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.
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.
from Gabbie, age 12, Newlands intermediate
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!
Robyn Lovewell, Wellington
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 Lizard? The Wild West Gang? Hero of The Hill? Bow 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
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!!