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Children’s celebrate National Poetry Day with The Crossing Poems

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29 August 2016


Children from schools in Masterton have joined with local illustrator and author Michelle O’Connell in celebrating National Poetry Day by writing poems commemorating the historic crossing of the Rimutaka Range by soldiers in World War One.

In the lead up to National Poetry Day on 26 August, Michelle visited local schools and kindergartens to share the history behind her book “The Crossing” published by BMS Books Ltd.  An illustrated children’s book, “The Crossing” relates the experience of walking over the Rimutakas as part of the commemoration of the marches made by soldiers from Featherston to Trentham on their way to the war.

After Michelle visited the schools for book readings the teachers followed up her work with the children writing poetry about the experience of walking over the Rimutaka Hills as a World War One soldier. 

The poems were put up with pictures for public display during an event held at the Masterton Public Library on National Poetry Day.

In a speech at the launch, Michelle said: “The children capture not only the detail of the physical march but also the emotional journey too.  Basically, they got it.”

Michelle’s great grandfather Albert was one of the soldiers who made the march, leaving a year-old daughter and a wife at home. 

“In this room, it is likely there are more descendants today of those marchers.”

Three of the young poetry readers during the event were descendents of Albert, her son Christopher from Douglas Park School, her nephew Jayden from Lakeview School, and her nephew Bailey from Fernridge School.

“We were lucky.  Although Albert was gravely ill with influenza while serving, he survived.  Many soldiers died of disease during World War One.  Had that been Albert’s fate too, then none of my family would be here now because my grandfather was born after the war.”

Michelle told the gathering that she was dreaming of being an illustrator before she could read. 

“I could read the pictures and understand the story being my favourite book, The Pied Piper of Hamlin.  When I learned to read my favourite story was Peter Pan, for the story of adventure. 

“If you have a dream, you have to work at it and never give up.  My dream took decades, and now I have new goals, new dreams to work towards.  The hardest part is not giving up.”

All those who participated were now writers.  What would they you do next?  Write more poems, stories, illustrate comic strips? 

“You have lunch time and play time, and what could be better to do than write, draw, read inside on a wet day or under a shady tree on a hot day.  All you need is paper and pencils. It is up to you.  If this is what you want to do, make it happen.”

Michelle picked five students, one from each class and presented them with certificates for their work.  Overall, Breea a student from Fernridge School received “The Hedley’s Poetry Award”, a book voucher donated by David Hedley to spent at Hedley’s Books in Masterton.

Michelle thanked Vietnam veteran Tweet Bird, the guest speaker and the originator of the idea to create the re-enacted march over the Rimutaka Hills in memory of the soldiers who marched. 

She also paid tribute to the teachers, saying they were responsible for the planning, writing, editing and presentation of the event, as well as Hedley’s Books and Sandy Green and the team from the Masterton Library for their support.


The following are the book details for The Crossing – Michael’s Story:

Book Details:

Author: Michelle O’Connell

12.7 x 22.3 cm (21” x 21” )

Full colour on white paper

50 pages

Publisher: BMS Books Ltd

ISBN: 978-0-473-35533-3

BISAC: Education, History

RRP: $20.00

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