Category Archives: Poetry

Poetry Box audio spot: Renee Liang’s Caterpillar

This is the perfect audio to go with our July butterfly challenge. Listen out for the butterfly song in te reo.









Note from Renee


Here’s a recording of me reading the poem to Ferndale Kindergarten followed by the kids singing ‘Purerehua‘, a song they love.

The ‘Caterpillar‘ poem is inspired by a Cantonese children’s rhyme we also practised (but I did not record): 

點蟲蟲, 蟲蟲飛。飛去邊﹖飛去荔枝畿。荔枝熟, 摘滿一包袱。

dim chung chung, chung chung fei. fei hoey bin? fei hoey lai ji gei. lai ji suk, jaak muun yat bao fuk. (Not proper Cantonese romanisation)

Almost word for word translation:

point insect insect, insect insect fly. fly to where? fly to lichee area. lichee ripe, pick (and fill up) full a haversack (bag).

Here are some pictures of their hands being butterflies and also a shot of my son Luka G (4) who attends the kindy. 






You can find Renee’s poem in A Treasury of NZ poems for Children

Renee Liang has always loved telling stories and making worlds in her head. Like the caterpillar, when she spins a house around her stories and snuggles with them for a while they often turn into something unexpected. Sometimes they are poems, sometimes plays, once even an opera. She loves showing other people how to write down the worlds in their heads. Renee has two children aged 4 and 5 who are also world-makers.





Poetry Box audio spot: Kyle Mewburn reads ‘The lump on the end of my nose’



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Kyle Mewburn is one of New Zealand’s most eclectic writers. Her picture books are noted for being multi-layered, funny and linguistically creative. Her titles have been published in a dozen countries and won numerous awards including Children’s Book of the Year.

As well as picture books, Kyle has published several best-selling junior fiction series, notably Dinosaur Rescue and Dragon Knight.

Originally from Brisbane, Kyle lives with her wife, Marion, a well-known potter, two cats and 24 chickens, in a house with a grass roof in Millers Flat. When she’s not writing, Kyle spends her free time maintaining a semi-self-sufficient lifestyle, or exploring the strange world she’s discovered at the back of her wardrobe.

Kyle’s website










Librarian’s Choice: Jessie Neilson picks AA Milne


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There is no poetic influence that springs to mind more for the childhood years than the inimitable A.A. Milne. I had the rhymes read to me endlessly as a child; they were favourites of my father for their simplicity in their rhymes, and their humour, and their accessibility, however unlikely it might be that we end up curtseying in the company of the Queen. 

James James Morrison Morrison” so the story goes. What a good boy, what a normal boy; what a curious boy out to explore everything that any other child would want.

 Or Ernest and the other of his friends, animals of familiar ilk: “Ernest was an elephant and very well-intentioned; Leonard was a lion with a brave new tail, George was a goat, as I think I have mentioned, But James was only a snail”. These creatures are individual, but singularly as important as others, in their daily, slight traipses across the scapes of the world.

Then there is the perplexity of not quite knowing where one is, exploring the parameters of a child’s day-to-day life: “Halfway down the stairs/ is a stair where I sit/ There isn’t any other stair quite like it…”. These are very simple and quiet steps that a young child takes every day as they learn about their immediate world.

Everything about these verses in their simplicity, their commonality and familiarity, make them appealing to a child. 

And then there are those phrases that takes us back to earlier, quaint times; of a land far away from New Zealand life, but that of A.A Milne, as he speaks of London: “They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace – / Christopher Robin went down with Alice”…That is a  refrain that all of us know today.


A. A. Milne today is immediately of a time past, of a land that most of us have never known, yet the influence of manners and curiosity is one that lingers. His rhymes and patterns are continually accessible, and his imagery and subjects within his poems are such that even as adults we welcome reciting them.



Jessie Neilson is a University of Otago library assistant and mother. She reviews regularly for the Otago Daily Times and Takahe and has a broad interest in matters literary.




Check out my June winter video poem challenge






Poetry Box audio spot: Apirana Taylor reads ‘South West Taranaki’ and two one-breath poems





Apirana introduces and reads ‘South West Taranaki’ and two one-breath poems.  He is so good in schools – now you can hear him wherever you live! I love this so much I chose to post it on my birthday. This first poem makes me think about where and how we belong somewhere, and how where we stand is full of the stories that make us. Some of the stories from our past make me weep, some fill me with joy. Apirana is a gift, his stories and his poems, taonga. The second poems, like little poem breaths, , show how a handful of words can breathe an exquisite image in our eyes and ears. Kia ora Apirana.





Apirana Taylor, of Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui, Te Ati Awa and Pakeha descent was born in 1955. He is a nationally and internationally published poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, actor, painter and musician.

He has been Writer in Residence at Canterbury and Massey Universities.

He frequently tours nationally and internationally visiting schools, tertiary institutions and prisons reading his poetry, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops. He has read at poetry festivals in India, Europe and South America and in 2017 was invited to read his poetry at an International Literature conference at Udine University in Italy. He has had six collections of poetry, a book of plays, three collections of short stories, and two novels published. The latest novel ‘Five Strings’ was published in 2017.  His work has also been included in many national and international anthologies.



Check out my June winter video poem challenge










Librarian’s Choice – Stephanie Mayne picks 101 Poems for Children: a Laureate’s Choice


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101 Poems for Children: a Laureate’s Choice

compiled by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Emily Gravett (2013)


Carol Ann Duffy has selected poems she personally enjoys for this collection. Classic and modern poems are included and the book is appealingly illustrated.

The poems are suitable for a wide range of ages. Some poems are quirky, some highly visual, many humorous.  Old favourites are here – but  work from largely unfamiliar poets is also represented.

Many selected poems make ordinary things extraordinary (e.g. “Balloons” by Sylvia Plath), others rely largely on repetition and rhythm for impact (   e.g. “There was an Old Lady”).  Some are funny and instantly strike a chord with children (e.g. “Rat it up” by Adrian Mitchell). The poems by Norman MacCaig are simple and evocative. Don’t miss “Toad” and “Caterpillar.”

Poems are not all Eurocentric, which is useful. Try “How to Cut a Pomegranate” by Imtiaz Dharker, for a poem that will resonate with migrant students. You might use “Ten Things Found in a Shipwrecked Sailor’s Pocket” by Ian McMillan as a prompt to get students writing their own list poems – ten things found in schoolchild’s satchel, maybe?

This is a fresh, rewarding, useful poetry book that belongs in every school library!

Stephanie Mayne


Stephanie Mayne is an Auckland school librarian and teacher who writes poetry and flash fiction in her spare time. She has been published in newspapers, anthologies and online literary journals.







Librarian’s Choice: Zac McCallum picks There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in our Neighbourhood




There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in our Neighbourhood by Colin McNaughton,

Walker Books 1990  [first published 1987]



This book was a present from my grandparents on my 6th birthday. I’ve had to part with a lot of books from my collection over the years but this is one book that I can never part with.  I don’t think that six-year-old me really appreciated it but it started my love of Colin McNaughton’s poetry.  Whenever I needed a poem for a poetry competition at primary school it would always be a Colin McNaughton poem.  His poems are perfect for performing which is why I would always choose them. Whether you want a short but silly poem or a rap about a T-Rex you can find it in this book.  My mum still recites ‘Don’t Put Sugar in My Tea, Mum’ regularly and there are some that pop in to my head from time to time.

I think the thing I love the most about Colin’s poems is his funny illustrations that go with each poem.  My favourite poem (complete with hilarious illustration) is ‘Sick of Being Pushed Around,’ about a kid who is being bullied so sends away for a course to help him get muscles.  The illustration shows a weedy kid with hugely muscly arms and makes me laugh every time.  Another of my favourites is called ‘A Poem to Send to Your Worst Enemy,’ which is really just a list of insults that rhyme.

Colin McNaughton has written other collections of poetry like this one, including Who’s Been Sleeping in My Porridge? and Wish You Were Here and I Wasn’t, as well as some fantastic picture books, like the Preston Pig series and Captain Abdul’s Pirate School.  His books are a great way to hook boys in to poetry, especially if you share some of his grossest poems about being car sick or eating too many jelly babies.  Any kids who love Andy Griffiths’ The Bad Book should check out Colin’s poetry.



Zac is a school librarian in Christchurch.  He runs a blog about children’s literature called My Best Friends Are Books, featuring news, reviews and interviews.  His favourite authors include Aaron Blabey, Lisa Thompson, M.G. Leonard and Patrick Ness.  When he’s not reading or talking about books with his wife he is chasing after a boisterous little girl and twin teenage boys.























Poetry Box audio spot: Bill Nagelkerke reads two poems







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 novel Old bones was a Storylines Notable Book and Sitting on the fence, which tells the story of the controversial Springbok rugby tour of 1981, was a finalist in the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. In 2013 Bill was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award for a distinguished contribution to New Zealand children’s literature and literacy.