Tag Archives: Adventure school

My favourite poems that sound good from your April challenge

In April I posted tips and challenges on writing poems that sound good.

Thanks for sharing! I loved reading them and saying them out loud.

I really like the way these three poems use sound differently.


Trinity plays with different line lengths so her poem sounds so good.

Vesper has worked on the flow of words so her poem flows beautifully. I love the way the word ‘slicing’ jumps off the line. And the word ‘shines.’  This poem gave me shivers on my skin as I read it. It starts with sound and then builds a picture.

I love the way Daniel and Gemma, brother and sister, wrote a poem together about their grandfather. I think repetition really adds to the sound of the poem beautifully. It is like a little grandfather chant.

I am sending a book to Vesper. If you missed out this time I am posting a new challenge tomorrow (the first day of the month!).



The Forest 

The light shines through the leaves like blades,

slicing through the night air.

I lie in my tent,

I hear the wind howling through the leaves.

I see Vesper the evening star,

watching over the city, and me.


by Vesper W Ilam School (Rm 7, age 6)

Vesper told me that ‘Vesper’ is another name in Latin and Greek mythology for evening star and that it also a name for evening song for evening prayers. How wonderfll is that!


Who is he?

Who is Ganga?

He is tall

Someone to look up to

His hair fuzzes around his ears

And his face shows smile lines

He is kind

Kind of wonderful

Speaks beautiful big words

Like a walking, talking book

He is my Ganga


Who is My Grandad?

He is an armchair Olympian

An awesome team player

Who knows every team

A warrior of words

Crosswords quiver when he picks up his pen

Cruising through retirement

Cruising round the world

Leaving one foot on each tide of the Tasman

He is my Grandad


Who is he?

He is grandfather, father, uncle and husband

He is friend, neighbour and mentor

He is strength, courage and wisdom

He is who we need him to be

He is


By Gemma (10) and Daniel L (6) Adventure School, Porirua



Here goes

Dip the paintbrush in the blue

First stroke

Create the waterfall and river outline


New colour

Dip the paintbrush in the brown

Second stroke

Create the cliff and sky outline


Detail time

Get another shade of light blue

First blend

Blend the two different blues together


More detail

Get another shade of dirt brown

Second blend

Blend the two different browns together

Trinity Age 10, Year 6, Gladstone School

My favourite poems that sound good

Thanks for all the poems that sound good. I loved reading them all!

I asked you to play with how a poem sounds and gave you lots of tips. I have picked some of my favourites to post. Gemma and Daniel wrote poems that were about sounds. The words they chose captured those sounds brilliantly. Ewen wrote one poem in three different ways. She hid lots of different rhymes in her poems. Wonderful! Lily sent in three poems and I love the way each line sounds terrific. Words stand out.  The rhythm moves here and there. Say them out loud and see what you can hear. Congratulations all those who were picked to be posted.


I am sending Lily a copy of Jenny Bornholdt’s A Book is a Book because I think this poem book sounds really really good!


What I do

I let the white glistening powder float underneath my greased plastic feet.

Sometimes it leaves me isolated,

on a cold stone surface.

Bright snowy flakes shimmer in the sky.


A colourful world

Sky blue.

Lime green.

Compares to a river,

decorated with Dandy lines.

Why does Lime green,

Compare to sky Blue.


The life circle of tomorrow

Trees whispering. About all the secrets that the birds call.

Wind shouting. A soft song important to me.

Leaves crackling. As they swirl around.

Squirrels chattering. As they slowly stack up their nuts.


My name is Lily. I am Year 6 and I am 10 years old. I am from Fendalton school.


My Alarm Clock

The pattering of the shower

The booming of my brother

The tinkling of mum putting cutlery away

The hubblebubbling of the jug boiling

The whistle-chirping of birds outside my window

And the ga-donk of the furry purry thing jumping

down from my bed

Telling me to wake up

By Gemma, aged 9, Year 5, Adventure School, Whitby



Awful Sounds in the Night

What is that awful sound?

The squeal of a rusty car wheel?

The howl of a lonely wolf?

The screech of a fork dragging on a plate?

The kerdunk of cats in the night?

I creak open the door

And find something even worse…


It’s Daddy – singing in the shower!


By Daniel aged 6, Year 2, Adventure School, Whitby


Cars they zoom,
left, right, straight,
lights or roundabouts
in their way.

And I also did a longer one:

White or yellow
lines to follow.

Cyclists fight wind;
cars pollute air.

Cars they zoom,
left, right, straight,
lights or roundabouts
in their way.

Rules to abide,
but there’s still
crashes and accidents
on our roads.

And I wrote an around 20 word poem:


Cars they zoom,
left, right, straight,
lights or roundabouts
in their way.

Rules to abide,
but there’s still
crashes and accidents
on our roads.
Ewen W aged 12, Year 8, Cobham Intermediate School, Christchurch





Favourite authors

I invited you to send in your favourite authors.

These three young writers did just that. Thank you so much. I enjoyed reading all of these and couldn’t decide which one to send a book to so I put all the names in the hat and pulled out Gemma.

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I am sending Gemma  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by e. l. kronigsbug. I love this book. It was published forty years ago, so it is a classic. A girl runs away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it makes it all the more special to me as I have been there. It is part adventure and part mystery and a whole lot more!



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I love Roald Dahl because he writes about crazy imaginary things. He plays with words like “am I right or am I left” in the BFG and “you have the Wong number” in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. I like the funny words he makes up like scrumdiddlyumptious and fantabulous and frobscottle. And I like it how grown ups get in a tangle when they try to say the crazy words that are easy for kids to say!

By Daniel  Age 6, Year 1  Room 1  Adventure School



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My favourite author is Joy Cowley. She writes interesting books about all kinds of things, and she can write any kind of book: picture books, readers, non fiction, chapter books and poems. She makes her characters interesting and they do and say funny things. The NZ setting makes her stories extra special. I like that you can read fun books like Mrs Wishy-Washy when you are learning to read and then as you get older you can read her early chapter books like the Wild West Gang, right up to older fiction like Speed of Light. Joy Cowley helps grow the reader inside you. She helps young NZ writers. She visits places and meets her fans. She shows you that stories are more than just words on a page. Joy Cowley is one of the reasons I love books, reading, and writing so much.

By Gemma  Age 8, year 4 Room 8 Adventure School



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One of my favourite authors is Derek Landy because he creates really catchy, punchy and humorous dialogue. He also adds a wide range of words, action and reality to his novels. But most uniquely, he appreciates and shows no remorse in killing or seriously harming his characters- the Skulduggery Pleasant series is a MUST-READ!

Ewen W aged 12, Room 20, Year 7, Cobham Intermediate School, Christchurch

Final Treasury Challenge Favourites: Using titles from The Treasury to make tremendous new poems


I had such fun reading all the poems that took a Treasury title as their starting point. Many of you know I collected titles for my next collection at all my events and school visits on my tour so I can’t wait to start writing those  .. but it won’t be until next year. Lots of writing projects for next year which I am very excited about.

I loved the way your poems took the title and then went off in all directions. Just what poems and poets like to do! Some played with how they looked and all sounded good! Lots of sizzling imagination too!

I LOVED all the poems you sent me, but I couldn’t post them all.  If you missed out this time do try again. I have picked Noah from Adventure School to send a copy of A Treasury of NZ Poems. Noah was inspired by Margaret Mahy’s poem, ‘The Dictionary Bird.’  His poem is full of delicious sounds and scrumptious words just as her poem is.  Congratulations to all the young poets.

Inspired by Harry Ricketts:

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Inspired by Greg O’Connell:

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Inspired by Stephanie Mayne:

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By Ollie, Year 6 aged 11, Gladstone Primary School, Auckland

Inspired by Bill Nagelkerke:

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Inspired by Pauline Cartwright:


Sloppy curly spaghetti

Very good for lunch

Yummy slurpy spaghetti

My brother goes munch

Toasty cheesy spaghetti

I love it in my tum

Messy messy spaghetti

Tum tum spaghetti yum yum

Ruby T age 6, Year 2, Ilam School


Slippy spaghetti slides down my chin

Slimy spaghetti makes me grin

By Gemma and Daniel, Adventure School

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Russley School sent in a bunch of terrific poems. Here are a few of my favourites:

Inspired by Roger Hall:

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Inspired by Joy Cowley:

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Inspired by Greg O’Connell:

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Inspired by James K Baxter:

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One Breath Poems (inspired by Greg O’Connell – to be recited in one breath!):

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I also received a tremendous bunch of poems from Room 8 at Adventure School. Again it was very hard to pick just a few to post.

Inspired by Pauline Cartwright:

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Inspired by Bill Nagelkerke:

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Inspired by Peter Bland:

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Inspired by Stephanie Mayne:

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Inspired by Paula Green:

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Inspired by Margaret Mahy:

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Inspired by Greg O’Connell:

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Inspired by David Hill:

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Treasury Challenge Favourites: Poems inspired by other poems

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I have written poems inspired by another poem. Sometimes a word or an image or the whole poem itself. This was a perfect challenge to celebrate A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children.

Sometime you can follow the pattern of a poem and sometimes you can play with that pattern and make it even more of you own. Both ways work!


W o w !!! I loved all these poems. It was impossible to pick a poet to give a book to. But after thinking hard I have decided to give a copy of the Treasury to Angus from Adventure School and Kereru class at Mahana School. Congratulations everyone I picked to post. If I didn’t pick you this time, do try my last two challenges and all the challenges next year.


A sad poem from Ashlee (I love this poem by Chris Tse which is why I talked about it on my other blog. Ashlee’s poem works beautifully as some very sad images grow inside it):

Hi Paula, I have written a poem about SAD. I hope you like it.  My poem was inspired by Chris Tse’s “The saddest song in the world” (from nzpoetryshelf.com)

from Ashlee S, Year: 4, Age: 8, School: Redwood School (Tawa) Wellington

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Ewen’s version of a very famous poem. Lots of poets all around the world have been inspired by William Carlos William’s poem. I love the way a poem so simple can puff out into something so much more. Great job Ewen.

Hi Paula, This is my poem inspired by The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. This was a really fun idea… Thanks! From Ewen

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By Ewen  aged 12,  Year 7, Cobham Intermediate School, Christchurch


Gemma’s poem follows the pattern of Mary Mary Quite Contrary.
Nursery rhymes are a great jumping pad for poems. Gemma’s made me laugh! Peter Millet has had fun doing poems like this in his books.


Gemma, Gemma…

Gemma, Gemma – What a dilemma

Why is your room a mess?

With books and toys and other great joys…

Does my head in, I must confess!


Mummy, Mummy – You are so funny

My room is perfect for me.

The books and toys are sources of joy

And placed there on purpose, you see!!!

 By Gemma, Age 8, Year 4, Adventure School



An alphabet poem. What a cool idea. I really want to do an alphabet book of poems. I also love the idea of classes writing a poem together which is what I always do when I visit schools.

A Nonsense Alphabet

A group poem by Kereru (Years 3 to 6), Mahana School

Inspired by Edward Lear


A is an apple

Shiny and clean,

Juicy and fresh

Red and green


Yummy round apple!



B is a broccoli

Round and green

Who didn’t feature

In most kids’ dreams


Evil little broccoli!



C was a cabbage

Round and green

Sitting in the soil

While watching the screen


Bushy lime cabbage!



D was a dog

Who caught a pig

In a rocky river with fish

He loved to dig


Hairy digging dog!



E is an eagle

Soaring through the skies

They feast on dead cows

That are surrounded by flies


What an intelligent eagle!



F was a fox

Who was really funny

Pouncing on trampolines

and eating a bunny


Hunting jumping fox!



G was a grackle

Sometimes they glide

Catching and digging worms

Flat on their side


Gliding flying grackle!



H was a horse

Galloping up and down

Trotting in the arena

All around town


Beautiful bay horse!



I was an icecream

Melting in the sun

But it was yummy

And it didn’t weigh a tonne


Scrumptious delicious icecream!



J was a jaguar

Pouncing while hunting birds in the sky

Cute and fuzzy

Eating blueberry pie


Dangerous fierce jaguar!



K was a kangaroo

That lived with the king

And had a koala

With a bell that dinged


Jumping punching kangaroo!



L is a lizard

Slithering along

Dropping its tail

Singing a song


Lovely lively lizard!



M was a monkey

That loved sailing in a boat

Singing with his

Shiny new furry coat


Sparkling playful monkey!



N was a nose

Sniffing up rust

Smelling like roses

Who could you trust?


Big strong noses!



O was an octopus

Who had to blink

Swimming around seaweed

And squirting out his ink


Inky, lots of legs octopus!



P was a puppy

Chewing up his toy

Leaving fur around the house

Playing with a boy called Roy


Fluffy cuddly puppy!



Q was a Queen

She’s such a scene

Picking on slaves

Acting so mean


Frizzy afro Queen!



R was a rabbit

Bouncing happily around

Eating green grass

From the soft ground


Happy white rabbit!



S was a starfish

Moving slowly in the sea

With a crab in one tentacle

And a golden key


Slippery soft starfish!



T was a tiger

That has lots of strips

Living in caves

And having lots of fights


Fluffy big tiger!



U was a unicorn

Fluffy pink and white

Prancing and dancing

Man – he’s so bright


Fluffy, cuddly unicorn



V is a valley

Echoing every sound

Lonesome beneath the shadows of the hill

The encroaching forest surrounds


Vacant valley!



W was a wolf

That had a fluffy coat

Who was hunting for fun

And ate lots of oats


Fuzzy cute wolf!



X was a xerus

Running and dancing around

Collecting up nuts

From the mossy ground


Bushy burgundy xerus!



Y was a yo-yo

That went around and around

You can do it anywhere

Even on a mound


Tubby round yo-yo!



Z is a zonkey

He was so stripy brown

When he went dancing

He always boggied into town


Party rocking zonkey!



Some children from Ormond School in Gisborne were inspired by my poem, ‘When I am Cold,’ in The Letterbox Cat. I loved the way they have played with my ending and found surprising things to add. Great job. I loved them all but have picked just a few to post.

When I Am cold 

When I am cold

I get rat bumps!

When I am very cold

I get chicken bumps!

When I get very, very cold

I get penguin bumps!

When I get very, very, very cold

I get elephant bumps

When I am very, very, very, very cold

I get moa bumps!

When I am very, very, very, very, very cold

I get into my black and white onesie,

put on fifty socks, a pair of gloves and then snuggle up into bed!

By Georgia


When I Am Cold

When I am cold

I get penguin bumps!

When I am very cold

I get chicken bumps!

When I am very, very cold

I get elephant bumps!

When I am very, very, very, cold

I get moa bumps!

When I am very, very, very, very cold

I get an infinity blanket

and sit down and watch T.V!

By Noah


When I Am Cold

When I am cold

I get ghost bumps!

When I am very cold

I get pig bumps!

When I am very, very cold

I get lion bumps!

When I am very, very, very, cold

I get snail bumps!

When I am very, very, very, very cold

I sit beside the fire!

By Joshua


When I Am Cold

When I am cold

I get skeleton bumps!

When I am very cold

I get zombie bumps!

When I am very, very cold

I get penguin bumps!

When I am very, very, very, cold

I get ghost bumps!

When I am very, very, very, very cold

I get dragon bumps!

When I am very, very, very, very, very cold

I get muddy bumps!

When I am very, very, very, very, very, very cold

I have a drink of hot chocolate!

By Taylor


Geena’s spring and cat poems were inspired by poems in The Letterbox Cat. It is very special when you inspire someone. I especially loved the sea cat and the hushing waves. Such good detail in this poem. And some pop-out words. Thank you so much!

Hiya Paula- After you came and visited Arrowtown School, and gave me a copy of your fantastic The Letterbox Cat, all your great poems have given me some great poems of my own, so I wanted to share some of them with you.

This one is inspired by your ‘Hello Spring’ poem. Thanks for the great idea!



A small peep of sun is all I need

My small green leaves must get light I plead

One bright spring morning, cool dew rests on my shoots

Oh my Roots!, could it be?

Is it the sun I see?

And sure enough the sun beams back at me.

 By Geena S


This poem is inspired by all your lovely cat poems in your book, so I thought I would write one about the lovely sea.

The Sea Cat

The sea is where you’ll find my cat.

You’ll see him jumping over bubbling waves,

like a blackbird flying across the indigo blue sky.

He loves everything about the Sea,

he loves the salty smell,

the hushing sound of the tumbling waves

and the sweet bliss of the smooth wet sand beneath his paws.

He leaps at passing crabs

and pounces at the forever moving sand,

as the water retreats beneath him.

My cat is a free Seagull.

His home is the Ocean

Because the Ocean is where he belongs.

By Geena S, Year 8, Arrowtown School


Another poem inspired by one of mine. I loved the way Glazie has played with rhyme such as ‘onion’ and ‘minion.’ I loved reading this!

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This is so cool. Like Gemma, Daniel has taken an old favorite and made it his own. Very imaginative. A tip top poem!

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 By Daniel, Year 1, aged 5, Adventure School


Another poem inspired by me. I love the way words loop and slip and play in Jack’s poem. It is very good to read aloud. Bravo!

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Room 8 at Adventure School in Whitby sent a terrific bunch of poems to me that were inspired by other poems. I loved them all but I have picked just a few to post. Such imagination and such great vocabulary. The poems all sang in my ear too! It was a real treat to get these poems. Wow!

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The Treasury Challenge favourites: Writing poems and then putting them in fascinating places in fascinating ways

This was a fun challenge.          I  l o v  e d   t h i s  s o   m u c h !!!

I think I will run it again next year. There were poems in ice and in the sand, and with word-biscuits, wire, twigs, bullets and thumb tacks.

I got to make a biscuit word-poem as I got given a bag of the biscuits when I visited Adventure School on the tour. I went back to the hotel, made the poem then ate a biscuit.Yummy biscuits! Cool idea!

As part of my tour, I also did beach poems with classes from Golden Sands School in Papamoa. It was a fabulous fun. I have posted some photos from the event below and the some of the wonderful poems they wrote when they got back to class. I loved this outing so much!

Thanks so much for sending me these. I loved every bit and bite of them all.

I have one $50 book voucher to give to one young poet and I am giving it to Yasmina from Mahana School in Nelson. Congratulations to all the poets I picked to post.

1. Gemma’s Smiley Face poem with homemade word biscuits

Dear Paula
Here is my poem for the fascinating place challenge…I made a smiley face with my cookie poetry in the kitchen.  Daniel’s class made a whole class poem with theirs.  I hope they send it to you!

Thank you from Gemma, age 8, year 4, Adventure School.

Note from Paula: I love the way the biscuit poems are both so playful!

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2. Toni Bennett’s Room 1 at Adventure School  (Year 1 and 2). This poem, ‘Play With Your Words,’ was the mastermind of the Lovewell family, with Robyn making all the cookies. The children put together their own words to create a class poem.

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 Play with your words

Poems smile at you

Playfully words jump around

Poems fall like leaves

Fast dragons carry words

Imagine then write on

Let words become dreams

Poems make paintings

Words fly really fas

Daniel is 5 and goes to Adventure School and tried to write his poem in the ice before the ice melted. It is beautiful poem. It must have looked great.

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Yasmina’s ‘Where Am I?’ She goes to Mahana School in Nelson and is aged 9. I adore the pop-out words in this poem. Read it aloud and you will hear them. A poem can not only look good but sound good too! I love the image it builds and the little story it tells too!

Yasminas tree poem

Bradley’s ‘Bullet Poem.’ He goes to Mahana School in Nelson and is aged 10. This poem also has pop-out lines (‘As I sprint the lead splinters’) This was Bradley wrote to me:

Dear Paula,
I have done a poem in a fascinating place for your competition.
It was interesting and exciting to write the stuff I like. The wind kept blowing my shotgun shells away and they would then roll into the others! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Jonathan is aged 11 and also goes to Mahana School. He used wire to make his poem which must have been hard work. I love this portrait of wire — in the poem and in the photo of the poem.

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Here is Imogen’s ‘Beach’ poem. She is 8 and goes to Kenakena School and is in Year 4. I love the poem scratched in the sand. The words are so beautifully chosen.

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The Beach
There at sunset
The sandy sand
The cold violent waves
The beautiful view of Kapiti Island
The tall steep sand dunes.
Ewen W is aged 12 and is in Year 7 at Cobham Intermediate School, Christchurch.
This is what she told me about her beautiful poem ‘Stain.’This must have been extremely hard work. The light would have shimmerd on the colours.

Hi Paula,

I wrote my poem using thumbtacks and although it was hard, it was really fun. This is my favourite challenge so far! Thanks for making it.

Ink blots
the paper,
a tear
stains the

heartInk  stain










And finally the photos and poems from the Hot-Spot-Poetry-Tour beach event at Papamoa with Golden Sands School and the wonderful Lynley Skiffington

unnamed photo 1 (4) Beach Poems 4 Beach poems 1 Sergio with rock Beach Poems 3 Beach poem 2

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

A blustery day, a busy day, a brimming with poetry day in Wellington

Four things today and not much sleep.

But it was just wonderful. A warm welcome at Brooklyn School in a mini hall packed with nearly all the school. The hour and poems whizzed by and the poems we made up were delicious, inventive, playful.


Next up Ngaio School to work Y5 and 6 classes with their bounding vocabularies and simmering imaginations. Again wonderful poems taking shape. Afterwards I had lunch with the group of students I had a NZ Book Council Skype session with while I listened to their polished poems. I have got used to reading poems from The a Letterbox Cat but not The Treasury yet. So many to choose from. Bernice had made a divine sandwich for my lunch with a green-goddess dressing. Just what I needed after not much sleep.

Third stop was Adventure School in Whitby where I got to visit Room 1 and see their cool popcorn poems. I even got a present made by the Lovewell
Family. A bag of homemade word biscuits to make into a poem and then eat! I have photographed the poem I made.

Final stop Porirua Library to read poems to children and parents. We even made a poem up as a gift for the library. There is an a m a z I n g librarian here and her name is Bee. She is full of the joy of books and ready to share it in her children’s section. Such a lovely, warm atmosphere. She even took me out for a cup of tea and an everything-slice (the best!).

I was sad to leave everywhere because I had such fun in each place.

But I am glad to get out a book and have an extra quiet night.

Tomorrow I am at The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie at 10.30. Come and say hello.





The Treasury Interviews: The Sharks from Adventure School interview Elena de Roo

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The Sharks are a reading group in Room 1 at Adventure School in Whitby. They love to read and write and listen to stories and poems. They also love to run, swim and go on the classroom iPads. There is a photo of the whole class and a photo of The Sharks.


Elena de Roo: When she was growing up Elena went to seven different primary schools all around NZ but has lived in Auckland since she was eleven. She likes chips and ice cream (far too much and occasionally together) and has a tortoiseshell cat that sits on her knee and purrs while she writes. Elena writes poems, picture books and quirky stories and has just finished a fantasy novel.


The Interview:

We love The Rain Train! What is your favourite book that you have written?

Just between you, The Rain Train is definitely one of my favourites too. It was the first picture book I ever had published. I was SO excited when I found out, one Guy Fawkes night, that it had been accepted by Walker Books Australia. I wrote it on a rainy night when everyone else was asleep and I wouldn’t change any of it. Brian Lovelock (the illustrator) very kindly let me choose my favourite illustration from it to keep. It was very hard to decide, but in the end I picked the one where the train steams over the viaduct.

My eldest daughter likes the Ophelia Wild series best and made me promise to dedicate all of them to her.

We like making poems that rhyme. Is it very hard to write a whole chapter book in rhyme?

Yes, it takes much longer to write it in rhyme than it would in prose, but Ophelia’s story just seemed to start off that way. And (like most things) the more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve learnt to make sure I have the plot worked out first so I don’t write lots that has to be changed later. Also, going over and over a couple of lines in your head to make them sound the best you can, is a good way to get to sleep at night.

Do all of your stories rhyme?

No, I’ve written some plays, short stories and poems that don’t rhyme and I’ve just finished a fantasy novel.

How many awards have you won for poetry? Do you have one that is very special?

I’ve won three awards, but the most special was the Todd New Writers’ Bursary because this meant I could spend a whole delicious year at home writing poems.

If you wrote a book for the Royal Family, what would it be about?

That’s a tricky one. I live next door to Cornwall Park and there are lots of lambs bleating for their mothers at the moment, so maybe I’d write a book about a lamb called George who loses his bleat and the trouble this gets him into.

p.s. When I was little I loved the poem ‘The King’s Breakfast’ by A. A. Milne.

What happens if you get sick, and you can’t write?

That almost happened when I was writing Zombie Pox (in Ophelia Wild Deadly Detective). I had a deadline to meet and I was horribly behind schedule because I’d procrastinated so much about starting to write the story, and then I got sick as well. I couldn’t sleep at night because I had a horrible cough, so I ended up writing through the night and taking naps during the day for a week or two. Maybe it helped my writing because I was writing about Ophelia being sick too.

Did you have any poems or stories published when you were at school?

When I was nine or ten, I won a competition for writing a poem about the mountain near our town. It was published in the local newspaper and the prize was some movie tickets.


Note from Paula: Thanks for the wonderful interview Elena and The Sharks. What great questions and what great answers.  Elena has lots of poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children because she is one of my favourite poets. Her poems are good to read aloud because she really knows how to use her ears when she writes. I also love her Rain Train book because it sounds so good! Her latest book is called The Name at the End of the Ladder (Walker Books). I am taking that on my Hot Spot Poetry Tour.

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The Treasury Interviews: Some students from Room 8 at Adventure School interview Richard Langston


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The interviewers are all in Room 8 at Adventure School in Porirua and are aged between 8 and 9. They are in the Lions Reading Group.

Thomas Nicholson lives in Whitby, Wellington with two kittens and a little brother. He goes to Adventure School. He likes watching movies, especially How To Train Your Dragon 2.

Connor Miller lives in Wellington, NZ. He is an only child, and goes to Adventure School. He likes playing Star Wars Battlefront, and lying in bed. His favourite food is pasta.

Samuel Straachen lives in a house with two cats, a father, a mother and a sister. He goes to Adventure School and is interested in creative writing. When he grows up he wants to be an architect, or to work for Microsoft Computer Security.

Tiyani Mathur is from NZ. She likes to play on her computer. She loves black, and hates pink. She can be very noisy. In her spare time, Tiyani enjoys playing with her baby mini-lop rabbit, Elia.

Caleb Paynter lives in Whitby with his older brother, dog Teddy, and bunny named Bounce. He enjoys playing with his friends, and is mad about computer games.

Matthias Bentley is a Dr Who fanatic, who has a lot of friends. He loves to play rugby. Matthias was born in England, but now lives in Wellington. When he grows up, he wants to be an All Black.

Gemma Lovewell is world famous in Whitby for her book Our Big Box and short story ‘The Breeze.’ She loves to read, enjoys fantasy, and is completely obsessed with School of Dragons.



RL portrait shot for Waiting Room

Richard Langston

Richard Langston was born sometime ago in a small town and then moved to a big town where there was a newspaper office, a radio station, and a television station. He went to work at all three while magically producing three children and five books of poetry. His daughter who is 14 also writes poems, but does not like to talk about it.


The Interview:

When did you start writing poems?

I started reading poetry when I was in my twenties. I read poetry from New Zealand and then from the USA. I discovered a poem could make something happen in your head, as you read the words they became action in your head. It was as if someone had made a little film. The poem I’m thinking about is called ‘Loss’ by A.R. Ammons, and at the end of this poem you can see and feel flower petals floating off a stem. You might like to Google the poem, and see if you like it. I liked reading poetry so much I thought I would try and write some.


Where did you learn to write poetry?

Whatever I’ve learned has come from the poets I’ve read. I try and read a poem each day. I like to wake up and read one, and I always take a book of poems with me when I’m travelling. You can read poems so quickly – that appeals to me. You can enter a whole different world in a poem. I have had help along the way from some poets, including one of our best, Brian Turner. He showed me I needed to edit my poems, cut words out. I was using too many of them. He told me always to remember a poem is about ‘sound and sense.’


What was your first published poem? Was it inspired by your work as a reporter?

I think my first published poem was called ‘A Dead Dolphin Writes Home.’ I was out walking on a beach and came across the bones of a dolphin, at least I thought it was dolphin. I imagined that dolphin writing home to its mother. It was published in the university student newspaper in Dunedin, ‘Critic.’ A friend told me he thought it was rather strange. So it wasn’t inspired by my work as a reporter, but as an observer.


What were the best and worst things about being a TV reporter?

The best thing is you travel to lots of places and meet lots of people. It can be exciting. I’ve taken many trips in helicopters to report on the news, to plane crashes, to the grounding of the Cook Strait ferry, and even from Wellington to the Christchurch to report on the earthquake. I got to meet the Prince of Tonga and interview him in his palace. I got shot at once in a country called East Timor. That was a bit too exciting! The worst thing is you see people in distress and pain.


You wrote a lot of poems because of the Christchurch Earthquakes. Do you have a “standout” poem from this time?

I did write 13 poems about the earthquake. They are small poems about an enormous event. The one I like the best is ‘The No.3 Bus’ because it was about something so ordinary, yet something that could cost you your life that day. There’s another one about two survivors called ‘Two Voices.’ I interviewed the people in the poem and they told the most amazing story of helping each other survive for 22 hours while trapped in the wreckage of a building.


What famous book do you wish had been written by you?

The Oxford Dictionary – then I would be very well equipped!


If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would go to Greece. I went there once and it was blue and white. Those are my favourite colours. And they had olives.


Do you write more for other people, or for yourself?

I write, hopefully, for both. I write lots of poems that stay in my notebook, so we could say those ones are for me. I keep them as a record of what I was trying to write at the time.


Which of your five published books of poetry is your favourite, or which are you most proud of?

The one I like the best is the second one, Henry, Come See the Blue because it has poems about people and summer, and about where I live, Island Bay, in Wellington. I also like one I wrote about reporters called The Newspaper Poems.


Did you ever learn any different languages? If so, what?

No, but I wish I had. Maori and French would be my choices. I’ve learned a smidgen of Maori working for Maori television, and working with Maori journalists. Maori sounds like tui talking – it makes beautiful sounds.


What inspires you to write?

A moment I want to record, or re-imagine. Writing a poem can be a lot of fun. Occasionally you can surprise yourself with how the poem turns out. Mine often come out of a mixture of memory and imagination. I recently had one published on a writer’s website about something very simple: a memory of my father (who died seven years ago) opening jars. Here it is:



Our mother would say,

‘This blessed thing is stuck,

can you open it?’


He made a particular sound

a particular grimace,

our father opening jars.


He would say, ‘only

a circus strongman or I

could’ve opened it’.


I just said that

after my wife handed me

a jar, I opened it


with a particular sound

a particular grimace.

Out popped our father.


Thank you for asking such good questions, I enjoyed answering them. Richard Langston.

 Note from Paula: Thanks Richard and the Room 8 interviewers. Richard has three poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Two of them are about his daughter Milly and definitely don’t have too many words — just the right mix for sound and sense!