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Bixley, Donovan
Writer's File

Donovan Bixley

Bixley, Donovan
In brief
Donovan Bixley is a picture book creator, who has worked on more than 90 books in a broad range of genres, from his best-selling preschool books The Wheels on the Bus (Hodder Moa, 2010) and Old MacDonald’s Farm (Hodder Moa, 2011) to his international illustrated biographies Faithfully Mozart (PQ Blackwell/Hodder, 2005) and Much Ado About Shakespeare (Upstart, 2016). He has won numerous awards, including Best Junior Fiction at the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards For Children and Young Adults for his hybrid comic/novel, Monkey Boy (Scholastic, 2015), which was also named by the International Youth Library as one of the top 200 children’s books in the world. His books are sold in 25 countries and his work has been exhibited in New Zealand, Germany and Taiwan.
  • Primary publisher
    Upstart Press; Hachette NZ; Scholastic.


Bixley, Donovan (1971 - ) is a picture book creator, who has worked on more than 90 books in a broad range of genres. He was born in Perth, Australia, but returned to New Zealand with his parents as a child, and now lives with his wife and three daughters in Taupō. A keen artist from early childhood, he graduated with a Bachelor of Graphic Design from AUT, and since 1994, has worked as a graphic designer, illustrator and author.

Bixley’s first book as an illustrator was Harry Hobnail and the Punga People (Hodder Moa, 2002), written by the late Barry Crump, which was Highly Commended in the 2003 Spectrum Book Design Awards. A sequel, also penned by Crump, Mr Tanglewood and the Punga People, followed in 2005, and in the same year, Bixley published his first illustrated adult biography, Faithfully Mozart (PQ Blackwell/Hodder, 2005), which was a finalist in the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, Illustrative category. Reviewer, Steve Trotman, said, “Bixley has done for Mozart what artist Ralph Steadman did for Leonardo da Vinci in the 1980s. He has added the man to the legacy. An astonishing book, celebrating an outstanding man.”

Between 2007 and 2009, he illustrated three more books for children, all published by Scholastic: Wacko Kakapo, and The Tuatara and the Skink, both written by Yvonne Morrison, and A Right Royal Christmas written by Lucy Davey. In 2010, Bixley penned and illustrated a New Zealand version of The Wheels on the Bus (Hodder Moa), which has become a perennial bestseller.

In 2011, Bixley illustrated Northwood (Walker Books) by Brian Falkner, and Phoebe and the Night Creatures (Scholastic) by Jenny Hessell, as well as producing a collaborative picture book: The Story of Bo and the Circus that Wasn’t (Scholastic): the public was invited to write the story over a two month period by posting online. The thousands of posts were selected and edited by Kyle Mewburn, with Bixley creating the illustrations week by week. Later in the year Bixley released another Kiwi take on an age-old children’s classic, Old MacDonald’s Farm (Hodder Moa), called “an entertaining and interesting homage to the rural background of this country [that] will be treasured by old and young alike.”

In 2011, Bixley also began his collaboration with Kyle Mewburn on the internationally successful Dinosaur Rescue series, which now totals nine books. Bixley and Mewburn also collaborate on the Dragon Knight series, the latest of which, Dragon Knight #4: Dragons! was released in 2015. Both series are published by Scholastic.

In 2012, he illustrated another Brian Falkner book, Maddy West and the Tongue Taker (Walker Books), which was a 2013 Storylines Notable Book, plus he wrote and illustrated The Looky Book (Hodder Moa), full of Kiwiana ‘I spy’ puzzles.

The Three Bears (Sort Of) (Scholastic, 2013), written by Yvonne Morrison and with Bixley’s illustrations, won the Children’s Choice Award at the 2014 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards, receiving two-thirds of the thousands of votes cast. It also won the Children’s Choice Award at the 2014 Western Australian Young Readers Book Awards, and was a 2014 Storylines Notable Book.

That year also saw the release of Bixley’s wordless book about climate change, The Weather Machine (Hachette, 2013), a 2014 Storylines Notable Book, and his first time illustrating for the late Margaret Mahy, with her book Dashing Dog (Harper Collins, 2013).

Bixley’s award-winning innovative hybrid Monkey Boy (Scholastic 2014) combined traditional novel and comic sections. “As an author and illustrator,” said Bixley, “it was a natural format for me to be drawn to as there are things that each art form does better than the other.” Children’s book reviewer, Trevor Agnew, said, “Donovan Bixley writes as well as he draws.”

Monkey Boy won Best Junior Fiction in the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards For Children and Young Adults, was a 2015 Storylines Notable Book, and was Highly Commended in the 2015 PANZ Book Design Awards. It also received a White Raven Award from the International Youth Library in 2015, placing it amongst the top 200 children’s books in the world.

Recently, Bixley has worked on three more takes on traditional fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) (Scholastic, 2015) with writer, Yvonne Morrison, and Bo Peep and More (Upstart, 2014), and Pussycat Pussycat and More (Upstart, 2015), both of which he wrote and illustrated himself.

Several books were published in 2016: a second illustrated biography, Much Ado About Shakespeare (Upstart), which won the Russell Clark Award for best illustration at the 2016 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults; The Great Kiwi ABC Book; Bixley’s Flying Furballs series (Upstart); and Fuzzy Doodle (Scholastic) written by Melinda Szymanik.

In 2018, he published The Great Kiwi 123 and How Maui Fished Up the North Island (Upstart Press) the first title in the ‘Tales of Aotearoa’ series. The following year, How Maui Slowed the Sun.

Aside from his children’s books, since 2000, Bixley has also illustrated over 100 short stories, articles and short books for various educational publishers, including Learning Media and MacMillan.

In 2020, Bixley completed his Flying Furballs series with Nine Lives (Upstart Press); as well as Maui and the Secret of Fire, with bilingual text.

In 2021, he published a drawing how-to book Draw Some Awesome (Upstart Press)packed with humour, fun, technical tips and ideas for budding artists.

That year, he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year's Honours List for services to Children's Literature

Bixley is also the singer and percussionist for 13-piece funk-jazz ensemble, and plays guitar, piano and saxophone. He would like to have more time for windsurfing, yoga and volleyball.


Bixley, Donovan
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