Tag Archives: LIbrarian’s Choice

Librarian’s choice: Bee Trudgeon picks Baxter Basics


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Baxter Basics, Poems for Children by James K Baxter (Steele Roberts Publishers)


How wonderful it is, to have the line that will lead children along the road toward poetic Jerusalem inscribed by the master wordsmith latterly known as Hemi. The poems in this collection date from the early 50s, and were published as The Tree House in 1974. In 1979, Price Milburn produced the poems in separate Baxter Basics booklets in the PM Readalongs series. Steele Roberts brought them together in this modern compendium version in 2008.

What a wonderful way to preserve them, when one’s original school readers become the stuff of half-remembered dreaming. And what a gift to me, as a new librarian at Cannons Creek Library, looking for solid ways to turn kids on to reading and poetry. In a modern world, sometimes vintage turns out to be the most amazing flavour to taste. My familiarity with the poems and affection for the illustrations made it easy to pick up and enthusiastically share.
What do you love about it?

It reminds me of the excitement of learning to read in the days when I did – in the early 1970s. I love the way it introduces unmistakable rhyme schemes that have the kids punching the air to tell me they have noticed them. I love the way its economy of line has met the sort of playful typographic design that leads us to taking exactly the right size bites to best serve each line.
Which poems really hook you?

I like the balance and sway of “I’m A Tree” – ‘I’m a man out walking in the thick green bush; I can’t see the sun, So I push, push, push! / I’m a boy with a banjo, Clever as they come; I pick up my banjo and I strum, strum, strum!’ (And who wouldn’t want to be the boy with the banjo and the fans, as Lynley Dodd sees them.)
Speaking of the illustrations, Dodd’s fine work – along with that of Judith Trevelyan, Dawn Johnston, and Ernest Papps – hark nostalgia now, although only ‘The Firemen’ would have seemed vintage when first published. The renderings of home, town, bush/forest, beach/sea and sparse traffic in uncrowded cities combine with the words to make me feel like the world is my oyster, and that I can transport myself into any form of being from nature, to occupation, to location.
Have you seen children reading it?
This is probably my most-shared poetry book, and it is always well received. The offering of a first line or two is easily transformed by the invitation to turn Baxter’s observations into one’s own.
What three words sum up the book?
Vintage, transformative, classic. (I consider any book capable of turning us into poets via uncluttered example transformative!)
Can you think of a book it is similar to?
Margaret Mahy’s rhyme-alicious “My Wonderful Aunt” shared a similar publishing history, in that it was served up as a compendium of stories after years of being loved as individual readers. There is something quite special about honouring ‘the reader’ – seen so much as a tool by those doing the teaching, but with the capacity to lodge themselves very deeply into the psyches of those making reading revelations with them.


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Bee Trudgeon is the Porirua Children’s Librarian Kaitiaki Pukapuka Tamariki. She is a writer, strummer, storyteller, dancer in the dark, film buff, perpetual student, and the mother of a couple of big kids who still love bedtime stories. Often spotted urban long-distance walking wearing headphones and a ukulele, she lives in a haunted house in Cannons Creek, and works wherever there is an audience.


Check out the Poetry Box August challenge here





Librarian’s Choice: Fleur Coleman picks Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake

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Kia ora koutou, ko Fleur Coleman tōku ingoa. My role is Children’s and Youth Librarian at Mahurangi East Library located in fabulous Snells Beach, North of Auckland. My favourite thing in the whole wide world is seeing young people not only reading stories, but writing them too.

I have three sons and would like to see more writing with a focus on tween and teen boys. I am an ex primary school teacher and run a teens and adults poetry group with friends at our Library called, ‘Winter Words’. We are just getting started on our third season of performance evenings, because creative writing is so much more fun when shared with a supportive audience.

Michael Rosen’s ‘Chocolate Cake‘ is my current favourite poem. Admittedly I discovered this gem due to my son Wynn coming home from school buzzing about this incredibly funny poem. Their lovely teacher Miss Beamish had shared the clip of Michael Rosen himself presenting his work on YouTube.




Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron, Penguin Books, 2017


My boy who was then aged ten really loved Michael’s super-expressive face. He loved the intonation of his voice as he performed the poem. The way a poem is presented out loud can really make the difference when making a connection with an audience. If you feel the words and use your body, including your voice to help paint a picture with words in the mind of the listener to engage with them, then you should be able to hear a pin drop in the room! Total word magic is occurring when this happens!

Getting back to Michael’s poem – not long after the introduction of the poem by my son a beautifully illustrated version of the poem presented in a picture book format passed by my desk. I read the poem at Storytime with a preschool group who were in fits of giggles at the retelling. So even young children can relate to the way the boy in the poem cannot resist the enticing, delicious chocolate cake. I think we can all relate to this narrative poem as it takes us back to a time in our lives when we have been sneaky and things have gotten out of hand as a result. Then there’s that inevitable moment when a dishonest action is always found out!

“I went upstairs looked in the mirror and there it was, just below my mouth, a chocolate smudge”.

Here’s an excerpt from, ‘How Humans Out-died’:


‘I how know

That humans out-died:

Much car

Much carbon

Much carbon-dioxide.

Exhausted by exhaust;

They car-bon diox-died.’


Look at the format of this poem, the word car grows like a blast of pollution from a diesel truck with a hole in the muffler. Can we reverse the problems like Michael cleverly reverses the word order? There’s more great environmental word play, among other follies in ‘Centrally Heated Knickers’ published in 2017.

Rosen is an English children’s novelist and poet. He is the author of 140 books. You can learn a lot about how Michael’s love of words, languages, rhymes and stories grew from childhood into a myriad of literacy endeavours as an adult. There are many of Michael’s titles on the Auckland Libraries public catalogue, should you live in Auckland you may wish to borrow some of them. Find Michael’s website here.


Librarian’s Choice – Stephanie Mayne picks 101 Poems for Children: a Laureate’s Choice


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101 Poems for Children: a Laureate’s Choice

compiled by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Emily Gravett (2013)


Carol Ann Duffy has selected poems she personally enjoys for this collection. Classic and modern poems are included and the book is appealingly illustrated.

The poems are suitable for a wide range of ages. Some poems are quirky, some highly visual, many humorous.  Old favourites are here – but  work from largely unfamiliar poets is also represented.

Many selected poems make ordinary things extraordinary (e.g. “Balloons” by Sylvia Plath), others rely largely on repetition and rhythm for impact (   e.g. “There was an Old Lady”).  Some are funny and instantly strike a chord with children (e.g. “Rat it up” by Adrian Mitchell). The poems by Norman MacCaig are simple and evocative. Don’t miss “Toad” and “Caterpillar.”

Poems are not all Eurocentric, which is useful. Try “How to Cut a Pomegranate” by Imtiaz Dharker, for a poem that will resonate with migrant students. You might use “Ten Things Found in a Shipwrecked Sailor’s Pocket” by Ian McMillan as a prompt to get students writing their own list poems – ten things found in schoolchild’s satchel, maybe?

This is a fresh, rewarding, useful poetry book that belongs in every school library!

Stephanie Mayne


Stephanie Mayne is an Auckland school librarian and teacher who writes poetry and flash fiction in her spare time. She has been published in newspapers, anthologies and online literary journals.







Librarian’s Choice: Zac McCallum picks There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in our Neighbourhood




There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in our Neighbourhood by Colin McNaughton,

Walker Books 1990  [first published 1987]



This book was a present from my grandparents on my 6th birthday. I’ve had to part with a lot of books from my collection over the years but this is one book that I can never part with.  I don’t think that six-year-old me really appreciated it but it started my love of Colin McNaughton’s poetry.  Whenever I needed a poem for a poetry competition at primary school it would always be a Colin McNaughton poem.  His poems are perfect for performing which is why I would always choose them. Whether you want a short but silly poem or a rap about a T-Rex you can find it in this book.  My mum still recites ‘Don’t Put Sugar in My Tea, Mum’ regularly and there are some that pop in to my head from time to time.

I think the thing I love the most about Colin’s poems is his funny illustrations that go with each poem.  My favourite poem (complete with hilarious illustration) is ‘Sick of Being Pushed Around,’ about a kid who is being bullied so sends away for a course to help him get muscles.  The illustration shows a weedy kid with hugely muscly arms and makes me laugh every time.  Another of my favourites is called ‘A Poem to Send to Your Worst Enemy,’ which is really just a list of insults that rhyme.

Colin McNaughton has written other collections of poetry like this one, including Who’s Been Sleeping in My Porridge? and Wish You Were Here and I Wasn’t, as well as some fantastic picture books, like the Preston Pig series and Captain Abdul’s Pirate School.  His books are a great way to hook boys in to poetry, especially if you share some of his grossest poems about being car sick or eating too many jelly babies.  Any kids who love Andy Griffiths’ The Bad Book should check out Colin’s poetry.



Zac is a school librarian in Christchurch.  He runs a blog about children’s literature called My Best Friends Are Books, featuring news, reviews and interviews.  His favourite authors include Aaron Blabey, Lisa Thompson, M.G. Leonard and Patrick Ness.  When he’s not reading or talking about books with his wife he is chasing after a boisterous little girl and twin teenage boys.























Librarian’s Choice: Desna Wallace picks Love That Dog



Love That Dog by Sharon Creech


When thinking of favourite poems, poets and poetry books I can’t help but think about verse novels. I love the format of having a narrative told through poetry. The poems create a story as a whole, often different people within the story tell their own narratives. It is probably more often used as a format in young adult books but there are plenty for younger readers. Quite possibly one of the most well-known is Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.

Love it! Love the format, the language, style and story.

Young Jack has to write poems for school. His teacher is on him to give it a go and while openly very reluctant to begin, he does start and slowly comes to understand he can write poetry, and that there is beauty within poems.  He begins naively just spouting out what he is told to do but bit by bit he finds a deeper understanding of poetry and the world around him.



September 13

I don’t want to

because boys

don’t write poetry.


Girls do.


The beauty of verse novels is that every word counts. Poems often hit with an emotional punch and take you by surprise. Different narratives take on different points of view and this works so well with verse novels as we get to see inside the characters and their true feelings and fears. There is often a raw honesty which is both refreshing to read but at times confronting.


Desna Wallace is a published poet and author. Her novel Canterbury Quake My New Zealand Story was a Children’s Choice Finalist in 2015. Desna is a school librarian, an avid reader, blogger and reviewer of children’s and young adult books.