Tag Archives: poems for children

the fabulous IF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility & a wee challenge for you

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When I was mailing my list of AMAZING NZ Bookshops that sell poetry for children  (see my page), I discovered some books I would like to buy. I can’t buy them all at once so I still have my secret eye on a few. I am going to tell you about a book I got at TIme Out Bookshop in Mt Eden (they have a lovely wee room especially for children’s books!). I saw at least one other bookshop had a copy of this book.

If: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility Edited by Allie Esiri & Rachel Kelly (Canongate, Edinburgh, 2012)

Allie was an actress for a long time (looks like she loves Shakespeare) and worked for the New York Times. She has three children.

Rachel worked at Vogue then at The Times in London. She has five children and has always loved poems.

The book is divided into sections (‘Growing Up,’ ‘Humour and Nonsense,’ ‘Tell Me a Tale,’ ‘Magic, Friendship and Love,’ ‘Animals, Nature and Seasons,’ ‘War History and Death,’ ‘Lessons for Life’ and ‘Bedtime.’  That does seem to cover a BIG range of possibilities. I can think of lots more though: Special occasions, food, home, moods, machines, things, places, people, clothes,   adventure, our bodies, space, science, mathematics … BUT! You can never fit all you want in treasury as I have discovered on several occasions now.

There are loads of very famous (world famous!) poets in the book: Shakespeare, Edward Lear, ee cummings, Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan, AA Milne. Many of the poets in this book wrote for adults more than they wrote for children, many of the poets are dead and most of the poets are men. If I had the whole world from which to gather a a collection of poem gems from I would come up with a very different mix. Lots of the poems I would pick would be written by authors who usually write for children (like Hilaire Belloc, Valerie Worth, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Caleb Brown and so on), but I would go back into the past because that is fascinating. But this is a wonderful collection full of poetry diamonds, emeralds and volcanic rock!

I adore the illustrations. They are a mix of drawing and cut-out words in lemon-yellow and white, with tiny little lemony drawings floating on pages ( a cat, a flower, a star and so on). It is a beautiful book to hold and smell and look at.

The poems take you on a fabulous poem journey. You go along the roads and paths of  poems written from the distant past until now. I loved reading writing from ages ago when I was little — discovering how poems written in the past sing in your ear in a different way.

Next week I am going to tell you more about AA MIlne and give you a special challenge but his poem ‘The King’s Breakfast‘ is in the book. I loved saying this poem when I was little:

The king asked

The Queen, and

The Queen asked

The Diarymaid:

‘Could we have some butter for

The Royal slice of bread?’

The Queen asked

The Diarymaid,

The Dairymaid,

Said ‘Certainly,

I’ll go and tell

The cow


Before she goes to bed.’

(it is a long poem so that is just the first verse. But it is really good to say out loud because it has a great rhythm and repeats itself beautifully.)

The wonderful thing about this treasury is you keep finding poem gems.

A Challenge: Try writing a poem that fits in one of the sections in the book (see above)! I will post my favourites. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email address if you like.

My big walk and a gigantic machinery challenge for you all to do with a cool prize

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Hope you had a lovely Labour Weekend! I went for a huge two-and-half hour walk around our country roads (actually I did it twice!). There are lots of hills and some are extremely steep which is always fun. It took me an hour to get to the station so I had an ice cream at the shop.

Most of the days though I read which I think is BLISS!

When I was at the beach last week I saw some gigantic bits of machinery that were all set to work on the road. I thought it would be great to do some machinery poems – especially diggers, and graders and steamrollers. It is always fun thinking up similes and sounds to use in machine poems. But I decided this was a golden opportunity to play with verbs (action or doing words).

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So I invite you to write a poem about a road machine. Make a list of all the verbs you can think of that fit your road machine. Verbs can give a poem zing and zest. Play with how you put them in the poem. You might just use one or two verbs that shine out or you might use LOADS of verbs. Over to you. You can even include a drawing that I could post too.

Send your poem to me by Thursday November 7th. Include you name, age, year and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email address if you like.

I wil post some of my favourites, but I will pick one poem to award a special prize to thanks to Scholastic. They have sent me a little blue bag containing five Little Digger books by Betty and Alan Gilderdale. These books are classic New Zealand picture books. The stories have such a good rhythm they BEG to be read out loud, time and time again. They are like a poem story or a story poem (‘So they got a bigger digger/ but the bigger digger stuck’). The rhyme is like the engine of a train because it keeps the story moving with a clackety clackety clack! I think there is an essential spot on every child’s bookshelf reserved for these books. Five little treasures, I say. Thank you Scholastic.


The Grey Day gets a second draft … hmmm

Yesterday I wrote my poem using colours. Today I want to write another draft of it because it didn’t sound right to me as I read it.

Here are some things that I like to try when I edit my poems:

1. Is the first line doing its job? I try out others and then pick my favourite.

2. Is the last line doing its job? I try out others and then pick my favourite.

3. Does every line sound good? If not I play with the words a bit more.

4. Are there too many adjectives?

5. Is there something I could take out and leave the reader to guess?

6. Am I happy with the title?


Here is the first draft of my poem. I have put in bold the bits I am not happy with.



The Grey Day


out of the day glazed with grey

a black rooster with a red comb

a horse wearing a pale blue coat

a piece of orange rind on the black sand

a shrivelled yellow ball that will never bounce

footprints like stitching across the wet sand

two walkers dressed like black rocks

black rocks shivering like walkers in raincoats

purple jellyfish opening out like Japanese fans

little bluebottles that look like blue pebbles

a rusty pinecone and a pink hairclip


the misty grey racing in from the sea

is not like concrete, it’s like hairspray


there is a gull flying over me high

squawking, squawking, squawking

as if to say hello and good morning

unless they squawk and squawk

even when the beach is empty




Here is the draft I have done. I will look at it again next week to see if I am happy with it. Let me know what you think.


The Grey Day


Out of the day glazed with grey

there’s a black rooster with a red comb

a horse with a pale blue coat


On the sand, a piece of orange rind

a yellow ball that will never bounce

footprints like stitching across the wet sand


Two walkers dressed like black rocks

black rocks dressed like walkers in raincoats

purple jellyfish opening like Japanese fans

bluebottles that look like blue pebbles

a rusty pinecone and a pink hairclip


The misty grey races in from the sea

and it’s not like concrete, it’s like hairspray


There’s a gull flying over me high

squawking, squawking, squawking

as if to say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning,’

unless she squawks and squawks

even when the beach is empty



I love The Language of Cat and 80% of People Prefer Chips to Poems

This week is all about things I love. When I launched my poetry book The Baker’s Thumbprint this year I said I wrote the poems put of love. That’s not to say it is a book of love poems but I just love writing.

So today I am going to share a book I love. Someone whispered the name of this poet to me recently, so I went on a hunt and now I want to whisper the name to you too! It is really great the way we can share books, the names of authors and titles we love.

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The book is called The Language of Cat and other poems. It is written by Rachel Rooney  and illustrated by Ellie Jenkins (Frances Lincoln, 2011).

When I read the poems it makes me want to write a poem. Words start buzzing like bees in my head and I just want to get cracking.

I don’t have permission to post a poem but there is a bit from ‘Defending the Title’ in the photo of the back of her book. It is a really cool poem.

Rachel knows how to make words sizzle and swing and snap and pop and sigh and spark on the page (oooh! ‘the clink of the fork on the china dish’).

She plays with words a lot. I love ‘Just Her and the Poet’ where the end of one line is the start of the next ( I want to try this!). But it gets even trickier as the poem ends up back where it started. Here are two lines: ‘The glow of the page, its inky print, / It’s inky print those thinking lines.’

She has a great sense of humour: There is a poem about what people swallow including a lamp post (please don’t try that!)

She has a bouncy imagination: like what it would be like if the world was the size of a pea and the sun was the size of a beach ball?

I especially love her poems about POETRY!

To celebrate this book you might like to try writing a poem using one of Rachel’s titles and i will post my favourites:

‘The Language of Cat’  (I want to do this one!)

‘80% of People Prefer Chips to Poems’  (oh and I want to do this one!)

‘This Modern Monster’

‘The Poem and the Poet’ (and I want to do this one!)

‘Counting Days’


‘Three Monkeys’

‘Daisy’s Answer’


Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include the name and email address of your teacher.

In My Village you get little windows onto other languages

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In 2008 Gecko Press published My Village: Rhymes from around the world. The poems were collected by Danielle Wright, the book was illustrated by Mique Moriuchi and there is an introduction by the fabulous British poet, Michael Rosen. The illustrations are gorgeous and made from paint, bits and pieces and collage. Mique was born in London but spent time in Japan and it shows!

Gecko Press have kindly offered two copies of the book to give to two of you who send in poems with words from other languages in (not English!). THank you lovely Gecko Press!

What makes this book so special is not just that it takes you round the world in 22 days (22 poems!), but you get to see the poems in the original language (yeeha!). Even if you don’t know the language it is fun to look at the word and try saying them and see how they do rhyme!

You go to: New Zealand, China, Australia, Norway, Ireland, Tonga, Jamaica, Japan, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Indonesia, Denmark, Iran, Germany, Samoa, Switzerland, Russia, Brazil, France, Holland, Iceland and India.

This is from a Norwegian rhyme:  ‘Hour after hour, / Tick, tack, / Shower upon shower.’

I really loved the Jamaican one and had fun saying it aloud. Here is a sneak preview: ‘Me donkey BUCK / Me donkey LEAP / Me donkey KICK / Wid him two hind feet.’

The Samoan one puts the Samoan words in the with English ones. Here is a bit of it: ‘Savalivali means go for a walk / Tele tautala means too much talk.’

I also love the one from iceland: ‘Bye, Bye, Blacking / Swans are a-clacking.’

It is really tricky trying to change a poem or rhyme from one language to another as the rhymes are not always going to work! But in this book the words dance and shimmy and sway like good rhymes do. The poems are fun. Sometimes you can sing them, sometimes they are like a lullaby or a nursery rhyme, sometimes they are thoughtful. This cool book should be in every classroom so you get little windows into other languages. It is cool!

Not every day at the beach is the same

Often when I go to the beach in the morning there is no one else around for miles, but every day is a little bit different. The waves don’t always look the same, the birds come and go and I see different things washed up on the sand.

Sometimes though things are really different. Like the other day! I wrote about it in this poem:

Not Every Day at the Beach Is the Same


The dog always waits for the surfer.

She lies on the sand and waits

as he rides the wave.

She never barks at our dogs.

Today she was in the water

freezing  her paws off,

staring out to sea

as if she wanted to learn

to surf, or just get home

to chew her bone.


Three people come running

towards me, arms waving, and yelling

blue jacket yellow jacket red jacket.

Then their arms dropped.

‘We thought you were one of us,’

they said.


The dog is still waiting,

her paws must be frozen stiff.


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My bird-poem diary: This morning when I went to the beach I saw the strangest bird

This morning when I went to the beach I saw the strangest bird. I didn’t expect to see this when I started my bird-poem diary.


The Strangest Bird

Blue and yellow feathers that shine like metal

Silver plume on its head that spins in the wind

Clumpy feet that squat on the sand and the grass

This is the noisiest bird I have seen at the beach

and when I hear it coming I duck for cover.

It’s a working bird, it’s a searching bird

it’s a filming bird, it’s a helicopter bird.