Tag Archives: Sarah Wilkins

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: 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 review festival and POP-Up challenge 5: Matthew Cunningham and Sarah Wilkin’s Abigail and the Birth of the Sun



Abigail and the Birth of the Sun, Matthew Cunningham with illustrations by Sarah Wilkins,  Puffin (Penguin Random House)


Each day this week I am posting a review of a children’s book published in Aotearoa with a pop-up challenge and a secret giveaway. You will have 48 hours to do the challenge!


FRIDAY review


I really love the start to this book:


As Abigail got ready for bed,

she thought of a big question.

It was so big she couldn’t think about anything else.


It was such a big and important question Abigail thought about it whatever she was doing. She was so worried the big question would keep her awake she decided to ask her dad. And when she asked him where the planets and the sun came from he told her they came from stardust just as she did.

Her dad pulled the curtains and they gazed at the night sky (and so did the sleek black cat!). As they gazed into the mysterious black with its planets and stars gleaming he tells Abigail about the birth of the sun.

I really like the way the story is based on facts but the characters in the story (the big old star, the cloud of stardust, the new Sun, a family of planets) have feelings. This is the story of how our solar system came into being – told simply and eloquently.

What stands out in the writing and the illustrations is both a sense of wonder and wondrous things happening. Things that you can put into words but things that are greater than words.

I think Matthew and Sarah must have had such fun working on this because one of the main ingredients in the ink and paint (I am not sure how they wrote or drew but you get what I mean) is love. A love of writing and love of painting and drawing. It shows.

I loved the middle bit – the bright drawings with little fascinations – and the tenderly crafted story with an equal dose of fascinations.

But I especially love the ending because it brings me right back to the way curiosity is such an important part of being human, and how curious questions can make a dad and his daughter share in the wonder of things:


“Daddy,” asked Abigail,

“if I am made of stardust,

does that mean I can shine

like a star too?”

Daddy smiled.

“You will shine brighter than

all of the stars in the sky.”


Abigail falls into a sweet sleep but by morning she as a new question – let’s hope there will be a sequel.

Ah, I feel like I have filled with gleam and good feelings reading this beautifully-produced book. I just love it.


Matthew lives with his wife and daughter Abigail in Wellington. He is an historian with a Doctor of Philosophy, and he has published all kinds of history writing. This is his first picture book for children. At kindergarten he wrote ‘The Clock’ but he didn’t know how to follow lines and said it looked more like alphabet soup.

Sarah was the middle child of seven who dreamed of being an explorer. She loved dreaming and drawing so she became an illustrator, an award-winning illustrator (because illustrating involves dreaming and drawing!). She lives in Wellington.



FRIDAY POP-UP challenge:


Let’s write sun poems.

1   Hunt for sun words and similes. Draw a sun and fill it with the collected words!

2   How many sun verbs can you find?

3    Do a test pot of similes – which surprises you?

4    Do you know or can find any fascinating sun facts?

5.   Use your senses as you get curious. What makes you curious about the sun?

6.   How does your poem sound as you read it?

7    Do you need to make up a word?

8    How will you set your sun poem out?



Deadline: 28th October 9 am

Include: your name, age, year and name of school

Don’t forget to put  SUN poem in subject line so I don’t MISS your email.

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Some favourite poems: I will post some favourites on 28th October. I will have at least one secret give away!





A very good picture book: Jenny Bornholdt and Sarah Wilkins’s The Longest Breakfast






The Longest Breakfast written by Jenny Bornholdt, illustrated by Sarah Wilkins

Gecko Press, 2017


I love breakfast. I love pouring my homemade granola in the bowl, picking strawberries from the garden to slice on top, adding a dollop of yoghurt and a swish of apple juice.

MMMMMMM! Heaven!

I love hearing the birds sing in the bush and watching the sea mist roll in from the ocean.


Now I have a breakfast story to love too. It feels special like The Tiger Who Came to Tea feels special. It is just the story to read aloud while you munch on pancakes or toast or boiled eggs (or granola!).

The story: The children are hungry and their dad is trying to find just the thing to hit the right hungry spot.


When I say children – there are a lot! Say 8! If you include the neighbour and friends.

Everyone seems to want something different and baby is giving his clues (toot toot buzz buzz).


I whizzed through the book, I drizzled through the drawings, I sizzled and word swam and got hooked.

The writing is plain and the story gets moving.

The drawings feel alive and the characters are EYE catching.


And the ending is perfect – a little breakfast surprise that makes the whole book glow!