Tag Archives: penguin books

Poetry Box reviews by children: Ava (9) reviews Fifi Colston’s Masher

Poetry Box November challenge: Bird poems

Masher, Fifi Colston, Penguin, 2022

Masher is a fictional chapter book written by Fifi Colston, which is about a 12 year old boy and a papier-mâché puppet coming to life. This book was full of mysteries and plot twists and was a wonderful read!

The plot of this story is written in a way that feels like you are inside of the story. Our main character, Freddie Foxworthy’s class is going to be making papier-mâché  puppets, so when he arrives home from school that day, he decides to get a head-start on it by making one beforehand. 

Freddie makes glue for his paper-mash, as he calls it, and eventually leaves it outside to dry. But when Masher, the neighbour’s dog, eats the paste and dies, Freddie is blamed and punished. When he accidentally knocks over Masher’s coffin, Freddie takes some ashes, and they mix with his puppet and turn… real. All throughout Masher, little sub-plots and mysteries are planted around which all tie in together wonderfully at the end. For just a normal kid, Freddie sure knows how to get action into his life, and create some really high-stakes scenes to occur in the book, which had me worried for him!

Masher and Freddie are the best of friends, because they believe in each other and understand one another. In my opinion, their relationship is very well written, because it is realistic and like the sort of friendships kids at school might have. Of course, when Masher eats the food that Freddie wants, things get a bit more hilarious than argumentative, which is always a great read to have. But even if Freddie and Masher never tell each other off, that doesn’t mean that Freddie is never in trouble — and usually, that’s because of Masher. Masher gets out of control at a talent show and lands Freddie in massive trouble, which ends in great plot twists I didn’t see coming!

This book doesn’t have a gigantic cast, but every character is memorable, 3-dimensional, and well-written. First, we have Freddie, your average 12-year old with a keen eye for artistic detail. Then, he makes Masher, because of his papier-mâché problems. Masher is like the dog that used to live, in the sense that he eats everything, and has a bit of a temper. But, in reality, Masher is not very scary at all and is sweet and lovable, in a growly bull-terrier sort of way. Then we have Ms Burns, who gets Freddie into trouble and hates everyone and everything possible, apart from her missing cat, Forrest, which she accuses Masher (the dog) of murdering. Then we have Mr and Mrs Foxworthy, Freddie’s parents. His dad is nice and a builder, who doesn’t really understand Freddie’s love and need for art, but appreciates and lets him do it. His mum, however, is sort of strict sometimes, and doesn’t like messes. She still tries her best to understand Freddie — and his sister, Dahlia. Dahlia is an 18 year old girl who loves 3d printing. You’d think since both siblings enjoy art, they would get along. But it’s hard for Freddie to do so, as Dahlia is barely ever at home, and is always out and about at different places. 

This is a story with great characters, but it’s also greatly written on a whole. It’s very descriptive and goes into detail, but also doesn’t drone on and on about the appearances of things. The little mysteries that intertwine with the plot were subtly put in and the pieces click into place in unexpected ways. The illustrations were beautiful, but when there weren’t any on the pages, I could still see a very clear picture in my mind of what was going on. I remember that I finished the last half or more of the book in two days, and spent around an hour reading it because it was so enjoyable and exciting. Nothing got old, everything was new and fresh, and I really hope that Masher gets a sequel!

Masher was such an enjoyable, action book with a sprinkle of mystery to it. I think that anyone who is a fan of any genre can like it, because it’s just so original. I recommend this book to kids of ages 8+.

Ava (9)

Ava, age 9, Y5, Pakuranga Heights School. My interests are reading, writing, poetry, gaming, playing piano, and both traditional and digital art. I like to write about fantasy, animals, and magic! Cool books I have read lately: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat, and The Okay Witch.

Fifi Colston is a straight-up creative with her fingers in many arty pies. She is an award-winning junior-fiction novelist and illustrator of more than 30 children’s books including the bestselling Marvellous Marvin by Nadia Lim and the Little Yellow Digger stories by Peter Gilderdale. She is also a poet and a television presenter of arts and crafts — firstly on TVNZ’s ‘What Now’ and then ‘The Good Morning Show’. She has been creating World of Wearable Arts designs and has been a finalist and an award-winner many times over. She has also worked in the New Zealand TV and film industry as a costumier, puppet maker and illustrator and trainee scriptwriter. In between writing and creating, Fifi enjoys visiting schools and community groups, inspiring budding artists and writers through workshops in creative process.

Penguin page

Poetry Box review: Fifi Colston’s Masher

Poetry Box October poem challenge here

Masher, Fifi Colston, Penguin, 2022

Masher is a complete reading package. Expected to be startled and moved, your funny bone tickled. Expect to read for pleasure as you range from shock to delight to empathy.

Freddie Basil Foxworthy (aged 12, such a good name!) prefers arts and craft to socialising. He is very pleased that his Extension Class is making papier mâché glove puppets. BUT when the teacher tells the boys to create the heads and the girls to sew the bodies, there is an uproar and widespread protest. In other words, the girls get to do the craft while the boys get to do the art. Both are valid and important creative things to do, but children need to be able to choose! The next day Mrs Collins has been replaced, puppets seem to be off the menu, and they are asked to do Maths.

HIGHLIGHT: Freddie’s voice drives the story – it smart, funny, witty. He is inventive and he is persistent.

When Freddie can’t make puppets at school, he gives it a crack at home. He gets busy inventing homemade paste and goes scrounging for newspaper (who reads papers when we read online so much?!). Out of trial and error, Freddie masterminds a puppet but things go CATASTROPHE wrong. He leaves his paste mixture outside (in case of complaints) and his neighbour’s dog Masher scoffs two litres of it. And this is a CATASTROPHE! Masher the dog is “a big, greedy, and frankly scary dog from down the road”. He is a very hungry dog, and dog plus paste equals DOGASTROPHE!

I didn’t expect the SHOCK I got on page 20, and I don’t want to spoil the reading thrill by spelling everything out, but Fifi’s novel is rich in TWISTS and TURNS and STARTLE GASPS and SURPRISE HECKS!

The best thing is you read it for yourself to get startled and twisted and turned.

Freddie gets to make a puppet that mysteriously, miraculously, is a spitting, well GROWLING, image of poor old Masher. Puppet Masher will eat anything from tinned spaghetti sandwiches to homemade biscuits.

I love the way Masher is a gripping story, but is also about how we fit into our families, our schools and neighbourhoods. How we judge and misjudge people. It’s about the choices we make that help us feel good about, and grow into, ourselves. Fifi’s novel entertains, amuses, startles (yes I keep saying this but it is key), saddens, gladdens and leaves you with an extremely warm feeling. I don’t think I have ever exclaimed out loud so much while reading a book: Wow! Heck! OMG! WOW!

Fifi Colston is a straight-up creative with her fingers in many arty pies. She is an award-winning junior-fiction novelist and illustrator of more than 30 children’s books including the bestselling Marvellous Marvin by Nadia Lim and the Little Yellow Digger stories by Peter Gilderdale. She is also a poet and a television presenter of arts and crafts — firstly on TVNZ’s ‘What Now’ and then ‘The Good Morning Show’. She has been creating World of Wearable Arts designs and has been a finalist and an award-winner many times over. She has also worked in the New Zealand TV and film industry as a costumier, puppet maker and illustrator and trainee scriptwriter. In between writing and creating, Fifi enjoys visiting schools and community groups, inspiring budding artists and writers through workshops in creative process.

Penguin author page

Poetry Box review: The Lighthouse Princess by Susan Wardell and Rose Northey

The Lighthouse Princess, Susan Wardell, illustrated by Rose Northey, Picture Puffin, 2022

Susan Wardell (author) and Rose Northey (illustrator) are a match made in heaven. The Lighthouse Princess is the most scintillating picture book I have read in ages. The first page offers an inviting scene. The pared back opening sentence set me daydreaming about how it might unfold into story.

“The princess lived
in a tower by the sea.”

Rose’s illustration holds me all through my morning coffee and my chocolate pastry before I turn the page. First the crumpled paper ocean, then the floating curiosities: a boat with a goldfish bowl, another setting sail with a tree. The lighthouse tower bends like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, upon a bed of rocks with flowers and seals and cascading water.

The princess lives alone in the lighthouse tower, looking after the light that keeps ships safe, and finds fascinating things to fill her day. And then something happens. Out of the blue. Out of the storm.

And I refuse to spoil the book by telling you what happens next!

Each page is a picnic spot of delight, the words reverberate and the illustrations gift intricate visual layers.

This is a story of filling a day, of finding ways to be content, whether alone or with friends. It is a story of light and lightness. Above all, it is a story of friendship.

The Lighthouse Princess is an altogether breathtaking heartwarming exquisite hug of a book. Sublimely written. Sublimely illustrated. I adore it.

Penguin page

Susan Wardell is from Dunedin, New Zealand. She lives by the harbour, and teaches at the University of Otago, while raising two small humans and a modest indoor jungle. Alongside academic writing Susan publishes in a variety of creative genres. Her poetry, micro-fiction, book reviews and literary essays have been published in a variety of journals throughout Australasia, and won several awards. Her first picture book for children, The Lighthouse Princess, was selected for the 2021 Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration.

Rose Northey is a Takapuna-born, Wellington-based illustrator and poet. She spent her childhood sketching animals with her grandfather and mother, doodled her way through an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering and after three years in Product Development Engineering tried her luck at a creative career. At first Rose focused on performance poetry, but one day, when her domestic flight was delayed, she sketched other waiting passengers and rediscovered her joy for drawing. She is the current champion of the Going West Writers Festival Poetry Grand Slam. Rose won the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration in 2021, producing illustrations for The Lighthouse Princess.

Poetry Box review: Sally Sutton’s Crane Guy

Crane Guy: A game of I SPY from up high, by Sally Sutton, illustrations by Sarah Wilkins

Puffin – Penguin Random House, 2022

Sally Sutton’s large format picture book is a delightful form of I SPY, with exquisite illustrations by Sarah Wilkins. Instead of looking out a car window on a long road journey, you are sitting in the cab of the crane driver, hunting for things.

Crane guy, up so high,
Building towers in the sky,
Tell me, tell me  what you spy.
Something beginning with …

The crane driver will spot some things for you, and then it is your turn to go eye scavenging. The language is lively. The kind of language that is FUN to read out loud because it is brimming with alliteration and leap-hopping sounds: ‘Shrieking, swerving, swirling, looping’.

You get to SPY on the sky, the ocean, city streets, a bridge, a playground.

I had such fun hunting. The illustrations are ABUZZ with movement and hidden things. In case you have missed something, there is a chart at the back of the book listing everything under the FIVE letters.

I especially love the HAPPY ending where you get to hunt for someone not something!

Inside the book Carla Sy’s DESIGN is brilliant. She brings the words to DANCING DIVING DANGLING life on the page.

Crane Guy is such a captivating read, I am wondering if it could be the first one in a series. I’d love that! Maybe playing I SPY in unexpected places, from the eye of an adventurer: underwater, in space, in a desert, on a high mountain, along the longest river in the world. I recommended this book H-EYE-GHLY.

Aucklander Sally Sutton has been writing picture books, children’s novels and plays for two decades. Her stories are celebrated for being ‘busy with joy, and colour, and words that boing off the page’ (The Spinoff) – making reading her stories a magical moment between parent and child. Sally has been awarded several Storylines Notable Book Awards for her work, and in 2009 she and illustrator Brian Lovelock won the Picture Book category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for Roadworks. Her 2018 story about a cat’s amazing true journey, The Cat from Muzzle (illustrated by Scott Tulloch),was a bestseller. Read more about Sally at her website

Sarah Wilkins was born in Lower Hutt. The middle child of seven, she dreamt of becoming a solo explorer. Dreaming and drawing, which she loved, go together, so she became an illustrator instead. Her award-winning images can be found on buildings, buses, bags and many other curious places around the world, but they feel most at home on the pages of beautiful books. Sarah works from a light-filled studio perched high on a hill overlooking the Wellington Harbour. She is curious about visually communicating science for young and old, and illustrated Abigail and the Restless Raindrop while completing her Master in Science in Society. Find out more about her work at her website.

Penguin Random House page

Poetry Box review: Stacey Morrison & Jeremy Sherlock’s Kia Kaha – A storybook of Māori who changed the world

Kia Kaha: A storybook of Māori who changed the world, Stacey Morrison & Jeremy Sherlock, Penguin, 2021

E huri tō aroaro ki te rā, tukuna tō
ataarangi ki muri i a koe

Turn to face the sun and let your
shadow fall behind you

(Georgina Beyer page)

Kia Kaha: A storybook of Māori who changed the world is my favourite children’s book of 2021. It is groundbreaking, ground restoring, remarkable in its reach and empathy. Stacey Morrison and Jeremy Sherlock have gathered together Māori who deserve recognition and celebration (they acknowledge there are so many more they wanted to include). Stacey and Jeremy share the stories in a lovingly produced book that is like a meeting place, a heart lounge, a conversation map.

The book includes Māori who have excelled on the sports fields and courts, those who have worked hard to make the world a better place by fighting for the rights of Māori, of the Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ communities. Those who have done amazing things in law, health, politics, education, the promotion of te reo Māori. Those who work hard in film, the arts, music, comedy, literature. Those who are activists. There are navigators, entrepreneurs, fashion designers. There are teams of people (the Māori All Blacks, the 28th Māori Battalion, the Māori Women’s Welfare League) and there are numerous individuals (Dame Whina Cooper, Dame Tariana Turia, Stan Walker, Patricia Grace, Taika Waititi, Ralph Hotere).

It was a genius idea to select twelve illustrators: Akoni Pakinga-Stirling (Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāi Tahu), Haylee Ngāroma Solomon (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu), Jessica Kathleen Thompson Carr aka Māori Mermaid (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine, Ngāpuhi, Pākehā), Josh Morgan (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata), Kurawaka Productions, Miriama Grace-Smith (Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Toarangatira and Ngāto Porou), Ngaumutane Jones aka Ms Meemo (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Tainui, Ngāi Tūhoe, Whakatōhea), Reweti Arapere (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa), Taupuruariki Whakataka-Brightwell (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa, Te Arawa), Xoë Hall (Kai Tahu), and Zak Waipara (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Ruapani). The artwork is dynamic, fresh, full of life. Glorious.

As I read each story I feel like I am sitting beside the editors on a warm rug (I have never met them) but it is though they are speaking to me, to all of us readers, and we are listening spellbound. Each story flows like honey, like everyday conversation. Glorious.

I also love the sayings that head each story. Little pieces of wisdom that catch important things about each person.

I see this magnificent and important book, this gift, this taonga, as a waka that sets sail into the future with song and recognition, ideas and heart, mahi and aroha. This is my favourite children’s book of 2021, no question.

E kitea ai ngā taonga o te moana
me mākū koe

To see the gifts of the ocean,
you must get wet

(Sir Hekenukumai Busby page)

Stacey Morrison (Te Arawa, Ngāi Tahu) is a radio and TV broadcaster whose projects have spanned 25 years. She is also a mama to three young tamariki who have been brought up with te reo Māori as their mother tongue. Stacey herself didn’t learn to speak Maori until she was an adult. It required a lot of research, determination, wonderful mentors and the support of a community to achieve her goal of becoming fluent by the time her children were born. Stacey and her husband Scotty co-wrote Māori at Home to help other families use te reo in everyday settings, and Stacey’s first children’s book, My First Words in Māori, became a number-one bestseller. Both Stacey and Scotty work with many groups and families to build Māori-language friendships and community for whanau. Stacey has also been an advisor on pre-schooler and children’s TV shows, which, along with her experiences with her own children, has helped her identify the words children pick up early in their language learning. As a winner of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori Champion Award in 2016, and the winner of Waipunarangi – Te Reo and Tikanga Award 2021, as well as a graduate of Te Panekiretanga o te Reo (the Institute of Excellence in Māori Language), Stacey loves encouraging the learning and use of our country’s beautiful native language.

Jeremy Sherlock (Tainui, Ngāti Awa) was born and raised in the small town of Coromandel. Growing up, he loved sport, music and drawing and was always a bit of a bookworm. At the time, there wasn’t much of a selection of books written about and for Māori, but his grandfather’s tall stories, family histories, and Peter Gossage’s picture books about the myths of Aotearoa made a big and lasting impression. A couple of decades later, he joined the publishing industry as an editor of non-fiction. Over the years, Jeremy has worked in New Zealand and Australia for Reed, Penguin and Penguin Random House, specialising in biography and memoir, sports, history, pop culture and all things Māoritanga. He currently lives and works in Tamaki Makaurau as a freelance publishing consultant and writer. Kia Kaha, a collaboration with Stacey Morrison, is his first book.


Poetry Box review: Kimberly Andrews’s Moose the Pilot

Moose the Pilot, Kimberly Andrews, Penguin Books (Puffin), 2021

Kimberly Andrews is building an excellent series of picture books featuring animals as protagonists. I especially loved Hound the Detective (shortlisted for NZCYA Book Awards 2021, winner announced August 11th). The third in the series, Moose the Pilot, is equally appealing. The illustrations are a feast for the eye, and offer a mouthwatering visual narrative. Characters and scenes dance with life and intricate detail.

For an experiment I ‘read’ the illustrations in Moose the Pilot before I read the words. I love the way I get a sense of both place and character. I spend ages on each page soaking up the visual ‘sentences’. On the first double spread I delight in Moose’s bookshelf. Kimberly has had fun playing with book titles. Yes there is my old favourite, The Moosewood Cookbook, but there is also The Old Moose and the Sea, Hairy Potter, Moose around the World.

Moose is an extremely busy pilot delivering supplies in all weathers, from the Lofty Alps to Hive Ridge to Sunray Island to all the places in between. And yes there is a map! Everywhere he goes the grateful locals give him a gift or two, and the plane-load home seems to get bigger. I love checking out what people have ordered and the gifts they give. He is taking away life jackets that need repairing, dirty washing, coconuts, and a book of Sing-along Mega Hits! And much much more. He is dropping off ribbons, straw bales, surfboards and sun lotion. And much much more.

There is a rescue mission at the end of the book, and that is what gives the story the warm fuzzies. A rescue mission can go in a thousand ways, from successful to disastrous, but this rescue mission is unexpected. It is perfectly in tune with our current need to use what we have and be kind to others. Sublime.

Moose the Pilot is all about delivering things (in a cool little plane) to out of the way places, but it is also about delivering kindness, keeping in touch, making things, looking out for our neighbours. A warm treat of a story.

Kimberly Andrews is a trained biologist and geologist who grew up in the Canadian Rockies. She has lived and worked in New Zealand, Borneo and the UK. In London, she worked for The House of Illustration, whose main ambassador is Quentin Blake. She also worked at the Natural History Museum, both in the live Butterfly House and also behind the scenes, assisting the curation of mammal specimens in the dry stores.

Kimberly’s picture book illustrations have been widely acclaimed. In 2019, the first story which Kimberly both wrote and illustrated, Puffin the Architect (2018), won the Russell Clark Award for Illustration and was a finalist for Best Picture Book in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Hound the Detective was shortlisted in the same category in 2021.

Kimberly lives with her husband and daughter in a small shipping-container house near Wellington, where she illustrates and writes, and runs her business Tumbleweed Tees, screen-printed clothing featuring her illustrations of New Zealand plants and wildlife.

Penguin author page

Poetry Box review: Leonie Agnew’s The Memory Thief

The Memory Thief, Leonie Agnew, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart, Penguin, 2021

I picked up Leonie Agnew’s novel, The Memory Thief, not exactly sure where the book would lead me (I don’t usually read the blurb on the back as I like books to surprise me). Right from the first page the tension and mysteriousness crackled and sparked like electricity. I had to keep reading as the questions mounted. Who is he? Who is she? What dangers are lurking? It most definitely feels like dangers are lurking.

This is the story of Seth, who spends half his life (day) as a frozen stone statue of a shepherd, in a fenced off area in the public gardens. The other half of his life (night) he is a ravenous troll who feeds off human memory.

It is also the story of Stella, a girl he meets in the gardens, who both fascinates and disturbs him with conversation, who lives with her grandfather, mother and brother, and who would quite like to get rid of her bad memories.

I really dislike reading reviews that give away so much of the story it takes away the joy of discovery as you read. The startle moments. The warm fuzzy moments. And I definitely don’t want to do it with this glorious labyrinth novel.

I will say it is like entering the Public Gardens, with twisty paths, fascinating clearings, surprising arrivals, knots and undergrowth. This book speaks of the power of memory to shape and nourish us as human beings. To build strength and empathy.

In Stella’s view a troll who feeds off human memory equals a monster, but it all gets far more complicated than that. To spend time with a troll is taking a big risk. If you enter the public gardens of reading Leonie’s novel you will discover whether Stella’s risk pays off. Why does she keep hanging out with Seth? Why does Seth keeping hanging out with Stella? What memories are they hiding?

The Memory Thief is a terrific mix of racing-heart as you read, cool characters, plot tension, intriguing twists and turns, brain-feeding ideas …. and it is so sweetly written. Glorious.

Leonie Agnew is an award-winning children’s author, a former copywriter, and currently moonlights as a primary school teacher. Her first story, Super Finn, won the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2010. This book went on to win multiple awards in the 2012 New Zealand Post awards: the Junior Fiction award, the Best First Book award and the Children’s Choice award. It was also a finalist for the LIANZA Esther Glen Finalist that year. Since then she has written two more novels, The Importance of Green and Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand (winner of the 2015 Esther Glen Medal). She lives in Auckland.

Kieran Rynhart is a freelance illustrator who was selected as one of Luerzers Archive Best 200 Illustrators Worldwide for 2010–2011. He creates his beautiful, distinctive and evocative images using a mixture of traditional and digital techniques, and works on a wide range of commissions from children’s picture books to commercial graphics and music videos. He is the illustrator of The New Zealand Art Activity Book by Helen Lloyd (Te Papa, 2013), If I Was a Banana by Alexandra Tylee (Gecko, 2016) and Seagull, Seagull by James K Baxter (Gecko, 2020). He lives in Wellington.

Penguin Books page

Poetry Box review: Vasanti Unka’s I Am the Universe

Go here for September Poetry Box challenge

I Am the Universe, Vasanti Unka, Penguin Books, 2020

Vasanti Unka is one of my favourite children’s authors. Last year I was on a Storylines Tour with Vasanti (and a few other very cool authors) in the Kaikoura region, and I loved it when I shared a school session with her. I felt so inspired. Vasanti’s books are so captivating: her playful words match her playful illustrations.

Vasanti is an award-winning writer, designer and illustrator of children’s books. Check out her backlist – it is fabulous! She lives in Auckland, has a Masters in Design degree and tutors in this field.

It’s celebration time because a glorious new Vasanti Unka book has arrived in the world. It is scintillating. It gleams and it glimmers.

Vasanti says: ‘This has been one of my favourite books to work on, from writing to design, every step has felt like it was really sprinkled with star dust! I spent ages on the illustrations but I loved every minute of it. I can’t wait for you to see it.’

The book was due to come out a few months ago, but got delayed by covid so I have had my copy sitting on my desk and I have been itching to share this twinkling treat with you too!

Vasanti takes us on a tour of the universe with her glistening illustrations and writing. The story is like a bright list poem!

I am the Sun,

a mighty fireball

of blazing starlight.

I am the Moon

an orbiting satellite

spellbound by Earth.

We will travel from the glittering Solar system, we’ll land on earth’s gravel and rock, move though oceans, mountains, cities and neighbourhoods, and end up in the snuggly nook of home and family.

I love every page, but perhaps most of all the ending. The book goes full circle with the stars, sun and moon looking down on us at the start, and us looking back up at them at the end. In the final page the girl’s bedroom is mysterious purple-black, just like the universe. The child is wearing her starry pyjamas, her cat is waiting for a cuddle and games, but she is looking out the window at the glinting stars, with a big smile on her face and a head full of luminescent dreams.

That is what this heavenly book can do – fill you with glittery dreams. You can stall on any page and stories will flow. The neighbourhood page has my eyes darting and dashing from one sparkly spot to the next: children are scooting, skipping, tree-climbing, ball-kicking, cape-wearing, toy-playing, book reading.

The universe is a many-spangled thing. It is full of movement and shine, as well as darkspace and mystery. Vasanti’s book holds the universe up for us like a prism so we can bask in its many astonishing lights.

Yes, I love love love this book. I do hope it finds a home on a universe of Aotearoa bookshelves. Our borders might be closed, but our dreams and our readings are not.

Penguin Books author page

Poetry Box review: Matthew Cunningham and Sarah Wilkin’s Abigail and the Restless Raindrop





Abigail and the Restless Raindrop, Matthew Cunningham, illustrated by Sarah Wilkins, Penguin Books, 2020


Matthew Cunningham joined up with illustrator Sarah Wilkins to create Abigail and the Birth of the Sun (Penguin). It is a stunning book and has been shortlisted for the 2020 NZ Children’s Book Awards.

Matthew’s second Abigail book Abigail and the Restless Raindrop (perhaps it might be a series?) poses a new question. Abigail loves questions – they get to be so big inside her  she can’t think of anything else! And like any big question it is hooks up a picture book of other questions.

The question:


Where does the rain come from?


Abigail is gumboot squelching in puddles so it is not surprising she gets wondering about rain.

This rainy-day escapade is full of wonder. Questions and wonder are very good friends!  To understand rain Abigail’s mum helps her follow a raindrop – starting with a little drop of water in a lake, moving to the rain-plump clouds, and yes, ending up back in the lake.

Matthew’s imaginative approach to the life cycle of a drop of water makes facts come alive so beautifully. Abigail gets to imagine what it is like to be a raindrop.

Sarah’s illustrations follow the rain story but hold other stories too. I especially like the page where Abigail and her mum are picnicking by the lake; Abigail is fishing and her mum is writing in her notebook. Both are dreaming and wondering!


The writing flows so perfectly.

The illustrations are captivating.


The story shows where rain comes from (and where rain goes) in such an inventive way it is easy to absorb.

On the last page Abigail is already wondering her next big question …. and Penguin tells us to keep an eye out for it! So yes Abigail is becoming a must-have series. These books should be in every school library and on every home bookshelf.

I am wondering what the next big question could be!


Matthew Cunningham lives in Porirua with his wife and daughter Abigail (who also likes big questions!). He is a historian with a Doctor of Philosophy, and has written and published a range of academic writing, along with his two picture books.

Sarah Wilkins is an award-winning illustrator. Her illustrations have appeared on buildings, buses and bags, but above all, in much loved books. She lives in Wellington and has a Masters in Science in Society.


Penguin page





Poetry Box bubble time: Barbara Else reads from Go Girl and we invite you to share words and images of epic people




Illustration of Dame Catherine Tizard by Sarah Laing from

Go Girl: A Story of Epic NZ Women, Barbara Else, Penguin Books, 2018




Barbara Else reads the piece  ‘Dame Catherine Tizard: Governor-General’


(I loved listening to this! I found it so inspiring!)


Barbara Else has always loved books and stories. Reading and writing are her favourite activities. She also loves reading aloud from the books she’s written. Except for one time when she read a story about a lost cat to a class of five year olds. One little girl’s eyes brimmed so much with tears that Barbara rushed to the end of the story in case the tears spilled out and caused a flood.

Penguin Books page


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I love this book. You will find many astonishing NZ women in here. Young girls who weren’t afraid to speak out, who blazed trails, and who have done extraordinary things.  The book celebrates these wonderful women but it also invites girls to GO for it.

There are also books celebrating boys who have grown into extraordinary men who aren’t afraid to speak out, who have blazed trails, and who have done extraordinary things.  These books celebrate  wonderful men but also invite boys to GO for it.

To this I would add ordinary people in our lives who are epic. Friends and family who are everyday heroes, who show incredible kindness, daring, courage, patience, understanding, generosity, love.


Your challenge: Barbara and I invite you to share some thing about an epic person, a hero in the news or in your life now.

You could write a poem, a letter, a story, draw a picture, do a painting or collage, do a comic strip or make a little video or audio.



send to  paulajoygreen@gmail.com

please include your name age and name of school

don’t forget to put HERO challenge 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 deadline while we are living in our bubbles! Every Friday I 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.


You can also try:

Tell me about your favourite bookshop or library

Play Pass the Poem with at least one other person

Write draw video comic strip letters poems stories about being in your bubble

My cloudy challenges and hear my cloud poem

My thank our supermarket workers challenge

Listen to me read Aunt Concertina and offer a cool challenge

Listen to me read my poem ‘Lick Lick Riff’ dog poem and offer a doggy cat tiger bat any animal challenge

Check out David Hill’s wonderful photo challenge

Listen to Swapna Haddow read her book and try a rabbit challenge

Try Johanna Aitchison’s hunt the teddy challenges

Ruth Paul reads her muddy poem and I offer muddy challenges



kia kaha

keep well

keep imagining