Category Archives: The Letterbox cat

Poetry Box review festival and POP-UP challenge 3: Ruth Paul’s Little Hector stories


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Penguin Random House page


Each day this week I am posting a review of a children’s book published in Aotearoa with a pop-up challenge and a secret giveaway. You will have 48 hours to do the challenge!



Ruth Paul has published two books about Hector’s dolphins with Penguin Random House. She is a superb illustrator and is equally deft with words.

The first one – Little Hector and the Blue Whale – came out in 2018. Hector ‘is a small but daring dolphin’ who wants to follow the big dolphins but everyone says he is too small. His ears fill with so many warnings he might pop (he’s had enough!). So he ignores the advice and heads off into the big ocean where all kinds of scary things loom large. Poor Little Hector gets lost – luckily he finds a friend who won’t EAT him and who knows friends stick together when they are in tough spots! It’s a happy ending because Little Hector finds out the very best place for small dolphins to be.

This book is about a rare and special creature who lives in our seas and is one of the smallest dolphins in the world. We need to do everything we can to protect them.

Ruth’s gorgeous illustrations are full of such life, Little Hector catches my eye on every page. I can almost feel the texture of the skin and see him loop and dive as he skims through the water. Which means I get to care about Hector’s dolphins even more.


The second  one –  Little Hector and the Big Idea – came out this year and the illustrations are equally captivating. In this story, instead of coming across ocean treasures like shells and seaweed, Little Hector and his Bottlenose cousins come across junk. All the plastic waste and fishing nets that end up as danger spots for sea life! Fish might try to eat it (DISASTER) and get stuck in it (DOUBLE DISASTER).

I love the way Ruth tells a story that makes me care about the ocean even more, and all the creatures that live in it. I loved the picture of adults and children clearing all the junk off beaches because that’s what we do at Te Henga near where I live.

These two books are essential reading – Little Hector is a delightful character but I also get to learn as I read.

I am very excited there is a third book coming soon: Little Hector and the Mini Māui.





Let’s do poems about Hector’s dolphins.

First: You might like to go hunting for some facts.

Second: You might like to go hunting for dolphin words (think of what they actually look like, some words for how they move in the sea, similes)

Third: Try making little lines using some of the words

Fourth: Use your lines to make a dolphin shape (a picture poem)

OR fifth: Write a dolphin weaving your collected words and a dolphin fact or two

Sixth: Your poem might even bring the plastic in the ocean problem


Does your poem make a picture of a dolphin grow in your head as you read it?

How does it sound as you read it aloud?



Deadline: 25th October 9 am

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

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

Send to:

Some favourite poems: I will post some favourites on 25th October. I will have at least one secret give away!






Winning school visit (Ormond School) An adorable Year0/1 poem and an illustration challenge for you

I am back home after my visit to the most darling country school near Gisborne. I loved the way the teachers joined in all the workshops and helped the children find their poetry paths. Thank you so very much. You were all amazing. Inspiring people to be around.

I visited the  Y0/1 class (kowhai) for just thirty minutes (they were in the long session with the whole school in the hall though and lasted so beautifully).

We made up two poems together. I especially love the cat poem. All the words came from the children. I love this poem so much I thought up a really cool challenge for it. See below for details.



Orange like mandarin skin,

my cat purrs

and plays with silvery

wool like pillows.

She sleeps

in a beanbag

and in a wood box

and on the rainbow couch.

But her favourite place

is a knitted basket.


I thought it would be very cool to post it again with some illustrations by children. You will need to scan and send your drawing to me (not as a PDF please but a jpeg).

I will post my favourites with the poem and have a copy of The Letterbox Cat for one child. See below for deadline and details.

Deadline: Wednesday 4th November ( I will post on 5th November)

Send to  Put cat drawing in subject line. Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include your teacher’s email.




Poetry Bonanza Monday: a glow, a list, a challenge challenge

Letterbox Cat    Letterbox Cat   Letterbox Cat   Letterbox Cat   Letterbox Cat

Yes I am still glowing with my Children’s Choice win. I don’t know if a poetry book has ever won this before so it is very special. It shows NZ that children love poetry! Yeah!


t     h     a     n     k     y     o     u          x    x     x     x     o     x     x     x     x


This week is a big catch-up week before I get back to writing next week on new projects. So exciting! My list of jobs to do is SO long. I wasn’t going to post a challenge for you this week but came up with an idea for one anyway! See below.

This week I will post some of my favourite poems from The Fourth Fabulous Poetry Competition. I need to type them out so will take me a few days.

I will show you some new Gecko books.

I will post some cool poems from Papatoetoe Intermediate.

I will give a copy of the Treasury to one young poet today.


Here is a challenge for you: 

Make up the poetry challenge for me to post on Monday that is suitable for children from Y1 to Y8.


DEADLINE for your Make Up a Challenge: Friday August 21st

Send to Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email. PLEASE say it’s for the make up a challenge.

I will choose one to post on Monday August 24th as my Monday challenge and have a book for the poet I pick.



Photos from the Awards

Thanks for all the lovely messages. 

I hardly slept a wink as I am not used to the city noises. It’s true! The city never sleeps. Always someone doing something. Cars buses rubbish bins laughter sirens chat chat chatting. I can’t wait to get out and go roaming. A day roaming with my daughter. 

Here are a few photos from last night. I am still smiling that children voted for poetry! Thank you so much. Everyone was saying how wonderful it was that children love poetry!  Yeah!

Here I am with Myles Lawford the illustrator and Lynette Evans, the Publisher (Scholastic). 

The winners. I am standing next to the extraordinary Jenny Cooper. She did the Treasury but last night she deservedly won Best Picture Book with Glyn Harper for Jim’s Letters. Can’t see supreme winner Mandy Hager!?!


That’s Lynette  with winner Donovan Bixley.  
Government House sparkles


dear young poetry fans

Tomorrow I am off to the Children’s Book Awards in Wellington so I have just realised it will be too hard to post the busy poems on Friday. i will do that one day next week.

I have also decided not to post a challenge on Monday as I need to have a wee break. I have worked nonstop since day one of Term 4 in schools and doing heaps of Skype sessions as well as everything else.

I will post some favourite poems from the Fourth Fabulous Poetry Competition next week!



I need to recharge my poetry batteries!

So I am going to switch off my computer and find a nice cosy corner and have a rest! Read a book. Dream a little.

But I will let you know what happens at the awards tomorrow.


Thought you might like to see our cats (Check out my ‘Cat Nap’ poem in The Letterbox Cat!)

Meet Charlie:


Meet Agile:






Poetry Bonanza Monday: Thanks to two Nelson girls a new challenge, and countdown for the Fourth Fabulous Poetry Competition results!

I am off to Wellington this week for the Children’s Book Awards. So exciting! I don’t mind about winning and losing. I enjoy meeting other authors and sharing a celebration of great writing and publishing. So a big thanks to Scholastic for publishing The Letterbox Cat.

I spent last week reading the poems sent in for The Fourth Fabulous Poetry Competition. I am about to post the results this morning!


* * * * * *           * * * * *        * * * * *


Two Nelson girls, Isabelle and Evie, were so taken with The Letterbox Cat, (their Mum, the very talented Rachael Craw tweeted about it!) I gave them a weekend challenge to make their own fabulous picture poems. They were inspired by the ones I did for the book. It made my weekend to get these back. I call them picture poems but you can call them shape poems or concrete poetry. I now feel inspired to do a dog one and more food ones! Thank you.

A picture poem is when you use words to make a picture on the page.

I am going to post what they did and two of mine from the book because I am challenging you to do your own picture poem.

(I am busy doing this with schools in different ways as I am hard at work making new picture poems myself.)


Three top tips:

* You can use words to make an outline of something. Put the words close together so you can rub out the pencil outline and see the shape just with the words.

*You can use words to fill the pencil outline. Make sure you go right to the line so when you rub out the outline you can see the shape. The words can go in any direction.

*Picture poems should sound good too as it is the perfect time and place to play with words.


SCAN your poem and send to me. Check out some of mine in The Letterbox Cat.


DEADLINE for your Picture-Poem Challenge: Wednesday August 19th

Send to Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email.

PLEASE say it’s for the Picture-Poem challenge. Put in the subject line of the email please.

I will post my favourites and have a book for a poet (Year 0 to Year 8).




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You have until July 31st to vote for CHILDREN’s Choice -here is the correct link

Here is the link to the list of finalists in Children’s Choice categories in the NZ Children’s B Awards.

– as chosen already by children – now is the time to vote – and by the end of this week – Friday 31st July

A vote for The Letterbox Cat is a vote for poetry! Yeah! Woohoo!

Letterbox Cat

Northland Poems: Kerikeri High school poems with great wintry moods!

I was so tired by the end of the week I didn’t get to post these. Visiting two groups of Year 7 students at Kerikeri High School was a wonderful experience. The sound of pencils scratching on the paper as the students got right into their poetry zones was spectacular. It deserves a poem.

A big thank you to the warm and firendly teachers and librarians. And for the delicious lunch!

Here are a few poems that struck me from this visit! Love the detail in these and the made-up words.


Chilly Winter

Frosty crystals forming

chilly wind howling past

bare trees moaning

this is winter.



Winter Awakes

Winter awakens

beds of frost

burning flames, winds singing

chimneys smoking, windows defending

flakes falling

sleds slicing

skis gliding, snowballs flyng

eyes awidening

winter has arrived.




Frosty grass, still

clouds like marshmallows,

cold toes.

Time to dip into some warm

slippers and start the





Green trees frosting

water ice cold

fire heating house

cosy woollen blanket


Ice skating, driftly

white gentle clouds

seagulls resting

pumpkin soup steaming

pot ready, on stove

for ,,,

hot chocolate to warm

me up.








Poetry Bonanza Monday: Home sweet home and a challenge for you

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How lovely to go away on a Northland Tour and how lovely to be back home.

Still time to do these things and then I have  challenge for you at the bottom for this week.


1. If you vote for the  Children’s Choice books at The NZ Children’s Book Awards you and your school will go into the draw to win some books. A vote for The Letterbox Cat is a vote for Poetry! Voting form here.

2. Don’t forget I am on the hunt for children to pick a NZ author to interview. You pick – I try and set it up for you (class, reading group or an individual). It is a golden opportunity to do something special.

3. I am on the hunt for children to review NZ books – any genre!


4. Still time to enter Fourth Fabulous Poetry Competition

You send in 12 poems in total from your school  (an age range is an advantage but not essential).

There is no theme.

You can write any kinds of poems you like.

They get sent to The New Zealand Book Council not me.

Only winners will be notified.

Finalists and winners will be posted on the blog and on NZBC web site on Monday August 10th.

You need to send in one entry form with all the details completed.

Each poem must have child’s age, name and year.

Entry Forms here


5. This week’s challenge

Write a poem that shows me something you love about home. Home might be a town or village. It might be your back garden. It might be the people you love.


* Collect lots of words, especially things you love about your home.

*(for older children who want an extra challenge) Write two or three words that show me what you think of home (for example: fun, beautiful, loving, nice). Don’t use these words in your poem. Find things and verbs and different adjectives to show me how your home is like this.

* It might be what you play with, who you play with, what you eat or wear or do. Your favourite places to be. What you do with your favourite people.

* Write your poem and put no more than five words on the line.

* The more detail you use of real things the better your poem will be. That will help it stand out.


DEADLINE for your Home-Poem Challenge: Wednesday August 5th

Send to Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email.

PLEASE say it’s for the Home-Poem challenge. Put in the subject line of the email please.

I will post my favourites and have a book for a poet (Year 0 to Year 8).


Northland Tour: two poem gifts from Ohaeawai School

When I visited Ohaeawai School, the Year 6 class had two treats for me.

A boy stood up and recited a poem he had written at home about the mountains! Amazing.

And another boy, Drezique, showed me this concrete poem he had written on his gadget because he knew I was coming that day. Amazing! I totally agree with his poem.

Thank you. I can post Drezique’s poem.

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