Tag Archives: The Treasury Interviews

The Treasure Interviews: Monica interviews Adrienne Jansen


Monica Koster  I was born in Christchurch in 2002. My passions in life are running, writing and music. So far, I have published three different things. In 2010, when I was 8 years old, my earthquake poem was published on the NZEPC website along with Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s. In 2013, I was published in the Margaret Mahy Governor’s Bay Poetry book when I won the Senior Poem with Illustration Competition. In 2014, I was excited and honoured to be published in Paula Green’s book, The Letter Box Cat.

Adrienne Jansen

The Score photo A Jansen

Adrienne Jansen writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction for children and
adults. In 2014 she edited The Curioseum, a collection of strange and
wonderful stories based on weird objects in Te Papa’s collections. She lives
in Titahi Bay, with a big ocean view and lots of wind. (note from Paula: I adore The Curioseum so much I posted about it on Poetry Box!)

  1. When you were younger, what was your favourite book character?

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved Ian Seraillier’s The Silver Sword and the family in that novel.

  1. When did you start writing?

When I was a kid. The Evening Post (which was a Wellington newspaper then) had a Children’s Page, and I started sending little things to it when I was about 8.

  1. Did you ever play a sport?

I played badminton a lot, bit of tennis, but my real love is swimming. In the sea and in the pool both.

  1. Who was the most interesting person you met in Canada?

Probably a man we met the summer we went to the Yukon. He’d been goldmining up there for years. They’re a different breed, people who live long periods of time in huge remote places like that.

  1. It must have been fun editing the book, The Curioseum. What was your favourite piece in it?

It was fun – and hard work both, because quite a few of those writers didn’t usually write for children, so the stories needed quite a lot of work. I don’t think I can pick a favourite – I like them all a lot, and the writers as well.

  1. What (or who) inspired you to write “‘Clean as a Whistle,’ I say. That’s what I want.” (I’m guessing it was your son! How did he feel about it?)

Yes it was our younger son. And that’s exactly what happened (except that he was cleaning the laundry floor and I made it the kitchen floor). But everything else is exactly as it happened. I didn’t read it to him for quite a long time, but then he thought it was very funny! It was very unusual for him to clean the floor – he must have wanted something!

  1. I like thinking up ideas for poems when I’m sitting high in a tree. Where is your favourite place to write?

We’ve got a little yard out the back of our house. It’s very sheltered (that matters at our house because we get a big sea wind), there are tuis everywhere now, and there’s a big chunky table and two benches. Every morning that it’s fine I have breakfast there, and more and more I write out there. But really I write any old place.

Thanks Monica and Adrienne for such a wonderful interview. I really loved reading this. Adrienne has two poems in The Treasury including one of my all-time favourite poems about the wind!

The_Curioseum_cover-197x300    The_Curioseum_cover-197x300   The_Curioseum_cover-197x300

The Treasury Interviews: Amy interviews James Brown

About Amy Fippard
I was born in 2006 and live in Te Awanga.  I have younger brother called Ben and a dog called Sally.  I like playing with Sally and grooming her.  I like swimming. I am in Year 3, aged 8, and go to Haumoana School.


James Brown

James Brown

James Brown was born in 1966 and grew up in Palmerston North.  He now lives in Wellington.  He has been a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 3 times. He has written a number of books of poetry.


What are the most important ingredients for you in a poem?
It’s more about what I don’t like – eg poems that are too obvious and soppy. I’m always listening to a poem’s words to hear its music. And I have a soft spot for list poems – poems that are just lists of interesting things. But I also like poems that tell little  stories!
What poetry did you read as a child?
I read Winnie the Pooh, which had a lot of poetry in it. Plus Edward Lear – ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’, ‘The Jumblies.’ My own early poems had regular rhymes and rhythms, which was good for learning about rhyme and rhythm. But free verse – no regular rhyme or rhythm – is subtler.

 James has a poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children called ‘The Bicycle.’ How big was your bike?
Well, the person in the poem isn’t me, and the bike is imaginary too. But I do have a red mountain bike that I bike everywhere on, and I did have a red bike when I was a kid.
Where did you get your bike?
A bike shop. But the bike in the poem is imagined. Red seemed the flashest colour.
What colour was your basket?
I’ve never had a bike with a basket. The bike in the poem needed a basket for the deliveries. My mum had a cane basket on her bike, though.
Why were you always lucky?
Again, the person in the poem isn’t me. I was actually trying to be a bit clever by having the kid think they were lucky when maybe their parents had just given them a bike so they could deliver things. There are two published versions of the poem: one says ‘the deliveries’ and the other says ‘his deliveries’. The ‘his’ means the father’s deliveries, which means the kid might not really be so lucky, even though they think they are and really do love the bicycle. I changed it to ‘the deliveries’ because I had to think how the kid would say it, and I thought they’d more likely just say ‘the deliveries’.
What did you deliver in your basket?
I did have a milk round when I was at high school, and I had to get up at 4.30am and bike to where it began. If the weather was bad the night before, I would lie in bed knowing I’d be delivering milk in it the next morning. But I delivered the milk from a trolly I pushed. I never used my bike to deliver anything. I never had a paper run. I imagined the kid in the poem was delivering groceries so they would have to bike all the way to someone’s house. That’s different from a milk round or paper run where you stop at each letterbox.


Thanks James and Amy for a fascinating interview. Really interesting how poems make up their own truth.

The Treasury Interviews: Annie interviews Paula Green

Annie Robinson

My name is Annie Robinson, I am 11 years old and I live in Tauranga with my mum, dad, older brother and younger sister, our 2 guinea pigs and our cat Purdy. My hobbies include playing guitar, singing, video games, loom bands and writing!


Paula with Nonu on a very windy day at Bethell’s.

Paula Green

Paula Green lives on Auckland’s West Coast with her partner, artist Michael Hight, their two daughters, three cats and two Springer Spaniels. She has published nine poetry collections including several for children. Her first children’s book, Flamingo Bendalingo: Poems from the Zoo, was published in 2006 and was listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book. Paula was awarded the University of Auckland Literary Fellowship in 2005. She was the 2008 judge of the New Zealand Post Secondary School Poetry Competition. NZ Listener writer Gerry Webb has written about Paula and has described her style of writing as ‘musical, sensuous, tender, quick-witted’. Paula writes for both adults and children and her most recent book of poems is The Letterbox Cat (Scholastic). She edited A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children that came out in October (Random House). Paula also hosts a blog site call Poetry Box (this blog!) which has lots of competitions, examples of great children’s poetry as well as tips and tricks on how to become a better writer.


The Interview:

What inspired you to start the poetry box blog?

I love working with children and writing for children so it seemed like a fun and challenging thing to do. I get to visit schools a lot in Auckland and sometimes in other main centres but I hardly ever get to visit schools off the beaten track. The internet can easily travel off the beaten track. I called it Poetry Box because it is full of surprises for me. I never know what I am going to pull out next. What else can Poetry Box do? How can it connect with NZ children?


Do you play any musical instruments?

I learnt to play the recorder, piano, the guitar, the clarinet and the saxophone. I was never very good at any of them, but I loved playing them all. I think I wanted to be Joni Mitchell at one stage with my long hair and acoustic guitar. I grew up in a house with lots of music (especially classical and jazz) so music is important to me. As soon as I was old enough, I loved going to concerts and music festivals. Last year I went to WOMAD which was very cool. I am really drawn to poems that sound good and when write a poem I often think it is like making a little piece of music. I love listening to music when I cook dinner, but when I am writing I mostly like the sound of the wind in the trees.


What is you’re most memorable experience?

That is a good question and a hard question because I have had lots of memorable experiences.

Being a mother … having two wonderful daughters that are such good company.

Walking the Abel Tasman Track and riding the Central Otago Rail Trail with my family.

Spending ten days in New York with my family.

Meeting Margaret Mahy and discovering my secret mentor was also a remarkable woman in how she paid attention to others and was so humble and generous.

Going skiing at The Remarkables.

Boogie boarding at Sandy Bay on the Tutukaka Coast.

Reading Dante’s poem The Divine Comedy in Italian (it is unbelievably long!).


What are some of your main inspirations for writing poetry?

The way the world catches me by surprise. Like when a cat instead of the teacher walks into the classroom. Or you turn a corner and there is the sun glinting on the ocean and you can hardly see.

Things people say.


The way real things fly the blue kite of imagination and the yellow balloon of feeling.


The way words are like little musical notes.


What is your favourite piece of writing? ( by yourself and by others)

‘Hotel Emergencies’ by Bill Manhire  You can hear him read it here. Astonishing. No other word for it.

Wonder by AJ Palacio   A novel that brings you back to everything that matters about being human.

Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn  A picture-book that is so simple and so beautifully written it is poetry.

Poems by Shel Silverstein, Margaret Mahy and Elena de Roo.

The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi  Wise, tender, funny, poetic, beautifully written story

My writing?  Aunt Concertina and Her Niece Evalina is very special to me because it is a small part of the bedtime story I told my girls when they were little. I was too tired to write it down so I didn’t do that until they were older. Michael did the illustrations (very beautiful oil paintings that took him ages!). So it is a family book. And the book doesn’t fit a book formula. The language is as rich as the paintings. I don’t think anyone would publish it nowadays. So I am so grateful to Jenny Hellen and Random House for that. I am rather poroiud of my teo new poetry books too. I love what Scholastic did with The Letterbox Cat and what Random House did with A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Thank you!!!!!!!!


What do you love most about writing?

It makes me feel good. As simple as that. I just love doing it. It is a way of making music. It is a way of doing anything. Taking risks. Being someone else. Being yourself. Exploring the world. Time travelling. Showing heart. Raising questions. Standing up for what you believe in. Questioning what you believe in. Listening to what others have written. Sharing.

The Treasury Interviews: Benedict interviews Kiri Piahana-Wong

Benedict talks about himself…

Hello, I’m Benedict. I’m 6 years old. I live in Mt Albert, Auckland and I go to Gladstone School, which is just across the road. I have a little sister and we have a ginger cat called Milly. I like to read books about adventures like Sword Girl and Sir Cumference books. I like to do playball and swimming and play with Lego and my pirate ships. I am writing a recipe book and am nearly finished my story ‘The Adventures of Anything-Man’. When I grow up I think I will be an author or fireman or have a cafe.

night swimming author pic

Kiri Piahana-Wong was inspired to be a poet by her mother, who read her poetry by famous American and English poets, such as William Blake and Robert Frost, from the age of two. Her favourite poem as a child was Blake’s ‘Tiger, Tiger’. Kiri started writing her own poetry at six years of age. Her first poem was an ode to her teddy bear. From there she kept on writing and had a number of poems published throughout her school years. In her adult life she went on to publish many poems in journals and anthologies, and published her first poetry book, night swimming, in 2013. Kiri also helps organise an event called Poetry Live, New Zealand’s longest-running live poetry venue, and runs a small publishing company called Anahera Press that publishes poetry books.


The Interview:

  1. How long have you been writing poems?

Since I was six years old.

  1. How did you become a poet?

From the day I started writing poetry as a child, I just kept going and never stopped. In my twenties I tried for a long time to have my poetry published but initially had no success. Then when I was 28 I had a poem published in an online journal called Snorkel. After that for some reason it became easier and I had many poems published in journals and anthologies (like A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children my poem ‘night swimming’ is in). I also published my own book. People started asking me to read my poetry and help run events. It’s been fun!

  1. How many poems have you written?

I’m not sure but it would be in the hundreds. For many years I kept all of my poems and drafts in a box under my bed!

  1. How do you get the ideas for the poems?

From things that happen to me and things I see around me.

  1. How do you choose the words?

In my best poems the words just come to me without the sense that I need to hunt for them or choose them . If I do set out to write a poem I try to choose words that sound good together, or that create a fresh, beautiful or unusual image.

  1. How old are you?

I am 37 years old. When I was in my early 30s I still felt like someone in my 20s. I think I thought I was 27 for at least five years! But now I feel my age.

  1. Where do you live? Do you write about where you live?

Until recently I lived at Laingholm, which is on Auckland’s west coast near Titirangi. It’s a very beautiful place by the sea. Laingholm found its way into nearly all of my poetry – the birds, like the duck we adopted and named Jump, the tui and rainbow lorikeets; the beach and sea; the weather; and my house, which was like a big beach house.

  1. What do you like doing when you are not writing?

Reading, swimming, spending time with my friends. I like going to music gigs. I also spend too much time on Facebook.

  1. Do you read poetry?

Yes I love to read poetry and own around two hundred poetry books.

10. Do you know the poem ‘The Man in the Moon’? It’s one of my favourites. What are your favourites?

I love Hone Tuwhare’s ‘Rain’ and Glenn Colquhoun’s ‘Waiata Aroha’ (which is written in both Maori and English). Apart from those I’d find it hard to choose individual poems, but poets I really like are Karlo Mila, Jenny Bornholdt, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, Michael Ondaatje and Wallace Stevens. My favourite Stevens poem is ‘The Idea of Order at Key West’. It’s an amazing poem that I never get tired of.

11. What’s the hardest thing about writing poems?

Finding a way to express myself that is fresh and unique. Also sometimes with a poem I’ll have something I want to say and after writing it feel that it just isn’t saying what I wanted it to. If that happens I’ll try to rewrite it, but usually it means the poem won’t work out.

12. What’s the best thing?

When I finish a poem and it says exactly what I wanted it to, and it’s clear and concise. Or when someone tells me one of my poems moved them or helped them in some way.


What a wonderful interview Kiri and Benedict. Lots to think about when writing a poem. Thank you!

9780473245559_MED      9780473245559_MED

The Treasury Interviews: Hina interviews Stephanie Mayne

Things about Hina!

Hi my name is Hina and I’m 10, my birthday is on November the 8th. I was born in 2003. I have 2 brothers and I have 6 sisters but one passed away and I was named after her. I am from Tonga and every Sunday I go to church. My hobbies are to play outside with my siblings, read books, draw and walk my dog to Balmoral School. I play netball for my school, I also sing in  school band. I have friends called Soana and Madison. They are both in the best class whole universe.


Stephanie Mayne is an Auckland librarian. Her poetry has been published in newspapers, anthologies and online literary journals. She likes collecting things – interesting objects, ideas, people and words. She keeps a notebook with her always and jots down thoughts and impressions to use in her poetry later. Once she has written a poem, she puts it aside for at least a fortnight – till she has forgotten about it. Then she rereads it with a fresh mind – and nearly always redrafts over and over again.

When writing poems for children, Stephanie tries to look at the world as a young person might – a world hopefully filled with wonder and excitement. She imagines what might move a child or make a child laugh. She is lucky to be a librarian – there is always a student around willing to read her poetry and tell her what works and what needs more attention!


The Interview:

  • 1) What kinds of stories do you like to read? Why?

I like reading all sorts of different types of stories!   I like stories that make me think, stories that make me emotional, stories that I learn things from. I especially like stories in  which authors have used words in unusual and creative ways.


  • 2) When did you start writing poetry?

The earliest poem I can remember writing was when I was about ten. I entered it into a newspaper competition and it was published! I was so excited! Ever since I can remember I have been comparing things to other things. I would look at  the mashed potato on my plate and imagine polar bears climbing over it, like Antarctic ice. So, I guess you could say that I have been writing poems in my head forever, really!


  • 3) It says on the internet that you like playing with your dogs. Do you ever write about them? What are their names?

Yes – I used to write poems for my daughter about our dogs. The dogs we have at the moment are both boys – and really naughty boys at that! They hardly ever do what they are told and they   don’t have good manners when they eat, that’s for sure. They are neat, though! They are called Baxter and Joe. Cool names, don’t you think?


  • 4) Do you enjoy being a librarian? Does it help you with your poetry being around lots of books?

I love being a librarian. All day long I am surrounded by words, words, words!

I   am so lucky – I can always get the books I want to read. If you want to be a better writer you need to read what other people have written!

I think that I do have a better understanding than some people about what young people   like to read because I deal with students a lot and I notice what their preferences are.


  • 5) Why did you choose to write poetry?

It sounds silly – but I can’t   not  write poetry! If I haven’t written a poem for a while I get grumpy and feel frustrated! I always have to have a poem “on the go.” I carry a little notebook around with me and jot ideas down all the time. Writers are great magpies – they are always looking for that shiny word, that glittering phrase to pinch!


  • 6) Who is your favourite author? Why?

My favourite children’s author – like lots of other people – is Roald Dahl. I like how irreverent (naughty) he is and how he never talks down to children or tries to “improve” them. I love his quirky, amusing characters and his elegant, accomplished writing. Yes, Roald Dahl is a hero of mine!


  • 7) Who do you think is the best in your whole family? Why?

I love everyone in my family but if I had to pick just one person then that would have to be my daughter. That is because she is the kindest member of our family. She has a smile that makes people smile back.


What a lovely interview Hina and Stephanie. Thank you! Stephanie has three poems in A Treasury Of NZ Poems and you can tell she loves playing with words. They are very juicy.



The Treasury Interviews: Richmond Road’s Ruma 4 interviews Apirana Taylor — I write poems when I’m in a lot of different moods.

The Interviewers: We are a Year 4/5 class of 7 girls and 19 boys, from Richmond Road School in Auckland.  We love our school because we have awesome teachers,  we are a multicultural school with 4 units, Maori unit, French Unit, Samoan Unit and the Kiwi Unit,  and everyone is so friendly.  In Ruma 4, we have kids who are creative, happy, who love Maths, drawing cartoons and enjoy singing in the morning.  Our teacher Miss Seba always finds fun activities for us to do that help us with our learning and makes it super exciting for us.  Our class motto is “Make way for a Great day of Learning J “

Outside of school we have girls who play Netball aiming to get to the Silver Ferns, boys who play rugby and dream to be an All Black, soccer players, musicians, cricket players, basket ball players, singers, dancers and gymnasts.


Apirana Taylor is an award-winning writer, poet, storyteller, painter and musician. He has published a number of poetry collections and has travelled the world (and back home) with his poems and stories. With his ability to inspire children of any age, he is one of New Zealand’s standout authors that visits schools.

The Interview:

How do you get in the calm mood to write poetry? I’m usually not in a calm mood when I write poetry although that sometimes happens, it depends on the poem I’m writing. I write poems when I’m in a lot of different moods. The calmness comes after I’ve written the poem.

How do you get the confidence to perform your poetry in front of lots of people? I practise and rehearse a lot before I perform my poetry.  The extra time I put in gives me confidence.

What age were you when you wrote your first poem? What was it about? I started writing short stories as a child, but before that I can remember when I was very young composing lines in my head for fun.

I once won an award for a selection of my poems. I’ve never won anything for a single poem but one of my poems which is studied a lot is called, ‘Sad Joke on a Marae.’ It is about losing and finding, defeat and victory, pain and healing.

How do you find your inspiration for your writing? I find my inspiration by looking at, listening to and feeling the world around me, and sometimes I just look inside myself.

What advice do you have for children that want to be writers? My advice for children who want to write is to get a pen and paper and start writing.  That’s the best way to begin.

Thanks for a wonderful interview Apirana and Ruma 4. Apirana is an amazing poet to have visit your school — schools love him! I know because I hear great tales of him when I visit schools. He tells stories and he shares his poems. Apirana has five poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. They play with language deliciously and they often celebrate his Maori heritage. Phantom Billstickers made a poster of his poem, ‘haka’ for me to give away on my Hot Spot Poetry Tour so you might see it up in places in October!

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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

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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!

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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)

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‘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.

The Treasury Interviews: Rm 24 at Royal Oak Primary interviews Jenny Bornholdt

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Room 24 at Royal Oak Primary School

In our class there are thirty Year 5 and 6 children who represent many different cultures from around the world. We are responsible and empowered leaders in the school and believe in encouraging and co-operating with others. As we have become more involved in environmental science projects, we have developed a keen interest in the environment and conservation. We are hard workers who believe in persisting to achieve our goals. This year our whole class goal is to improve the imagery in our writing.

Jenny Bornholdt

Biography of Jenny Bornholdt

Jenny was born in Lower Hutt New Zealand. She studied at Victoria University in Wellington and received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Diploma in Journalism. Jenny began writing seriously in 1984 and has since published many books of poetry. She has won several awards including the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1997 and was named New Zealand Poet Laureate in 2005. (Paula: She has written one of my all time favourite children’s books, A Book is a Book, published by Gecko Press)


The Interview

We read the article about you in the school journal and wonder why it took so long for you to share your writing with others?

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer, so I was quite surprised when I found myself writing poems.

When I started writing I felt quite shy about it and didn’t think my poems good enough to show to people. When I did the writing course at Victoria University we had to read and show our work to each other and because everyone felt nervous, it somehow made it easier. Also, once you’ve done this a few times, you feel more relaxed about it.

What inspired you to write your first poem?

One of the first poems I remember writing is the first poem in my first book, This Big Face. The poem also has that title, and it’s about a haircut my friend gave me on the front lawn of her house. I had long hair and asked her to cut it very short. So she did.

What is your favourite poem that you have written for children?

I didn’t write this poem for children, but it’s one that teachers often read to students (Paula: it is in the Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and it is fabulous and slightly spooky):

‘How to get ahead of yourself while the light still shines.’

It’s about riding my bike down a hill at night and being scared by my own shadow.

We noticed you used rhyming in some parts of the poem ‘Storm Birds.’ Do you ever write poems that rhyme all the way through?

Not usually. I do like rhyme, but I usually write poems that have half rhymes in them, or have some kind of rhyme going on, but it’s not regular. When you’re writing poems you need to pay a lot of attention to how the words sound and how they sound alongside other words, but this doesn’t mean that they have to rhyme.

What kind of books did you read when you were our age? – 10-12 years

Mostly novels. I did read the Voices poetry anthologies – I don’t know if they’re still around.

I still read a lot of novels, as well as poetry. I think reading is really important if you want to write. You can learn a lot from reading.

When we are writing we are encouraged to paint a picture with words. Do you visualise images when you are writing?

No I don’t, but I do often write poems about something I’ve seen, or, more often, something I’ve heard.

Painting a picture with words – that would make you think hard about the words you use and what you’re saying, and those are good things to think about when you’re writing.

Do you ever visit schools to inspire kids to write poetry?

Yes I do and I always really enjoy it. I like it when kids ask lots of questions – often I get asked about things I haven’t thought about before and that’s really interesting. I also like hearing what kids think about poems.

I love knowing that kids are writing poetry. I think it’s a great thing to do.

Thanks very much for your questions – I’ve really enjoyed answering them.

Best wishes,



What a marvelous interview, thanks Jenny and Room 24.

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The Treasury Interviews: Westmere School’s Room 10 interview Melanie Drewery — My favourite poem is one about a heart-shaped stone

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Room 10 Westmere School Biography We are a year 3-4 class at Westmere School in Auckland. We are twenty four delightful, smart middle school children aged 7 to 9. Our classroom is full of laughter and fun

Melanie Drewery Biography Melanie Drewery is a New Zealand author who writes a lot of fiction books for children. She has wretten many children’s books, many of which have won awards. She has visited lots of different countries, and some of her books are based on true events and adventures. Melanie Drewery has a lot of different jobs, including being an illustrator, artist, teacher and librarian.

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The Interview:

What is your favourite thing to write about, and why? My favourite thing to write about is people. People are full of surprises and my characters sometimes do things I didn’t expect.

How old were you when you started writing and why did you start? I have been writing since I first learned how, when I was small. I just never stopped. I kept writing as an adult because I enjoy it so much and life would be empty without it.

Do you have any pets and if so, what are they? I have plenty of pets because I live on a farm. They are: a black and white dog called Iggy, a bay horse called Boogy, a palimino horse called Blondini, two tabby cats called Uli and Brambles, 10 chickens with silly names, and tame sheep, who are spotty.

What is your favourite thing to draw, and why? I like painting best, and once again, my subject is usually people.

How do you come up with a good title? To come up with a good title, it is best to wait until the story or poem is finished. Then it will be easy because the writing will show it to you.

Where do you find inspiration for writing poetry? There is inspiration for writing poetry everywhere, but most especially in the beautiful things, or the small everyday things, and the strong feelings I have.

What was your very first book about? My first published book was Nanny Mihi and the Rainbow, about some children playing with their Grandma on a beach. (Note from Paula: There is a whole series of these books and they are much loved.)

Which is your favourite poem that you have written, and why? My favourite poem is one about a heart-shaped stone, and if that is a miracle or not.

What a great interview thank you Melanie and Room 10. Melanie has two very beautiful night poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children.

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