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Werry, Philippa
Writer's File

Philippa Werry

Wellington - Te Whanganui-a-Tara
Werry, Philippa
In brief
Philippa Werry writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays for children and young adults, as well as articles, reviews and non-fiction for adults. Her work has been widely published, broadcast on National Radio, included in anthologies and shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing three times, as well as the Text Publishing Prize in 2010 and the Joy Cowley Award in 2015, the 2004 Australian Bilby Awards, the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards (2009 and 2014), the 2014 LIANZA awards, and the New Zealand Children and Young Adults Book Awards (2016, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2023). Werry was the winner of the Jack Lasenby Award in 2006, and the recipient of the NZSA mid-career writer's award in 2010.



Werry, Philippa (1958- ) is a librarian and children’s writer whose non-fiction, poetry, stories and plays have been widely published, and also broadcast on National Radio.

Werry has been shortlisted for the Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing three times, as well as the Text Publishing Prize in 2010 and the Joy Cowley Award in 2015. She held the Michael King Writers Centre Easter residency in 2019, and was the winner of the 2006 Jack Lasenby Award for her story 'Stopping for Charlie'.

Werry’s work has appeared in a number of anthologies, including The Puffin NZ Story Book (Puffin, 1996), Funny Stories for 6 Year Olds (Macmillan, 1999), Another 100 Poems for New Zealand Children (Random House, 2001), Poetry Pudding (Reed, 2007), Showtime! (Random House, 2008), Great mates! (Random House, 2011), Es war einmal… Grim(m) fairy tales for Aotearoa New Zealand (Goethe-Institut New Zealand, 2015), Stage adventures: eight classroom plays (Playmarket, 2015), Wish upon a southern star: an anthology of radical retellings of fairy tales for young adult readers (2017), Bird Words: New Zealand Writers on Birds (Vintage, 2017), Somewhere a Cleaner (Landing Press, 2020), More than a roof (Landing Press, 2021) and Roar, Squeak, Purr: A NZ Treasury of Animal Poems (Penguin, 2022). She has written over one hundred pieces for the School Journal and Connected, as well as writing plays and stories for publishers such as Rainbow Reading, Essential Resources, Gilt Edge Publishing, South Pacific Press, Lift Education, Pearson Education (Australia), NSW School Magazine and Radio New Zealand.

Several books, including Sun Bears Are Special, Mmm, Popcorn” (in Pop! Pop! Pop!), Duckling Palace, Red Rattlers, Scarecrows from Space and Dawn Parade, were published as part of the ‘Ready to Read’ series. My Little Sister and We Get Squished were both included in ‘Learning Media First Stories’. Werry has also written books in the 'Orbit Additions', 'Orbit Collections', 'Applications’, ‘Choices' and 'New Heights' series' for Learning Media.

The Lost Watch by Philippa Werry with illustrations by Alice Bell (Scholastic, 2003) is described by Margie Thomson in the Weekend Herald as a ‘short, race-through story that will gladden the hearts of small boys’. It was also praised by Raymond Huber in New Zealand New Books: 'Werry’s description of family life has humour and is realistic…the slightly crazed, wide-eyed characters will (hopefully) attract the TV generation.' It was shortlisted in Australia for the 2004 Bilby Awards, the annual Children's Choice awards for the state of Queensland.

Werry’s second Scholastic book, Wonderful Wheels Day, also with illustrations by Alice Bell, was published in 2004.

The Great Chocolate Cake Bake-Off (Scholastic, 2007) is a story for 8-12 year olds about families, friendship and chocolate cake. The Children’s Bookshop newsletter describes it as 'A funny, fast-moving and delectable read for ages 10 plus about overcoming your fears.' The work was listed as a 2008 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

Enemy at the gate (Scholastic, 2008) is a historical novel for 10-14 year olds, set in Wellington and based around the polio epidemic of 1936-37. 'This is an excellent record of New Zealand society when a telephone and car were not part of the working class households and people relied on neighbours and extended family to cope with any crisis.' Magpies, Vol 23, Issue 2, May 2008, p.7 (NZ section) Enemy at the Gate was nominated in the Junior Fiction section of the 2009 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

A girl called Harry (Scholastic, 2010) was listed as a 2011 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

Anzac Day: The New Zealand story was published by New Holland Publishers in 2013. The book was a finalist in the Non-Fiction category of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and the 2014 Lianza Children's Book Awards, and was also listed as a 2014 Storylines Notable Non-fiction Book.

Lighthouse family (Scholastic, 2013) tells the story of Frances and her family, living on a lighthouse during the time of the threatened Japanese invasion in World War Two. It was listed as a 2014 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book, and like Harbour bridge (Scholastic, 2014), it is part of the My New Zealand story series.

Best mates, a picture book illustrated by Bob Kerr, was published by New Holland Publishers in 2014. Barbara Murison reviewed the book, commenting that 'Philippa Werry and Bob Kerr have collaborated here to bring a graphic picture together in simple-but-telling words and stunning illustrations of the Gallipoli Campaign, of friendship, and of the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish soldiers who were involved.'

In 2015, Werry's non-fiction children's book Waitangi Day - the New Zealand Story: What it is and why it matters was published. Reviewing the events surrounding the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Waitangi Day is an informative and visually-appealing account of the most significant day in New Zealand's history. The book featured on the NZ Listener’s 50 Best Books for Kids list in 2015, and was a finalist for the Children’s Choice award in the 2015 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. Waitangi Day was listed as a Storylines Notable Book in 2016.

Armistice Day - the New Zealand Story: What it is and why it matters was released in February 2016. The third New Zealand Story title from Philippa Werry, Armistice Day commemorates the day that First World War fighting ceased in November 1918. Covering the final months of battle and the aftermath of war, the book is an engaging history that allows children to learn about an integral moment in New Zealand's past. Reviewing the book, Kathy Watson of BooksellersNZ said that Armistice Day " is an excellent resource for students of war, but more importantly, of peace”.

In 2018, Werry published The New Zealand Wars with New Holland. It was shortlisted for the NZCYA Book Awards in 2018 and also included on the Storylines list of notable books for 2019. A revised edition was published in 2023 by Upstart Press. In 2019, Werry published Antarctic Journeys with New Holland. A revised edition was published in 2023 by Upstart Press. The Telegram, the story of 14-year-old Beaty who works as a telegram girl in World War One, was published by Pipi Press in 2019, and shortlisted for the NZCYA Book Awards. It received a Fiction Special Mention in the NZ Heritage Book Awards 2019, and was included on the Storylines list of notable books for 2020.

Our Incredible Dogs was published by New Holland in 2020, and reviewed by Trevor Agnew in Magpies, Vol. 35 No. 5: "Werry’s history books always contain small details that surprise me. She sees things that others overlook and then uses them to add zest to her work…This is a fascinating non-fiction book with a wide appeal."

Werry published two books in 2021: This is Where I Stand, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart (Scholastic), which was shortlisted for the NZCYA Book Awards and was included in the Storylines list of notable books for 2021. The Other Sister (Pipi Press) a sequel to The Telegram, was Highly Commended in the same list for 2022.

In 2022 Werry published The Water Bottle (Oratia), illustrated by Turkish artist Burak Akbay; Quarantine (a new edition of Enemy at the Gate (Scholastic; My NZ Story series); and Voices from Around the World: New Zealand (Norwood House) together with Andre Ngapo.

Her most recent title, Iris and Me (The Cuba Press), a verse novel about the life of New Zealand writer Robin Hyde, was a runner-up for the Laura Solomon Prize and shortlisted for the NZCYA Book Awards 2023. Werry answers School Library reviewer Kimberley Nielsen's questions about Iris and Me on the Read NZ Te Pou Muramura blog.

Werry was on the Board of the New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc) (NZSA) for six years, and Vice-President of the Board for two. She is on the NZSA list of mentors and assessors and has also worked as mentor and assessor for the Whitireia and NorthTec Creative Writing Programmes. She was judge of the Playmarket Plays for the Young Competition in 2019 and judged the NZSA Heritage Book Awards: Fiction in 2022. Philippa tutored the Massey University summer school paper in Writing for Children in 2022-23.

In 2014, Werry travelled with the Gallipoli Volunteers (a branch of Conservation Australia) to help with volunteer services at Gallipoli for Anzac Day. In 2016, she was awarded the Anzac Bridge Fellowship and developed a community project to link up the two WW1 bridges at Kaiparoro, northern Wairarapa, and Brooweena, Queensland. She also spent a week at Scott Base in December 2016 with the Antarctica community engagement programme run by Antarctica NZ (formerly Artists and Writers to Antarctica).

Werry lives in Wellington, and was a committee member of the Wellington Children’s Book Association (WCBA) for 15 years until it was closed in 2022. She is currently Chair of the Wellington Writers Walk, an initiative of the NZSA Wellington branch.

June 2023
June 2023