We want to help create motivated and engaged young readers. This blog is about children's and YA literature (especially New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.
Poet Paula Green is editing an anthology of poems for children to be published by Random House in 2014.
She would like to include five poems by children and is inviting primary and intermediate schools the length and breadth of New Zealand to submit poems. The five winning poems will be included in A Treasury of New Zealand Poetry for Children and the five winning poets will also receive a copy of the book.
• Eligibility: Year 3 to Year 8 students enrolled in New Zealand schools
• Closing Date: April 30th 2013
• Send to: Paula Green PO Box 95078 Swanson Waitakere 0653
• Please include: Name of student and school, school year, age, contact name and email address of teacher on entry form
• Poems can be on any subject, in any form but no more than 20 lines.
• The poem must be original and the work of the student.
• Copyright remains with the individual writers. Random House reserves the right to publish the prize-winning entries without further payment.
• Schools will be notified of the results by June 30th 2013.
• Entries must be accompanied by an entry form – see Paula’s blog for the entry form.
Further queries: email@example.com
Find some ideas for inspiring your students on our Poetry page.
Celeste is a 16 year old girl from an upper class family, who holidays at Lake Conemaugh. She secretly befriends a local boy and becomes disenchanted with the superficial face and judgments of her family’s society crowd. Lake Conemaugh, a mountain reservoir, is a man-made lake which is held back by a seventy-foot earthen dam. The people who live in Johnstown below the dam often joke with each other about the dam breaking, until the day …
At the back of the book information is given on where to find out more on this historical event , along with a chronology from when and why the dam was built, to what happened afterwards. A great debut novel and an interesting read for people who like historical fiction interlaced with fact.
review by Michelle
Image by NOAA Photo Library
Lucky Biddy and Julia to be grand-daughters of Margaret Mahy—who could possibly have a better Nana at bedtime story time?
The DVD Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications features the author reading, or reciting from memory, a wide range of her best loved stories and poems to the two little girls who, a few years later, would proudly carry her ashes in a flowered box at the Christchurch Memorial Service.
The twins play an active role for much of the film. As they are identical but unnamed it is impossible to tell which one is providing the sound effects in Hiccups, which laughing child ducks as her own animated replica flies past her in Down the back of the chair, and whether the dramatic red-coated figure dancing over stark black rocks and grey sea in Puck’s song is Julia or Biddy, and it really doesn’t matter.
They and their Good Grandmother share the stage with a white fluffy dog, a fat black and white cat and a host of animated figures from the pages of Margaret’s books.
The DVD video footage was captured by Margaret’s longtime friend Yvonne MacKay at Margaret’s home in Governors Bay, a bay that has provided a great back-drop for the mixture of animation and real life in Summery Saturday Morning, Dashing Dog, The three-legged cat, The boy who was followed home, and a host of other favourites—the DVD features eight picture books in all, as well as a selection of poems, long and short.
Possibly the most moving moment is at the end, when Margaret is seen walking down the Governor’s Bay pier into a golden sunset as she recites her very un-sentimental poem When I am old. Following behind her, jostling and pushing and trying to catch up, is a wonderful animated hullaballoo mish-mash of characters from her books. The Lion has left his meadow, the Followed-home Boy has brought three of his hippos along, The Three-legged Cat is hopping jauntily on his peg-leg, -all the usual suspects are there. And raucously shouting from the throng comes the voice of the Pirate Mother: ‘Wait for me, Maggie!
The DVD has just been published (RRR NZ $19.99) and is available from Roadshow Entertainment .
review by Cecily
image by geoftheref
Luke, Casey and Bongo are friends, completing their last years of high school, wondering how to find their way in the world, and testing all the boundaries in the process. All three are trying to escape something in their family life – ranging from Casey’s controlling and resentful father to Bongo’s abusive stepfather and drug-addled mother. Luke doesn’t feel like he ‘fits’ with his family and wishes above all else that he could make things right for Casey, whom he worships, and for Bongo, who uses drugs himself to block out his dysfunctional past and the hurt he feels at being away from his baby brother – removed by social services and adopted out.
As they move out into the adult world, they find that freedom brings its own problems and responsibilities, and that you have to find peace in yourself before you can make things right with others.
It’s a story of authentic-feeling friendships, and Emma Cameron’s verse format uses a light touch in drawing these genuine teenage characters.
review by Linda
image by Looking Glass
The tragedy of the Titanic was 100 years old this April and yet it continues to speak to us and capture our imaginations. The haunting event is given new life in Allan Wolf’s novel in verse with 24 of the participants – rich, poor, crew, passengers, human and non-human – each telling their individual stories.
We are drawn into the lives of 47 yr old millionaire John Jacob Astor, returning to America with his pregnant 19 yr old bride, Jamila, a young refugee travelling with her small brother, her father left behind because of an eye infection, Thomas Andrews, the ship builder, and Harold Spark the wireless operator. As each relates their perspective, the ominous voice of the iceberg, ancient and relentless, craves it’s fateful meeting.
Wolf has created convincing individual voices for real passengers who travelled on the Titanic. His detailed research shines through, lending the story great authenticity. Biographies of the “voices” are contained in the author’s note along with facts, an extensive bibliography and website references.
The Titanic sinking was widely reported in New Zealand and some of the people in the novel are mentioned in newspapers of the day, giving another perspective on the tragedy. To find articles go to Papers Past click on the Search tab, type in Titanic and then limit by date (try 16 April 1912 to 30 April 1912).
A deeply affecting retelling of a well-known event, giving life and humanity to those who travelled on the Titanic.
Review by Lisa A
image by ISD 191 Performing Arts Programs
One of the best sources of Pasifika poetry for young adults (and some suitable for younger students) is the Pasifika poetry collection found on the New Zealand Electronic Poetry website. It is compiled by Selina Tusitala Marsh, the talented author of Fast-talking PI, Auckland University lecturer and a popular speaker in schools.
The collection features Marsh, Tusiata Avia, Karlo Mila, Robert Sullivan, Albert Wendt, Sia Figiel, and other poets - some unpublished. The front page is a picture gallery of the poets: each picture opens to an introductory blurb and a menu of audio, video or print items: feature articles, poems being performed or in print, interviews with or articles by the poets. Events and Links (bottom right) widen the selection.
Many Pasifika and Māori students learn best by imitation and performance, and this valuable and varied resource brings poetry alive allowing students to explore it individually or collectively.
Review by Rob
image by teachernz
In preparation for reading this book …….be warned, you need to switch off your left brain and switch on your right. This poetical work is all about imagination and dreaming both in its content and in its presentation. The text is lyrical and sensory, beautifully enhanced by the somewhat surreal drawings by Peter Sis. Although dark in places, there is a strong underlying message of hope and optimism. The “take away” message for me was one of staying true to yourself and your own talents and dreams, especially in the face of opposition and different expectations from others.
The key character, schoolboy Neftali, is entranced by words and books as well as by the world of nature and its treasure trove of collectable objects. A simple pine cone takes on enhanced mystical meanings in his world. He has a charming sense of wonder at everyday objects. Things that we so frequently take for granted and overlook in our humdrum life. This book challenges the reader to look at these things and at life in a different and poetical way.
Neftali looks up to his father and wants his approval, but so often is he ridiculed for not being what his father wants him to be. He is taunted by the neighbourhood children as a dreamer and a weakling. Although challenged, Neftali surpasses his own self doubt and eventually learns to accept his talent with words and language as a strength. He perseveres and uses his imagination to rise above the derision of his overly ambitious father. As he grows up he uses his talents with words to create powerful political messages with a poetical twist.
It was only near the end that we find out that the story was inspired by the events in the life of the well known Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. He started life as a lonely and dreamy boy, but he grew up to be an important and visionary artist.
A highly recommended book. One that you will probably read in one sitting, but which will stay with you, prompting ponderings and imagination for some time after.
review by Glenda
image by solja
Text on the wall reads:
“Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.”
This historical, novel in verse is a Pura Belpre Honour book. Margarita Engle, a Cuban-American writer is also famous for her other novels in verse, The Surrender Tree (Newbery Honour Book), The Poet Slave of Cuba (Pura Belpre Award) and Tropical Secrets. All these books communicate the author’s passion for the history and the beauty of this Eden-like island. Also woven into this picture,(in delicate free verse) are her concerns about the social evils that corrupt Cuba.
The Firefly Letters, a story about slavery and the oppression of women is revealed through the voices of; Fredrika Bremer who decides to travel to Cuba, Cecelia a young African slave and Elena the privileged daughter of a slave-owning family. Although the element of hope for change lingers through the pages, it is through the astonishing actions of Elena that the reader is presented with a vision of hope and optimism.
The story is based upon the diaries and letters of Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish writer and women’s activist who spent three months travelling around Cuba in 1851.
For more information on Margarita Engle’s visit her website.
review by Janice
image by Edu-tourist
In 2009, the London based Poetry society exhibited the world’s largest “knitted” poem, which was created by over 1000 knitters and crocheters from all over the world. The poem selected was Dylan Thomas’ In my Craft or Sullen Art” where the poet writes about being compelled to write for the sake of writing, rather than pecuniary gain. The knitted poem was created to mark the centenary of the Poetry Society and is still being toured through the U.K. It shows how powerful the intersection between art and writing can be - society member Judith Palmer summed up the impact poetry can make by saying “Most poems are small, but the significance they can play in our cultural and emotional lives can be huge”. See the story of the knitted poem on the Poetry Society’s website where you will also find a nifty interactive application that allows you to virtually “knit” your own poem. Try the following:
flickr image by audreym
Michael Rosen should be cloned. Imagine doppelgangers of this brilliant, passionate, sensitive and ardent advocate for kids reading and poetry in every country. His latest collection Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things shows him at the peak of his poetry powers. Kids of all ages and adults can share this anthology on many levels. It reflects his prowess with words, family relationships that are recursive as his long suffering father tries to keep down the ‘noi iii s e’ and deliver the largely ineffectual Glare.
The easy, anecdotal conversational poems between mums and dads and teachers and kids are laced with irony and anarchy. Happy times and family life are simply and vividly described and questions that only kids can think are worth asking are milked to push adults over the edge. There is also depth of emotion and challenge to perceptions which encapsulate the power of poetry to make you ‘feel’. I cried at ‘Eddie Dream’. In many sticky teaching situations Eddie and I won kids who hated reading over.The poems about books encapsulate the wonder of words. Read this book aloud.
In Great Expectations:
‘Listen to this ’
my father said
And I can hear it all
wherever I go
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