Tag Archives: jo van dam

Librarian’s Choice: Jo van Dam picks Oxford Book of Poetry for Children

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 8.51.21 AM.png


Oxford Book of Poetry for Children, edited by Edward Blishen and Brian Wildsmith

Oxford University Press, 1963





Atter her, atter her,

Sleeky flatterer,

Spitfire chatterer,

Scatter her, scatter her

Off her mat!



Treat her rough!….


You get the idea? A tongue twister of feline proportions written by Eleanor Farjeon, nestled in the pages of this treasury of poems which was published before I was born. The book belonged to my brother and that was his favourite poem. If I close my eyes I can still hear him reading it and he could read it so quickly! I loved the sound and speed and can remember, with pride, the day I could read it (nearly) as quickly as him.

When I was about eight years old, I had to learn a poem to read to my class at school, and I would have loved to have chosen ‘Cat!’ but still tripped over the words. I chose a simple poem about the tide, also by Eleanor Farjeon which is something I have only just realised today! ‘The Tide in the River’ is slow and steady, uses repetition to create the ebb and flow of the river, and I can still recite it today. It shows me that good poets can use different styles to create a range of amazing images and emotions, just with words.

Oxford Book of Poetry for Children is a treasure trove of poems from classic poets such as William Blake, and John Keats to the madness of Edward Lear, to ‘anon’ and many in between. I love the diversity, the quirky, the classic, the funny, the rhymes, the rhythm.

My brother still has the copy he had when he was young, and now, I have my own copy… I HAD to withdraw it from one of my school libraries as it was well worn….. I just HAD to…..

I love poetry. I really love poetry. One of the reasons I love poetry so much is that I am really, really, really, really bad at maths… You can get maths wrong, and believe me, I know this… but poetry you just sort of can’t!


Words are wonderful.

Rhythm and rhyme rock.

Poetry is the bomb!


Jo van Dam


Jo van Dam – Born in England, emigrated to New Zealand when 11, lives in Auckland near the water with husband and cat, is the librarian at two central Auckland schools (the best job in the world apart from the pay rate), author of three children’s books (the best job in the world apart from the pay rate), has two fabulous children now living and working overseas, loves dancing and walking and canoeing and cooking, and loves the jobs, the husband, the children and the cat.

A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Jo van Dam writes back to Sam, Lewys and Owen


Dear Sam,

Thank you very much for writing to me. I love the letter and I am so glad that you got the idea that you don’t have to big and tough and strong to be able to help someone else. Big or small, we can all make a difference! Thank you again. Lots of love, Jo


Dear Lewys,

Thank you so much for your great letter. I think you must have been about 6 when you were reading Doggy Ditties over and over! Very cool. You are an excellent librarian and you do know me well! Many thanks again (for writing to me and for being an excellent librarian). Lots of love, Jo


Dear Owen,

You really made me giggle!

Thank you for your letter,

you clearly have a knack…

at rhymes, there’s no-one better.

You choose the perfect words

that dance and prance and swoop,

they move around the page

and loop dee loop dee loop.

But the answer to your question,

is pretty simple pal….

I do not need an ‘E’

because I am a gal…..


Lots of love, Jo (without an ‘E’)

A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Author and librarian, Jo van Dam, writes to Kyle Mewburn




Dear Kyle,

Thank you for your creativity, diversity and quirkiness!

Thank you for providing my students (and me) with such a wide range of fabulous picture books. From thought-provoking stories to challenging tongue twisters, to laugh out loud funny….I love reading them to classes when they visit the library.

Thank you for writing a variety of series which offer a welcome change from mutants and zombies, and for writing great stand-alone chapter books, full of humour and drama.

Thank you for making my life as a librarian easier. I know I can recommend your titles to parents and children, with confidence. 

Best Regards,

Jo van Dam 


Westmere School




A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Owen (10) writes to Jo van Dam



To Jo Van Dam

Your stories make me laugh

And some make me sop

And the way that it rhymes

Is the cherry on top

Dancing and fluttering

And a smooth kind of flow

And the twists and turns

That just makes we Woah!

I just have one question

Which is confusing, you’ll see

But why is your first name

Missing the E!


From Owen

Westmere School

A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Lewys (10) writes to Jo van Dam




Jo van Dam

I can recall reading your ‘doggie ditties’ over and over and over again. Since I do go to the school you go to and work for. Because I am a librarian I do know you well.

            From Lewys

Westmere School

A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Sam (10) writes to Jo van Dam



Dear Jo van Dam

Thank you for making a  story about something that is so small, but can help some one that is  1000 times bigger than them. (The Whale and the Snapper). I thank you for making great story.

from Sam




A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Jo van Dam writes back to Zella


Dear Zella, Thank you very much for your lovely lucid letter. If I wrote another ‘doggy’ book I would do ‘R’ for your huge hairy hound Rufus! I adore and appreciate alliteration, as you can probably tell. Good fun! I love it that you love my books. Thank you zealous Zella… lots of love, Jo






A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Zella (10) writes to Jo van Dam


Dear Jo van Dam

I like how you use alliteration in every page of ‘Doggy Ditties from A to Z.’ I love your detailed words and rhyme in some of your sentences. “Stay hidden in the weed, as whales and people fishing reckon you’re a tasty feed.” – My favourite rhythmic sentence from ‘The Whale and the Snapper.’ 

I love your books!

Kind regards,


Westmere School




A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Jo van Dam writes back to Kai, Gabriel and Dustin



Dear Kai, 

Thank you so much for your letter. I am really thrilled that you think the doggy rhymes and funny and that they help you write your own poems. They are pretty daft, but meant to be fun, and show that playing with words is FUN. I am really enjoying working with you and your writing group, and am so very happy that you think I am kind and funny! 😃 You made my day! lots of love, Jo


Dear Dustin,

Thank you very much for your letter! I started writing ‘Doggy Ditties from A to Z‘ for my own two children when they were little… so a very long time ago. I didn’t finish the whole alphabet and then kind of forgot about it. I found some bits of paper in a brown folder back in 2013 and my children said I should finish it… so I did. Scholastic decided they would publish it in 2014 and I have carried on since then! I am glad you like the rhymes. I love playing around with words and sounds.

I am absolutely delighted that ‘The Adventures of Kaia the Korora’ was published in both English and Te Reo, but I have to say that I did not do the translation, I am not that clever. Piripi Walker translated my English words in to Te Reo Maori. Thank you for writing to me! Lots of love, Jo


Dear Gabriel, 

Thank you for writing to me and thank you for telling me that you like my ‘Doggy Ditties from A to Z‘ book! I have to tell you that I was really pleased when I thought of an (almost) rhyme for the letter X. ‘Xoloitzcuintli’ did pose the biggest challenge for me!

As for the Te Reo version of ‘The Adventures of Kaia the Korora,’ I am afraid I am not that clever! It was translated from English in to Te Reo Maori by Piripi Walker. Thank you again for your letter.

Lots of love, Jo




A festival of letters to NZ children’s authors: Dustin (10) writes to Jo van Dam




Dear: Jo

When did you start making poems and/or books?

I really like your rhymes in doggie ditties especially for X and Y!

I also really like how you don’t just make books in english, like in your Adventures of Kaia the Korora  – how it’s in Māori.

From Dustin

Westmere School