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JOY COWLEY

"Children need to see themselves and their own culture in their literature."

JOY COWLEY

Joy Cowley – wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother – is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and celebrated author of children’s books.


Growing up in Foxton, Joy attended Palmerston North Girls High School and lived near Palmerston North until 1970. Her first after-school job, at age 16, was editing the children's page of the Manawatu Daily Times. She began writing stories for children in the mid-1960s when one of her sons had difficulty learning to read.


The author of the much-loved Mrs Wishy Washy and Greedy Cat, Joy has written more than 1100 titles, including picture books, short stories and novels for children as well as novels and stories for young adults and adults. Her first novel, Nest in a Fallen Tree (1967) was made into the film The Night Digger (1971) by Roald Dahl, starring Patricia Neal. Six more novels for adults followed, and a collection of short stories Heart Attack (1988).


Apart from school readers, her children’s books include The Duck and the Gun, Brodie, The Screaming Mean Machine, Red-Eyed Tree Frog, Chameleon,Chameleon and Manukura the White Kiwi. Children novels include The Silent One, Bow Down Shadrach, Hunter and Chicken Feathers.


Joy, who also writes books of spiritual reflection, is a patron and trustee of Storylines, the Children's Literature Foundation of New Zealand (CLFNZ). Her book for new authors, Writing from the Heart, is a fundraiser for the organisation.


Joy has won many awards for individual books and stories including three times winning the Book of the Year at the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. In 1992 she was made an OBE for her services to children’s literature.  In 1993, she received an honorary doctorate from Massey University and the Margaret Mahy Award; in 2005, she was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand order of Merit (DCNZM). In 2010, she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction.


Joy still carries a warm sense of debt to Palmerston North Girls High School (PNGHS), and to the faculty of the English Department of Massey University who continued to affirm and form the young writer.  PNGHS still had an annual Joy Cowley Short Story Award for senior students.


More that 50 years of visits to schools worlwide has increased an appreciation of our New Zealand system of education. At the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, Joy dedicated her opening speech to the teachers of New Zealand who value a child’s potential and do not sacrifice sacrifice creativity on the altar of conformity.

 

Photograph of Joy by Bruce Foster. Reproduced with permission of Penguin Books (NZ)


www.joycowley.com
 

"At Palmerston North Girls High, I came under the influence of strong women teachers who encouraged initiative and independence. Katie Birnie, my Latin teacher was very kind a glorious mixture of intelligence and eccentricity. Elaine Worth gave me the run of the art room and talked as though I was an equal."

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