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Cooper, Jennifer
Writer's File

Jennifer Cooper

Canterbury - Waitaha
Cooper, Jennifer
In brief
Jennifer Cooper is a prolific children’s book illustrator. With a background in graphic design, Cooper has illustrated numerous picture books, including Rugby for Rosie (written by Frances Adlam), The Mad Tadpole Adventure (by Melanie Drewery) and Joy Cowley’s Duck Walk. Cooper has spent time in Western Samoa, and she enjoys producing illustrations relevant to Pasifika and Māori children.
  • Primary publisher
    Scholastic New Zealand
  • Rights enquiries
  • Publicity enquiries


Cooper, (Jenny) Jennifer (1961 – ) is a freelance illustrator and has been so for the past fifteen years.

Jenny Cooper grew up in Wellington but trained in Christchurch Polytechnic as a graphic designer. Her first job, at Canterbury Museum, was weaving flax kete, rain capes, and piu piu.

Initially working as Jenny Lautisi (her Samoan married name), she was still a student when her first book, The Birthday Party (Wendy Pye, 1991), was published. She has worked freelance since 1998, interspersing illustration for junior fiction with illustration for educational books and trade publishing. She tutors on occasion at the University of Canterbury and Christchurch Polytechnic.

Cooper won the 1998 New Zealand Post Student Stamp Design award and the 1998 Telecom New Zealand White Pages Art Award. She has been short-listed twice in the LIANZA Russell Clark Illustration Awards, for The Pipi and the Mussels by Dot Meharry (Reed, 2001) and Down in the Forest by Yvonne Morrison (Scholastic, 2004). The Mad Tadpole Adventure (Scholastic, 2007), by Melanie Drewery and illustrated by Cooper, was nominated in the junior fiction category for the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was listed as a 2008 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

Her other awards include: the Storylines Notable Books 2000 Picture Book list for The Wooden Fish, the Storylines Notable Books 2002 Junior Fiction list for The Great Pavlova Cover-up, the Storylines Notable Books 2003 Picture Book list for Duck Walk, the Storylines Notable Books 2008 Junior Fiction list for The Mad Tadpole Adventure, the Storylines Notable Books 2008 Picture Book list Special Mention for The Illustrated Myths & Legends of the Pacific, the Storylines Notable Books 2011 Picture Book list for Ria the Reckless Wrybill, and in 2015 won two Storylines Notable Book Awards- for A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children (edited by Paula Green) and for Jim's Letters (written by Glyn Harper).

Cooper's illustrations have been influenced strongly by the three years she spent in Western Samoa teaching at Samoa High School. She enjoys producing illustrations that have a realistic style pertinent to Pasifika and Māori children.

The National Library review of Illustrated Myths and Legends of the Pacific states: 'Jennifer Cooper makes interesting use of traditional Pacific Island patterns and motifs in her artwork, and every page has an illustration of some kind.'

Cooper works in a wide range of styles, from realistic, photographic based styles, to loose and fun cartoons. She says she enjoys the variety and contrast this brings to her working day.

‘Each new book is completely different and a new adventure. I love developing the different characters for each book, and I begin each one thinking it will be my best, although illustration is a complicated art and there is always a huge gap between what I see in my head, and what I produce on the page. I particularly love drawing animals of all sorts, although I am in fact scared of almost all large animals, which makes my research difficult. I collect New Zealand art and illustration, love to garden and am a keen but bad potter, and I’m trying to convince my partner to let me keep chickens (which I am also scared of, but I like eggs).’

Most recently, Cooper has gifted her artistic talents to the titles A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children (2014), Roly the Anzac Donkey (2015), Wishes and Worries (2015), and Maia and the Worry Bug (2015).

Scheduled for release in 2016 is Rasmas (with the Maori title of Ko Rama), written by Elizabeth Pulford and illustrated by Jenny Cooper.

Cooper’s titles include (from most to least recent works): Illustrated On a Rabbit Hunt (Scholastic, 2009), a follow up to Shut the Gate, both written by Elizabeth Pulford; Peter and the Pig, written by Simon Grant (Scolastic, 2008); Rugby for Rosie (Malinson Rendell, 2008) is written by Frances Adlam; Myths and Legends of the Pacific by AW Reed (Reed, 2007); Better Together by Yvonne Morrison (Random House, 2007); The Mad Tadpole Adventure by Melanie Drewery (Scholastic, 2007); Catty Bimbar and the New –Age Pirates by Thomas Perry (Macmillan Education Australia, 2006); The Littlest Llama by Jane Buxton (Mallinson Rendel, 2006); Shut the Gate by Elizabeth Pulford (Scholastic, 2006); McGregor by Rachel Hayward (Scholastic, 2005); The Rescue by Monique Martin (Macmillan Education Australia, 2004); Show Me A Shape by Pam Holden (Red Rocket Books, 2004); What Can You Read? by Pam Holden (Red Rocket Books, 2004); Fruit For You by Pam Holden (Red Rocket Books, 2004); Pockets by Pam Holden (Red Rocket Books, 2004); Down in the Forest by Yvonne Morrison (Scholastic, 2004); The Fiddle Maker by Catherine Harold (Macmillan, 2002); Duck Walk by Joy Cowley (Scholastic, 2002); The Mean Octopus by Janet Slater Bottin (Murdoch Books, 2001); The Pipi and the Mussels (Nga Kutai Me Pipi) by Dot Meharry (Reed, 2001); The Great Pavlova Coverup: NZ Stories for Children edited by Jo Noble (Whitcoulls, 2001- listed as a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book); Goodbye, Adios, Sayonara and Ciao by Rita Golden Gelman (Scholastic, 2001); A Day with Emily Emeryboard by Ben Smith (Macmillan, 2000); My Family Tree by Janine Scott (Shortland, 2000); Festival Fun by Rachel Blackburn, Janne Galbraith & Paul Reeder (Lands End, 2000); Jellylegs by Elizabeth Pulford (Scholastic, 2000); School Days, Cool Days: Two Stories of Classroom Fun by Jeanette Cunis (Shortland, 2000); Just the Bee’s Knees By Janine Scott (Shortland, 2000); I Spy by Lynette Evans (Shortland, 2000); Dear Grandma by Avelyn Davidson (Shortland, 1998); Munching Monster by Lynette Evans (Shortland, 1998).