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Brown, Ben
Author photo: Sophie Taylor-Brown
Writer's File

Ben Brown

Canterbury - Waitaha
Brown, Ben
Author photo: Sophie Taylor-Brown
In brief
Ben Brown is an award winning children’s author, poet, short story/non-fiction/freelance writer, though he has never quite been able to work out what the various distinctions are, so he refers to himself primarily as a writer, yet he does display an occasional propensity toward performance poetry probably as a result of an overt desire to appreciate the sound of his own voice in the hope that others may share his apparent enthusiasm for it. He has performed throughout New Zealand and his work has been published around the world. Ben lives and works in Lyttelton.
  • Primary publisher
    Penguin Random House NZ
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Brown, Ben (1962 -) writes children's books, non-fiction and short stories for children and adults. Born in Motueka, he has been a tobacco farm labourer, tractor driver and market gardener. Since 1992, he has been a publisher and writer, collaborating with his wife, illustrator Helen Taylor, in most of his 17 publications.

Many of Brown's books have a strong New Zealand nature background. Brown and Taylor were short-listed in 2005 for the Te Kura Pounamu Award in the LIANZA Children's Book Awards for Ngā Raukura Rima Tekau Mā Rima, the Te Reo edition of Fifty-Five Feathers. The English edition was also shortlisted for the Russell Clark Award in 2005.

A Booming in the Night, written by Brown and illustrated by Taylor, won Best Picture Book at the 2006 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The judges report said that the book was 'a captivating, polished and deceptively simple package - a pictorially stunning book with an educational message that also manages to capture the cheeky personality of one of our endangered bird species.' The book also made the 2006 Storylines Notable Picture Book List.

Denis Welch said of Brown's autobiographical book A Fish in the Swim of the World, that 'this is a cut above most autobiographies, giving us a vivid picture of hard-working rural life and a wonderful portrait gallery of farm people and family characters.' (New Zealand Listener, September 30, 2006)

In 2008, The Apple was published by Penguin, illustrated by Tracy Duncan. It was listed as a 2009 Storylines Notable Picture Book.

The Sparrow and the Feather (Puffin, 2009) was illustrated by Helen Taylor.

Brown's other publications include: The Cat with no Tail (Shadowcatchers, 1992); The Penguin who Wanted to Fly (Shadowcatchers,1993); Who is Brian Bear (Shadowcatchers, 1996); Brian Bear The Bouncing Ball (Shadowcatchers, 1996); Natural New Zealand ABC Wallchart (Reed, 2002); Te Tahae o nga Tae (Reed, 2002); Thief of Colours (Reed, 2003); Natural New Zealand ABC (Reed, 2004); Pukeko counts to Ten Wall Frieze (Reed, 2005); Tuna Moemoea (Reed, 2005); Eel Dreaming (Reed, 2005); The Rainmakers (Reed, 2007).

Ben Brown was awarded the Māori Writer’s Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre for 2011.

On the Road to Tuapeka (Scholastic) was published in 2011. A junior picture book, On the Road to Tuapeka combines Brown's text and Scott Tulloch's illustrations. In the book, Heka the Weka meets Reka the Weka on the road to Tuapeka, and along with the rest of their friends (and a double-decker bus!) they undertake the rest of their journey.

In 2012 The Great Orlando (Scholastic) was published. Written by Ben Brown and illustrated by Helen Taylor, The Great Orlando tells the tale of Sunday Jones, whose family trials prompt him to enter a talent show as a magician.

2013 saw the publication of Brown's picture book The Story of the Ship Rat (Scholastic), illustrated by Helen Brown.

Brown's multimedia work Between the Kindling and the Blaze: Reflections on the Concept of Mana was published by Anahera Press in 2013. The book, which also includes a 10-track atmospheric CD, tackles mana, one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the Maori language. Paula Green said of the book in her NZ Poetry Shelfreview: "The poems, also a shelter for friends, family, whānau, are miniature edifices crafted with dignity and love. These poems become vessels for the poet’s loving kōrero. Mana is there between the kindling and the blaze, between an idea and an experience."

In January 2014 Brown's picture book Dogs of the Vastness: Lyttelton and the Ice Dogs of Antarctica was published. Illustrated by Trish Knowles, Dogs of the Vastness intersperses a fictional story with factual tidbits about dogs, Antarctica, and the role of port town Lyttelton.

In early 2020, Brown taught a creative writing workshop for the YPs (Young People) of Te Puna Wai ō Tuhinapo, an Oranga Tamariki Youth Justice Residence near Christchurch, as part of Read NZ's Writers in Youth Justice programme.

The project resulted in an anthology of the YPs poetry, edited by Brown and published by Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, entitled How the fuck did I get here? Soliloquies of youth.

In November 2020, Brown delivered the Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Pānui (previously the Book Council Lecture) about the project: If nobody listens then no one will know.

The talk was recorded and broadcast by RNZ as part of its Smart Talk series.

A second edition of the anthology, re-titled How did I get here? was published in the same month by The Cuba Press.

Ben Brown is the current Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador and a regular contributor to the Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Writers in Schools programme.

Brown lives in Lyttelton.