Tag Archives: Gecko Press

Poetry Box review: Ulf Stark’s Can you whistle, Johanna?

Poetry Box April poetry challenge

Can you whistle, Johanna? Ulf Stark, illustrated by Anna Höglund, Gecko Press, 2021

One of my favourite memories as a children’s poet was taking children to read their poems to old people in retirement villages. It was so very special. The young and the old loved it equally, especially talking to each other at the end. There were warm glows on everyone’s cheeks! Wide smiles. Sadly I just don’t seem to have time to do it at the moment but I do hope some other energetic poet gives it a go.

I think this shiny memory added to my delight in reading Ulf Stark’s Can you whistle, Johanna.

Ulf has a grandfather whom he loves dearly. They eat cake together on birthdays, go out to tea, and swap presents (five dollars and a cigar). The grandfather always eats pigs’ trotters. Ulf’s best friend Berra doesn’t have a grandfather and that feels like one terrible aching impossible-to-fill gap even though he doesn’t exactly know what grandfathers do.

Ulf comes up with a cunning plan and they go visit a retirement village where there are truckloads of old men. The boys definitely want one who eats pigs’ trotters and takes you out to tea and can teach you to whistle.

Ah, this is the sweetest most heartwarming story you can imagine. I laughed out loud and I felt good inside as I read. I especially love the bit about eating cherries from Mr Gustavsson’s extremely high tree in the dark. Oh and wanting to fish when there is no lake for miles but making something wonderful by making do with what is nearby (something rather special).

Sometimes you read a story and it sticks with you for days and you stop hanging out the clothes and writing the poem and weeding the garden and a little bit of the story lights up inside you. That’s how I feel with this glorious book.

I adore Anna Höglund‘s illustrations with their exquisite textures and colour palettes. I do wish children’s books included more details on the illustrations. It reminded me of the smell of crayons and pastels. Anna also illustrated the heavenly The Stone Giant.

Julia Marshall both translated and published the story. The sentences flow like clover honey and the book feels just right in your hand. Can you whistle, Johanna? was originally published in 1992 and made into a film. I can see why it is an international classic. I am so grateful to Gecko Press for continuing to publish books for children that are so very precious, and that always uplift stories with wisdom, verve and humour. When you read a Gecko Press book you get to feel the world.

I do hope loads of grandchildren read this to loads of grandparents – oh and truckoads of grandparents read it to truckloads of grandchildren.

Gecko Press page

Ulf Stark was a much-loved, award-winning Swedish writer. He has written around thirty books for children and young adults, and has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Anna Höglund is a Swedish illustrator and author. Her work has been recognized with Swedish and international awards. She has worked with many well-known authors including Barbro Lindgren and Ulf Stark.

Poetry Box review: Egg & Spoon by Alexandra Tylee and Giselle Clarkson and the food poem challenge

Egg & Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook written by Alexandra Tylee and illustrated by Giselle Clarkson, published by Gecko Press, 2020

I am a cookbook squirrel. I think I might have more than a hundred cookbooks. I love cooking old favourites and I love cooking things I have never cooked before. Cookbooks are my passports to new places, new taste sensations. I love how food connects friends and family, and how food keeps our body engines running beautifully.

Gecko Press have just published Egg & Spoon, the best cookbook for children (and adults) ever. It is written by Alexandra Tylee from the excellent Pipi Café in Havelock North. Such scrumptious food served there, it is not surprising the recipes are mouth-watering, tongue-popping DELICIOUS. Anytime I am in Havelock North I pay a visit!

Whizz image maker, Giselle Clarkson, has done the scrummy illustrations. She makes comics, cartoons and illustrates books (I loved the work she did for The Gobbledegook Book, Secret World of Butterflies, Hazel and the Snails).

A good cookbook makes you want to run into the kitchen and bake. Sometimes I put tags on recipes I want to cook – or make a long list. There are so many things I want to make from Egg & Spoon, I think I want to try everything! I want to COOK the BOOK!

I really like Alexandra’s philosophy: Cooking is very individual – there are no rules …well there are, but I’ve never taken them too seriously. Just trya recipe and see how it works for you. If you feel like adding a bit of this and some of that, then I say go for it. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.’

I think it works for poetry: ‘Poetry is very individual – there are no rules …well there are, but I’ve never taken them too seriously. Just try a poem and see how it works for you. If you feel like adding a bit of this and some of that, then I say go for it. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.’

The recipes

Alexandra’s recipes are very easy to use.

You are guaranteed something that is very tasty and very good for your body engine.

You are guaranteed to have fun making things and even greater fun eating them.

I want to make the baked beans. I love home-made baked beans – Alexandra adds a parmesan rind which is a very Italian thing to do! MMM baked-bean lunch tomorrow for me! I want to make the teriyaki salmon on sticks for dinner tonight. AND I am itching to make the apple slice.

This gorgeous gorgeous book inspired me to have FOOD POEMS as my last Poetry Box challenge for the year.

I’m giving away two copies of the book to children who try my challenge – to celebrate Gecko Press, Pipi Café, Alexandria Tylee and Giselle Clarkson … and of course poetry. You can find the food-poem challenge here (deadline is Monday 30th November).

Gecko Press have kindly given permission to post four recipes from this exquisitely-produced, treasure of a book!

Recipes extracted from Egg & Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook written by Alexandra Tylee and illustrated by Giselle Clarkson, published by Gecko Press, RRP $39.99

have fun cooking

Poetry Box Review: Issa Watanabe’s ‘Migrants’

Issa Watanabe Migrants Gecko Press 2020 (originally published 2019 by Libros del Zorro Rojo)

I need a trinket box on my desk of superlative words, of gleaming things, to use when I read a book that is as luminous and awe-inspiring as our Milky Way. Some books are so special you just want to whisper to the universe:

read this book, read this book, read this book read this book, read this book

Trinkets is a silent picture book, a picture book without words, yet it is paradoxically brimming with words and feeling. A solar system of words grow in your head as you follow the glorious illustrations, as you let the narrative soak into your heart and mind, and the book sings sings sings, a story of sadness, pain and obstacles, along with kindness and mutual help. This is a story of our wounded world.

read this book, read this book, read this book read this book, read this book

Tinkets tells the story of animals banished from the land they love, coming together in a community huddle with few belongings, setting up camp in the dark forest, trying to make a home, but then again they are kicked out, moved on, because some other animal thinks they don’t belong. They flee. Terrified. They flee into the terrifying unknown. They cross the scary ocean crammed into a boat that capsizes. They are washed ashore and keep on, and they keep on holding tight to an idea of home. They move towards the tree in pink-petalled blossom. They move towards HOPE.

This is our human world. This is happening. This book is inviting me to welcome difference. To open arms to our migrant arrivals, to our refugee arrivals, and make them feel so very welcome.

read this book, read this book, read this book read this book, read this book

The illustrations are breathtaking. You feel them to the core. Each character is lovingly brought to life. You feel the story of a group of migrants to the core. There is heartbreak and there is hope.

Migrants is an important book and is so very special. It gathers words and it is beyond words.

‘I wanted to show the contrast between life and the sadness and difficulty of the journey. Colour expresses hope. Darkness is more like silence. But more than anything, I wanted each character to have their own identity defined by each detail: the care I gave to clothes, the choice of colours, and the characters’ expressions. The first thing that happens with migrants is that they are turned into numbers, or morph into a faceless human mass, which we cannot identify with.’ Issa Watanabe

Issa Watanabe was born in Peru in 1980, the daughter of an illustrator and a poet. She studied Literature and Fine Arts and Illustration and is the author and illustrator of a number of books.

Gecko Press author page

Gecko Press Q & A with Issa

Poetry Box Review: Jonathan King’s The Inkberg Enigma




The Inkberg Enigma, Jonathan King, Gecko Press, 2020


Last week Auckland moved back to Level 3 and it felt like a leaf storm through the house, and I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t concentrate. So I picked up a book I have been wanting to read for awhile: Jonathan King’s The Inkberg Enigma. It’s a graphic novel pitched at 8 to 12 year olds – and any age after that if you like a dose of scary!

WARNING: There are NO spoilers in this review!

Miro lives in Aurora, a maybe weird town, with a mysterious castle, and some strange and scary happenings. Miro loves collecting and reading old books that fill him with the joy of reading adventures. Stories in books are the thing for him. He is slowly selling off objects in the attic to a second-hand shop so he can keep buying fascinating books. The attic is emptying out but the spare room fills to the brim with reading material.

Miro is bullied and called a bookworm, but one day Zia, a girl with curiosity and a camera, comes to his rescue. Zia also loves adventures but she loves adventures in real life. Zia prefers stories in real life, while Miro is a fan of stories in books.

Zia is so full of daring and real-life adventure that when the two new friends witness something very strange and very suspicious, she pulls Miro along with her, in the wake of her daring, and together they try to solve the mystery of Aurora.

This is one scary read. My heart started beating faster (from about page 29) and I could not stop reading until I got to the end. I do scare easily but this was just a delicious amount.

There is so much to love about this book.

I love the way I connect with the characters. They are like gleaming prisms (not just one-sided!) and they feel real. Miro and Zia not only hooked me into their gripping adventure  story, but also who they are as children. AND I especially like Miro’s dad’s girlfriend, the ultra cool Doc (no witchy stepmother here). Doc is busy testing out the marine life and has an excellent relationship with Miro.

I love the setting, a fishing village by the ocean, which Jonathan loosely based on Lyttelton. Ah! Oceans are so mysterious with their mysteriously murky depths. They are also something to care for.

I love the plot, the way the story fits together like a cool jigsaw puzzle with twists and turns. I especially liked discovering what the title means and how that plays a big part in the adventure.


This is an ultra imaginative, perfectly scary, sublime read with great drawings, especially when you need a gloomy day diversion. Imagine a big road sign: take the paths in this book if you want time out from boredom or anxiety, or if you are a fan of graphic novels and slightly scary stories.

Best of all books play a key role, Miro is a voracious reader. So BOOKWORMS unite I say – read this book, borrow it from the library or get your own copy. I so hope Jonathan has another graphic novel in the pipeline for children and another one for adults. Jonathan King is a graphic novel whizz. GLORIOUS!


Gecko Press page

You can watch a cool trailer here


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Poetry Box review: Anna Höglund’s The Stone Giant





Anna Höglund The Stone Giant Gecko Press 2020


What a delightful story housed in an exquisitely illustrated, lovingly produced object: The Stone Giant is a must-have book. The cover reflects what it is like inside – the  illustrations are often grey or pitch-black, with a young girl standing out in a red dress. The story is based on the much loved Swedish fairy tale by Elsa Beskow.


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A young girl lives on an island with her father who is a knight. One day he sets off in a boat to challenge a mean giant who is turning everyone to stone by looking at them. I think the girl must be accustomed to being alone on the island, because I am sure this is not the first time her father has headed off without her to rescue people.

I love the way she gets straight down to fixing and mending everything that needs fixing and mending. She is resourceful and independent, but she is also worried because her father does not come home. Will a child succeed where an adult has failed?

I love the way stories give children strength, an ability to solve things.

The writing is simple – sweetly flowing – and it carries us like a little reading stream. You want to stay in the flow until the very end. The illustrations help build the mood – slightly scary, slightly anxious. The girl has a genius flash and makes a daring decision. She will rescue her father!

You know fairy tales are going to have happy endings – but you never know how they will get there and that doesn’t mean you don’t feel on edge as you read (and just the right amount here because I scare easily).

The girl’s journey to the stone giant is the heart of the book – she is on on her own but as with most fairy tales she will get unexpected help on the way. I love the illustration of her swimming in the night-black sea with a little blue bird on her head keeping an eye out.

Fairy tales – like all stories – can carry secret (and not so secret) messages, like little training camps for children on how to be good humans as opposed to nasty ones. This story underlines how determination and imagination are important qualities to overcome problems.


I also got musing on how stories for children have changed over the centuries. Publishers’ choices have changed as ideas have changed. We want stories that feature girl heroes as much as they feature boy heroes or ‘they’ heroes. We do not want racism. It is utterly important that our stories reflect the strength and wisdom of global cultures. That we hear from many writing voices, in many styles and genres.

This is a sublime story of courage and ingenuity. Wit counters bad behaviour. Buy the book, enter the reading stream, and you will be carried along the exquisite currents until the breathtaking end. The illustrations are gorgeous. So beautifully crafted – a mix of printing and watercolour. Full of mood and life and mystery. Glorious!

Gecko Press page


Anna Höglund is a Swedish illustrator and author. Her work has been recognized with Swedish and international awards. She has worked with many well-known authors including Barbro Lindgren and Ulf Stark.


Poetry Box review: Anna Fiske’s wonderful How Do You Make a Baby?




Anna Fiske How Do You Make a Baby Gecko Press 2020


This is the most brilliant, moving, informative children’s book on how to make babies that I have ever read! It is inclusive and witty and contains plain facts, but is so much more than more than plain facts.


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The first sentence invites us ALL into the book:



We are all part of this book. The book shows that our world is made up of many different kinds of families: mother father, mother mother, father father.


It might be things we love to eat, do, visit, see. The people we love to be with. But there is also the special love of couples.

Before we encounter sperms and eggs, vaginas and penises, we encounter things a loving couple might love to do together. And then it shows couples doing loving things, some of which are sex.

The book then slowly goes through the development from sperm meeting egg to baby arriving in the world.

And just as the baby is taking shape so too are the parent(s) as they prepare for a baby in their lives / life.

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We are reminded that all births are different, that millions of babies are born everyday all over the world and that:







These are the last sentences in the book, and they made me want to cry. The thought here is so wise, and so filled with sparkling HOPE. So yes this is a book about how you make a baby, but it makes sure it is part of a bigger story than biology. Maybe I am so hooked on this book because it underlines how each and every human life is precious. How we are all miracles and all unique. I am sitting here, in these terribly troubled times, wanting the world to absorb this message. Every baby and every life matters. Life is a miracle.

I love this book. I would have loved sharing it with my children when they were young.


Gecko Press page

Poetry Box bubble time: a very glad Gecko Press reading diary




Over the past few months I have been gobbling up books published by Gecko Press (along with others). I had planned on posting reviews of children’s books while we were in lockdown but I found it hard to write and my blog got so busy doing other things for children.

But these Gecko books were a wonderful escape hatch when I couldn’t leave my bubble. At the weekend I read them all again and realised what a comfort they were when my mind was so fuzzy. I was also intrigued to recall how I connected with them when the world was wobbly and full of unknowns and now, when our backyards feel a whole lot safer, I connect a little differently.


My Gecko Press Reading Diary




A Bear Named Bjorn by Delphine Perret, Gecko Press






First of all this is a medium-sized hardback, with black & white drawings, that fits in your hand perfectly (well when you are as old as me). Even before you start reading you know this book is a treasure. All the sentences are in capital letters (it’s is a growing trend!) which might seem odd but just adds to the perfectness of every choice the publisher and the designer made.

Secondly the drawings are like exquisite little poems so I ‘read’ those before I read the story. They have an EH Shephard feel (he drew for AA Milne’s books) but they have their own personality that could only ever belong to Delphine Perret.

Thirdly the story is magic. It felt just right to be reading this in lockdown because Bjorn is a big fan of catalogues and ordering things online (I began to order a few things online). Bjorn loves his cave (everything seems just right!) but one day a big delivery truck turns up with a ‘plump three-seater sofa’ that he has won. Unexpectedly. He is told the big red sofa will ‘change his life and make him very happy’. Hmmm!

When my delivery van turned up with fresh fish during lockdown I was very happy. When it turned up with scrumptious avocados I was also very happy. Change my life? Ah those advertising catalogues.

BUT by the time Bjorn got the sofa inside the cave, and his friends dropped by, his life wasn’t exactly changed in a good way. You will have to read the story to find out what the arrival of the BIG RED SOFA actually meant to Bjorn.

I loved this story because I read it at a time when I was thinking about what I needed in my life and what I wanted in my life. I have found myself being a whole lot less wasteful.

A Bear Named Bjorn got me thinking, but it also got me laughing! In one episode a catalogue inspires Bjorn and his friends to dress up like humans.

There are lots of ways I am reminded of Winnie the Pooh because this is a book of living, of ordinary everyday life that is full of friendship and wisdom and unexpected things. I love it so much.












Hattie by Frida Nilsson, illustrated by Stina Wirsén, Gecko Press


This is what it says on the back of the book:

Hattie lives just outside of nowhere, right next to no one at all.

I love this – it intrigued me and made me pick up the book and start reading AT ONCE!  Hattie was waiting for school to start and she just couldn’t wait. Again I ponder on the chords between real life and the book I am reading. In lockdown I felt like I lived on the edge of nowhere and the somewheres were so topsy turvey. All the children were walking up and down our country road keeping an eye out for teddies and fascinating things because schools were closed.

AT LAST SCHOOL! Hattie loves school but she does like to bend rules. Playing horses ends up with someone locked in the school shed which ends up with her mother sad which ends up with the new banana fabric for the old chair abandoned on the floor which ends up with Hattie running away to the forest which ends up with:

Up in the sky small cold stars shine, but on the ground it’s as dark as the underworld.

What happens next  …. you will have to read and found out yourself – except I will say the banana-fabric chair gets finished.

The episodes in Like A Bear Named Bjorn will make you laugh – especially the dumpling cake one which was not exactly the sweet cake Hattie was expecting – but you know Hattie she likes to bend the rules. She manages to avoid eating it. Another day Hattie plays a mean trick and Richard throws up but is she to blame? And can you imagine what happens when Hattie goes to the hairdresser and asks for ‘tufts’?

An extra favourite scene: Papa suggests making a gingerbread house at Christmas but then decides the duck house outside would be easier. They argue and then compromise: a simple duck house with gingerbread ducks on the roof. Meanwhile Hattie’s mum likes to make tottering Norwegian cakes that are almost as tall as Hattie. Ah my tummy filled with glee! Yet the best bit of this gingerbread episode is an act of kindness.

I also love this book to the moon and back. The edge of nowhere is a very good place to spend time when our world is still a bit wobbly. Hattie reminded me of audacious Pippi Longstocking – but Hattie is her own extraordinary self, and she’s excellent company.




The Wolf and the Fly by Antje Damm, Gecko Press


A nifty board book that is both a story and a memory game. Wolf is so hungry his tummy is rumbling. On the page opposite are eight things he might eat. Turn over and try remembering which one is missing. Wolf keeps eating one thing at a time and you have to keep remembering what he ate by being a very excellent memory detective.

How will it all end? Yes hungry wolf is now full wolf, but I didn’t exactly guess what happened next!

A very cool book.




My Mama by Annemarie van Haeringen, Gecko Press


I’ve known my mama for a long time.

For my whole life, actually.


My Mama is a big gorgeous hardback picture book with big gorgeous illustrations of elephant Mama, and sweet little illustrations of her rather mischievous child. The child is pretty much telling us everything mamas are good for (to climb up like a mountain or hide behind) and everything they are good at (parking the cars neatly in the toy box, hiding behind mama). This is a heartwarming read – the illustrations are divine – perfect when you need a feel-good book.


I really want to fly.

Mama says that you can do anything if you really want to.

It’s true. You can see I’m already good at it.

But my mama finds it hard to let it go.



All the Dear Little Animals cover

All the Dear Little Animals Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, Gecko Press


Esther finds a dead bumble bee and decides the dead bumble needs a funeral. Her younger friend is scared of dead things but agrees to help. He is good at writing poems so writes a poem for the funeral. They bury the bee, make a cross, lay flowers, cry a little and say the poem. With the help of Esther’s wee brother, Puttie, they start a funeral home. It is hard finding dead things but they make funerals for  a mouse, a hamster, a rooster, a hedgehog, a bird. The young poet writes something especially for each sad occasion.

The story shows how important the things we do together at funeral time are, as are the things we choose to do ourselves.


I hope you pick at least one book from here to fill you with joy


t h a n k   y o u  G e c k o   P r e s s





Poetry Box: Dear Joy Cowley letters, aroha nui from us all



To celebrate the arrival of  Joy Cowley’s magnificent new book of poems and stories published by Gecko Press (with zany illustrations by Giselle Clarkson), I invited a few people to join me in writing letters to Joy – two children, a parent and an author.

Here is my review of the book.


Joy can listen to me read the letters:



Dear Joy Cowley

For a long time I have wanted to see your poetry for children back in print – so how delightful to see the gorgeous new edition of your stories and poems published by Gecko Press. Your poems fill me with happiness – they are playful and have such an elastic imagination and fine ear at work children adore them.

I have always loved your commitment to writing for children – not just in the glorious stories and poems you write but in your engagement with children. I am thinking of the letters you write them, the way you pay attention to their dreams and experiences, the support you give the fabulous Storylines and the ongoing support you give writers.

To be a writer is a very private thing but it is also a public thing – and you have shown how to inhabit the world with generosity, kindness and empathy. This matters.

Like so many other people, I have had a long history of reading your work, by myself and with my daughters, and it has enriched our lives with wisdom, humour and humaneness.

To celebrate the arrival of your wonderful new book I have invited a few others to write to you too – some children, a parent and an author.

Ngā mihi

Paula Green


Dear Joy,

Your poems are incredible, fascinating and full of fun! Every word on the page jumps like a tiger and soars like an eagle! I used to read your poems when I was younger, they helped me through a tough time. When I felt the weight of the world, your poems lifted me back up. I’m so grateful that there are amazing people like you creating stories and poems that brighten people’s days. I hope, aspire, and dream to be able to make poems like yours one day.

Thank you

from Gabbie, age 12,  Newlands intermediate



Dear Joy

I am writing to you with a big thank you for the amazing stories you have created for every kind of reader.

In a teaching setting, I use your stories no matter what age group I am working with.  I love starting the youngest ones on a path to a love of reading with the wonderful characters in the Mrs. Wishy Washy books.  My older, often struggling, readers always draw affinity with dear Greedy Cat (who is not so secretly my favourite of your characters).  And I can sit back and enjoy reading aloud the likes of Dunger and Speed of Light to my Year 7/8 groups.  Indeed, if a Joy Cowley book comes out in any class, everyone smiles.

At home, our bookshelves are lined with your work, as my children will always share that you are their favourite author.  The reason?  Because of your style, your imagination, but most of all because you have always been there.  They have grown up with, and through, your stories.  You have inspired their own writing, and presented opportunities for them to explore and develop that.  Each child has a copy of Just One More right beside their bed, ready for those times when they just want to wind down with a familiar favourite.

And for me personally, when I read about you, I am filled with admiration.  Your amazing life of flying planes, motorbike riding, woodturning and more is so inspiring… so many adventures to be had!  Amongst all that, you have given us all adventures of our own, through your writing.   You accept challenges for what they are, and get on with the doing.  And somehow, you have always had time for everyone, replying to fan mail, participating in local events, and helping young writers on their way.

You are a truly astonishing person, and I am so grateful for all you do.  I can’t wait to read “Silence” once it is published.  The kids are not the only ones who seek out Joy Cowley books!

Warm regards

Robyn Lovewell, Wellington


Dear Joy

I am writing to say how much I appreciate you and your wonderful stories!

I honestly don’t know which is my favorite, there are so many.  Snake and LizardThe Wild West GangHero of The HillBow Down Shadrach? But the book that lives by my bed is Just One More, which I still read all the time…with dragons in libraries and horses on escalators and then of course Jack and his hole that follows him around – that one makes me laugh even when I tell other people the story.

There is a good reason why you are so famous and probably NZ’s favourite author.  Your junior books always have funny bits in them.  Your older kids fiction books always have something to make you think.  And you have such a variety of books, long stories, short readers, poems, little kid books, grown up books.  There is something for everyone in what you have written.  I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like a Joy Cowley book.

I hope that more stories can jump out of your head so there will be even more Joy Cowley books to fill up the C shelf at the library.

Thank you for being such an awesome writer.


Daniel L, Year 6, Adventure School, Wellington


Dear Joy

When Beth and I dropped in to see you a few years back, you gave us an excellent lunch; spilled a bit on yourself and said “Oh, Great!”; showed us the glowing wood work you were doing in your workshop, talked about kindness and spirituality, mentioned mutual friends with affection, and asked after MY writing.

I thought this was so typical of you – generous, wry, adventurous and versatile, sincere, always aware of others. Many people will talk about your writing, which I admire just this side idolatry, but I wanted to mention you. You are a joy to know. Every time I meet you, I go away feeling affirmed and loved. Live for ever!!

David Hill



Poetry Box review: Joy Cowley’s scrumptious The Gobbledegook Book




Joy Cowley with illustrations by Giselle Clarkson, Gecko Press


see below for two pop-up Joy Cowley challenges! I have some surprise giveaways!


Gecko Press has published the most gorgeous anthology of Joy Cowley’s favourite stories, poems and nonsense rhymes. Everything about this book is perfect. The size. The feel of the paper. The way the words dance on the page. The way the stories and poems dance in your mind. The way words are so deliciously playful. And the way Giselle Clarkson’s heavenly illustrations are poems on the page.

This is a book to treasure.

This is a book to read when the rain slaps the windows so you feel warm inside.

This is a book to read when you feel a bit flat and dreary and need a book to set you soaring.

This is a book to snuggle up with and read to your mum or dad, or your son or daughter, or your best friend. Even a cat would start purring. Even the howling wind would listen.


‘The Tiny Woman’s Coat’ is the first poem in the book and is about a tiny woman who needs a coat and needs help to get it.

Joy sets her imagination dancing like the autumn leaves and brings in a porcupine and a horse and hey presto! A happy ending. You will have to read it to find out how these things fit into the story but here is the first verse:


The tiny woman wanted a coat.

“Where will I get the cloth?”

“Try some of our leaves,”

said the autumn leaves.

Rustle, rustle, rustle.


Enter this anthology and you will find intriguing cats and a storm of ducks, jellybeans and tractors, a cheese trap and elephants. Oh and even an old singlet!

You will definitely grin from ear to ear.

The poems move and squawk and whoosh!

You will find old favourites such as ‘Nicketty- Nacketty, Noo-Noo-Noo’ and ‘Greedy Cat’.


Like Margaret Mahy, Joy is the Queen of Having Fun with WORDS, especially made up words. I love ‘Goggly Gookers’.

Grandma has her own names for things – spectacles are goggly gookers, gardens are fizz-bustles, cabbages are grimlings, cows are clops and pickles are bundajins. See what you make of the last verse! I adore it.


“Grandma, Grandma,

put on your googly gookers.

The clop is in the fizz-bustle

eating all the grimlings.

If you don’t get her out

you’ll be in a bundajin.

And that’s a fact.”


Joy is also the Queen of WHAT IF POEMS. Like what if you drop your jellybeans – what a ROLLICKING WHOOSH of story-book imagination in Do Not Drop Your Jellybeans’ – follow what happens when the jellybeans get dropped and you end up (after all kinds of catastrophes and calamities) on an iceberg! Wow!

I love the writing so much because Joy is our poetry trapeze artist: her words swing and soar with such agility on the line. I love how every line flows so sweetly with rhyme and invented words; the words that fit together like music. And all the delicious music goes hand in hand with storytelling that is equally delicious. The combination makes you feel so GOOD. Here is the start to ‘Super Jumble’:


There was trouble in the jungle

wen a buffalo tried to swingle

like a monkey from a bundle of vines.


He got into a tangle

and was left there to dangle

at a very awkward angle, in the lines.



The Goobledegook Book is the perfect book to read up a mountain or by a river, in the tent when you go camping or in the kitchen as the soup simmers, or in bed before you nod off to sleep and dream of cats and more cats and acrobatic words.

I love this book so much.

Gecko Press page


Two challenges for you

If you love this book tell me what your favourite poem or story in it is and why you like it in a few sentences and I will post some answers.

I would also love to post some fan mail for Joy Cowley. Write a letter to Joy saying what you love about her books – a bit about you – anything! I will post some and then she can get to read them.

I will have some giveaway surprises for some lucky young poetry fans!


Deadline: Friday October 25th

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Include your name, age year and name of school (or say home schooled)

Don’t forget to write Joy Cowley challenge in the subject line so I don’t miss your email.

I will post on Monday 28th October.