Tag Archives: Barbara Else

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.