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Bishop, Gavin
Writer's File

Gavin Bishop

Canterbury - Waitaha
Bishop, Gavin
In brief
A children’s author and illustrator of more than 60 books, Gavin Bishop ONZM has won numerous national and international awards for his distinctive ink and watercolour illustrations and original stories. The Storylines Gavin Bishop Award was established in 2009 in recognition of his contribution to children's literature. He was awarded the Order of New Zealand Merit for services to literature in 2013 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in education from the University of Canterbury in 2016. In August 2018, Gavin's non-fiction book, Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, took out the top honour at the Children and Young Adult book awards. Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story also won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award. In the same year, Gavin was awarded Ngā Tohu ā Tā Kingi Ihaka (Sir Kingi Ihaka Award) for his contribution to Māori art and culture.
  • Primary publisher
    Penguin Random House; Scholastic; Gecko Press
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Bishop, Gavin (1946 - ) is a children's book author and illustrator. He has won numerous national and international awards. Born in Invercargill, Bishop went on to attend the Canterbury University School of Fine Arts, graduating with Honours in 1967. Since then, his distinctive ink and watercolour illustrations have appeared alongside his original texts and those of critically acclaimed New Zealand authors, and accompanied his retellings of traditional folktales, fables and Māori legend.

Bishop's illustrations have been exhibited at international shows from Japan to Czechoslovakia, and he has appeared as a teacher and guest speaker at many international forums.

Bidibidi (Oxford University Press) was first published in 1982 and adapted to a television series of the same name, which first aired in 1990. Produced in Dunedin by TVNZ's Natural History Unit, now NHNZ, Bidibidi follows the adventures of a sheep on a South Island station for two series. The book was republished by Scholastic in 2014. In 1985 he was commissioned to write and design a ballet for the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company - the result of which was Terrible Tom, which toured the country for 18 months. Another ballet, Te Maia and the Sea Devil, ensued in 1987. In an adjudicatory capacity, Bishop has sat on the panel for the Noma Concours competition multiple times, and has loaned his expertise to numerous artistic and literary festivals and workshops within New Zealand.

He has been awarded numerous grants, including 1993 Arts Council Grant, International Cultural Exchange Scheme to the USA; the 1998 Creative New Zealand Project Grant; the 2002 Smash Palace Art and Science Collaboration Grant with the HIT Lab, Canterbury University; and the 2004 Creative New Zealand Project Grant.

Gavin Bishop has been shortlisted as an author and illustrator for New Zealand's premier book awards on many occasions. Bishop won the 1982 Russell Clark Award, now part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, for Mrs. McGinty and the Bizarre Plant (Oxford University Press, 1981). He was also awarded the 1982 Esther Glen Medal, now part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, for his illustrations in Katherine O'Brien's The Year of the Yelvertons (Oxford University Press, 1981). Other awards include the 1983 New Zealand Government Publishing Awards New Zealand Picture Book of the Year Award, now the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and the1984 Noma Concours Grand Prize for Mr Fox (Oxford University Press, 1982); New Zealand Picture Book of the Year for Hinepau (Ashton Scholastic, 1993); and the 2000 Children's Literature Foundation of New Zealand Margaret Mahy Lecture Award, now known as the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal Award for Kia ora Professor Cole, which appeared in The Inside Story: Yearbook (Children's Literature Foundation of New Zealand, 2000). Bishop also won the 2000 Spectrum Print Award for the Best Use of Illustration in a New Zealand Book, and appeared on the prestigious White Ravens List 2000 for The Video Shop Sparrow (Scholastic, 1999) and again in 2005 for Taming The Sun: Four Māori Myths (Random House, 2004).

The House That Jack Built (Scholastic, 1999) won Book of The Year and Best Picture Book at the 2000 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, now known as the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. In placing the words of the traditional nursery rhyme alongside pictures illustrating the colonisation of New Zealand, Bishop created a visual text which was lauded by critics and judges alike for the way in which its 'image and narrative counterpoint each other and invite readers/viewers to further explore the complexity of visual storytelling'.

Bishop followed these successes with Stay Awake, Bear! (Scholastic, 2000), which was shortlisted in the Picture Book Category for the 2001 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Bishop illustrated Robert Sullivan’s textual retelling of Māori legends, Weaving Earth & Sky: Myths and Legends of Aotearoa (Random House New Zealand, 2002), which won Book of the Year and Best in Non-Fiction at the 2003 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The book was also shortlisted for the 2003 LIANZA Elsie Locke Medal, now part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

In 2003, together with Catherine Chidgey, Bishop took up the Ursula Bethell Residency at Canterbury University.

Bishop was the 2004 Sylvia Ashton Warner Fellow at the University of Auckland.

Bishop supplied illustration to Joy Cowley’s 2004 children’s book The Little Tractor (Scholastic, 2004), and to Jean Prior’s The Waka (Scholastic, 2006). The Waka was selected as a joint finalist in the Picture Book Category of the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Bishop wrote and illustrated Taming The Sun: Four Māori Myths (Random House, 2004), which retold four essential Māori myths: 'Māui and the sun', 'Kahu and the Taniwha', 'Māui and the big fish', and 'Rona and the moon'. Taming The Sun: Four Māori Myths was a finalist in the picture book category at the 2005 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults, and a finalist for the 2005 Russell Clark Award. Riding The Waves: Four Māori Myths (Random House, 2006) contains four further legends; 'Māui finds his family', 'Māui and the goddess of fire', 'Hatupatu and the birdwoman', and 'Rata and his waka'. Counting the Stars: Four Māori Myths (Random House), was published in 2009, and retells the legends of 'Ranginui and Papatānuku', 'Hinemoa and Tātānekai', 'the battle of the birds' and 'Kae and the whale'.

Bishop represented New Zealand at the World Summit Award 2005 with ‘Giant Jimmy Jones’. Bishop's story was transformed from a printed book into a three-dimensional, animated virtual experience. The book was developed while Bishop was the Ursulla Bethell writer in residence in Canterbury.

Kiwi Moon (Random House, 2006) won the 2006 Russell Clark Award. 'Kiwi Moon has all the appeal and promise of a future folktale classic', said the judging panel. 'It is an outstanding example of how text and illustrations can be interwoven to produce a marvellous whole.' Kiwi Moon traces the story of a little white kiwi that looks to the similarly-coloured moon as his mother-figure, with Bishop locating the kiwi in a changing Māori world where intertribal warfare, Pākehā interference, and the extinction of wildlife feature.

Venturing into the realm of early autobiography, Bishop wrote and illustrated Piano Rock (Random House, 2008) to immortalize his childhood memories from the railway town of Kingston. Piano Rock won the 2009 PANZ Book Design Award in the children's category.

Many of Bishop's works have been listed in the Storylines Notable Book Awards: Tom Thumb (Random House, 2002), The Three Billy Goats Gruff (Scholastic, 2004), Taming the Sun: Four Māori Myths (2005), Kiwi Moon (Random House, 2006), The Waka (Scholastic, 2006) and its Te Reo Māori version as joint finalists, Te Waka (Scholastic, 2006), Riding the Waves: Four Māori Myths (Random House, 2007), Snake & Lizard (Gecko Press, 2008), Rats! (Random House, 2008), Piano Rock (Random House, 2009), Counting the Stars: Four Māori Myths (Random House, 2009), There Was a Crooked Man (Gecko Press, 2010), Cowshed Christmas (Random House, 2010), Friends: Snake & Lizard (Gecko Press, 2010).

The Storylines Gavin Bishop Award was established in 2009. It aims to encourage the publication of new and exciting high-quality picture books from New Zealand illustrators. It also recognises the contribution Gavin Bishop has made to the writing and illustrating of children’s picture books and gives an emerging talent the opportunity to benefit from his expertise.

Gavin Bishop has published numerous retellings of classic fairy tales and Māori legends, many of which have been published in multiple editions. These retellings include Mother Hubbard (Oxford University Press, 1986); The Three Little Pigs (Ashton Scholastic, 1990); The Lion and the Jackal, text by Beverley Dietz (Scholastic, 1991); Little Red Rocking Hood, text by Jeff Leaf (1992); Māui and the Sun (North-South Books, 1996); The Wedding of Mistress Fox, (North-South,1996); Māui and the Goddess of Fire, (Scholastic, 1997); The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (Shortland Publications, 1999); The Three Billy-Goats Gruff (Scholastic, 2003); and There was an Old Woman (Gecko Press, 2008).

Other works include Chicken Licken (Oxford University Press, 1984); The Horror of Hickory Bay (Oxford University Press, 1984); A, Apple Pie (Oxford University Press, 1987); Katarina (Black Cat Books, 1990); Spider, illustrations by Peter Stevenson (Wendy Pye, 1995); There is a Planet, illustrations by Andrew Trimmer (Wendy Pye, 1995); The Cracker Jack, illustrations by Jill Allpress (Wendy Pye, 1995); Cabbage Caterpillar, illustrations by Jim Storey (Wendy Pye, 1996); I Like to Find Things, illustrations by Neil Vesey (Wendy Pye, 1996);The Secret Lives of Mr and Mrs Smith, illustrations by Korky (Wendy Pye, 1997); Jump into Bed, illustrated by Craig Brown (Shortland, 1997); Little Rabbit and the Sea (North South Books, 1997); Good Luck Elephant (Wendy Pye, 1998); Mice Like, illustrations by Astrid Matijasevic (Wendy Pye, 1998); It Makes Me Smile, illustrations by Emanuela Carletti (Wendy Pye, 1998); Rhymes with Ram (Lands End Publishing,1998); The Lucky Grub, illustrations by Jim Storey (Wendy Pye, 1999); Woodchuck's New Helper, text by Joy Cowley (Scholastic, 1999); The Big Race, text by Joy Cowley (Scholastic, 1999); The Lost Sock, text by Joy Cowley (Scholastic, 1999); Video Shop Sparrow, text by Joy Cowley (Scholastic, 1999); Pip the Penguin, text by Joy Cowley (Scholastic, 2001); and Cowshed Springtime: A Kiwi Counting Book (Random House, 2010).

Quaky Cat (Scholastic, 2010), written by Diana Noonan and illustrated by Gavin Bishop, was a response to the 2010 Canterbury earthquake. Fifty percent of Scholastic’s proceeds from the book, plus Noonan and Bishop's royalties, were given to the Christchurch Women’s Refuge and Te Tai Tamariki, a Christchurch-based literacy programme.

Bruiser (Random House, 2011) received a 2012 Storylines Notable Picture Book Award, and its sequel, Bruiser and the Big Snow (Random House, 2013) was Shortlisted for the 2014 Russell Clark Medal.

Bishop's collaborations with Joy Cowley have been published to critical acclaim; Snake & Lizard (Gecko Press, 2007), was awarded Best in Junior Fiction and Book of the Year at the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults; Cowshed Christmas (Random House, 2010) was a finalist in the picture book category of the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults; and Friends: Snake & Lizard (Gecko Press, 2010) was the Children's Choice Junior Fiction Category Winner.

A Te Reo Māori edition of The House that Jack Built was published by Gecko Press in 2012 as Koinei te Whare na Haki i Hanga. Mister Whistler (Gecko Press, 2012), written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Gavin Bishop, was awarded Best Picture Book at the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. Bishop received the 2013 Arts Foundation Mallinson Rendel Illustrator's Award.

In 2013, Bishop was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and was a President of Honour of the NZ Society of Authors 2013-2014.

Teddy One-Eye (Random House, 2014) continues the autobiographical trend that he previously established in Piano Rock (2008), leading the reader through the incidences and joys of his childhood. Footsteps through the Fog (Puffin, 2012) sees Bishop's illustrations alongside Margaret Mahy's original story, the royalties from which were donated by Mahy and Bishop to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.

Bishop once again collaborated with Joy Cowley for The Road to Ratenburg (Gecko Press, 2016).

Bishop received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater at the University of Canterbury’s Education, Health and Human Development graduation ceremony in December 2016.

In August 2018, Bishop won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award as well as the non-fiction prize for his book Aotearoa: A New Zealand Story. Writing in the The Listener, Anne Packer recommended it as "a monumental achievement, this, to sum up our history in 65 pages. My pick for NZ book of the year - make that the decade."

In November of the same year, he was awarded Ngā Tohu ā Tā Kingi Ihaka – Sir Kingi Ihaka Award, which recognises a lifetime contribution to strengthening Māori art and culture.

In 2019, an illustrated companion volume to Aotearoa was published: Wildlife of Aotearoa, winning the 2020 NZ Booklover's Best Children's Book Award 2020, a Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Award in the same year, and entering the IBBY Honour List in 2022.

Also published by Penguin, a companion activity book appeared in 2020. The Amazing Aotearoa Activity Book features more than 60 games, puzzles and activities in a highly engaging and colourful format.

In 2021, Bishop's Atua: Māori Gods and Heroes was published by Penguin, a stunning, once-in-a-generation compendium introducing readers to the pantheon of Aotearoa's gods, demigods and heroes.

In the same year, Gecko Press published Bishop's board colourful books for young children: Mihi, Pops and Koro.

    December 2023
    December 2023