James’s books (5)
Russell, James (1972 - ) is a children’s author. For over twelve years he worked as a journalist, columnist and editor, including for the New Zealand Herald Element. He is now a full-time Auckland-based writer, and father of two sons. Russell is also a book reviewer on the Jesse Mulligan Afternoons on National Radio.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Russell studied at the University of Otago before moving to Auckland to work as a journalist. Commuting on the train during a particularly damp month, Russell decided to write down some of the stories he had been telling his two young boys. Inspired by the enthusiastic reaction of his sons, Russell developed his stories into the Dragon Brothers Trilogy, a series for 3–7 year olds.
Teaming up with Auckland-based illustrator and artist Link Choi, Russell self-published his first children’s picture book The Dragon Hunters in 2012. In an innovative launch, Russell created 30 large paper mâché dragon eggs which he placed around the Auckland hillsides for children to find through clues posted on Russell’s website. The children received a free book when they discovered a dragon egg.
The story of brothers Flynn and Paddy, their dog Coco, and their dragon captured hearts across New Zealand. The Dragon Hunters was a finalist in the LIANZA Russell Clark Illustration Awards in 2013. The judges praised the ‘gorgeous and foreboding’ imagery and the inventive layout.
In 2013 the sequel, The Dragon Tamers, was released. Swings and Roundabouts magazine compared the book to Margaret Mahy’s There’s a Lion in the Meadow, a book which ‘will appeal to all those who seek adventure.’ A reviewer in Women’s Weekly reviewed the story as one of ‘creative rhymes and beautiful imagery.’ Doris Mousdale reviewed the book on 19 December 2013 as a ‘perfectly-pitched’ tale of adventure.
The last in the trilogy, The Dragon Riders, was published in 2014. Novelist Nicky Pellegrino reviewed the book as ‘a charming picture book for young children’ with ‘lots of actions and a poignant finish.’ With ‘stunning’ illustrations and a ‘wonderful story’ Christine Frayling in The Reader described The Dragon Riders as ‘a joy to read out loud.’
The three rhyming-verse stories became a bestselling trilogy. In a New Zealand first, Russell developed an augmented reality (AR) app to accompany his books. The AR app allows readers to hover their smart device above the page and see dragons and volcanoes come to life before their eyes – in a three dimensional magical map of Flynn and Paddy’s world.
In 2016, after becoming a full-time writer, Russell travelled to Italy to attend the Bologna Book Fair in search of a global publisher. It was a fateful trip, as his Dragon Brothers series will now be published in China, the US, Canada and the UK. The trilogy has now been published by Sourcebooks, and will also be published by China Youth Press. Russell completed a seven-city book tour of bookstores and schools in the US in 2017.
Continuing the story of Flynn and Paddy, albeit three years older and wiser, The Dragon Defenders (April 2017) is Russell’s fourth book and first children’s novel. Flynn and Paddy are challenged by an evil man from the mainland who threatens the dragons on their island, and they have to do everything they can to stop him. In May 2017 The Dragon Defenders was the top-selling children’s novel by a Kiwi author on the Nielson Bestsellers list.
The Dragon Defenders - Book Two: The Pitbull Returns was published in November 2017, The Dragon Defenders - Book Three: An Unfamiliar Place was published in August 2018. Book four, All Is Lost,was published in November 2019 and book five, The Grand Opening, was published in August 2020.
In 2022, Russell's book Children of the Rush was published and promptly named a Storylines Notable Book. Set in 1861, Children of the Rush is the story of Michael and Atarangi, two children caught up in the dangerous and adventurous world of the gold rush.
Regular updates can be found on Russell’s Dragon Brothers blog.
- Dragon Brothers Books
- Russell’s Blog
- Dragon Brothers Facebook
- Dragon Brothers Twitter
- Youtube – Dragon Brothers Trilogy Augmented Reality
- Youtube – Russell interviewed by Tamati Coffey
- TVNZ One News interview
- Radio NZ interview – ‘Kiwi self publishing success’
- Russell’s book reviews on National Radio: 23 May review, 14 February review, December 2016 review
- Dragon Brothers Books Reviews
- Publishers Weekly article
- #NZReadAloud teacher resources for James's books are available to download here