Tag Archives: Barbara Else

Poetry Box bubble time: Barbara Else reads from Go Girl and we invite you to share words and images of epic people




Illustration of Dame Catherine Tizard by Sarah Laing from

Go Girl: A Story of Epic NZ Women, Barbara Else, Penguin Books, 2018




Barbara Else reads the piece  ‘Dame Catherine Tizard: Governor-General’


(I loved listening to this! I found it so inspiring!)


Barbara Else has always loved books and stories. Reading and writing are her favourite activities. She also loves reading aloud from the books she’s written. Except for one time when she read a story about a lost cat to a class of five year olds. One little girl’s eyes brimmed so much with tears that Barbara rushed to the end of the story in case the tears spilled out and caused a flood.

Penguin Books page


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I love this book. You will find many astonishing NZ women in here. Young girls who weren’t afraid to speak out, who blazed trails, and who have done extraordinary things.  The book celebrates these wonderful women but it also invites girls to GO for it.

There are also books celebrating boys who have grown into extraordinary men who aren’t afraid to speak out, who have blazed trails, and who have done extraordinary things.  These books celebrate  wonderful men but also invite boys to GO for it.

To this I would add ordinary people in our lives who are epic. Friends and family who are everyday heroes, who show incredible kindness, daring, courage, patience, understanding, generosity, love.


Your challenge: Barbara and I invite you to share some thing about an epic person, a hero in the news or in your life now.

You could write a poem, a letter, a story, draw a picture, do a painting or collage, do a comic strip or make a little video or audio.



send to  paulajoygreen@gmail.com

please include your name age and name of school

don’t forget to put HERO challenge in subject line so I don’t miss it

don’t put your surname on drawings or paintings or collages (Poetry Box policy)


There is no deadline while we are living in our bubbles! Every Friday I will post some work by children. I will always answer your emails but not straightaway. If I haven’t replied after 3 or 4 days nudge me as I may have missed it.


You can also try:

Tell me about your favourite bookshop or library

Play Pass the Poem with at least one other person

Write draw video comic strip letters poems stories about being in your bubble

My cloudy challenges and hear my cloud poem

My thank our supermarket workers challenge

Listen to me read Aunt Concertina and offer a cool challenge

Listen to me read my poem ‘Lick Lick Riff’ dog poem and offer a doggy cat tiger bat any animal challenge

Check out David Hill’s wonderful photo challenge

Listen to Swapna Haddow read her book and try a rabbit challenge

Try Johanna Aitchison’s hunt the teddy challenges

Ruth Paul reads her muddy poem and I offer muddy challenges



kia kaha

keep well

keep imagining






Poetry Box audio spot: Barbara Else reads ‘Selina Tusitala Marsh’ from Go Girls


selina marsh_Ali Teo.jpg

Illustration by Ali Teo



Barbara Else reads ‘Selina Tusitala Marsh: Poet‘ from her book Go Girl: A Storybook of Epic NZ Women published by Puffin, 2018.


Barbara Else has held the University of Victoria Writing Fellowship and the University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children’s Writing Fellowship. She also holds an MNZM for services to literature and has been awarded the Margaret Mahy Medal for services to children’s literature. In her opinion she has simply been doing what she loves best, writing and working with other writers on their manuscripts. Her most recent novels for children are the Tales of Fontania Quartet (Gecko Press), starting with The Travelling Restaurant and ending with The Knot Impossible.  She loved working on real life stories for a change, in Go Girl.


Read my review of the book here.

Find my May challenge inspired by the book.

Puffin author page.




Poetry Box May challenge: a festival of epic NZ GO GIRL poems


This month the challenge is inspired by Barbara Else’s magnificent book: Go Girl: A Story of Epic NZ Women.

See my review here.

I love the idea of boys and girls writing poems about girls and women who are EPIC.


EPIC women might be famous. You might need to go hunting in your library. You might discover someone we don’t know much about.

EPIC women might be someone we know like our sister or mother or grandmother. You might need to go hunting in your family tree or your neighbourhood.

EPIC women might be in the news on TV or on the radio.

You might be inspired by the EPIC women in Barbara’s book and choose one of those.


I will have a poetry book for at least one poet who does this   CHALLENGE  !  And I will buy one of you a copy of GO Girl because I love it so much.



Some writing tips

Before you start writing collect words and details you might or might not include.

Do some research. Ask people questions. Look in books.

Do you want to write a plump poem full of many details or a skinny poem that picks some key things? Both are good. Try it both ways.

Show what is epic without using the word epic. Small kindnesses can be as epic as running as fast as a cheetah. Find the things that fascinate you about this person.

Pick the three most important adjectives about this person  and then try to find ways of showing these qualities without using the adjectives you picked. Now there’s a poetry challenge! If she is strong, how is she strong?

How many words will you put on the line? That changes the beat and the look of the poem.

Read your poem out loud.

Don’t send the day you write it. Read it again the next day to see if you are happy with every word.


Deadline etc

Deadline:  Tuesday Monday 28th May

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Include: your name, age, year and name of school. You can include your teacher’s email if you want

Important: To make sure I read your email put GO GIRL poem in the subject line


I will post poems on May 31st.


H a v e   f u n















In my hammock: reading Barbara Else’s Go Girl: A Story of Epic NZ Women




Go Girl: A Story of Epic NZ Women, Barbara Else, (multiple illustrators) Penguin Random House, 2018


This is my new feature where I share children’s books from any time or place and of any genre. I am only sharing books I love so you can track down a book that is really good!

Yes, I love Barbara Else’s new book so very much.

It has a bright cover designed by the very cool author and illustrator, Vasanti Unka.

Barbara’s writing sings in my ear ever so sweetly. Ah, what divine sentences. Check them out! Each entry is a fascinating read because I discover something new.

The illustrations are so full of life and are by 9 different women: Sarah Laing, Phoebe Morris, Sophie Watson, Sarah Wilkins, Rebecca ter Borg, Vasanti Unka, Fifi Colston, Helen Taylor and Ali Teo.



I am writing a big book about NZ women poets because I love reading them but also because for a big chunk of the twentieth century people just did not GET them! So their poems were often not published in anthologies or books.

Barbara’s book celebrates epic women that might be famous and that might be unknown to us.

History is a place full of dark corners where extraordinary women were doing extraordinary things.

Now we want to know about these women.

Barbara’s book shows us women both dead and alive who are epic.

She covers all kinds of women – from scientists to athletes to writers to political activists to astronomers.


A book like this shows that girls can do anything. We can speak out and we can invent and we can be daring and we can be strong. In the past girls and women were often thought to be weak and encouraged to be silent.

And of course boys can do anything too!

This book fills me with hope for a better world. I am so inspired by this book my May challenge is going to be a festival of poems about epic women (and that might be our aunt or grandmother or best friend!!). I have posted it here!


Here are some of the women Barbara picked (how hard it must have been choosing!!)





This book is a sumptuous, eye catching, heart warming, brain boosting, muscle strengthening, feet leaping   T R E A T  !

I dare you to race out and find a copy to share.

Let me know what you think!

The Penguin Random House page

The Gecko Press Annual is a sumptuous swirl and it got me puzzling (and there’s a challenge with a book voucher for you!)

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Annual edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, Gecko Press, 2016


(pitched at 9 to 12 year olds)


If I had opened the Gecko Press Annual when I was ten I would have jumped a jig of joy under the Christmas tree.

I would have loved the bright orange cover, the gold floating leaves and bird.

I would have loved the sumptuous swirl of words and illustrations inside that meant before I read I would have to do an awful lot of looking.


When I was ten, I would have wanted the Annual to last and last for a whole year. I wouldn’t have known what to read first. Probably the poems first and the activities second.


Now that I am way-old, I still need to look at the Annual for ages before I start reading it.

This is because the Annual is very very beautiful. It is a very special book.


There are three poems written by poets (Jenny Bornholdt, Tim Upperton and James Brown) who usually write adult poetry books. I am a big fan of their poetry. There is also a handful of ninja-rhyme poems by Michael Petherick. The poems are like chalk and cheese. They give you  different feelings as you read. One is thoughtful and slightly mysterious, one is madcap crazy and one is like a wonky funny found poem that is all made-up.

I find the whole question of children’s poetry fascinating -as you know! Some people say when you write a poem it should be for anyone – child or adult. This is a very popular point of view. Most poets I know think like this. I guess I feel like a fish out of water because when I write poems for children, my head fills with all the children in all the schools I visit and I feel like I am writing for them. As I write, I am wanting the words to be so infectious that children will want to jump for joy and race out and read and write poems. They feel ALIVE with poetry.


p o e t r y   is a   wan   der     playground for children


When I write poems for adults, I write for myself first. I am not writing because I want adults to jump for joy and race out and read and write poems. I don’t think about the reader at all. It all seems very different and mysterious and puzzling.

… so the Annual got me thinking about writing poems … and where I fit as a poet


For the annual, the poets were given starting points for their poems – as everybody in the Annual was (a bit like I do on Poetry Box!). This what happens now for School Journals.

So it’s not a book where people send in what they have written – but a book where authors  (and comics, and illustrators and all the rest) are commissioned to do something in particular. I think that gives the Annual a particular feel. A special feel. Like an exhibition with a curator. Not a lucky dip.


There are so many different kinds of things in the Annual, it is like a magnificent magic box. You might fall upon a painting or a photograph or a comic strip or a very cool craft idea from the fabulous Fifi Colston.


My favourite story is from one of my favourite NZ children’s authors, Barbara Else: ‘Tingirl and the Crying Time.’ The story features Assistant Squint with apple stuck in his teeth, Madam Upright with a tooth that glinted silver and Tingirl who yearns to turn into a Realgirl. Oh so imaginative and deliciously written, it will make you think about robots in a whole new light. Wonderful! Gorgeous illustrations by Kieran Rynhart.


I also loved Paul Beavis‘s guide to visual storytelling. Do I want to give it a go? Yes!!!!


….. have I read the whole Annual? No! Have I tried all the activities? No! I am like that ten year-old girl because I want to make the Annual last and last.



I would love to post some reviews by children of the Annual.  Give it a go! send your review to paulajoygreen@gmail.com.

Include your name, year, age and school

Put Annual review in email subject line

I will have a book voucher for my favourite review and a copy of The Letterbox cat for another reviewer.

Deadline :  November 1oth

Barbara Else’s The Knot Impossible: Another tale of of Fontania – it feels real, and because it feels real, you feel the place as you read

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Barbara Else The Knot Impossible: Another Tale of Fontania  Gecko Press 2015



There is nothing like diving into a good book and loving it so much, you keep turning the pages because you want to stay in that imagined world for as long as you can. That’s how I felt reading Barbara Else’s The Knot ImpossibleFontania comes to shimmering life as a place because the detail is magnificent. The characters are complicatedly lovable and lovingly complicated. This means they matter. You care about what happens to them.

This is the fourth and final book in the Fontania series -i lave loved them all!

Rufkin is the brave boy who is at the centre of adventure. He can spot when things aren’t writing and he can come up with audacious plans to save his world. He also knows that the life of one small boy (Vosco) matters very much indeed.

You will need to read the book to find out what happens (and what those plans are), but I can tell you there is danger at sea, ferocious cave lizards, people who aren’t as good as they seem and people who are better than they seem.

I love the names of the characters: Mister and Mistress Mucclack, Calleena, Lord Hodie, Rufkin himself, Nissie, Vosco.

The pace of the book is so perfectly managed you just have to keep reading (which may be a problem if it is your turn to dry the dishes!).

I also love the way fantasy and real things come together so beautifully — it feels real, and because it feels real, you feel the place as you read.

I highly recommend this book. I feel a little sad the series is at an end but I can’t wait to see what Barbara writes next. Thank you for such a wonderful fantasy world, Barbara. May you get many more readers for it.


Gecko Press page






Gemma (9) reviews Barbara Else – ‘so exciting I thought I might burst’

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I am a big fan of these novels by Barbara Else and was delighted when Gemma sent in her reviews. Great job Gemma. Do go and hunt for them and read them and share them with a reading friend. How cool Gemma made the cabbage cream. I better try it! Gosh, I love reading a book that is so exciting ‘I might burst’ too!

These are great reviews Gemma. I am very pleased to share them. Thank you.

Travelling restaurant Queen and Nobody Boy

Barbara Else’s The Volume of Possible Endings: A Tale of Fontania …. magnificent marvellous magical mesmerising

The Volume of Possible Endings: A Tale of Fontania Barbara Else, Gecko Press

I loved the first two books in this series very much indeed (The Travelling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy). Both books show a dynamo imagination at work and an ear that knows how to make a good sentence. These novels sing as you read, but more importantly they take you into a world that catches hold of you on every stoney path and in every mysterious corner.

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Barbara’s new book serves music and magic in equal measure. The detail is magnificent. The sentences marvellous. The characters magical. The story mesmerising. Ahh!!

In this story, we meet the only child in Owl Town: twelve-year-old Dorrity. It doesn’t take long to realise there is something special about her, something mysterious. I love her boldness. Her cunning. The way she pays attention to things. Little things. Big things.  Dorrity tumbles headlong into a gritty adventure that hurtles her away from the peace and quiet and routines of Owl Town.

I love Dorrity as a character, but I especially love the extra strange Metalboy. As soon as I met the beginnings of him in the first pages I was hooked. He may be made of metal (at first), but he is a character you really care about. It matters what happens to him. And things do happen to him!

I love the way you can’t see everything in easy-peasy black and white. Good and bad stick to some characters like tufts of hair.

Oh and I love Owl Town. I like the way the people band together and make especially good plans and look out for the town’s only girl.

In this list of loves, I also need to mention the book Dorrity discovers that is all to do with  her — and that has five different endings for her that are very puzzling!

This book comes with a TIPTOP recommendation from me and is one of my favourite reads of the year.

Reading Festival: NZ Children’s Book Award judge Barbara Else takes a word snapshot of her reading life as a child

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Barbara Else is a terrific children’s author living in Wellington. I love her novel The Travelling Restaurant and its sequel. I highly recommend the craft and imagination of both. This year Barbara is a judge for The NZ Post Children’s Book Awards so she is probably hard at work doing more reading than any of us at the moment!

She kindly took time to answer questions about her reading life as a child:

Where did you like to read? A favourite place was with a cushion and a rug under the grapefruit tree in a quiet corner of the garden. (Eating plenty of the delicious grapefruit.)

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What were your favourite books? When I was very little, I adored The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese. Later on, I read Into the Happy Glade by Trevor Dudley Smith many times. My mother said she always knew when I was reading it because each time I rolled about with laughter. It’s out of print now which is a great shame. I can’t find a copy anywhere. I discovered the Narnia books when I was at intermediate school and loved each one of them, especially The Magician’s Nephew.

What kind of books did you like to read? I read a lot of history books as well as plenty of fiction. I liked myths and legends in particular.

Did you have a favourite illustrator? Pauline Barnes, who illustrated the first Narnia books, was magical!

What did the library mean to you? The library was just about the best place in the world.  We had masses of books at home but for me a trip to the library was still a better treat than a sweet shop.

Do you remember being read to? Yes, but the best moment was when I found I could read to myself. Then the next best moment was when I discovered I could read silently, in my own head!  From then on, I would become so lost in a book that I wouldn’t see or hear anything else around me.

Do you still read children’s books? Do you have a favourite this week? At the moment, I’m the chief judge of the Children’s Book Awards 2014.  So I have been sent  about 110 books to read over the summer and there are more to come. It feels like a huge long Christmas that has started early.  I’ve found several favourites already but I am not allowed to say a word! How annoying.

NZ Post Children’s Book Awards

Book  awards can be nerve wracking times. My heart goes out to all those who didn’t get a gong and my delight goes out to all those who did. I was really impressed with the flurry of inventive activity that celebrated the shortlisted books throughout New Zealand. Bravo organisers!

I have read a number of the shortlisted books and I certainly had some favourites. Kate De Goldi generously answered some questions for Poetry Box ( May 19, 2013 — and I talked about what I loved about The ACB of Honora Lee). But I also loved Barbara Else‘s The Queen and the Nobody Boy. This is a book that is deliciously imaginative with exquisite detail. You enter the world of the book and you want to stay awhile! I really enjoyed Racheal King’s  Red Rock. This is like a beautifully written fable that is also grounded in the real world. David Hill‘s novel Mr Brother’s War won Best Junior Fiction and I was happy for David. His book takes you into the grip and guts of war in ways that are both complex and moving. It’s ages since I have read it — now I want to read it again ( I will publish one of David’s poems on Poetry Box sometime this year). I highly recommend all these books!

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AAhhh! Picture books. I love children’s picture books. And these two winners are heavenly. I have already flagged Mr Whistler on Poetry Box (March 28, 2013) — Gavin Bishop‘s lively illustrations and Margaret Mahy‘s brilliant story are a treat. This won best picture book. Later this year Kyle Mewburn is going to answer some questions for Poetry Box and I will share what I love abut his books. There is a poet lurking inside this fabulous storyteller that’s for sure. He knows what to do with words to make them sing and gleam. I was happy he won the children’s choice award. Well deserved!

A YA book won the top prize: ‘Ted Dawe’s book Into the River won the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and was also the winner of the Young Adult Fiction category.  This engaging coming of age novel follows its main protagonist from his childhood in small town rural New Zealand to an elite Auckland boarding school where he must forge his own way – including battling with his cultural identity.’

Simon Morton and Riria Hotere won Best Non-Fiction with 100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa. Will have to get a copy of this!

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Now all the authors can get back to the real world of writing and reading and visiting schools and cooking dinner and driving children to school and feeding dogs and cats and walking on the beach or in the bush or up mountains and flying in aeroplanes and riding bikes and catching ideas and trains and going to the library and bookshops and watching movies and answering the phone and sending emails and posting letters.