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  • Joy CowleyAuthor–New Zealand

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Joy Cowley was born, eldest of five children to parents with challenging health issues, in the small township of Levin, New Zealand August 7, 1936. Although she had an active imagination telling bedtime stories to her siblings, reading was challenging. When one of her sons struggled to read, Joy wrote stories that appealed to him, which were soon shared with local school teachers. In 1978 the New Zealand Department of Education invited Joy Cowley to a workshop where she and illustrator Robyn Belton began to work on their first Greedy Cat story. Greedy Cat exemplifies Joy's consummate skill as a writer for emergent readers. In Cowley's own words:

Children learning to read need to see themselves as successful long before they are in fact fluent readers. They need a real story that is interesting, entertaining, educationally and emotionally supportive, a story that is child-centred.

Meanwhile, Joy Cowley collaborated with Sunshine Books publisher, Wendy Pye, to publish Mrs Wishy-Washy as a Sunshine Book Story Box reader that Wendy sold into the American market at the Bologna Book Fair. First published in the United States in 1981, it has sold millions of copies throughout the world. Despite the international success of her own stories, Joy Cowley is adamant that children need stories that reflect their own communities. Consequently, she has worked with indigenous communities around the world, supporting them writing their own stories for children. In addition to supporting children's literature communities in New Zealand and the USA, Joy Cowley's expertise has been sought internationally for conferences, workshops, and as a consultant in Brunei, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore. She has an astonishing breadth of trade publications: picturebooks to young adult novels. The Duck in the Gun, an anti-war picturebook first published in 1969 in response to the Vietnam War, is still relevant to today's readers. With Red-Eyed Tree Frog, Joy Cowley's captivating text matches the astounding photographs by Nic Bishop. Snake and Lizard's genesis was when Joy was taking workshops in the American desert. She has described these stories as "all about friendship and how that comes about when we make an effort to understand and respect our differences."

Twists and turns of relationships feature in much of Joy Cowley's writing as does her love of the New Zealand countryside, particularly her beloved Marlborough Sounds; both feature in Dunger where Cowley explores family relationships with wit, warm humor and wisdom. Cowley's enormous contribution to children's literature has been recognised with some of New Zealand's highest honours: Order of the British Empire (OBE) 1992 for services to children's literature, Distinguished Companion to the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM) 2005, New Zealand Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction, 2010 and the 1993 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal. She is the Patron of Storylines Children's Literature Charitable Trust of New Zealand which, in 2002, established the Joy Cowley Award for a picturebook manuscript. [End Page 30]



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