Tag Archives: children’s poetry

Librarian’s Choice: Jessie Neilson picks AA Milne


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There is no poetic influence that springs to mind more for the childhood years than the inimitable A.A. Milne. I had the rhymes read to me endlessly as a child; they were favourites of my father for their simplicity in their rhymes, and their humour, and their accessibility, however unlikely it might be that we end up curtseying in the company of the Queen. 

James James Morrison Morrison” so the story goes. What a good boy, what a normal boy; what a curious boy out to explore everything that any other child would want.

 Or Ernest and the other of his friends, animals of familiar ilk: “Ernest was an elephant and very well-intentioned; Leonard was a lion with a brave new tail, George was a goat, as I think I have mentioned, But James was only a snail”. These creatures are individual, but singularly as important as others, in their daily, slight traipses across the scapes of the world.

Then there is the perplexity of not quite knowing where one is, exploring the parameters of a child’s day-to-day life: “Halfway down the stairs/ is a stair where I sit/ There isn’t any other stair quite like it…”. These are very simple and quiet steps that a young child takes every day as they learn about their immediate world.

Everything about these verses in their simplicity, their commonality and familiarity, make them appealing to a child. 

And then there are those phrases that takes us back to earlier, quaint times; of a land far away from New Zealand life, but that of A.A Milne, as he speaks of London: “They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace – / Christopher Robin went down with Alice”…That is a  refrain that all of us know today.


A. A. Milne today is immediately of a time past, of a land that most of us have never known, yet the influence of manners and curiosity is one that lingers. His rhymes and patterns are continually accessible, and his imagery and subjects within his poems are such that even as adults we welcome reciting them.



Jessie Neilson is a University of Otago library assistant and mother. She reviews regularly for the Otago Daily Times and Takahe and has a broad interest in matters literary.




Check out my June winter video poem challenge






From The Huffington Post: The EIGHT essential kinds of books that every kid should have

The Huffington Post has just published this wonderful feature on the EIGHT essential  kinds of books children should own. I love this list and i especially love it because it has poetry in there. If you click on the link here, you can see the full list. Add a comment to my post, if you think of anything you would add to this list.

‘I’ve never been a big fan of lists like “50 Books Your Kid HAS to Read” or “The 100 Best Children’s Books OF ALL TIME.” Typically, they make my blood pressure spike, tossing me between joy (“Ooh, good pick!”) and rage (“No Sylvester and the Magic Pebble? Those Philistines!”), and I spend more time debating their selection criteria and omissions than enjoying their recommendations. That said, I do think there are certain TYPES of books that every kid should be exposed to — the kinds of books that truly introduce them to the best of what the written word has to offer.

Here are my (very subjective) picks for the EIGHT essential kinds of books that every kid should have in his or her home library:

5. Poetry.

I know a lot of adults who don’t enjoy reading poetry personally, but I can’t stress enough how powerful poetry can be for young readers. If normal prose is a Volvo, poetry is a Lamborghini — it takes language, floors the accelerator, and really shows you what words can do. Poets like Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein teach kids that, when assembled correctly — even in ways that don’t seem to make sense — words can make a person feel a ridiculously deep range of emotions, and kids LOVE THAT.’

You know I am a fan of Shel Silverstein!

The Letterbox Cat: I have ten copies of my new book to give away and a challenge to go with it!


The Letterbox Cat and Other Poems (Scholastic) will be in bookshops soon (this month but I don’t know which exact day). Illustrations by Myles Lawford. (Is this my first low-grade selfie on Poetry Box? It’s definitely fuzzy but my camera is not working)


I had such fun writing these poems over the past few years and I had such fun working with the very lovely people at Scholastic on my book. A big thank you to Diana, Lynette, Penny and Frith. It was a pleasure to work with you all! And special thanks to the amazing designer, Dana Brown, who made the poems and the illustrations fill  the page with pizzazz. And thanks to Myles for his very cool illustrations. When I first saw the book I though it had a Dr Seuss feel which moved me very much indeed.

The book is available in shops this week and costs $12!


To celebrate I am posting a challenge. I will pick a cluster of your poems to post and I have ten copies for my favourite poems.

Write a poem using one of my opening lines as your first line to start your own poem! Make up your own title.

1. If you put your hat

2. On a blue day

3. When I am cold

4. Try writing a poem

5.  Imagine if you

6. The clouds are moving

7. Orange

8. The rain

9. Twitching tail

10. A Jack in the box


DEADLINE for your Letterbox Challenge: Wednesday August 20th

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 Letterbox challenge.

I will post my favourites and have a book prize for some poets.



Soup for Breakfast by Calef Brown

I love the poetry of Calef Brown. He has a deliciously inventive and sideways mind because he writes deliciously wacky poems.

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When I read his poems I just want to race off and write a poem myself! I LOVE that! Not all poetry books make you do this. But when I read these poems my fingers start twitching and my mind starts twitching and the words start to tumble and turn.


Calef’s bio at the back of one of his books says: ‘Calef Brown was, until recently, a blue elephant.’ I need to think about my bios as they always so ordinary. Calef tells us he truly enjoys soup for breakfast. He lives on an island in Maine in the USA.

You can get a good idea about the kind of poems he writes from the titles of his books:

Flamingos on the Roof

Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers

Polkabats and Octopus Slacks

Soup for Breakfast

Calef loves the squidgy, tasty way words pop and crackle together on the page. Sometimes they rhyme and sometimes they don’t, but they always make little sound explosions in my ear.

He loves surprising you. One poem tells you why he would rather have a bear’s paws than hands. Another poem is all about a painting on a piece of toast.

This is how one of his poem starts:

‘Why do all gownups

like donuts so much?’

This beginning could lead a poem to a thousand jiggity places. Try writing a poem with this beginning!


Plus Calef does electric paintings with acrylic paint to match the poems.

I can’t post one of his poems as I don’t have permission (I went to his website and have written him a letter so we will see — www.calefbrown.com!).  So …….

Go on a poetry hunt and see if you can find one of his books in your school or local library. I think it is time to order another one for my collection!

Let me know if you find one and what you think of it. Send your letter to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, age, year, name of school. You can include the name of your teacher and email address if you like.