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Bennett, Jean
Writer's File

Jean Bennett

Bay of Plenty - Te Moana-a-Toi
Bennett, Jean
In brief
Jean Bennett is the author of 29 books, including children's books, non-fiction, short stories, poetry, and journalism. Many of her recent books have been published in the United States for the educational market, including series for National Geographic. Her writing for both adults and children has been broadcast on national radio. Bennett was awarded the 2003 Storylines/Betty Gilderdale Award for services to children's literature.


Bennett, Jean (1945 - ) is a children's author and writer of educational material with extensive experience in developing the creative writing talents of students.

Bennett’s recent books, a 'Kids Around the World' series for National Geographic (2007), includes the titles Hopes and Dreams: a Story from Northern Thailand, Stormy Seas: a Story from the Shetland Islands, and Erana’s Land: a Story from New Zealand. These realistic-fiction stories look at challenges that young people face in their homelands and how they make plans for their future.

In her 'Everyday Kids' series for National Geographic (2006), the theme is historical fiction for young readers. Each title in Bennett’s realistic-fiction series contains two contrasting stories. One story focuses on characters in ancient times, while the second story highlights contemporary society in the same location. Book titles in the series are: China, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mexico.

Below the Mountains, the Diary of Amy McDonald, Milford Road, 1935-36
(Scholastic, 2005) by Bennett is a title in the 'My Story' series. Fourteen-year-old Amy's life changes dramatically when, with her mother and brother, she joins her father in a road works camp deep in the Hollyford Valley. With only a canvas tent for shelter, they endure the extremes of cold, hunger, hardship and tragedy.

Among Bennett’s published books is the novel Call of the Selkie (1999), which was included on the 1999 NZ Children’s Book Foundation notable junior fiction list. She has written a number of fiction books for young people including The Lost Sandals (1999) and The Scary Day (1999); and non-fiction titles such as The Information Book (1993) and Explore the Environment (1995).

Her how-to guide for young people, The Writing Book (Scholastic, 1989), is still used widely in New Zealand and overseas by teachers and students of creative writing. The NZ Listener described it as 'A concise, readable guide... useful to children at primary and secondary school.'

Also a writer of journalism, short fiction and poetry for an adult audience, Bennett's work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, with poetry and prose appearing in several anthologies. Her work for adults and children has been broadcast on national radio. Bennett is also a qualified librarian and says she enjoys exploring libraries on Writers in Schools visits.

In 2008, Jean Bennett was a guest writer sponsored by Book Council at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Bali.

In 2003, Storylines awarded Bennett the Betty Gilderdale Award for services to children’s literature.

In 2001, she received life membership of Bookrapt, the Bay of Plenty Children's Literature Association.

Jean Bennett's latest publication Write Well (Essential Resources, 2012) is a teacher’s resource book, and offers tried and tested techniques from Jean Bennett’s three decades of encouraging students to develop their own creative writing, effective research and factual writing. Bennett believes even the most reluctant young writer can learn word wizardry.

What is Your Story? (Essential Resources, 2013) encourages students to focus on their family, community and cultural identity to explore their own background and heritage. Young people will develop their writing and inquiry skills while investigating their everyday lives, their memories, their family journeys, and their plans for the future. These are rich subjects for personal research as well as for family, group and class discussion.