Tag Archives: Royal Oak Primary School

Poetry Box November challenge: some favourite Aotearoa wildlife poems – Part 1





The challenge to write poems about animals, birds and fish in Aotearoa has proved to be one of my most popular challenges ever and I am still working my way through all your emails.

I know you are all checking my blog to see if I picked your poem and I am hoping to get the post up today but I may not finish until tomorrow.


I have decided to break my post into two parts and share a bunch of fabulous poems from Royal Oak Primary School first. The poems are from the Kahikatea room (Y5 and 6 students).

We were inspired by Gavin Bishop’s new book Wildlife of Aotearoa (Puffin) and I am pretty sure he will be inspired by these.

The students have done utterly magnificent eye-catching artwork to go with the poems. Each illustration is alive with colour and movement. Looking at these fills me such joy I feel the children must have filled with joy to create them.

The poems are equally exquisite. The words are gifts for ears and eyes as the poems  sound good and also build a striking picture of the animal, bird or fish in your head as I read. The poems have been so beautifully crafted. Lines leap out at me, similes catch my attention.

I love these poems so much I am a sending a copy of Groovy Fish to the class and I put all the names in a hat and picked out Abigail to get a copy too.

This is poetry magnificence! And it makes me so happy. Thank you!

















The Treasury Interviews: Room 21 children of Royal Oak Primary School interviews Jenny Cooper



Room 21 children of Royal Oak Primary School (dressed for Book parade here).

Room 21 is a year 4 class. There are 27 of us not including the teachers (Suzie Gurr and Robyn McConnell). We have 15 boys and 12 girls. This term we are researching native birds and how to attract them into the school grounds by offering foods that they will like to eat.


bio pick 2013 9780143505907 9781775430469

Meet the illustrator of A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. See below for Jenny’s biography. She has done such an outstanding job with this book I have two interviews with her to post!

The Interview:

Dear Room 21, thank you for your great questions.

What inspires you and makes you want to illustrate a book? Mainly it is that I like drawing so much. When it is going well, it is a real pleasure, it is very calming and very rewarding, drawing away for hours a day. And I like the mental challenge of making up characters. It takes a lot of practice to be able to imagine a character, and then be able to get that down on paper. When it works, you feel very proud of yourself. When it doesn’t work, it is very frustrating, and that is when I want another job.

When did you first begin drawing? I have drawn all my life, since a baby. We have photos of me as a tiny child drawing away happily. The reason I can draw well as a grown up is because I drew so much as a child, and all through school. All my books were covered in doodles. That is the best training to be an artist or an illustrator…. Start drawing young.

Why is there often a mouse in your illustrations when there is not always one in the story? The answer to this is a little complicated, but it is a very good question, which no-one has ever asked me before. When I illustrate a book, I am working for an editor, and editors have very strict ideas about what is and isn’t allowed in a book. No dangerous running or jumping, no sad children, no climbing big trees, children must always be shown safe and well behaved. But if I add a mouse, or a dog, or a cat, those rules don’t apply, and I can have more fun with them, and they can do silly things. So it is often a way to get a bit of fun into a book, which isn’t in the story.

What was the first book you illustrated? The Birthday Party, a book which went to America. It was really badly drawn, because I was a new illustrator. I still get a little bit of money for it each year. I would like to burn every copy, it is so bad.

Which book or character is your favourite and why? I usually like my latest book, so it changes all the time. I like Harry from Harry’s Hair, that was a really fun book. In fact, I like his sister even more. I like the dog from Do Your ears Hang Low?, I love drawing furry animals. I like the llamas too, in that book, lots of fur. My favourite painting I have ever done is the sad page in Jim’s Letters, in the trenches. I really worked hard on that painting because it was so important.

What gives you the idea of what a character will look like? That is really hard to explain, because they all come out of my head, somehow. I get some hints from the story. For example, is the story funny, is it serious, is it realistic, do the animals talk, is there lots of action?….. this will all affect the character design. For example, funny characters might have bendy legs, large or tiny feet and hands, and huge or tiny eyes, crazy hair etc. Books with lots of humour and action are great for designing crazy, bendy animals and people, and exaggerated shapes. Real books about real children mean I have to come up with realistic people, often using photographs.

I get some ideas from knowing who will read the book. Books for very young children have to be very simple, because they are not really ‘reading’, they are guessing, from the pictures, so the pictures have to look exactly like the text. For older kids, I can have more fun, and add things which aren’t in the story, so the reader gets to discover things themselves, and I can use weird shapes, like the characters in ‘Harry’s hair’. Most of all, when I design a character, it has to be interesting to me, and a challenge. Often I will have seen someone else’s illustration, and be thinking, hmmm, I want to draw like that, and try it in my next book.


Note from Paula: Thanks Room 21 and Jenny for a terrific interview.  Jenny has done all the illustrations for A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and they are simple gorgeous. They are little poems on the page themselves and are full of life and variety. I just love them.


Jennifer Cooper, one of New Zealand’s best known illustrators, has been illustrating children’s books here in Christchurch for the last 20 years. She trained as a graphic designer at Christchurch Polytechnic in 1987 and her first book was published while she was still a student.

As with most illustrators in New Zealand, Jenny is largely self taught. Her focus is on books for very young children and, in particular, Pacific Island children. Having lived for three years in Western Samoa, she has continuing ties with the islands, which lend warmth and authenticity to her drawings of these children and their world. She and her  children, Kenese and Kalia, maintain ties with their family in Samoa.

Jenny is not limited to one style but is able to choose from a number, ranging from realistic through to cartoon, depending on the theme and genre of the book.  She enjoys the variety and contrast this brings to her working day. Each new book is completely different and a new adventure.  She loves developing the different characters for each book, and begins each one thinking it will be her best, although illustration is a  complicated art and there is always a huge gap between what an illustrator sees in her head, and what she produces on the page. Jenny particularly loves drawing animals of all sorts, although she is in fact wary of almost all animals, which makes her research difficult.

She works from a sunny studio at home and loves the freedom and flexibility this gives her to garden, see friends, spend time with her partner and pursue  her many interests –  when, strictly speaking, she should be working!
Jenny has also tutored in illustration at Christchurch Polytechnic and taught night classes in illustration at the University of Canterbury. She is the 
winner of the 1991 New Zealand Post Student Stamp Design award, the 1991 Telecom New Zealand White Pages Art Award and has been short-listed twice for the Russell Clark Illustration Award and shortlisted in 2008 for the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Jenny has illustrated so many books she has lost count. Some of her better known books are Down in the Forest  written by Yvonne Morrison, The Pipi and The Mussels by Dot Meharry, Shut the Gate by Elizabeth Pulford, McGregor by Rachel Hayward,  Illustrated Myths and Legends of the Pacific by A.W. Reed.,  The Littlest Llama, by Jane Buxton, The Reluctant Flower Girl by Melanie Koster and Peter and the Pig by Simon Grant, The Mad Tadpole Adventure by Melanie Drewery, Ria the Wreackell Wrybill by Jane Buxton,  There’s a Hole in my Bucket and Do Your Ears Hang Low, She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain and Farmer in the Dell,  sung by The Topp Twins, Le Quesnoy,  and Jim’s Letter’s by Glyn Harper and Harry’s Hair by Jane Buxton, plus numerous book for Usborne Publishing in the United Kingdom. She has three Storyline Notable Book awards, including Le Quesnoy, 2013 and Ria the Reckless Wrybill in 2011.

“When I work on a book, of course I am thinking about the reader, and what they might want to see. But mostly I illustrate for myself. I hope that the things that interest me will also interest lots of children.”

“I am most interested in my character’s  faces, be they human or animal, and in capturing their emotions and the movement of their bodies. I don’t like painting backgrounds, they are too much hard work! As an illustrator, you are creating a whole world inside a book, and that can be a challenge, getting the details right, and keeping things the same all through the book. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t keep the details the same but I always worry about eagle-eyed readers catching me out, and noticing that the character’s socks change colour, or their hair gets shorter and then longer as the book goes on! Being an illustrator means that I have to keep my eyes open, and be interested in everything, because I never know when I may have to put it in a book, anything from rockets to rats to rubbish dumps, and everything in between.”

“Illustrating for children is the most wonderful job to have. I get to stay home all day, and do the thing which I love the best, which is to draw and paint. Every book teaches me something new. When I stop learning, I’ll stop illustrating.”


The Treasury Interviews: Room 12 at Royal Oak Primary School interviews Cilla McQueen

2014-08-14 14.11.09

The interviewers:

Room 12 Royal Oak Primary School, Auckland


We are a class of Year 2 and 3 students at Royal Oak Primary School in Auckland. We are really close to One Tree Hill and lots of us have been going there to look at the lambs recently.

This term we have been getting stuck into art in a big way. We went dotty painting an aboriginal pattern on our fence post and we have loved getting messy with clay. Despite all the mess, we have made some beautiful fluttering butterflies for our school art exhibition. We have used clay and other found pieces to make some cool letters for the art auction. Someone in the class had the bright idea for us to write Goodnight Sweet Dreams.

We are great at writing and this term have been trying to use onomatopoeia, alliteration, simile and metaphor in our recounts and poems. Sometimes it’s tricky but we give it a good go. Our metaphors about rainbows were spectacular and made Mrs Boyd and Mrs Gibson really proud.

Lots of us are Jump Jam leaders and were videoed doing our routines for a competition. Guess what? We got through to the finals and have to go to Tauranga for a big competition against other schools.

What a busy bunch of children we are!

cilla foto

Cilla McQueen -Bio

  • Born in 1949 in England. Moved to NZ when she was about 4.
  • She lives in the South Island and often writes about Otago.
  • Cilla McQueen keeps a diary to write down interesting things that happen. She uses this diary a lot to help her write her poems.
  • Her poetry and poem books have won lots of awards and prizes. She was the NZ Poet Laureate for 2009-2011.
  • Her poem ‘Dogwobble’ is in a School Journal and Another 100 NZ Poems for Children and A Treasur of NZ Poems for Children.
  • Most of her poems are for adults. Sometimes about politicians.



The Interview (Paula — the interview questions came in a special way so I have taken a photo of it for you)

 Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 6.38.56 PM


‘it makes me want to wobble when I read it’

Me too. It’s got rhythm.


I like the double metaphor at the end

Yes, metaphor’s a good way of painting vivid pictures quickly.


we like how it is a tongue twister

It’s quite fun when a lot of people say it all together, with somebody conducting, to keep the beat.

Then they can see how fast they can say it, keeping in unison, ending up in a heap.


what was the dog doing?

Waiting for a boy to come out of a shop. Whenever somebody came out, the dog leapt up expectantly, then sat down again in disappointment. At last the boy came out and the dog nearly wagged himself to pieces.


what gave you the idea for this poem?

I was sitting in the car waiting for somebody, watching the little dog waiting too. I just grabbed a piece of paper and jotted it down, in the rhythm of the dog’s wagging and joyful barking.


Have you written any other children’s poems?

Not really, but children like my poems. I’ve written quite a few poems about cats.


Have you ever taught in a primary school?

I’ve visited primary schools as a poet, but haven’t been a primary school teacher. I have been a secondary school teacher, teaching English, French and Latin.


Do you have any pets, or a wobbly dog?

We have a long-haired tabby cat who has adopted us.


You’ve won lots of awards, which one are you most proud of?

They all mean a lot to me, but I was very honoured to be awarded the Poet Laureateship.


All the best from



What a great interview Cilla and Room 24. I love the way you presented the questions. It really is a fun poem to say out loud. I will be dong so when I visit schools.