Tag Archives: A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children

Some poems by children to celebrate NZ poets in the reissued Treasury





Thanks for sending all the poems in – it was fun reading them all. I am sending a copy of The Treasury to Gabriella.

Extra thanks to Churton Park School for sending all the pop popping poems in! I loved them.



(a reply to Elizabeth Smither’s “The Stapler”)

Paper clips are nice to paper
not like any nasty staple
Can hold a lot of paper
5 or 6 its favourite number
Wants to end the staple families.

Paper clips can connect and bend
They are paper’s best friend
Easy to collect with a magnet
Never tears or rips the paper
Paper clips are best, not staples

By James K    Age 11, Year 6  Churton Park School


The scissors
As in response to ‘The stapler’ by Elizabeth Smither

What a ferocious beasts are scissors
With blades that ruin knickers
They do not like to feed on snickers*
They do not like large rocks

They must have two sheets at least
Or else they can’t be deceased
They prefer more at least four
As when you cut up a story.


*as in the chocolate bar
Gabriella R age 10, Year 6  Churton Park School
Note: There are ones similar, but these are all my ideas. By the way I put deceased there as in getting worn out.


The Scissors
In Response to Elizabeth Smither’s ‘The Stapler’

What a strange beast are a pair of scissors
With sharp blades that ruin pictures
They have an appetite for stickers
They do not like cardboard

Over time the things it can cut
Begins to be not as much
It does not care how many sheets
It will tear up your story

Nathan S Year 6    Churton Park School



Wiggly Wiggly

Wiggly, Wiggly,
Do the harlem
Wiggle a jellyfish,
Touch a marlin.

Wiggly, Wiggly,
Bend a worm,
Twist a leg,
Squirm a berm.

Wiggly, Wiggly,
Twist a head,
Break a led,
¨Oh! No!¨ he said

Wiggly, Wiggly,
Kiss a frog,
Buy a dog
Climb through fog.

In response to Joy Cowley’s Wriggly Wriggly

Ryan L 11 years old   Year 6   Churton Park School



Inspired by Joy Cowley:

Muddly Muddly

Muddly Muddly
feed a cat
It wears a hat
Big and fat
Muddly Muddly
Feed a cat

Muddly Muddly
Feed a dog
Eat a hotdog
Than take a jog
Muddly Muddly
Feed a dog

Muddly Muddly
Feed a horse
Use the force
Become the source
Muddly Muddly
Feed a horse

Muddly Muddly
Feed a kiwi
Wee wee
Very sneaky
Muddly Muddly
Feed a kiwi

By Angad Gill, Churton Park School, Year 6


To Joy Cowley

Muddly Muddly,
Feed a horse,
Give it a tomato,
Make a sauce,
Eat it up,
With some paws,
Put it down,
On the floors,
Feed a horse

Muddly Muddly,
Feed a dog,
In it’s bowl,
Feed it hogs,
Eat them up with,
Some Hogs,
Muddly Muddly,
Feed a Dog

Muddly Muddly,
Feed a cat,
Stuff it,
Inside a hat,
Tip it out onto,
A mat,
Muddly Muddly,
Feed at Cat

by Hannah age 10 Year 6 Churton Park School




for Robin Hyde (inspired by ‘The Last Ones’)

Galloping along wild prairie
Paddling through the cool waters of the lake
Resting under a weeping willow
Braving the fierce winds of the desert
Soaring through grasses
Mane and tail billowing
To be wild
To be free


Name: Nell  Age: 9 Year: 4   Homeschool

My picks from the Treasury challenge to take a photo of a cool place to read poetry: a poetry nest and at the zoo

I challenged you to photograph yourself in a cool place reading poetry. Here are my top two picks. Love them!

This from Daniel and Gemma:

(Note from Paula: This is an extra cool idea and all you need is a cardboard box and some cushions. I have one $50 book voucher to give away for this challenge so I am giving it to Gemma and Daniel to get more stock for the nest. Thanks for sharing.)

We built a poetry nest and read lots of poems in it and then wrote poems too.  It was a stormy day so it was nice to be in a poetry nest! We go to Adventure school in Whitby.


This from Room 8 at Adventure School:

(Note from Paula: What a cool idea. I started to think of all the perfect poems in the Treasury to read at a zoo and I came up with quite a few! I love this and have shared with Stephanie. Thanks so much!)

Room 8 from Adventure School Whitby had a zoo sleepover last week at Wellington Zoo.  We had an amazing time and what better place than the zoo to read some poetry to the wonderful array of animals there.  We thought that ‘Zoo Chimpanzee’ by Stephanie Mayne was a pretty good poem to share at the zoo.

We hope you like the photo of Jorja, Noah, Matthias, Angus and Luci  — some of the children from the Room 8 Poetry Group, Adventure School, Whitby, sharing poetry at the zoo!

Poetry Group

The Treasury Interviews: Amy interviews James Brown

About Amy Fippard
I was born in 2006 and live in Te Awanga.  I have younger brother called Ben and a dog called Sally.  I like playing with Sally and grooming her.  I like swimming. I am in Year 3, aged 8, and go to Haumoana School.


James Brown

James Brown

James Brown was born in 1966 and grew up in Palmerston North.  He now lives in Wellington.  He has been a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 3 times. He has written a number of books of poetry.


What are the most important ingredients for you in a poem?
It’s more about what I don’t like – eg poems that are too obvious and soppy. I’m always listening to a poem’s words to hear its music. And I have a soft spot for list poems – poems that are just lists of interesting things. But I also like poems that tell little  stories!
What poetry did you read as a child?
I read Winnie the Pooh, which had a lot of poetry in it. Plus Edward Lear – ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’, ‘The Jumblies.’ My own early poems had regular rhymes and rhythms, which was good for learning about rhyme and rhythm. But free verse – no regular rhyme or rhythm – is subtler.

 James has a poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children called ‘The Bicycle.’ How big was your bike?
Well, the person in the poem isn’t me, and the bike is imaginary too. But I do have a red mountain bike that I bike everywhere on, and I did have a red bike when I was a kid.
Where did you get your bike?
A bike shop. But the bike in the poem is imagined. Red seemed the flashest colour.
What colour was your basket?
I’ve never had a bike with a basket. The bike in the poem needed a basket for the deliveries. My mum had a cane basket on her bike, though.
Why were you always lucky?
Again, the person in the poem isn’t me. I was actually trying to be a bit clever by having the kid think they were lucky when maybe their parents had just given them a bike so they could deliver things. There are two published versions of the poem: one says ‘the deliveries’ and the other says ‘his deliveries’. The ‘his’ means the father’s deliveries, which means the kid might not really be so lucky, even though they think they are and really do love the bicycle. I changed it to ‘the deliveries’ because I had to think how the kid would say it, and I thought they’d more likely just say ‘the deliveries’.
What did you deliver in your basket?
I did have a milk round when I was at high school, and I had to get up at 4.30am and bike to where it began. If the weather was bad the night before, I would lie in bed knowing I’d be delivering milk in it the next morning. But I delivered the milk from a trolly I pushed. I never used my bike to deliver anything. I never had a paper run. I imagined the kid in the poem was delivering groceries so they would have to bike all the way to someone’s house. That’s different from a milk round or paper run where you stop at each letterbox.


Thanks James and Amy for a fascinating interview. Really interesting how poems make up their own truth.

The Treasury Interviews: Richmond Road’s Ruma 4 interviews Apirana Taylor — I write poems when I’m in a lot of different moods.

The Interviewers: We are a Year 4/5 class of 7 girls and 19 boys, from Richmond Road School in Auckland.  We love our school because we have awesome teachers,  we are a multicultural school with 4 units, Maori unit, French Unit, Samoan Unit and the Kiwi Unit,  and everyone is so friendly.  In Ruma 4, we have kids who are creative, happy, who love Maths, drawing cartoons and enjoy singing in the morning.  Our teacher Miss Seba always finds fun activities for us to do that help us with our learning and makes it super exciting for us.  Our class motto is “Make way for a Great day of Learning J “

Outside of school we have girls who play Netball aiming to get to the Silver Ferns, boys who play rugby and dream to be an All Black, soccer players, musicians, cricket players, basket ball players, singers, dancers and gymnasts.


Apirana Taylor is an award-winning writer, poet, storyteller, painter and musician. He has published a number of poetry collections and has travelled the world (and back home) with his poems and stories. With his ability to inspire children of any age, he is one of New Zealand’s standout authors that visits schools.

The Interview:

How do you get in the calm mood to write poetry? I’m usually not in a calm mood when I write poetry although that sometimes happens, it depends on the poem I’m writing. I write poems when I’m in a lot of different moods. The calmness comes after I’ve written the poem.

How do you get the confidence to perform your poetry in front of lots of people? I practise and rehearse a lot before I perform my poetry.  The extra time I put in gives me confidence.

What age were you when you wrote your first poem? What was it about? I started writing short stories as a child, but before that I can remember when I was very young composing lines in my head for fun.

I once won an award for a selection of my poems. I’ve never won anything for a single poem but one of my poems which is studied a lot is called, ‘Sad Joke on a Marae.’ It is about losing and finding, defeat and victory, pain and healing.

How do you find your inspiration for your writing? I find my inspiration by looking at, listening to and feeling the world around me, and sometimes I just look inside myself.

What advice do you have for children that want to be writers? My advice for children who want to write is to get a pen and paper and start writing.  That’s the best way to begin.

Thanks for a wonderful interview Apirana and Ruma 4. Apirana is an amazing poet to have visit your school — schools love him! I know because I hear great tales of him when I visit schools. He tells stories and he shares his poems. Apirana has five poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. They play with language deliciously and they often celebrate his Maori heritage. Phantom Billstickers made a poster of his poem, ‘haka’ for me to give away on my Hot Spot Poetry Tour so you might see it up in places in October!

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The Treasury Interviews: Room 21 children of Royal Oak Primary School interviews Jenny Cooper



Room 21 children of Royal Oak Primary School (dressed for Book parade here).

Room 21 is a year 4 class. There are 27 of us not including the teachers (Suzie Gurr and Robyn McConnell). We have 15 boys and 12 girls. This term we are researching native birds and how to attract them into the school grounds by offering foods that they will like to eat.


bio pick 2013 9780143505907 9781775430469

Meet the illustrator of A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. See below for Jenny’s biography. She has done such an outstanding job with this book I have two interviews with her to post!

The Interview:

Dear Room 21, thank you for your great questions.

What inspires you and makes you want to illustrate a book? Mainly it is that I like drawing so much. When it is going well, it is a real pleasure, it is very calming and very rewarding, drawing away for hours a day. And I like the mental challenge of making up characters. It takes a lot of practice to be able to imagine a character, and then be able to get that down on paper. When it works, you feel very proud of yourself. When it doesn’t work, it is very frustrating, and that is when I want another job.

When did you first begin drawing? I have drawn all my life, since a baby. We have photos of me as a tiny child drawing away happily. The reason I can draw well as a grown up is because I drew so much as a child, and all through school. All my books were covered in doodles. That is the best training to be an artist or an illustrator…. Start drawing young.

Why is there often a mouse in your illustrations when there is not always one in the story? The answer to this is a little complicated, but it is a very good question, which no-one has ever asked me before. When I illustrate a book, I am working for an editor, and editors have very strict ideas about what is and isn’t allowed in a book. No dangerous running or jumping, no sad children, no climbing big trees, children must always be shown safe and well behaved. But if I add a mouse, or a dog, or a cat, those rules don’t apply, and I can have more fun with them, and they can do silly things. So it is often a way to get a bit of fun into a book, which isn’t in the story.

What was the first book you illustrated? The Birthday Party, a book which went to America. It was really badly drawn, because I was a new illustrator. I still get a little bit of money for it each year. I would like to burn every copy, it is so bad.

Which book or character is your favourite and why? I usually like my latest book, so it changes all the time. I like Harry from Harry’s Hair, that was a really fun book. In fact, I like his sister even more. I like the dog from Do Your ears Hang Low?, I love drawing furry animals. I like the llamas too, in that book, lots of fur. My favourite painting I have ever done is the sad page in Jim’s Letters, in the trenches. I really worked hard on that painting because it was so important.

What gives you the idea of what a character will look like? That is really hard to explain, because they all come out of my head, somehow. I get some hints from the story. For example, is the story funny, is it serious, is it realistic, do the animals talk, is there lots of action?….. this will all affect the character design. For example, funny characters might have bendy legs, large or tiny feet and hands, and huge or tiny eyes, crazy hair etc. Books with lots of humour and action are great for designing crazy, bendy animals and people, and exaggerated shapes. Real books about real children mean I have to come up with realistic people, often using photographs.

I get some ideas from knowing who will read the book. Books for very young children have to be very simple, because they are not really ‘reading’, they are guessing, from the pictures, so the pictures have to look exactly like the text. For older kids, I can have more fun, and add things which aren’t in the story, so the reader gets to discover things themselves, and I can use weird shapes, like the characters in ‘Harry’s hair’. Most of all, when I design a character, it has to be interesting to me, and a challenge. Often I will have seen someone else’s illustration, and be thinking, hmmm, I want to draw like that, and try it in my next book.


Note from Paula: Thanks Room 21 and Jenny for a terrific interview.  Jenny has done all the illustrations for A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and they are simple gorgeous. They are little poems on the page themselves and are full of life and variety. I just love them.


Jennifer Cooper, one of New Zealand’s best known illustrators, has been illustrating children’s books here in Christchurch for the last 20 years. She trained as a graphic designer at Christchurch Polytechnic in 1987 and her first book was published while she was still a student.

As with most illustrators in New Zealand, Jenny is largely self taught. Her focus is on books for very young children and, in particular, Pacific Island children. Having lived for three years in Western Samoa, she has continuing ties with the islands, which lend warmth and authenticity to her drawings of these children and their world. She and her  children, Kenese and Kalia, maintain ties with their family in Samoa.

Jenny is not limited to one style but is able to choose from a number, ranging from realistic through to cartoon, depending on the theme and genre of the book.  She enjoys the variety and contrast this brings to her working day. Each new book is completely different and a new adventure.  She loves developing the different characters for each book, and begins each one thinking it will be her best, although illustration is a  complicated art and there is always a huge gap between what an illustrator sees in her head, and what she produces on the page. Jenny particularly loves drawing animals of all sorts, although she is in fact wary of almost all animals, which makes her research difficult.

She works from a sunny studio at home and loves the freedom and flexibility this gives her to garden, see friends, spend time with her partner and pursue  her many interests –  when, strictly speaking, she should be working!
Jenny has also tutored in illustration at Christchurch Polytechnic and taught night classes in illustration at the University of Canterbury. She is the 
winner of the 1991 New Zealand Post Student Stamp Design award, the 1991 Telecom New Zealand White Pages Art Award and has been short-listed twice for the Russell Clark Illustration Award and shortlisted in 2008 for the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Jenny has illustrated so many books she has lost count. Some of her better known books are Down in the Forest  written by Yvonne Morrison, The Pipi and The Mussels by Dot Meharry, Shut the Gate by Elizabeth Pulford, McGregor by Rachel Hayward,  Illustrated Myths and Legends of the Pacific by A.W. Reed.,  The Littlest Llama, by Jane Buxton, The Reluctant Flower Girl by Melanie Koster and Peter and the Pig by Simon Grant, The Mad Tadpole Adventure by Melanie Drewery, Ria the Wreackell Wrybill by Jane Buxton,  There’s a Hole in my Bucket and Do Your Ears Hang Low, She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain and Farmer in the Dell,  sung by The Topp Twins, Le Quesnoy,  and Jim’s Letter’s by Glyn Harper and Harry’s Hair by Jane Buxton, plus numerous book for Usborne Publishing in the United Kingdom. She has three Storyline Notable Book awards, including Le Quesnoy, 2013 and Ria the Reckless Wrybill in 2011.

“When I work on a book, of course I am thinking about the reader, and what they might want to see. But mostly I illustrate for myself. I hope that the things that interest me will also interest lots of children.”

“I am most interested in my character’s  faces, be they human or animal, and in capturing their emotions and the movement of their bodies. I don’t like painting backgrounds, they are too much hard work! As an illustrator, you are creating a whole world inside a book, and that can be a challenge, getting the details right, and keeping things the same all through the book. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t keep the details the same but I always worry about eagle-eyed readers catching me out, and noticing that the character’s socks change colour, or their hair gets shorter and then longer as the book goes on! Being an illustrator means that I have to keep my eyes open, and be interested in everything, because I never know when I may have to put it in a book, anything from rockets to rats to rubbish dumps, and everything in between.”

“Illustrating for children is the most wonderful job to have. I get to stay home all day, and do the thing which I love the best, which is to draw and paint. Every book teaches me something new. When I stop learning, I’ll stop illustrating.”


The Treasury Interviews: Room 12 at Royal Oak Primary School interviews Cilla McQueen

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The interviewers:

Room 12 Royal Oak Primary School, Auckland


We are a class of Year 2 and 3 students at Royal Oak Primary School in Auckland. We are really close to One Tree Hill and lots of us have been going there to look at the lambs recently.

This term we have been getting stuck into art in a big way. We went dotty painting an aboriginal pattern on our fence post and we have loved getting messy with clay. Despite all the mess, we have made some beautiful fluttering butterflies for our school art exhibition. We have used clay and other found pieces to make some cool letters for the art auction. Someone in the class had the bright idea for us to write Goodnight Sweet Dreams.

We are great at writing and this term have been trying to use onomatopoeia, alliteration, simile and metaphor in our recounts and poems. Sometimes it’s tricky but we give it a good go. Our metaphors about rainbows were spectacular and made Mrs Boyd and Mrs Gibson really proud.

Lots of us are Jump Jam leaders and were videoed doing our routines for a competition. Guess what? We got through to the finals and have to go to Tauranga for a big competition against other schools.

What a busy bunch of children we are!

cilla foto

Cilla McQueen -Bio

  • Born in 1949 in England. Moved to NZ when she was about 4.
  • She lives in the South Island and often writes about Otago.
  • Cilla McQueen keeps a diary to write down interesting things that happen. She uses this diary a lot to help her write her poems.
  • Her poetry and poem books have won lots of awards and prizes. She was the NZ Poet Laureate for 2009-2011.
  • Her poem ‘Dogwobble’ is in a School Journal and Another 100 NZ Poems for Children and A Treasur of NZ Poems for Children.
  • Most of her poems are for adults. Sometimes about politicians.



The Interview (Paula — the interview questions came in a special way so I have taken a photo of it for you)

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‘it makes me want to wobble when I read it’

Me too. It’s got rhythm.


I like the double metaphor at the end

Yes, metaphor’s a good way of painting vivid pictures quickly.


we like how it is a tongue twister

It’s quite fun when a lot of people say it all together, with somebody conducting, to keep the beat.

Then they can see how fast they can say it, keeping in unison, ending up in a heap.


what was the dog doing?

Waiting for a boy to come out of a shop. Whenever somebody came out, the dog leapt up expectantly, then sat down again in disappointment. At last the boy came out and the dog nearly wagged himself to pieces.


what gave you the idea for this poem?

I was sitting in the car waiting for somebody, watching the little dog waiting too. I just grabbed a piece of paper and jotted it down, in the rhythm of the dog’s wagging and joyful barking.


Have you written any other children’s poems?

Not really, but children like my poems. I’ve written quite a few poems about cats.


Have you ever taught in a primary school?

I’ve visited primary schools as a poet, but haven’t been a primary school teacher. I have been a secondary school teacher, teaching English, French and Latin.


Do you have any pets, or a wobbly dog?

We have a long-haired tabby cat who has adopted us.


You’ve won lots of awards, which one are you most proud of?

They all mean a lot to me, but I was very honoured to be awarded the Poet Laureateship.


All the best from



What a great interview Cilla and Room 24. I love the way you presented the questions. It really is a fun poem to say out loud. I will be dong so when I visit schools.

The Treasury Interviews: Westmere School’s Room 10 interview Melanie Drewery — My favourite poem is one about a heart-shaped stone

author portrait

Room 10 Westmere School Biography We are a year 3-4 class at Westmere School in Auckland. We are twenty four delightful, smart middle school children aged 7 to 9. Our classroom is full of laughter and fun

Melanie Drewery Biography Melanie Drewery is a New Zealand author who writes a lot of fiction books for children. She has wretten many children’s books, many of which have won awards. She has visited lots of different countries, and some of her books are based on true events and adventures. Melanie Drewery has a lot of different jobs, including being an illustrator, artist, teacher and librarian.

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The Interview:

What is your favourite thing to write about, and why? My favourite thing to write about is people. People are full of surprises and my characters sometimes do things I didn’t expect.

How old were you when you started writing and why did you start? I have been writing since I first learned how, when I was small. I just never stopped. I kept writing as an adult because I enjoy it so much and life would be empty without it.

Do you have any pets and if so, what are they? I have plenty of pets because I live on a farm. They are: a black and white dog called Iggy, a bay horse called Boogy, a palimino horse called Blondini, two tabby cats called Uli and Brambles, 10 chickens with silly names, and tame sheep, who are spotty.

What is your favourite thing to draw, and why? I like painting best, and once again, my subject is usually people.

How do you come up with a good title? To come up with a good title, it is best to wait until the story or poem is finished. Then it will be easy because the writing will show it to you.

Where do you find inspiration for writing poetry? There is inspiration for writing poetry everywhere, but most especially in the beautiful things, or the small everyday things, and the strong feelings I have.

What was your very first book about? My first published book was Nanny Mihi and the Rainbow, about some children playing with their Grandma on a beach. (Note from Paula: There is a whole series of these books and they are much loved.)

Which is your favourite poem that you have written, and why? My favourite poem is one about a heart-shaped stone, and if that is a miracle or not.

What a great interview thank you Melanie and Room 10. Melanie has two very beautiful night poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children.

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The Treasury Interviews: Room 5 at Bayswater Primary interview Peter Millet

Room 5’s Biography:

We are a year 5/6 class at Bayswater Primary on the Devonport Peninsula of the North Shore. We love reading and have a book club on Fridays where we share what we are reading with the class. This week we are learning to take care of ourselves and others by looking after an egg! (It is harder than it sounds) Last term we wrote poems around the themes of Duty and Adventure to commemorate World War One. We are looking forward to interviewing Peter Millet and finding out if he did adopt a cricket after all.*



Peter Millet’s Biography: Peter Millet’s favourite football teams are the All Whites and Tottenham Hotspurs. He doesn’t have a pet, but is thinking about adopting a cricket. Peter’s favourite colour is blue, although it was aqua. One of his favourite authors is Roald Dahl. He is nearly two metres tall and has never been to space. If Peter could have a super power he would choose invisibility, so he could get out of doing the dishes. He is the author of the Boy Zero Wannabe Hero series and The Anzac Puppy. When he writes his books Peter is helped by his wife Ruth, who co-writes and also edits them.


The Interview:

What was the first book you ever wrote? Earlybird. It’s the story about a chicken I won in a raffle at Hauraki Primary school when I was 10.

How many books and poems have you written? My first published poem was written when I was ten. ‘There’s a Snake in my Coffee’ was printed in The NZ Herald. I was even paid for it! Since then I have written two books (Humpty Rugby and Moa’s Ark) that contain poetry and about thirty other books that are normal prose.

What inspired you to become a writer? Listening to my teacher read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And also listening to Pam Ayers read funny poems on the radio.

Where do you get your inspiration for your stories and poems? My family. Pets. My uncle’s farm. The outdoors. And TV and movies!

How did you become a writer? My wife who is a teacher taught me everything I know about being a writer.

What’s your  favourite story or poem that you have written?

Favourite story – The Anzac Puppy

Favourite poem – ‘Moa’s Ark’

What’s your favourite story or poem by another author?

Favourite story – Bad Jelly the Witch by Spike Milligan

Favourite poem – ‘I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth’ by Pam Ayers

*Cricket adoption update: No cricket yet, but a skink ran into our house and has been hiding for a while now. I’m not sure what to feed him. I think I will call him Larry.

Thanks Peter and Room 5 for a terrific interview. You will find several of Peter’s poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. They make me laugh! It was hard to pick which ones to include.

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The Treasury Interviews: Joni interviews Renee Liang


About Joni  Year 3 (7 ½ years old), Haumoana School.

  1. My mother and father named me after Joni Mitchell (one of their favourite folk singers), Dad’s grandma Beatrice Ashton, and of course, I have my Dad’s family name (Uytendaal – pronounced Oh-ten-darl), originally from the Netherlands.
  2. I was born in Tasmania and then I moved to New Zealand four and a half years ago.
  3. I live in Te Awanga with my sister, Erin, and mother and father.
  4. I love to write stories and draw pictures. At the moment I like to write about haunted places (mansions, streets, ships) and draw people and plants and animals.
  5. My birthday is on October the fourteenth, the day after my father’s birthday. This year I’d like to go camping under the stars with a few of my mates and family at Kuripapango and eat birthday cake and hard-boiled lollies!


Bio about Renee Liang

Renee Liang is a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in children’s illnesses) who also writes poems and plays. Her parents moved to New Zealand from Hong Kong before Renee was born. She has two sisters. Her Chinese Wen-Wei which means literary blossom. She lives in Auckland with her husband and two children.

When did you decide you wanted to be an author?
When I was about your age. When I was six my teacher started reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis, to us in class.  I must have talked about that book all the time because for my seventh birthday my parents bought me the entire set of Narnia books.  From then on I was hooked on reading – whenever I got the chance, and even sometimes when I was supposed to be doing something else, my nose was in a book!  I remember reading C S Lewis’ introduction to his stories, when he said that he wrote the stories that he himself wanted to read. That made complete sense to me. And from that day on I wanted to be an author.
What is the first story you wrote called?
It was called “The Hole In the Forest”, and I wrote and illustrated it aged five. I still have it. It features a tiger who falls through a hole in the forest into a magical world. And it has a golden spine, made of stapled cardboard.
Where are you from?
I am from New Zealand, but my parents are from Hong Kong and they were born in China.  My family has always loved travelling – my parents must have been on the biggest adventure of their lives when they decided to come a third of the way across the world to live here!!  I have their sense of adventure to thank for my wonderful life and opportunities.  I love to travel too. I’ve been to Europe, Africa, South America and Antarctica.
When do you mostly like to write stories?
My most creative time is at night. I’ve always been a night owl. There’s something about staying up past everyone else, and staring out my dark window, and dreaming of far away worlds.  Sometimes I’ve stayed up so late it becomes morning again.
Why did you choose to be an author?
I don’t think people choose to become writers….writing finds them.  When people tell me that stories bubble up inside them and they can’t stop thinking about them, then I know they are true writers. And my advice to them is, to write. To give in to the delicious urges and let themselves indulge in creating these worlds and characters that only they could make.
Who is your inspiration?
I’m inspired all the time by everyone that I meet. When I meet people, whether it be in my job as a children’s doctor or at the supermarket or elsewhere in my daily life, I start wondering about what it is that makes them tick.  Sometimes the wondering turns into a character in a story. Other times I learn something from the things that they tell me.  I read a lot too, and watch a lot of plays. I think, ‘oh, this is an interesting question’ or ‘I’ve never seen a story told this way before’, and it all goes into my brain for later.  Right now I’m watching my kids (a toddler, and a baby) a lot as they’re constantly exploring and learning. They teach me how to see the world in new ways.
7.  What do you like to write about most?
I write about whatever’s affecting me in my life. It’s changed over the years.  I wrote a lot about love; about family; and about who I thought I was.  I’m used to people asking me where I’m from and complimenting me on my English, even though I was born here! So I write about identity.  Now that I have kids, I’m starting to think about writing stories for them.

Thanks for the questions Joni, and also sharing the information about yourself!  I hope to read some of your writing one day. Renee


Note from Paula: What a fantastic interview. I loved reading this.  Thanks Joni and Renee. Renee has a cool poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children called ‘Caterpillar’ about a children’s game.

The Treasury Interviews: Eloïse interviews Raewyn Alexander


My name is Eloïse M, and I am 11. I go to Balmoral School in Auckland. I love to read (I used to be told off by my teachers for reading books under my desk!) and I also play the piano.

Raewyn Alexander pic by Geneva Alexander-Marsters

picture credit to Geneva Alexander-Masters

A biography of Raewyn Alexander:

Raewyn Alexander has written novels, poetry, and non-fiction (guides co-written with Olwyn Stewart).  Her writing has been featured in publications such as the NZ School Journal.
She has performed her poetry at literature events. Raewyn was born in Hamilton but currently lives in Auckland. I have seen some examples of Raewyn’s poems online and they’re wonderful.


The Interview:
Hi Eloise,
I hear you go to Balmoral School. I am so pleased you study poetry and writing there. The study and writing of poetry is my life’s joy, while other writing compliments and feeds from that.
When I was 11, about your age, we had a school magazine and we could send in our writing to be published. I hope you also have one and send your writing in to the school magazine.
Now here are replies to your questions. I hope my answers are helpful and entertaining in some way.

1. Where do you get ideas for writing?
The late great Michael King said to say in answer to this question, “I go to the ideas tree and pick them off there.” He was joking of course, but in a way it is like that. Ideas are everywhere.
A good writer can write about anything at all. The ideas are not as important as the writing, the work itself. Practice makes a good writer great, so I hope you practise your writing, and read lots of books.

2. Have you always wanted to be an author/poet?
I have deeply loved language and stories since I can remember. My mother was an excellent story-teller, mainly with fascinating anecdotes from her everyday life. Such an eye for detail, and a great turn of phrase. Love for people also came out in what she said and gave her stories vitality. Then too, my paternal grandfather played with language all the time and gave us grandchildren nicknames. Mine was Topsyana Whizz Bang Pom-pom. He sang to us and told us stories, too. My dad would come home tired from work, but we’d press him for stories at the dinner table. He sometimes made us laugh and gasp, the work-world was so exotic to us.
I grew up pre-TV, in a rich oral culture, conversations everywhere. Listening to people talking together is still a delight. This is the kind of experience that made me want to work with language.
My first paid work was a letter of the week when I was about nine or ten, in the Weekly News, against racism. I received ten shillings, a lot of money at the time. It was so exciting to think I could get published, and be paid.
I told people I wanted to be a writer from about 14, but no one took any notice.
I just ploughed on anyway. It was rare to be a writer in NZ, then. Those of us who kept on trying are the ones who succeeded. Writing is always good, however, keeping on learning and mastering the form.

3. How hard was it to get first published?
Well, to be published as a letter of the week was easy in a way, it was the first time I’d sent a letter anywhere like that, (but I did write to relatives and pen pals, previously). Before that I had written lots of work at school, and writing at home in notebooks. I also told many stories I made up, or knew, to the little children in the neighbourhood, and read about four or five books to myself, a week. So lots of work went into becoming a writer, however it was a joy to take it on and simply feels great to do, even if it gets difficult. I call it ‘Exploring the infinite world within.’ I love how time expands, how I go into my own world, so good for my spirits.
For years in my twenties I wrote stories and sent them off, to places like Metro, The Listener… and got them rejected. Some rejection letters were encouraging, though. But I did often have letters to the editor published in The Herald. I also wrote many advertisements and press releases for our fashion business, Zephyr. (We are mentioned in The Dress Circle, A History of NZ Fashion). Then my various boyfriends were in bands and I helped write some song lyrics, and also, with inventing names for bands. Words and writing have many applications.
It took me many tries to get a poem in Poetry NZ, but I did get a few into smaller literary magazines before that, Printout, Spin, and so on. That also took a while to happen. I always looked at the poem again, thinking how to make it better, if it was rejected. Some editors sent me suggestions for reading and so on, so lucky. I just kept reading lots of books and magazines, and writing.
Then, I wrote six novels to see if I could produce one I liked. The seventh one I sent away and it was accepted, but I had to rewrite the whole thing. The publishers asked me to. It took three bottles of Twink to get that redone, no computer in those days.
The other novels I had tossed under the sofa, and when I found them one day spring cleaning, I realised they’d all helped me write the last, successful first novel, so they were not wasted.

4. What is your favourite genre to write in?
Mainly I write literary work, poetry, stories, essays, novels and plays. I prefer thoughtful work, up-to-date playful language, with a strong sub-text. I also like to bring in my political stance, and explore serious issues through placing characters in difficult circumstances then having them change their lives to be happier, and more successful in decent ways. For poetry I try all kinds of things as my fancy takes me. Now and then I write for a competition, essays, stories and so on, then the deadline forces hard work out of me. I believe we have to write what we love, in any case, as Ray Bradbury says, or don’t write, do something else.

5. What is it like getting published and seeing your name on books?
I always find it startling and pleasing to be published. I feel truly blessed to even be able to write, to get published is unbelievable.
It’s such a lovely surprise when people say they like something too, or have some comment to make. People love my latest novel, Glam Rock Boyfriends, for instance, they keep telling me they cried, or laughed, or love it. I am always amazed, then delighted. They often help me keep going with their support or criticism.
The hardest thing is when someone gets the wrong idea. I find some readers do not understand what I meant, but everyone has their own opinion, it’s just the way life is.
Usually once a book is out I am onto a new project, the finished product often helps me move on, and feel like I did do something substantial.

Thanks Eloïse , for asking me questions about writing, it’s helped me see what I am doing in a fresh light.

Note from Paula: What a great interview Eloïse and Raewyn. Thank you! Raewyn has a cool skipping poem in A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children.