Rush! Rush! by Elena de Roo, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, One Tree House, 2021
Over the fence,
and down with a whoosh!
Onto the track!
Into the bush.
Elena de Roo is my favourite New Zealand poet for children and I have long hoped for a collection from her. Her new book Rush! Rush! is definitely a start. The book-length poem is an absolute JOY to read. A young girl is racing to get from home to the beach. Maestro illustrator Jenny Cooper has painted the girl in her pyjamas and dressing gown, because she has pulled the curtains back, peeked at the beautiful day, and then whizzed through the door. Rush! Rush! Rush! The illustrations are sublime. So full of exuberant life. Read the book and savour the images as you race along with the poem and the girl. You will get breathless too!
Every word is pitch perfect. One of the reasons (and there are many) I admire Elena as a poet is because she has a deft musical ear. She listens to how the line sounds. She avoids the clunky predictable rhythms and rhymes of so many picture books. She catches the rhythm of a child rushing, breathing in sights and sounds, and who is too excited to stop. The rhymes are a treat, especially the near rhymes that add knottiness to the musical flow (blind / time; sheep / bleat). She dances between soft and sharp sounds. Ah! she is a poet musician extraordinaire!
It felt like I read the story poem in one delicious breath – and I really liked the ending. A perfect ending (a single word!) to open the story wide like the girl’s arms stretched wide on the cover.
This book is a JOYFUL INVIGORATING POETRY treat and would be the very best book to read aloud to a class or your children. I was reminded of Margaret Mahy’s fabulous A Summery Saturday Morning. I love Rush! Rush! And it has given me an idea for my April Poetry Challenge.
Swoop round the shed,
In a ground-hugging loop.
What’s all the fuss about?
Rattles the roof.
Elena de Roo completed this book when she was the 2020 University of Otago College of Education / Creative NZ Children’s Writer in Residence. She has written a number of award-winning books and lives in Auckland.
Jenny Cooper is an award-winning illustrator and has illustrated more than 70 books. She lives in Amberley, Christchurch.
Elena de Roois one of my favourite New Zealand children’s poets. You can find some of her poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children (Random House). She writes poems with a listening ear and a zesty imagination. There is always a sprinkling of heart, surprise and music. I love the way the real world comes alive as much as imaginedthings. I just love love her poems!
Elena has picked some of her bird poems to share with you. You can watch the bird slide show and listen to her two poems and then try my BIRD activities.
I will have a copy of A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children to give to one child who sends me something from one of my bird activities below.
Listen to Elena read ‘Pīwakawaka’ while you watch the slides:
Listen to Elena reading ‘Hunting the Dawn’
Listen to Elena read ‘Pīwakawaka’ without the slide show!
SomeBIRD ACTIVITIESfor you
1 Bird soundsLISTEN to your poem as you write it!
I was inspired by Elena’s morepork poem. Make a list of bird sound words. Start with tweet and cheep and then use your ears to make up words for the sounds different birds make. Try morepork / ruru or a chook or a duck or a hawk or a kiwi or a dotterel or a starling. Choose any bird you like!
Can you find bird sounds online and listen to then? Can you listen to bird sounds outside?
Pick one bird and use the sounds you gathered for it and make a poem.Do an illustration to go with it if you like. You may even want to record yourself reading the poem.
Or write a poem full of different sounds and bird activities.Do an illustration to go with it if you like. You may even want to record yourself reading the poem.
2 Bird patternsLISTEN to your poem as you write it!
I love the way words make patterns in Elena’s pīwakawaka poem.
Pick one of your favourite birds.Draw a circle (or a bird) and fill it with as many words as you can that show the bird (you choose!): what the bird looks like, sounds like, how they move, what they eat, where they live, anything special, different or unique about them.
flutter flutter fantail
flitter flitter wing
dance dance silver bird
shimmer shimmer sing
Use some of the words to make a bird pattern poem.
You could make a bird pattern poem in the shape of a bird.
OR use some of your words to tell a little bird story in a poem
Do an illustration to go with it if you like. You may even want to record yourself reading the poem.
h a v e f u n !!!!
send to firstname.lastname@example.org
please include your name age and name of school
don’t forget to put NAME OFchallenge 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 deadlinewhile we are living in our bubbles! Every FridayI 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.
I will have at least one book to give away each Friday.
You can also try these Poetry Box activities. Click on links below:
Elk drawing by Zac. Zac is 8 years old. He loves reading, playing football and drawing dragons and minotaurs.
‘Elk’ by Emma Neale, published in A Treasury of Poems for Childrenedited by Paula Green, Random House, 2014, and new edition 2017.
Elena de Roo is a children’s writer and poet from Auckland. She lives next to Cornwall Park and often makes up stories and poems in her head while going for long walks there, hoping only the cows and sheep notice she is quietly talking to herself.
Emma Neale loves reading books aloud to her children, even her teenager, when she can find him away from the piano or the drums. Her youngest son is such a keen reader he knows more about history than she does. He loves to test her on all the facts she doesn’t know. She has written stories and poems for children, and a picture book that will probably be buried with her because nobody seems to think it’s as funny as she does.
Elena is a children’s writer and poet from Auckland. She lives next to Cornwall Park and often makes up stories and poems in her head while going for long walks there, hoping only the cows and sheep notice she is quietly talking to herself.
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.
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.
If you go hunting for list poems by other poets you will discover a real treasure trove. Reading poems by other writers is such a great way to take your own writing on adventures. Try doing your version of the poem you discover. Change things about it. Use their pattern, but put your own words in it.
Elena de Roo has written a list of green things, but she has played with the pattern a little and not every line begins with green (both ways work!). She has some great rhyme that helps glue the poem together (soar, draw) and (castle, freckle).
This week we are still playing with list poems. Today, though, I am going tell you about the school holiday challenge. On Tuesday it’s time for poetry play, on Wednesday I will post list poem by Elena de Roo and John Parker, on Thursday I will post my favourite poems from the list-poem challenge (and the winner) and on Friday I will post a poem by a secondary-school student (fingers-crossed!).
NZ Poetry Box is a blog aimed at students up to Year 8 but some secondary students have started following it. So here is your chance. I challenge you to write a list poem (Year 9 to Year 13). Catch up on what Bill Manhire says about list poems (April 11), check out my tips (April 9) and get writing! Send to email@example.com by Thursday 5pm. Include your name, age, year and name of school.
Next week the school holidays begin and I would love to post at least a poem a day by a child. This is a safe site for young children and a perfect place to play with words during the holidays. I am happy to post your letters and comments. Get Mum or Dad or Gran to help you.
I will give you some mini challenges throughout this week — but as a holiday challenge you could try one of Bill Manhire’s ideas that he posted last Thursday. Send your poems to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, age, year school. Include your teacher’s name and email if you like. Say it is for the holiday challenge.
Here are Bill’s ideas. I want to try them too!
1. Try imagining what it’s like to be something else, and write as if you are that something else. Maybe you could be an elephant that’s sick of being in the circus. Or an iceberg that’s melting. Or an asteroid that’s about to hit the earth. Or maybe you could write a conversation (or a love poem!) between a stalagmite and a stalactite.
2. Write a brand new nursery rhyme, and put your best friend in it.
3. Write a poem where every line begins with the words “I remember”, but every memory is made-up.
During the holidays, I would also love to post ideas from teachers and parents on writing poems. A single idea or two in a paragraph or two.