Friday, August 08, 2008


As the Summer Olympics begin on this auspicious date, 08/08/08, our attention is focused across the globe. I thought it might be appropriate to spend a moment on an international poem collection, Poetry Pudding, from New Zealand. I first found out about this gem from a CHILD_LIT listserv posting this spring. The Storylines Children’s Literature Trust selects an annual list of New Zealand’s notable books for children chosen by a panel of children’s literature professionals including past and present members of the Storylines management committee, all of whom have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the field of children’s literature. Many have served as judges for the New Zealand Post Book Awards (and its previous incarnations) and the LIANZA children’s book awards.

The list (launched in 1999) comprises 10 books in each of four categories – picture books, junior and young adult fiction and nonfiction. These books represent the very best books for young people published in New Zealand during the previous year (2007).

Of course I peruse every “best” list for the inclusion of poetry, thus I was so pleased to find one title in the “Young Adult Fiction” category:
Poetry Pudding: A Delicious Collection of Rhyme and Wit edited by Jenny Argante, illustrated by Debbie Tipuna, published by Reed, now Raupo Publishing

I immediately went online to get myself a copy which was a bit more challenging than I expected, of course. Eventually, I ordered it through Raupo directly and was so excited to get my very own copy from across the planet. (I LOVE seeking out poetry from countries outside the U.S., particularly when it’s in English.)

Poetry Pudding did not disappoint. Its small trim size (roughly 4.5 x 6.5 inches) is fun and handy, easy to tote and tuck into a bookbag, purse, or pocket, and it contains over 100 poems from 44 contributors from some of New Zealand’s best and most interesting poets: Cliff Fell, David Hill, Jack Ross, James Brown, Paula Green, Jessica Le Bas, James Norcliffe, and many others. In her introduction, Jenny Argante explains that her aim was to collect poems by “Kiwi poets for Kiwi kids” organized around the alphabet, A to Z, but it didn’t quite work out. She writes, “In poetry… where you start from is not as important as where you end up” (p. 11). Love that line! The selections represent an amazing range, including poems by Maori poets. I found it impossible to select just one example, so I’ll be posting my favorites over the next three days, just for fun. Here are three gems to show the contrast in tone, style, and form in this excellent anthology.

Keeping the Peace
by Lee Dowrick


is hard to keep

if you’re a lion
at heart.

You will need to know

when not to roar.

when to stay in your den,

and how

to lie quietly


a tempting lamb.

p. 45

by Philippa Werry




frozen peas

frozen beans




jelly! toffee!




pasta and


corn chips!


pink iced buns!

chocolate! cheesecake!






ice cream!

Hey, just a minute,
what’s all this?

Who’s been writing

on my shopping list???

p. 114-115

The Long-Wait Queue
by Tracey Bingham

High I.Q.

Low I.Q.

We all still queue

in the long-wait queue.

In the bus queue

the tip-top queue
the lunch queue
the chip-shop queue.

In the grocery queue

the bank queue

the library queue
the endless queue.

High I.Q.

Low I.Q.

We all still queue

in the long-wait queue…

p. 143

Argante, Jenny. Ed. 2007. Poetry Pudding; A Delicious Collection of Rhyme and Wit. Ill. by Debbie Tipuna. Auckland, NZ: Reed Publishing.

I have extensive listings of international poetry for young people in my April 30, 2007 posting. And of course the shining star in this area is Naomi Shihab Nye, who has gathered gorgeous anthologies of poetry by voices around the world, including:
This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World (Four Winds Press, 1992)
The Tree is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico (Simon & Schuster, 1995)
The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings From the Middle East (Simon & Schuster, 1998) [adapted as The Flag of Childhood: Poems from the Middle East (Aladdin, 2002)]

Poetry Friday is hosted by my former student, Becky Laney, this week at Becky's Book Reviews. Go, Becky!

P.S. My apologies for being AWOL last Friday. I was being checked by the SpamBlocking police at Blogspot and finally passed muster! :-)

Picture credit:


Anonymous said...

How long did the book take to get to you? Having read your posts about it, I'm thinking that I need a copy.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hi, Kelly-- It didn't seem any longer than your usual Amazon shipment-- maybe 10 days? 2 weeks? And I have to warn you, with shipping it cost about $35 for this small paperback. I know that may seem crazy, but it's really a gem, and I don't regret the purchase one bit. How often can one share a bounty of poems by New Zealand poets with kids here? It's a find, IMO!

I feel the same way about the amazing collection from Ireland, SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH P--- which is a hardback from O'Brien Press and costs about the same. Another complete gem! FYI.

Anonymous said...

Ooh - thanks for the tip. Perhaps I'll order both!

Jenny Argante said...

Kia ora from Aoteaoa, the land of the long white cloud - someone has just brought to my attention your enthusiastic review of Poetry Pudding, which I had the great pleasure of compiling. I was thrilled that it has reached out across the world, which is exactly what poetry and storytelling should do.

Jenny Argante

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hello, Jenny! I'm so thrilled that you stopped by to comment. Thank you for giving us such a wonderful poetry ambassador from New Zealand. Will there be another? I hope so!

Jenny Argante said...

When I came to New Zealand nearly a decade ago I was bowled over by the poetry and short story writing in particular. But it's a difficult market to get published in. I keep getting excellent feedback on the present work in progress - The Poetry Activity Book - on the reading and writing of poetry, but no takers so far.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hang in there. Have you tried the Wright Group? Or Stenhouse Publishing? Or Heinemann? Or Richard C. Owen Publishing? I hope you find a publisher soon-- because I want to read that book! :-)

Jenny Argante said...

Thanks for that helpful list of names, Sylvia. I do want it to be New Zealand-based and New Zealand-biased. There are already many helpful books on the subject from America and the UK, but poetry is very much a thing that happens within a particular cultural context - don't you agree? - and therefore although I could extend to Australia without damaging that concept (they're just 'across the ditch', after all) I don't want to make it universal to the English-speaking world.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Yes, I appreciate that and applaud your efforts. I do agree that the cultural context is the richest. I wish you luck and will be watching for your next book.

You might also notice that I mentioned POETRY PUDDING in an online interview that was published yesterday at Cynsations:

Keep up the great work!