Tag Archives: book review

a lovely lovely school and a lovely lovely book by Sally Murphy that is out soon

Yesterday I visited Pomaria School in West Auckland and I was delighted with the way they welcome visitors— with such warmth and aroha. They want you to make yourself at home in their school. It was a special afternoon and the children were eager participants in my sessions. It makes me feel very lucky to be an author and to have these opportunities. So thank you!


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This morning I read another verse novel by Sally Murphy, Roses Are Blue, and it made me think more about the way we welcome people no matter who they are. The way we make the people around us feel at home.

I love this book. I think it would be a wonderful book to read in class.

Amber Rose starts off by telling us how all the mums at her school are different, but how hers is really, really different. Her mum used to dance and sing and paint but now she can’t do anything for herself because she had an accident. She is in a wheelchair. She can’t feed herself and she can’t talk.

I instantly got caught up in Amber Rose’s life. She had to move to a new school which was tough. Then her class was having afternoon tea for their mums for Mother’s Day (what a great idea!) but Amber Rose was embarrassed and didn’t want her mum to come.

This book made me feel something and it made me think about how I treat people who are not the same as me! But this book is not a preachy book–it is a book that uses poetry to tell a story.

Bravo Walker Books for publishing it. I hope lots of New Zealand readers discover it. It is out on July 1st so maybe you can order it!

I have decided to order a copy as a prize for a challenge. This seems like a golden opportunity to celebrate our mums. So write a poem that celebrates your mum (or your grandmother, or your aunty).

Hunt for good detail so that your poem makes a picture of your mum. What does she like to do? Eat? Wear? Has she ever done anything funny, crazy, surprising, wonderful?

Real detail will make your poem sing!  Listen to your poem before you send it to me.


DEADLINE for your Mum-Poem Challenge: Wednesday July 2nd

Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email. PLEASE say it’s for the Mum-Poem challenge.

I will post my favourites from all the Mum-Poem Challenges and have a book prize for a poet (Year 0 to Year 8).


An EYE catching book by Gavin Bishop

I am a big fan of New Zealand writing so, even though this is a poetry blog, this year I will tell you about new books I like the look of– stories, picture books, non-fiction as well as poetry! Here is one to start with.

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Gavin Bishop is one of my favourite New Zealand illustrators because his illustrations catch my eye every time and I just say, ‘Wow!’ And he writes tories too!

Scholastic has reissued and redesigned Gavin’s classic book Bidibidi and it is especially beautiful. I wish I could tell exactly how the illustrations are done but it looks like some kind of water colour (not oils) and ink pen. Such fine detail! Such gorgeous colours.

This is the story of a groany, moany sheep who lives in the high country of New Zealand. She always wants to be somewhere else (like under that rainbow she spots).

Stella the Kea nags at her to change her life if she doesn’t like it (at this point the story could take off to a marvelous anywhere!). And so it does.

Bidibidi finds all kinds of excitements and dangers— and where she ended up was a surprise to me!

This book has also been released in Te Reo Maori.

Gavin Bishop, Bidibidi, Scholastic, 2014 (first published in 1982 by Oxford University Press)

The Best-Behaved Bear might get you doing a bear poem

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I love coloured pencils. I loved drawing with them when I was little and now I like looking at illustrations done with them.

There is a new book in the Best-Loved Bear series, written by Diana Noonan with Elizabeth Fuller’s gorgeous coloured pencils at work. Mmmm! Tasty! I love it when one colour goes on top of another.

The new book is called The Best-Behaved Bear. Tim was off to a tropical island for a wedding, but there was something he just HAD to fit in his bag. Yes, you guessed it, his teddy bear (but oh woe, he wouldn’t fit). Poor teddy has one disaster after another as Tim tries to fit him other bags. He gets to go but something IMPORTANT doesn’t. This is a delightful story that made me SMILE when I got to the end.

The Best-Behaved Bear, Diana Noonan, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller, Scholastic, 2014


If you feel in the mood, try writing a teddy-bear poem. It might true or made-up.


DEADLINE for your Teddy-Poem Challenge: Thursday March 27th

Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email. PLEASE say it’s for the eye-poem challenge.

I will post my favourites and have a book prize for one poet. I will give one poet a copy of the book.  Thank you SCHOLASTIC for providing this!

Woohoo … Mrs. Mo’s Monster is …….. M a R v E L L o U s

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Mrs. Mo’s Monster by Paul Beavis (Gecko Press, 2014)

Here is a wonderful new picture book from Gecko Press written and illustrated by Paul Beavis. Paul lives in Wellington.

The pictures are really simple but they CATCH your EYE (and we are using our EYES this month!).

There is a cheeky monster that likes to ‘CRUNCH, MUNCH, AND CHEW‘ e v  e r y t h i n g!

Which is a real problem for Mrs Mo!

The cheeky monster knows how to crunch and munch, but he doesn’t know how to do much else!

OhOHOHOh! How will it end?               You will have to read it for yourself.

The story is written with zing and pizzazz so it is FUN to read aloud (just like poems!).

Bravo Gecko Press and Paul!  Highly recommended.

Jenny Bornholdt’s A Book is a Book is the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas, a glorious thing

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Sometimes a book arrives in the world and you know that it is a very special thing. It is a book you want to give everyone for Christmas and for birthdays and on days when you just feeling like giving someone a book.

A Book is a Book by Jenny Bornholdt (one of my favourite New Zealand poets) with illustrations by Sarah Wilkins is one such precious thing (Whitireia Publishing and Gecko Press, 2013). It is a little, hardcover book with a paper-dust jacket and exquisite drawings. It feels like it is from another age, perhaps the 1960s, so it takes me right back to when I was a young girl and I loved the magic of a new book (I still do!).

As the title tells us, this book is all about books — about reading books. Each page only has one or two sentences, but each page shimmers with wisdom, humour and truthfulness (I kept thinking that is so exactly right as I read!). Such a mix means that it is a very happy book! To sit down with a book that is so HAPPY it makes you feel HAPPY which is a very good thing.

To be honest, I couldn’t bear to finish this book for ages (in fact I left a little bit for today); like a box of chocolates I wanted to go on and on. Every page is a favourite page, but here is one I love:

‘If it’s Sunday and it’s raining,

a book is the perfect thing.

Even a small book, because

boredom can be very big.’

You will find places to read books, what to do if you don’t have a book, what’s inside books, about a -glow–in-the-dark book, games you can play with books …

… but as soon as I start to describe what the book describes, I know I have to stop because all Jenny’s word magic is gone.

This, my number-one-book-I-have-read-in-a-very-long-time book, you just have to read for yourself, and then get another copy to give your best friend. Because it is the perfect book to read when you want to feel good about life.

Thank you Whitireia Publishing and Gecko Press for the gorgeous production, thank you Jenny for the terrific words and thank you Sarah for the delicious, little paintings that are just perfect.

To celebrate my love of this book that has filled me with such book joy, I am going to host a three week READING FESTIVAL on Poetry Box starting on Monday with all kinds of prizes and surprises.

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Margaret Mahy’s Dashing Dog can swim


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‘Dashing dog! Dashing dog! Oh, what a sight to see!

Cleaned up and curlicued! What a delight to be’

HarperCollins has published a new edition of Margaret Mahy‘s poem, Dashing Dog. There are bright and bouncy illustrations by Donovan Bixley and there is a CD of Margaret reading the poem.

The poem follows an excited dog and his family as they go for a walk on the beach.

The poem is Margaret at her most delicious, bounciest, dashingest, dartingest, dreamiest wordiest BEST!

The words  dance and dash and cavort on the page and in your ear.

Margaret uses lots of alliteration that hums like music: ‘Devil-dog-daring, and dog-about-townery’.

She uses glorious, big words that are chewy on your tongue: curlicued, perambulate, docile.

She makes up words that are strange and zany and perfect (often to fit her rhymes): sandified, drowndering, townery.

The rhythm catches the dash and dart and antics of the dog and his family on the beach perfectly and Margaret reads it so beautifully.

SO, to sum up, this is a fabulous poem that made me think of my dogs when we go to the beach and they get all drippy and zoomy and puffy and panty and licky and rolly and huggy and happy! It is a terrific book and would be great to read with someone else.

You could try writing your own big rollicking rompy dog poem! Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include the name and email of your teacher if you like.

the fabulous IF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility & a wee challenge for you

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When I was mailing my list of AMAZING NZ Bookshops that sell poetry for children  (see my page), I discovered some books I would like to buy. I can’t buy them all at once so I still have my secret eye on a few. I am going to tell you about a book I got at TIme Out Bookshop in Mt Eden (they have a lovely wee room especially for children’s books!). I saw at least one other bookshop had a copy of this book.

If: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility Edited by Allie Esiri & Rachel Kelly (Canongate, Edinburgh, 2012)

Allie was an actress for a long time (looks like she loves Shakespeare) and worked for the New York Times. She has three children.

Rachel worked at Vogue then at The Times in London. She has five children and has always loved poems.

The book is divided into sections (‘Growing Up,’ ‘Humour and Nonsense,’ ‘Tell Me a Tale,’ ‘Magic, Friendship and Love,’ ‘Animals, Nature and Seasons,’ ‘War History and Death,’ ‘Lessons for Life’ and ‘Bedtime.’  That does seem to cover a BIG range of possibilities. I can think of lots more though: Special occasions, food, home, moods, machines, things, places, people, clothes,   adventure, our bodies, space, science, mathematics … BUT! You can never fit all you want in treasury as I have discovered on several occasions now.

There are loads of very famous (world famous!) poets in the book: Shakespeare, Edward Lear, ee cummings, Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan, AA Milne. Many of the poets in this book wrote for adults more than they wrote for children, many of the poets are dead and most of the poets are men. If I had the whole world from which to gather a a collection of poem gems from I would come up with a very different mix. Lots of the poems I would pick would be written by authors who usually write for children (like Hilaire Belloc, Valerie Worth, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Caleb Brown and so on), but I would go back into the past because that is fascinating. But this is a wonderful collection full of poetry diamonds, emeralds and volcanic rock!

I adore the illustrations. They are a mix of drawing and cut-out words in lemon-yellow and white, with tiny little lemony drawings floating on pages ( a cat, a flower, a star and so on). It is a beautiful book to hold and smell and look at.

The poems take you on a fabulous poem journey. You go along the roads and paths of  poems written from the distant past until now. I loved reading writing from ages ago when I was little — discovering how poems written in the past sing in your ear in a different way.

Next week I am going to tell you more about AA MIlne and give you a special challenge but his poem ‘The King’s Breakfast‘ is in the book. I loved saying this poem when I was little:

The king asked

The Queen, and

The Queen asked

The Diarymaid:

‘Could we have some butter for

The Royal slice of bread?’

The Queen asked

The Diarymaid,

The Dairymaid,

Said ‘Certainly,

I’ll go and tell

The cow


Before she goes to bed.’

(it is a long poem so that is just the first verse. But it is really good to say out loud because it has a great rhythm and repeats itself beautifully.)

The wonderful thing about this treasury is you keep finding poem gems.

A Challenge: Try writing a poem that fits in one of the sections in the book (see above)! I will post my favourites. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email address if you like.

In My Village you get little windows onto other languages

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In 2008 Gecko Press published My Village: Rhymes from around the world. The poems were collected by Danielle Wright, the book was illustrated by Mique Moriuchi and there is an introduction by the fabulous British poet, Michael Rosen. The illustrations are gorgeous and made from paint, bits and pieces and collage. Mique was born in London but spent time in Japan and it shows!

Gecko Press have kindly offered two copies of the book to give to two of you who send in poems with words from other languages in (not English!). THank you lovely Gecko Press!

What makes this book so special is not just that it takes you round the world in 22 days (22 poems!), but you get to see the poems in the original language (yeeha!). Even if you don’t know the language it is fun to look at the word and try saying them and see how they do rhyme!

You go to: New Zealand, China, Australia, Norway, Ireland, Tonga, Jamaica, Japan, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Indonesia, Denmark, Iran, Germany, Samoa, Switzerland, Russia, Brazil, France, Holland, Iceland and India.

This is from a Norwegian rhyme:  ‘Hour after hour, / Tick, tack, / Shower upon shower.’

I really loved the Jamaican one and had fun saying it aloud. Here is a sneak preview: ‘Me donkey BUCK / Me donkey LEAP / Me donkey KICK / Wid him two hind feet.’

The Samoan one puts the Samoan words in the with English ones. Here is a bit of it: ‘Savalivali means go for a walk / Tele tautala means too much talk.’

I also love the one from iceland: ‘Bye, Bye, Blacking / Swans are a-clacking.’

It is really tricky trying to change a poem or rhyme from one language to another as the rhymes are not always going to work! But in this book the words dance and shimmy and sway like good rhymes do. The poems are fun. Sometimes you can sing them, sometimes they are like a lullaby or a nursery rhyme, sometimes they are thoughtful. This cool book should be in every classroom so you get little windows into other languages. It is cool!