FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
Beale, Fleur (1945 –), author of teenage fiction, was born in Inglewood and educated there and at Victoria University and Christchurch Teachers’ College.
She now lives in Wellington. She has taught at Melville HS, at first intermittently, since 1985. She began her writing career with a small reader and picture book. (Her mother, Estelle Corney, wrote Pa’s Top Hat, 1980.)
In quick succession, Beale then produced novels with strong teenage appeal: Against the Tide (1993), Slide the Corner (1993), Driving a Bargain (1994), Over the Edge (1994), The Fortune Teller (1995) and Fifteen and Screaming (1995).
With an emphasis on various outdoor activities, such as rally driving and camping, and with characters intensely aware of their difficulties, social troubles and shortcomings, Beale shows her understanding of teenagers, male and female, and ability to motivate even reluctant readers.
Fleur Beale has received several grants from the QEII Arts Council (now Creative New Zealand). She was a finalist in the Aim Children's Book Awards Junior Fiction category with her novel Driving A Bargain.
I Am Not Esther (1998), Beale’s tale of a girl struggling to adjust to life with her fundamentalist Christian family, received an Honour Award at the 1999 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards. Beale is a former teacher who drew her inspiration for I Am Not Esther from a student's experience of being expelled from him strictly religious family.
In 1999, Fleur Beale was Writer in Residence at the Dunedin College of Education.
Ambushed (2000), was shortlisted in the Junior Fiction category for the 2002 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards. The novel was also listed as a 2002 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.
Beale's titles are The Great Pumpkin Battle (1988); A Surprise for Anna (1990); Slide the Corner (1992); Against the Tide (1993); Driving a Bargain (1993); Over the Edge (1994); The Fortune Teller (1995); Dear Pop (1995); the Rich and Famous Body and the Empty Chequebook (1995); Fifteen and Screaming (1995); Rockman (1996); I am not Esther (1998); Further Back Than Zero (1998); Keep Out (1999); Destination Disaster (1999); Playing to Win (1999); Trucker (2000); Deadly Prospect (2000); The Transformation of Minna Hargreaves (2007); My Life of Crime (2007); Juno of Taris (2008); No Time for Dreaming: Gilt Edge (2008); Quin Majik and the Marvellous Machine (2008); Ambushed (2000), was shortlisted in the Junior Fiction category for the 2002 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.
Lucky for Some (2002) is a book for 10-14 year olds about Lacey Turner, a city girl who moves to the country and must shift her prejudices if she wishes to accommodate her new life and friends. The work was listed as a 2003 Storylines Notable Senior Fiction Book.
Red Dog in Bandit Country was published in 2003, marketed as ‘A True Story as told by Bill Redding to Fleur Beale’. Bill (Red Dog) Redding flies a perilous payroll delivery to the heart of Colombian bandit country, then takes on dangerous work with a construction company where 'safety last' seems the motto. With a nose for adventure and an instinct for survival, Red Dog quickly makes his mark, but suddenly must flee for his life through bandit-riddled mountains. Red Dog's real life exploits are told in his own vernacular to writer, Fleur Beale.
Walking Lightly, illustrated by Michaela Sangl (Mallinson Rendel, 2004) is the story of Millie, a girl of extreme independence and resourcefulness. The other kids at school think she's just weird, but soon her extreme resourcefulness proves very useful indeed.
Beale released Lacey and the Drama Queens (Scholastic) in 2004. Ever since Lacey Turner went to Australia to be her cousin's flowergirl, her best friend Vanessa has been acting really mean - and when the new girl at school, Belinda, tells the girls that their beloved dance teacher doesn't know what she's doing, things get really tense. Lacey just wishes everything could get back to normal.
Beale's book My Story: A New Song in the Land - The Writings of Atapo, Paihia, C. 1840 (Scholastic, 2004), tells the tale of Atapo, who is captured as a slave when her tribe is defeated in battle. In order to save her own life, Atapo escapes to the Pakeha mission station at Paihia, where she is taught to read and write, and told of the threat to Maori by some unscrupulous settlers greedy for land. The work was listed as a 2005 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.
My Story: A New Song in the Land - The Writings of Atapo, Paihia, c. 1840 and Walking Lightly were both finalists in the Junior Fiction Category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2005. A New Song in the Land was also a finalist for The Esther Glen Award at the LIANZA Children's Book Awards 2005.
Beale published two books in 2006, the historical romance YA novel A Respectable Girl (Random House, 2006), and Saving Mr Spender (Mallinson Rendel, 2006). Also in 2006, Playing to Win (Scholastic) was reprinted with a new cover. A Respectable Girl was shortlisted in the Junior Fiction category for the 2006 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book.
The Transformation of Minna Hargreaves (Random House, 2007) deals with the effect being in a reality TV show has on a teenage girl's social life. It was also nominated in the young adult fiction category for the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was listed as a 2008 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book.
Fleur Beale won the 2007 Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for her first novel for children, Slide the Corner (Scholastic NZ, 1993).
Juno of Taris (Random House, 2008) is a post-apocalyptic book set in the bio-dome world of Taris, and centres on the plight of a troubled girl who struggles to comply with the rules and regulations set by the governing oligarchy. Juno was nominated in the Young Adult Fiction section of the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The work was also listed as a 2009 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book.
In 2009, Beale received the LIANZA Esther Glen Award for distinguished contribution to children's literature. In the same year, she received her second Gaelyn Gordon Award for I Am Not Esther.
Quin Majik and the Marvellous Machine (Mallinson Rendel, 2008), illustrated by Philip Webb, is a book about ignoring the Jones's and fitting in your own way.
Sins of the Father (Longacre, 2009) tells how one man’s unyielding vision casts a shadow in which his son, and other ‘victims’, must always live. Whether in the community or out of it, Phil continues to pit himself against the monstrous figure of his father.
Quin Majik and the Hairy Roof Rescue (Mallinson Rendel, 2009), illustrated by Philip Webb, continues the story of Quin Majik, as he unleashes his creative talents to rescue a neighbour from the roof.
End of the Alphabet (Random House New Zealand) was listed as a 2010 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. The work was a finalist in the young adult fiction category of the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Fierce September (Random House, 2010) was the Young Adult Fiction Category Award Winner at the 2011 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.
Fleur Beale won the 2012 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal for her outstanding contribution to New Zealand writing for children and young adults.
Her novel Dirt Bomb (Random House, 2011) was a finalist in the Young Adult Fiction category of the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
The Boy in the Olive Grove was published by Random House in 2012.
Speed Freak (Random House, 2013) was a finalist in the Young Adult Fiction category of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
I am Rebecca (Random House NZ, 2014) is Beale's sequel to I Am Not Esther. In his review in the Dominion Post, Bob Docherty wrote that I am Rebecca is 'A psychological thriller out of the top drawer with a stunning ending.' Lorraine Orman called the novel 'A riveting story of a teenage girl struggling to emerge from long-term repression and psychological abuse; it will surely become as popular as Esther's tale’ (Magpies).
Fleur Beale was named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in the 2015 New Year Honours list.
In July 2015 Beale’s latest novel Being Magdalene was published, as sequel to her earlier books I am Not Esther and I am Rebecca. Concerning the lives of a group of Pilgrim children, the novel traces the actions of 12-year-old Magdalene as she begins to distrust “The Rule” that the Elders uphold. Being Magdalene was a finalist for the Young Adult Fiction Award and the Children's Choice Young Adult Fiction Award in the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Lyla: Through My Eyes - Natural Disaster Zones was published by Allen & Unwin in March 2018. A gripping and personal story about one girl's experience of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and its aftermath, Lyla was the 2019 winner of the Educational Publishing Awards.
In 2021, Penguin published Beale's novel The Calling, based on the extraordinary nun Mother Mary Joseph Aubert, and the realities of religious bigotry in late-nineteenth century New Zealand.
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Fleur Beale’s website
- Fleur Beale at Penguin NZ
- Publisher's teaching resources for ages 12 plus: Fierce September, Dirt Bomb, Heart of Danger, I am not Esther, I am Rebecca, Juno of Taris, Speed Freak, The Boy in the Olive Grove
- Publisher's teaching resources for ages 14 plus: The Calling, Lyla: Through My Eyes