The Official Website of New Zealand writer Tessa Duder
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This is the official website of Tessa Duder.

Here you will find information and all the latest news about this New Zealand writer and her books.

Latest News
June 2024

NZ Children's and Young Adult Book Awards' finalists announced - The Sparrow listed

Tessa Duder's first YA novel in more than 20 years, The Sparrow, is one of five shortlisted for the Young Adult award of the 2024 NZ Children's and Young Adult Book Awards. 

'I am absolutely delighted,' says Tessa, 'especially given the long gap since the Tiggie Tompson series, though in that time I've published several non-fiction books. But The Sparrow as a true historical novel set in early Auckland gave me much pleasure to research and write, largely during the covid-19 lockdowns, and to have it shortlisted is a real bonus.'

The Sparrow was also shortlisted for the 2024 NZ Booklovers YA award, and won a 2023 Storylines Notable Book Award.  

For further background to The Sparrow see the news item (April 2023) below.  The awards will be presented in Wellington in August.    

Storylines Tessa Duder YA Award 2024

April 2024

The Storylines Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished young adult manuscript was awarded to Auckland writer Kiri Lightfoot at the Storylines Margaret Mahy National Awards Day in early April. 

Kiri's novel, Bear, was the unanimous choice (from a splendid 32 entries) of the new sponsoring publisher, Allen & Unwin, along with Tessa Duder and two expert Storylines judges. 'Wonderfully fresh and engaging,' was Tessa's verdict on Bear. It is Kiri's first YA novel following two successful picture books Ming's Iceberg and Every Second Friday published some years ago. Kiri's background includes working as an actor and screenwriter, and she has three school-age children. Bear will be published in 2025.  

April 2023

The Sparrow: new YA novel

Tessa Duder's new YA novel The Sparrow, launched in May 2023, is an historical novel set in rural England, Tasmania and the very earliest days of the settlement of Auckland 1840-41.  Although Tessa has published several non-fiction books, The Sparrow is her first YA novel since the Tiggie Tompson series twenty years ago.   

'Research for my 2015 biography Sarah Mathew: explorer, journalist and Auckland's 'First Lady' led me to think there was another story that could be told: what if a 13-year-old was among the settlers on the two ships in the harbour, alone and fearful of surviving in this raw new settlement. Auckland has a fantastic, if largely unknown founding story, as recorded by the indomitable Sarah Mathew, and it's here seen through the eyes of a young person recently escaped from the infamous Cascades Female Factory in Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania).

'The book is dedicated to all those unjustly and cruelly transported to Australia during the first half of the 19th century, often for only minor offences. Harriet survives Newgate Prison and the terrible 12,000 mile sea journey; through a series of misadventures she arrives in the Waitematã harbour when Auckland was declared New Zealand's new capital on 18 September 1840. The novel closely follows the true historical record through to April 1841, so I hope will be an entertaining read in conjunction with the new emphasis on teaching our country's history.'   

Published by Penguin Random House, The Sparrow will be available mid-May.   

For Notes useful to teachers, librarians and general readers, on the background and themes of The Sparrow, please go to Resource on top toolbar.   


April 2023

Storylines Tessa Duder Award
winner 2022

A brilliant new young adult novel, The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp by Auckland writer Leonie Agnew, was launched at the Storylines Margaret Mahy National Awards Day in Auckland on 2 April 2023.

Sadly, Tessa, isolating with covid-19, was unable to attend, but her message noted that Leonie's manuscript had been the unanimous choice of the judging panel and the sponsoring publisher Walker Books Australia. 'We were not surprised to find after judging (all Storylines MS awards are judged blind) that it was Leonie, a multiple award-winner in recent years with her junior fiction Super Finn, Conrad Cooper's Last Stand and most recently The Memory Thief. Her first YA book is a compelling contemporary story with more than a touch of fantasy and life-affirming magic.' 

It was wonderful, Tessa added, to see the award in her name nurturing and recognising such talent as Leonie Agnew and recent winners Tina Shaw, Christina Sanders and Gareth Ward. And for Storylines to have now introduced the new Tessa Duder Unpublished Writer's award, for an unpublished writer on the Tessa Duder Award shortlist. It will be first awarded in conjunction with the upcoming 2024 award. 


Two awards for Tessa Duder

June 2020

Tessa Duder was among the recipients of civil honours announced in the Queen's Birthday list for 2020.  To her OBE from 1994 has now been added the Companion of New Zealand Merit (CNZM).  The medal was presented by the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at Government House, Auckland - small private ceremonies for each recipient were arranged because of Covid-19 to replace the usual larger gatherings in Wellington. It was an intimate and very moving experience for me and my five family guests, says Tessa.  

November 2020

The 2020 Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement have been announced, with the award for Fiction going to Tessa Duder. Leading Mãori academic and author Sir Timoti Karetu won the award for Non-Fiction and Wellington poet Jenny Bornholdt the award for Poetry.  Each award carries a prize of $60,000. 

It was hoped that the awards could be presented early in the New Year, but a panel event featuring the three winners, hosted by John Campbell, was held online in November and can be accessed on YouTube and on the Creative New Zealand website.    


April 2021

2020 Tessa Duder Award winner

The 2020 Storylines Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished young adult manuscript, sponsored by Walker Books Australia, has been won by Hawkes Bay writer Cristina Sanders. Her winning entry was Displaced, a lively historical novel set in 19th century Kaipara area. 'It was a stand-out among the entries,' says Tessa, 'and a worthy winner as New Zealand renews its enthusiasm (long forgotten) for teaching our country's history in schools.'  Cristina's first novel Jerningham focussed on Jerningham Wakefield, 'wild child' of the founding Wellington Wakefield family. 

Covid-19 restrictions prevented Christina from receiving her award in person at the Storylines event usually held in March, but an online event can be viewed at www.storylines.org.nz. Storylines and Walker Books will launch Displaced sometime later in 2021. 

July 2019

First Map: How James Cook charted Aotearoa New Zealand

Tessa Duder's latest non-fiction book is a handsomely produced narrative of how Lieutenant James Cook created the first chart of Aotearoa New Zealand. The beautiful illustrations are by the acclaimed Dunedin artist David Elliot.

The hardback large format book has been published by HarperCollins, timed to coincide with Tuia - Encounters 250, the commemorations of Cook's arrival in New Zealand in October 1769 being held nationwide from October to December.   

Since it was published in a 1773 book on Pacific exploration and by the Admiralty in 1816, James Cook's chart of New Zealand has long been regarded as one of the most extraordinary achievements in the history of cartography. First Map: How James Cook Charted Aotearoa New Zealand tells the human story behind the creation of the famous chart, following the progress of Cook's six-month circumnavigation of New Zealand over the summer of 1769-70 and piecing the map together as the narrative on H.M.B. Endeavour unfolds.

It is a story of courage and dogged perseverance, demonstrating Cook's extraordinary skills as both cartographer and seafarer and how his encounters with Mãori hapu (disatrous at first, but subsequently ranging from mutually respectful to friendly) taught him much about Mãori life and their rich culture.  

Read more on News page »

July 2019

Alex the Quartet - new omnibus edition out now

Alex QuartetThe four books making up the Alex Quartet have been re-issued in one handsome volume by the exciting new Auckland-based children's publisher One Tree House. 'I am absolutely delighted to see these back in print, in large format and with a splendid new cover,' says Tessa. 

A new generation of young people will now be able to follow the fortunes of teenage swimmer Alex Archer covered in the four books: Alex (1987), Alex in Winter (1989), Alessandra: Alex in Rome (1991) and Songs for Alex (1993). 

The books have long been regarded as New Zealand classics.  The first was adapted for a 1993 movie, Alex starring Lauren Jackson, and appeared in US, UK and several languages. All four won major New Zealand children's book awards.

Read more on News page »

July 2019

Ursa by Tina Shaw wins Storylines Tessa Duder YA Award 2018 

The 2018 Storylines Tessa Duder Award for an original young adult manuscript was launched at the Storylines national awards ceremony in Auckland in April 2019.

'Tina Shaw is an accomplished novelist and her manuscript Ursa was a clear winner. It's a dysopian story chillingly told and very timely in these uncertain days, when democracy everywhere is under threat,' says Tessa.  'The sponsoring publsher Walker Books Australia have given it a stunning cover and expect it to do well on both sides of the Tasman.'

The judges were two Walker editors, two experts in YA books appointed by Storylines, and Tessa Duder. The award with guarantee of publication and $1500 prize money is again being offered in 2020, with the deadline for manuscripts 31 October 2019. For more information visit www.storylines.org.nz

Read more on News page »

April 2016

Storylines Tessa Duder YA Award
to exciting new writer

The 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award for an original young adult manuscript was presented to Havelock North bookseller and magician Gareth Ward at the Storylines national awards ceremony in Auckland in April.

'His manuscript, for a "steampunk" sci-fi novel set in Victorian England, was a clear winner,' says Tessa, 'and will be published by the sponsoring publisher Walker Books Australia in August 2017. The judges, two Walker books editors, two experts in YA books appointed by Storylines, and myself, were particularly delighted that our winner was a new and unpublished writer, even though this year the award was opened up to all New Zealand writers.'

Read more on News page »

August 2015

Sarah Mathew

Sarah Mathew: Explorer, Journalist and Auckland's 'First Lady'

Tessa Duder's latest book is the biography of one of New Zealand's founding pioneers, whose contribution to the founding of Auckland (and New Zealand) has never been fully and rightfully acknowledged.

'I am grateful to the Auckland Council, staff at Auckland Libraries and publisher David Ling for their support in making sure Sarah Mathew's fascinating and poignant story is brought back into the public record in this 175th anniversary year of the founding of New Zealand and specifically, Auckland,' says Tessa.

'Much of the information, resulting from some "lucky breaks" in my researching, tracking down Mathew family members in both UK and New Zealand, is completely new. I'm very happy to be adding a strong woman's voice to the historical record which, frankly, has traditionally side-lined or ignored the female experience.'

The book was launched at the Auckland Public Library on 18 September, the anniversary of the very day Auckland was proclaimed the capital of the new British colony.

Read more on News page »

November 2014

Out on the Water – Twelve Tales of the Sea

Out on the Water – Twelve Tales of the Sea

For her first children's fiction in ten years, Out on the Water – Twelve Tales of the Sea, Tessa Duder takes readers on a variety of exciting (and sometimes scary) experiences out on the waters around New Zealand's coasts. This brand-new collection of original sea stories, illustrated by leading illustrator Bruce Potter and published by Peter Dowling of Libro International (an imprint of Oratia Press), is on sale nationwide from November 7.

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A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children

November 2014

A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children, edited by Paula Green, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Noted Auckland poet Paula Green has edited a marvellous new Treasury for Random House New Zealand, A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children – and it includes Tessa Duder's narrative verse ‘The Cat who's Known as Flea’, about a cat who feels unwanted by his family.

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November 2013

Across the Tasman in a tall ship Spirit of New Zealand

In October 2013 Tessa Duder sailed across the Tasman Sea in the tall ship Spirit of New Zealand, taking part in the very first Tall Ships Race from Sydney to Opua.

For an account of her voyage - four days' battling through a 40 knot gale, ghosting around North Cape and enjoying socialising with ships from other nations (Australia, UK, Holland etc) go to the Resource pages.

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June 2012


The Story of Sir Peter Blake


The Story of Sir Peter Blake by Tessa Duder – this new biography of New Zealand's most famous long-distance sailor is being published in July by Libro International, an imprint of Oratia Media.

Read more on News page »

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Last updated 25/10/14 © Tessa Duder.