have edited a lively, much-needed and altogether stunning anthology of poems for middle and older readers. Kate and Susan commissioned ‘original, and sometimes rowdy poetry’ from a selection of well-known Aotearoa poets. The collection is shaped like a school year, with four terms, and with the poets both recalling and imagining school days. The poems are pitched at Y7 to Y10 readers, but will catch the attention of a range of readers. The subjects shift and spark. The moods and tones never stay still: you will move from fascination to eek! to warm glow.

Each poem takes a poetic form and follows the rules or bends them. Some of the poems are free verse (no rules) and some are written according to the rules of specific forms. There is a useful glossary detailing some of the forms at the back of the book (rondel, tanka, haiku, ode, cinquain, rondel, sestina, villanelle, acrostic, pantoum). There are also found, prose, strike-out and dialogue poems. A genius idea for a book that shows how you can follow poetry rules, break poetry rules, play with poetry rules. I especially love the way different forms change both the way a poem looks on the page and how a poem makes music.

In Skinny Dip, the makers of the best-selling Annuals bring you thirty-six poems for young readers from all the New Zealand writers we love: Sam Duckor-Jones, essa may ranapiri, Bill Manhire, Anahera Gildea, Amy McDaid, Kōtuku Nuttall, Ben Brown, Ashleigh Young, Rata Gordon, Dinah Hawken, Oscar Upperton, James Brown, Victor Rodger, Tim Upperton, Lynley Edmeades, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Nina Mingya Powles, Renee Liang and Nick Ascroft.

Through doing my poetry blogs, schools visits and author tours over decades, I have enjoyed poetry simmering and bubbling, somersaulting and sizzling, the length and breadth of Aotearoa. Poetry in my experience can excite the reluctant writer, advance the sophisticated wordsmith, and captivate all those writers in between. There are no rules, as Selina Tusitala Marsh, Ben Brown and I constantly underline, but rules are a useful addition to your poetry toolkit. Poetry forms are fun! Skinny Dip is terrific poetry handbook for readers and budding writers. It looks good, it is good to hold, and the Amy van Luijk’s illustrations are fresh additions.

Sadly, poem anthologies for younger and middle readers are as rare as hen’s teeth in Aotearoa, so it is a special day when a new one hits our library and bookshop shelves. Kate and Susan have curated a selection of poems that will fit all your moods, send you on new thought and writing paths, and will maybe inspire you to write a poem of your own.

Skinny Dip sparked my November challenge (posting November 2nd). In the meantime, four poets have recorded their fabulous poems for you to enjoy. I have listened to them several times already, because I engage with them in so many different ways. Have fun listening! Try my challenges in November.

The readings

Ben Brown reads ‘After the first instruction’ (free verse):

James Brown reads ‘Lunch Experiment’ (a cinquain series)

Lynley Edmeades reads ‘Waiting in the School office’ (a haiku series)

Ashleigh Young reads ‘At the pool with Epeli’ (ode)

The poets

Ben Brown, Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Pāoa, was born in Motueka in 1962. He’s been writing all his life, across all genres, and published his first children’s book in 1991. If pressed, he will have something to say about anything. He says his poem ‘After the First Instruction ‘ is about ‘getting your heart and mind and actions and spirit working together with the world.’ He reckons his children are his best work. He is Aotearoa’s first Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador.

James Brown lives in Wellington’s Island Bay, and enjoys reading and writing poetry. James’ Selected Poems is published by Victoria University Press. He also writes poems and stories for the School Journal, and has written English versions of books by Belgian author and illustrator Leo Timmers. ‘My Skinny Dip poems all involve following formal rules, which I like because rules push your imagination outside its usual boxes. That said, all writing involves careful listening and rewriting what doesn’t sound right.’

Lynley Edmeades lives in Dunedin with her partner and young son. Her most recent book, Listening In (Otago University Press), was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. When she’s not writing or teaching or playing in the sandpit, she likes to walk in the hills. She wrote her Skinny Dip poems in stolen moments, reimagining her own school days.

Ashleigh Young lives in Wellington. Aside from writing and reading, she loves running, riding her bicycle, and swimming. ‘I’ve always marvelled at ultra-endurance athletes and wished I could be one, but I’m far too lazy to do the work. A while ago, I watched a great documentary about people training to swim the English Channel and all the friends and family who helped them do it. I realised that my character, Epeli, also wants to try something bigger like that — he wants to swim the Cook Strait. Unlike me, though, I think Epeli is actually going to to pull it off.’

Bios courtesy of Skinny Dip.

Massey University Press (Annual Ink) page.
Kate De Goldi & Susan Paris talk to Kim Hill
Read an extract at the The Spinoff
ReadNZ Q & A with Kate & Susan

Poetry Box shares Parnell School’s Rūma 13 fabulous haiku video and my popUP haiku challenge

Matua Dean Whittaker’s class at Parnell school in Tāmaki Makaurau has made a fabulous video of haiku poems they wrote. I love the way the poems show how a handful of words can create striking images. Every word adds to the picture that grows in your head, and every word also adds to the music. These haiku poems sound good. Little melodies like honey in your ear. And the images unfold like origami.

Traditionally Japanese haiku have three lines with a set number of syllables on each line: first line (5 syllables), second line (seven syllables), third line (five syllables). Following haiku rules can be such fun. They help tighten the poem. In more recent times haiku still have three lines but the syllable rule is flexible. You can follow the rules or you can play with the rules.

Japanese haiku usually considered the natural world and included a seasonal reference. Nowadays haiku explore a galaxy of subjects and a solar system of moods, and may or may nor include a seasonal reference. And can still build nature images!

Rūma 13’s fabulous haiku video

Rūma 13 is a Year 5 – 6 class at Parnell District School in Tāmaki Makaurau. 

“Our class is a garden of budding artists, politicians, mathematicians, designers, scientists, writers and all the other kaimahi that make Aoteroa such a special place. 

Our teacher Matua Dean is always telling us ‘good writers paint pictures with their words”‘.

A popUP HAIKU challenge

Write a haiku poem.

You choose whether to follow the syllable and subject rules or not.

Listen to your poem.

Shut your eyes and let the poem-image unfold in your mind.

Test every word on the line. Underline the words you think are working beautifully.

Give your poem a title.

You might like to use your poem as part of an art work. (I can’t post PDFs but I can take screen shots. I don’t post surnames though)

Deadline: Wednesday October 27th

Send to:

INCLUDE: your name, age, year and name of school

Don’t forget to put HAIKU poem in subject line so I don’t miss your email.

I will read all the poems after the deadline and will post some poems on Friday OCT 29th. I will have some books to give away.

Poetry Box NATIONAL POETRY DAY celebration: 8 NZ children’s authors read a poem for you – plus poetry challenges – plus book giveaways – IDEAS for SCHOOLS and for LOCKDOWN TIME

National Poetry Day is on Friday August 27th. To celebrate I invited 8 of my favourite children’s authors to read a poem they love. I have put some poetry challenges under each reading for you to try. I am fairly sure National Poetry Day events will be reinvented online so I am sharing this poetry festival now.

Perfect for National Poetry Day but even more perfect for lockdown. Writing and reading poems is my happy place! Have a go!

I am currently in a state of drift and daze so do let me know if I have made mistakes – I am always grateful not offended.

🌻 A big bouquet of warm thanks and salty west-coast air and mānuka scent and blue skies to the eight authors who did such glorious mahi out of poetry love and the poets who gave permission. Thank you!

Listen to the authors read a poem

Try some of my poem challenges

Deadline: 10th September

Send to:

Include: name, age, year, name of school or homeschooled

Don’t forget to put National Poetry Day Poem in subject line so I don’t miss it

I will post some favourite poems on 17th September. I will have loads of books to give away! I will read all the poems and email you back by this date.

IF YOU MAKE a video – I need parental permission to post it if I pick it.

TOP TIP: Leave your poem for a day and then read it out loud. Listen again before you send it to me.

Happy National Poetry Day!

Keep safe, be kind, share the joy in poetry.

The Poets reading Poems

Vasanti Unka

Vasanti Unka reads ‘When the Lid Slides back’ by Bill Manhire

Poem challenges

Choose a favourite object and write a poem about it.

Pick five favourite words in Bill’s poem and use them in a poem of your own.

Bill loved using his coloured pencils. What do you love doing? Write a poem, long or short, about a favourite thing to do. You might start with an object or you might collect verbs to get you started.

You could turn any of these ideas into a picture/shape/concrete poem. You could make an audio or video of yourself reading your poem or even making your poem!! (need parental permission to send me)

Poem source: Bill Manhire is one of my favourite NZ poets and I especially love this poem. I picked it for A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children (Penguin Random House). It is in Bill’s collection The Victims of Lightning (Victoria University Press).

Vasanti Unka is a picture book creator who writes, illustrates and designs books for ages, 4 – 108 year olds. Over the years, her work has won a range of awards. Her latest book, I Am the Universe won the Booksellers best kids book for 2021. She was born in Pukekohe and presently works out of her sunroom in Auckland. Vasanti’s blogspot. Penguin author page

Bill Manhire’s most recent poetry book Wow (VUP) was longlisted for the NZ Book Awards 2020. He was New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate, and founded and for many years taught at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Many New Zealand poets have been through this highly acclaimed writing propgramme. In 2005 he was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in in the same year was named an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate. He has edited major poetry anthologies. You can listen to some of his poems here.

Gareth Ward

Gareth Ward reads ‘The Door’ by Daniel Stokes (written aged 10)

Poetry Challenges

Choose a portal, maybe a door or window, and build a poem around it. Your poem might be IMAGINARY or REALISTIC.

You could do a list poem. A window is … OR A door is … OR A gate is …

Or you could write a poem that uses a portal to tell a story. Think of the scene, the mood, fascinating things that might be on the other side.

Poem source: Toitoi 21. This is a wonderful journal of writing and artwork by children. You can find details about it here.

Gareth Ward, a.k.a. The Great Wardini, is a magician, hypnotist, storyteller, bookseller and author. He has worked as a Royal Marine Commando, Police Officer, Evil Magician and Zombie. He basically likes jobs where you get to wear really cool hats. He currently resides in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand where he runs two independent bookshops, Wardini Books and Wardini Books Napier with his wife Louise. He has a goldfish called Luna, a dog called Tonks and is certain his letter from Hogwarts has been lost in the post.

His first novel, The Traitor and the Thief, a rip-roaring young adult Steampunk adventure, won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award, the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Youth Novel, a 2018 Storylines Notable Book Award and was a finalist in two categories at The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. His second novel, The Clockill and the Thief was released in August 2019 and won a Sir Julius Vogel award for best youth novel. Brasswitch and Bot is Gareth’s third novel and the first in the Rise of the Remarkables series. It is set in the city of York, where Gareth went to University.

My name is Daniel, I was born in Hamilton and still live here. I am 11 years old, turning 12 in December. I live with my sister (Abby), my mum (Kate) and my dad (David). My many hobbies include Irish dancing, reading, and trumpet, which have all become very important to me. I am working towards Grade 5 for practical trumpet and music theory.  I have also developed an interest in waterpolo earlier this year. I am very passionate about that and look forward to the next season. 

The first writing I enjoyed was poetry, which my many teachers at my old school, Hukanui School, made me do all the time. That then brought me into the world of writing. In the last few years I went from disliking writing quite strongly to enjoying it very much. The problem that I had always had with writing was not the actual ideas and content, it was the physical writing and having a link between what I was thinking (which goes 100 miles an hour) to what I was writing (which was much, much slower). Poetry allowed me to think less about grammatical structure and the amount of words and more about how I could bend words to my advantage, by investigating how groups of words sound together to paint a picture.

Philippa Werry

Phillipa Werry reads ‘If you feel blue get on your skidoo’ by Margaret Mahy

Poetry Challenges courtesy of Phillipa:

Write a poem about another mode of transport that plays on its name, as Margaret does with skidoo.  You could pick submarine, double-decker bus, helicopter, train, bicycle, balloon, snowboard, lorry … or something other fascinating means of travelling. 

Write a list poem that starts If you feel ….. (some emotion). You could feel happy, sad, scared, lonely lost, cross, shy, bored … you pick!

Write a poem with some made-up words in it. 

Your poem might tell a story or just have fun with WORDS!

Let your imagine go flying!

Poem source: This fabulous poem is in Margaret’s fabulous poetry collection The Word Witch, edited by Tessa Duder, illustrations by David Elliot (HarperCollins)

Philippa Werry writes fiction, non-fiction, plays and poetry for children and young adults. She has a particular interest in history which has led to titles such as Anzac Day, Best Mates (illustrated by Bob Kerr), Waitangi Day, The New Zealand Wars, The Telegram and This is Where I Stand (illustrated by Kieran Rynhart). She has also been to Antarctica!

Margaret Mahy (1936 – 2012) is one of New Zealand’s most beloved authors. She wrote over two hundred titles from dazzling picture books for the very young to award-winning novels for teenagers. She wrote poems, novels, non-fiction, picture books and countless school readers. Margaret was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Medal which is an enormous, international honour.

Donovan Bixley

Donovan Bixley reads ‘The Circus’ by Joy Cowley

Poetry Challenges

Donovan says he loves funny poems and poems with an AH HA! moment in the middle. I do too!

Try writing a poem that is funny. It might be a funny character, a funny event, a funny place, funny food, funny jokes.

Write a poem about something funny that has happened to you.

Write a poem that has a surprise or a twist in the middle or at the end.

Poem source: Elephant Rhymes, Joy Cowley, illustrated by Brent Putzee (Scholastic) I am such a fan of Joy’s poems. Check our her Gobbledegook book (see her bio).

Donovan Bixley is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed picture book creators with over 120 books published in 31 countries. His award-winning titles span high–brow to low–brow and every brow in between, from his illustrated biography Much Ado About Shakespeare, to the hilarious hijinks of pussycats in planes in Paris in his Flying Furballs seriesHe’s most well-known for his best-selling pre-school books such as The Wheels on the Bus and The Great Kiwi ABC Book, as well as his colourful and humorous retellings of of the legends of Māui. Among his many accolades Donovan was the recipient of the 2017 Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Laureate Award, which places Donovan’s body of work alongside some of New Zealand’s most celebrated artists. His books have been twice selected for the International Youth Library’s White Raven award which annually lists the top 200 children’s books in the world, and in 2021 he was named a Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for his services to New Zealand children’s literature.Donovan grew up in Taupō and still lives beside the great lake. When not immersed in the world of picture books Donovan is involved in local theatre and plays saxophone in several bands.

Joy Cowley is one of New Zealand’s best-loved writers. Her awards include the Margaret Mahy Medal; the NZ Post Children’s Book Award 2006; the Roberta Long Medal, Alabama, USA; and the AW Reed Award for Contribution to New Zealand Literature. She is a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Gecko Pres published the utterly magnificent gathering of Joy’s poems, with illustrations by Giselle Clarkson in The Gobbledegook Book: A Joy Cowley Anthology.

Melinda Szymanik

Melinda Szymanik reads ‘Sun Sonata’ by Elizabeth Pulford and ‘Waxing and Waning’ by Elena de Roo.

Poetry Challenges

Try writing a very small poem about the sun OR the moon that shows them in a new light.

Collect sun OR moon words and make poem patterns with them. Have word fun!

Write a very small poem with both the SUN and MOON in. Test out favourite lines and pick your favourites.

Poem sources: Elizabeth Pulford’s ‘Sun Sonata and Elena de Roo’s poems are both in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children, edited by Paula Green (Penguin Random House).

Melinda Szymanik is an award-winning writer of stories and poetry for children and young adults. She was the 2014 University of Otago, College of Education, Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence, a judge for the 2016 NZCYA Book Awards and runs an online writing competition called Fabostory, for primary and intermediate age children with 9 other authors. Her most recent books are Moon and Sun (Upstart, 2021), My Elephant is Blue (Penguin, 2021) and Batkiwi (Scholastic, 2021).

Elena de Roo is a children’s poet and author who lives next to Cornwall Park in Auckland. As well as having a sweet tooth, she loves thinking up poems in her head while walking around the park. Her latest book, Rush! Rush! (illus. Jenny Cooper) One Tree House, is a story-poem inspired by a walk in Awhitu regional park. Elena also has several poems soon to appear in RoarSqueakPurr: A NZ Treasury of Animal Poems, (ed. Paula Green, illus. Jenny Cooper), Penguin Random House, due out in November. 

Elizabeth Pulford lives in a small village not far from the city of Dunedin, New Zealand, with one extra nice husband, and a gentle garden. She has two adult children and two grandchildren. She has published stories, poems and articles for both adults and children. Over sixty books for children, from early readers through to Young Adults; plus one adult’s novel. Many of her adult short stories have won competitions, while four of her children’s books, The Memory Tree (Scholastic NZ), Call of the Cruins (Scholastic NZ), Tussock (Walker Books Australia) and Finding Monkey Moon (Walker Books Australia & Candlewick USA) reached the finals of the New Zealand Children’s Book Awards.

Tania Roxborogh

Tania Roxborogh reads ‘My Sister’s Top’ by Ruth Sun (Year 7)

Poetry Challenge

Think of an everyday object that you can describe in a poem, and that says something about who you are and your place in the world.

Use someone’s favourite piece of clothing to write a poem about them.

Choose your own favourite piece of clothing and see where that takes you in a poem. You might get a story, a word pattern, a picture poem, a list poem.

Poem source: Ruth wrote this poem when she did writing workshops with Tania over six weeks in 2006.

Tania Roxborogh (Ngāti Porou) is a veteran educator and an award-winning writer of over thirty published works. Her latest children’s novel, Charlie Tangaroa and the creature from the sea, published by Huia Publishers September 2020, won the Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction and Margaret Mahy Book of the Year in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, 2021. Tania’s happy places are: her classroom, at home with her husband and her young border collie, enjoying pyjama days, and wherever she can snatch time to read – most often books recommended by her students.

From Ruth Sun: I was a massive reader all through my teenage years, at the time I really liked fantasy and always wanted to be the next Tamora Pierce or Terry Pratchett. I was at Columba College in Dunedin. I used to read and write constantly, although I didn’t actually like poetry much at the time. 

Unfortunately I don’t really do any writing anymore, although it’s something I always think about getting back into. Funnily enough I love reading poetry now, I still love Tamora Pierce and Terry Pratchett as well. I’m now a dentist based in Wellington/Porirua. I have a big collection of books but they’re all in storage at the moment. I’m sure mum still has that top somewhere!

Elena de Roo

Elena de Roo reads ‘Parcel’ by Bill Nagelkerke

Poetry Challenges

Think of a place you love and unwrap it in a poem! It might be your grandparents’ place, or aunt or uncle’s, or in another town or city, in the countryside, another country.

Hunt for detail that will make the place glow in your poem.

Poetry Source: The Night the Moon Fell Down and other poems, Bill Nagelkerke (Copy Press) – some terrific poems in this collection! PG

Elena de Roo is a children’s poet and author who lives next to Cornwall Park in Auckland. As well as having a sweet tooth, she loves thinking up poems in her head while walking around the park. Her latest book, Rush! Rush! (illus. Jenny Cooper) One Tree House, is a story-poem inspired by a walk in Awhitu regional park. Elena also has several poems soon to appear in RoarSqueakPurr: A NZ Treasury of Animal Poems, (ed. Paula Green, illus. Jenny Cooper), Penguin Random House, due out in November. 

A former children’s librarian, Bill Nagelkerke has written short stories, poems, plays and books for all ages, as well as translating other people’s books from Dutch into English. His most recent titles are a collection of poems, The night the moon fell down (dist. The Copy Press, 2019) and a ghost story, The ghosts on the hill (Cuba Press, 2020). His translation of the children’s novel I’ll keep you close (Levine Querido, 2021) by Dutch writer Jeska Verstegen will be published towards the end of the year.

Bill Nagelkerke

Bill Nagelkerke reads ‘No rhyme’ by Tim Upperton

Poetry Challenge

Tim Upperton’s poem offers lots of challenges for poets! Try writing a poem where you use your imagination and see the world in surprising ways.

Look out the window and rewrite what you see in a poem, letting your imagination soar.

Poem source: ‘No rhyme’ was published in the School Journal Level 3 August 2015 

A former children’s librarian, Bill Nagelkerke has written short stories, poems, plays and books for all ages, as well as translating other people’s books from Dutch into English. His most recent titles are a collection of poems, The night the moon fell down (dist. The Copy Press, 2019) and a ghost story, The ghosts on the hill (Cuba Press, 2020). His translation of the children’s novel I’ll keep you close (Levine Querido, 2021) by Dutch writer Jeska Verstegen will be published towards the end of the year.

Tim Upperton is a poet, writer, reviewer and teacher, living in Palmerston North. He is the winner of two international poetry competitions. He has been published in numerous literary journals and has published several poetry collections.

Poetry Box: A Booktown treat – poetry from tamariki in Featherston

When I was at Featherston Booktown Festival in May, I got to do a Speed Date an Author event with local tamariki. It was fast flying poetry! I got thirty minutes with each group and I got the children writing poems with me on the whiteboard and their own poems they could take away and finish. I challenged them to use their ears and eyes. I loved the way children got into the poetry zone and let their ideas and words go exploring.

I so enjoyed my time in the magnificent Wairarapa. I got the children to write poem postcards – poems that showed me somewhere in the Wairarapa they loved. It could be the ocean, a river, a maunga, a grandmother’s garden, a street, a cafe, a bookshop. Poems that showed me places I might like to check out! And because we had only a few minutes to share, I invited them to send me some.

How delighted I was to get this poem bundle from South Featherston School. Thank you for taking me back to your glorious region. I can tell your eyes and ears were working magnificently. Thank you!

Best yummiest dumplings ever at The Offering Cafe in Greytown.

The Poems


The buzzer on the

 door went beep 

as we appear

 through the door.

The books are clapping. 

The scanner is scanning.  

The coffee machine is 


The floor board is 


The people are chatting.

The cicadas chirp

 as we Exit on to the

 busy street.


 Wairarapa Ruamahanga River

Glistening emerald green

shining in the beam

of the sun rays.

River rustling round

banks rising over 

the ripples

wakes running high

boards flailing

banging the break.

shwish, shwish, shwish

People call the speed. 

Getting ready.


Tararua Ranges

The trees swish

The trees crash

High winds howl

Gravel scattering while people walk

Floor boards creek

Swing bridge sways

River crashes splashing on rocks

Birds flap

Birds squawk

Cicadas chirp throughout the forest.



Rugby is cool

Rugby is great 

Rugby is a game 

I play with my mates 

Sometimes I get muddy

And sometimes I get hurt 

The game gets frustrating 

And you might rage

But at least I’m with my mates



Balls flying

Birds chirping

Bush swaying

Rivers swishing moving

Hammers clanking

Wind howling brushing against you

Boots trending on the muddy ground

Rain hosing down

This is the Wairarapa



The wind whistles

The trees sway

It was a cold day

The crackling fire sizzled

My blankets ruffle

The stars glimmer in the sky

The moon glides into

The dark deep blue sky

I gaze off into

The galaxy next to us


The Lake, Wairarapa

it’s pretty fun,

trees, bushes, and water together,

children building, swimming, and laughing,

watch the ducks and swans glide across the water,

hear the tūī chirp above,

the clouds forming waves,

you should go there sometime.


Lake Wairarapa

Motor roars away

I vibrate as water crashes

Water pellets hit faces

Screams echo far

Hills covered with green

Big wave hits


We fall off.



Splash! Splash! Splash!

Crunch! soft soft sand

SQUAWK! Go the seagulls

Boom go the waves

 It’s going to be a very, nice, day.


It’s going to be a very nice POETRY day!

Featherston’s main road, a town with seven bookshops!

a very very very good children’s bookshop

On my way home after a heart warming week of words and very very good food! Thanks Wairarapa and Featherston Booktown.

Poetry Box in Featherston: Magnetic Poetry

What fun to do poetry with children in Featherston (and some mums who joined in too!). I read some of my poems, we made up long long snaking poems, we made up poems using our ears, and we made up poems using our eyes. I loved the way everyone joined in and the pens went scratching like tiny poetry mice on the paper. A SPECIAL DAY!

So a big thank you to all the children (and mums) who filled the room with a poetry glow – I was still glowing as I drove over the Rimutaka range on Monday and flew home! I was waiting for someone to ask what my glow was all about, so I could say it was a Featherston Booktown glow from all the poems the children wrote.

I am so sorry not all my photos turned out so I have just shared a few with you! Honey-rose only half your Platywawa poem was in the photo!

Here are a few of the poems

Animals Are Fun

The Snake

I’m a slithery snake

I’m a slow shedding snake

I’m a red banded snake

I’m a mountain dwelling snake

I’m a dynamic ssssssing snake

I’m an awesome smelling snake

I’m a LONG snake

Isaac, age 9, St Teresa School


I’m tiny teeny chihuahua

I’m a sleepy weepy chihuahua

I’m a fat rat chihuahua

I’m a kind windy chihuahua

I’m a cheeky sneaky chihuahua

Honey-rose, age 9, St Teresa School

I’m a Horse

I’m a lightning speedy horse

I’m a stinky muddy horse

I’m a raspberry lemonade horse

I’m a loving loving pretty horse

Sarah, age 8, Queen Margaret College


I’m a sausage roll cat

I’m a pink polka dot cat

I’m an orange stripy cat

I’m a crunchy munchy cat

I’m a sweet lolly cat

I’m a loved loved cat

Evie, age 8, Greytown School


The cat is stripy and fluffy

and cute and a good cat.

Emilia, age 6, Featherston School

Imaginary Animals


The lizarpus likes to eat the fungi

The lizarpus doesn’t like to eat pie

The lizarpus likes to eat chocolate

The Lizarpus likes to drink juice

The lizarpus likes rocks

The lizaropus swims in the sea

The lizarpus loves clouds

The lizarpus is AWESOME!

Isaac, age 9, St Teresa School

The Sniger

A sniger likes to eat meat

A sniger likes to play catch the ball

A sniger likes to slide and snooze

And you have to watch out for its tail

or you might turn into kale!

India, age 7, Featherston School


Eletamus grow in the forest

Bathes in the mud

Plays with sparkling sequins

East dry hay

Elatamus makes your day

Azalea, age 7, St Teresa School

The Snakog

The snakog likes to eat mouse

and tigers.

The snakog likes to play

with his ball.

Lulu, age 8, Queen Margaret College

And some picture poems for our mums

My Mum

Long silky black hair,
Smile as wide as the sun,

Eyes as brown as cocoa,

Eyebrows as dark as the midnight sky,
Posture proud as the sun.