Nagelkerke, Bill

Nagelkerke, Bill



In Brief

Bill Nagelkerke is a prolific children’s writer, translator and former librarian. His stories, poems and plays have appeared in many New Zealand anthologies. Nagelkerke has published work in the School Journal, in Learning Media’s Choices books and in the New South Wales School Magazine. His work has also been broadcast on National Radio’s ‘Storytime’ and various children’s television programmes, including Playschool. In 2006 and 2008, nominated by Storylines, he was a member of the international jury for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards. In 2010, he won Highly Commended for Nitty Gritty Novels in CLL’s Educational Publishing Awards, and in 2013 Nagelkerke was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award in recognition of his dedicated contribution to children’s literature and literacy in New Zealand. He is available to visit schools as part of the Writers in Schools programme and can lead Professional Development sessions for teachers.


Nagelkerke, Bill (1958 - ) is a children’s writer, translator and former children’s librarian living in Christchurch. ‘I suspect I’m one of those writers,’ he says, ‘who thinks, deep down, that the story should do the telling, not the person who wrote it. Nevertheless I know from talking with other writers, and children in schools, that making the connection between the story and the writer is important.’

Nagelkerke’s stories, poems and plays have appeared in many New Zealand anthologies including I’m Glad the Sky is Painted Blue (1993); Claws & Jaws (2004); Down to the Sea Again (2005); Mischief & Mayhem (2005); Like Wallpaper (2005); Read Me Another One, Please! (2012); A treasury of New Zealand poems for children (2014); in the UK in The Hutchinson Treasury of Children’s Poetry (1998) and in Australia in Kids’ Night In (2003) and Short (2008).

Since 1985 Nagelkerke published work in the School Journal, in the New South Wales School Magazine, he broadcast stories on National Radio’s Storytime and wrote for various children’s television programmes including Playschool. His first book for children was Dream Boat (1997). It was followed by The Walk (2002), a ‘green level’ reader, an account of a walk from the city to the sea. The pictures, by Bruce Potter, show a landscape that will be familiar to those who know the Port Hills of Christchurch. Other educational books include A Good Idea (2005) and Dr Fox (2015).

Between 2003–2011 Nagelkerke published multiple titles, including Going Bananas (Kiwi Bites, Puffin, 2003), Egghead (Zigzag Series, Oxford University Press, 2006) and The Paint Job (Zigzag Series, Oxford University Press, 2006), Hot Money, a title in the Nitty Gritty series, was published in 2009 by Pearson. It is about a boy who ends up with the proceeds of a bank robbery and faces the moral dilemma over whether to hand the money in, or keep the money and use it to support his struggling family. . Continuing in the same series, Hippo Ears and the Stargazer (2011) is set in ancient Greece and is inspired by mathematician and astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, one of the first recorded people in history to suggest that the earth went around the sun.

Old Bones (Scholastic, 2006) was Nagelkerke’s first full length children’s novel. It is set in Christchurch by the banks of the Avon River. Reviewers have commented: ‘Bill Nagelkerke conjures up a classy ghost story…’ (The Dominion Post); ‘Unputdownable’ (Around The Bookshops); ‘This is writing of the highest quality, taking a difficult subject and making it exciting and moving’ (The Source). Old Bones was selected as a Storylines Notable Book for 2007.

Publishing in the notable fictional diary series, My Story, Nigelkerke’s novel Sitting on the Fence: The Diary of Martin Daly (Scholastic, 2007) tells the story of the controversial Springbok rugby tour in 1981. Sitting on the Fence was a finalist in the Junior Fiction section of the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (now known as the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults).

ACHUKAbooks, an e-book publisher based in the UK, launched its list in 2012 with Nagelkerke's speculative children’s novella The Field, about a girl who claims to have had a vision of Mary, the mother of God. One reviewer commented: 'The Field is a refreshingly original story . . . One thing that I particularly liked about the story was that the second part was told using different forms of media, including newspaper articles, letters to the editor and City Council meeting minutes...The ending leaves you wondering . . .' The Field was followed by a young adult novel, Demons about which KidsBooksNZ said: 'The prose is polished and readable, and the author handles the non-linear timeframe with aplomb . . . young adults who like intellectual challenges will find it interesting and thought-provoking.'

Nagelkerke self-published seven ‘print-on-demand’ books during 2016, including print versions of both The Field and Demons. Cauliflower Ears is a short novel about rival rugby teams, originally serialised by Christchurch City Libraries on its website in 2011. One young reader commented: 'The frist (sic) chapter is the real decider for the person reading it. So the first chapter has to matter more than the rest. This one I give an: A+.’ Magpies Magazine described it as ‘a warm-hearted story for ages 7-9.’ Emily's Penny Dreadful is a story within a story and features a girl who loves words and writing, and her writer uncle who is suffering from writer's block. Around The Bookshops said: ' . . . this one was so special . . . a story that will intrigue all young would-be writers – plus those not so young.' Magpies Magazine wrote: ‘This book is, in the very best sense, dreadful fun.’ In The Houdini Effect teenage Athens - lumbered with an embarrassing name, a father obsessed with house renovating and a younger brother equally obsessed with emulating his hero, the magician and escapologist Harry Houdini - is haunted by images that appear in the mirrors of the house in which her family is living. Magpies Magazine reviewed the book as: ‘delightfully witty and well-written . . . There are many moments that reminded me of Margaret Mahy: the acute ear for dialogue, the adroit narration, the sharp characterisation and the small descriptive touches that etch themselves into the reader’s memory.’ Egghead, and other surprises is a collection of stories and poems for ages 7 and up, most of which were originally published in the School Journal and other anthologies. One reviewer wrote that this is ‘a great resource for any junior school syndicate.’ A collection of (mostly) previously published stories for young adults, The tattooed sisters, and other stories, appeared at the end of 2016. Magpies Magazine described the stories ‘as memorable examples of short story writing . . . the [stories] are liable to latch on to you like burrs.’ Another review called it an ‘excellent book of short stories by an author who has shown mastery of this genre. [The stories] will appeal to a wide range of readers from primary intermediate age to high school and young adult.’ Several of these print-on-demand titles are also available as e-books.

Nagelkerke has also translated many books from Dutch into English, chiefly for Wellington’s Gecko Press, including several picture books by Leo Timmers; Wolf and Dog (2013) by Sylvia Vanden Heede, which according to Publishers Weekly, was 'gracefully translated by Nagelkerke, who renders even its rhymes and wordplay in natural-sounding English.' When my father became a bush by Joke van Leeuwen was named one of the best books of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews. Of The day no one was angry Booksellers NZ said: 'Kiwi author Bill Nagelkerke is the translator, and he has done a masterful job.' Timeline, an illustrated history of the world by Peter Goes, was published in 2015. A review on Booksellers NZ’s The Reader noted 'The time and effort that has gone into creating this thing of beauty is massive, and I thank Gecko Press for again delivering a book that will last the test of time.'

As well as writing for children, Nagelkerke has written reviews and articles for Reading Forum New Zealand, Talespinner, Magpies and New Zealand Libraries, and has contributed to The Cambridge Guide to Children’s Books (2001) and The Continuum Encyclopedia of Young Adult Literature (2005). In 2006 and 2008, nominated by Storylines, he was a member of the international jury for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards. An article about this experience appears in Magpies Vol. 23, Issue No. 3, July 2008. Nagelkerke was the convenor of the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards (now known as the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults) judging panel and, in 2013, was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award.


Nagelkerke is available to talk to students over the age of 5 as part of the Book Council's Writers in Schoolsprogramme. He is happy to discuss being a writer and a translator. Nagelkerke can give an introduction and talk, a reading and a Q&A session, a ‘gifted and talented’ talk, in addition to hosting writing workshops. He would prefer to talk to groups of around 30 students, with a maximum of 60 at any one time. He is prepared to travel out of town for Writers in Schools visits, and can lead Professional Development sessions for teachers.


Updated June 2017.