Werry, Philippa

Werry, Philippa



In Brief

Philippa Werry writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays for children and young adults, as well as articles, reviews and non-fiction for adults.
Werry was the winner of the Jack Lasenby Award in 2006, and the recipient of the NZSA mid-career writer's award in 2010.
Her work has been widely published, broadcast on National Radio, included in anthologies and shortlisted for a number of awards, including the 2004 Australian Bilby Awards, the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards (2009 and 2014),
the 2014 LIANZA awards and the NZ Book Awards for Children & Young Adults (2018).


Werry, Philippa (1958- ) is a librarian and children’s writer whose non-fiction, poetry, stories and plays have been widely published, and also broadcast on National Radio.

Werry’s work has appeared in the anthologies The Puffin NZ Story Book (Puffin, 1996), Funny Stories for 6 Year Olds (Macmillan, 1999), Another 100 Poems for New Zealand Children (Random House, 2001), Poetry Pudding (Reed, 2007), Showtime! (Random House, 2008), Out of the zone (Gilt Edge Publishing, 2009), Whispers in the wind [sound recording] (Wellington City Libraries, 2009), Pick n' Mix: Assorted Kiwi Stories, Volume 1 (Scholastic NZ, 2010) and Volume 2 (Scholastic NZ, 2011), Great Mates (Random House NZ, 2011), Stage adventures: eight classroom plays (Playmarket, 2015), Es war einmal… Grim(m) fairy tales for Aotearoa New Zealand (Goethe-Institut New Zealand, 2015), Bird words: New Zealand writers on birds (Vintage, 2017) and Wish upon a Southern Star: an anthology of radical retellings of fairy tales for young adult readers (2017).

Two books, Sun Bears Are Special and Mmm, Popcorn were published as part of the ‘Ready to Read’ series. My Little Sister and We Get Squished were both included in ‘Learning Media First Stories’. Werry has also written books in the 'Orbit Additions', 'Orbit Collections', 'Applications and choices' and 'New Heights' series' for Learning Media.

The Lost Watch by Philippa Werry with illustrations by Alice Bell (Scholastic, 2003) is described by Margie Thomson in the Weekend Herald as a ‘short, race-through story that will gladden the hearts of small boys’. It was also praised by Raymond Huber in New Zealand New Books: 'Werry’s description of family life has humour and is realistic…the slightly crazed, wide-eyed characters will (hopefully) attract the TV generation.' It was shortlisted in Australia for the 2004 Bilby Awards, the annual Children's Choice awards for the state of Queensland.

Werry’s second Scholastic book, Wonderful Wheels Day, also with illustrations by Alice Bell, was published in 2004.

Werry was the winner of the 2006 Jack Lasenby Award for her story 'Stopping for Charlie'.

The Great Chocolate Cake Bake-Off (Scholastic, 2007) is a story for 8-12 year olds about families, friendship and chocolate cake. The Children’s Bookshop newsletter describes it as 'A funny, fast-moving and delectable read for ages 10 plus about overcoming your fears.' The work was listed as a 2008 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

Enemy at the gate (Scholastic, 2008) is a historical novel for 10-14 year olds, set in Wellington and based around the polio epidemic of 1936-37. 'This is an excellent record of New Zealand society when a telephone and car were not part of the working class households and people relied on neighbours and extended family to cope with any crisis.' Magpies, Vol 23, Issue 2, May 2008, p.7 (NZ section) Enemy at the Gate was nominated in the Junior Fiction section of the 2009 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

A girl called Harry (Scholastic, 2010) was listed as a 2011 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

Anzac Day: The New Zealand story was published by New Holland Publishers in 2013. The book was a finalist in the Non-Fiction category of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and the 2014 Lianza Children's Book Awards, and was also listed as a 2014 Storylines Notable Non-fiction Book.

Lighthouse family (Scholastic, 2013) tells the story of Frances and her family, living on a lighthouse during the time of the threatened Japanese invasion in World War Two. It was listed as a 2014 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book, and like Harbour Bridge (Scholastic, 2014), it is part of the My New Zealand story series. Harbour Bridge was also listed as a Storylines Notable Book in 2015.

Best mates, a picture book illustrated by Bob Kerr, was published by New Holland Publishers in 2014. Barbara Murison reviewed the book, commenting that 'Philippa Werry and Bob Kerr have collaborated here to bring a graphic picture together in simple-but-telling words and stunning illustrations of the Gallipoli Campaign, of friendship, and of the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish soldiers who were involved.'

In 2015, Werry's non-fiction children's book Waitangi Day - the New Zealand Story: What it is and why it matters was published. Reviewing the events surrounding the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Waitangi Day is an informative and visually-appealing account of the most significant day in New Zealand's history. The book featured on the NZ Listener’s 50 Best Books for Kids list in 2015, and was a finalist for the Children’s Choice award in the 2015 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. Waitangi Day was listed as a Storylines Notable Book in 2016.

Armistice Day - the New Zealand Story: What it is and why it matters was released in February 2016. The third New Zealand Story title from Philippa Werry, Armistice Day commemorates the day that First World War fighting ceased in November 1918. Covering the final months of battle and the aftermath of war, the book is an engaging history that allows children to learn about an integral moment in New Zealand's past. Reviewing the book, Kathy Watson of BooksellersNZ said that Armistice Day " is an excellent resource for students of war, but more importantly, of peace”. Armistice Day was listed as a Storylines Notable Book in 2017.

Werry was the 2016 Friends of ANZAC Bridge Fellow, which enabled her to visit or be in contact with rural schools in New Zealand and Australia for literary purposes.

In 2014, she was selected to go to Gallipoli with Gallipoli Volunteers, whose role was to help at the Anzac Day dawn service at Anzac Cove and the New Zealand service at Chunuk Bair.

In December 2016, she went to Scott Base in Antarctica with the Antarctica NZ community engagement programme (formerly Artists to Antarctica) .

The New Zealand Wars was published in 2018 and was a finalist in the non-fiction section of the 2018 NZ Book Awards for Children & Young Adults.

The Children's Bookshop's Ruth McIntyre wrote: “We know more about wars fought in Europe than the 19th century battles that occurred in our own country and this enlightening new book helps to rectify that.”

Antarctic Journeys was published in 2019 and draws on her experience visiting Antarctica in 2016, as well as her fascination with the history of the early explorers.

The Telegram, also published in 2019, is set during the last years of World War One, including the Armistice, the peace celebrations and the dreadful influenza epidemic, as seen through the eyes of 14-year-old Beatrice Thomas. She has the tough job of being a telegram girl, often delivering the worst of news to families who had seen their fathers, brothers and sons go off to war.

In a review, Bob Docherty wrote 'Beaty is a treasure and good role model. Philippa Werry describes life at home with knowledge and accuracy in this very readable novel for primary, secondary and high school students."


Updated April 2016.