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Ron Bacon

Ron_Bacon.jpgRon Bacon (1924–2005) was one of New Zealand’s most prolific writers for children with more than 100 titles to his credit, yet he was also one of our most unsung authors. His first children's book, The Boy and the Taniwha, was published in 1966 and at his death nearly 40 years later he had at least three books in progress. There were many more – some completed, some works in progress, and many in note form – found by his wife, Leigh, in drawers and corners around their home. Wherever he went he took small notepads with him. ‘We'd be driving along,’ Leigh said, ‘and he’d say, “Jot this down” and give me a few words to jot on the small pad that was always in the glove box. It was an idea for a book.’
Ron was born in Australia (as was Leigh), coming to New Zealand with his family when he was seven. Their families became friends and both bought businesses at Waihi Beach. Ron's father was a grocer and the plan was that his son would go into partnership with him. But the war intervened and Ron was away overseas when he was just 18. Ron and Leigh were married in 1949 and settled down to manage the family grocer’s. They also took on a carrying business and Leigh found herself bagging coal and chopping firewood until the local school teacher suggested to Leigh that Ron should be teaching. ‘He took a lot of persuading but eventually he agreed and he began at Ardmore the first year it opened,’ Leigh said. They set up a caravan in a paddock near the college and lived there for the three years of his training. Their elder son, Len, was born there. Later there was another son, Carl, and a daughter, Anne.
Ron's first posting was to Katikati, and then they moved to Kohuratahi, a tiny backblocks sole-charge school which was later brought to life in Ron's In the Sticks and Along the Road, amusing and amazing accounts of life for a young family in a ‘corrugated iron barn of a place in a far back valley’ (from a talk he gave to the CLA in 1974). It was here that he became concerned at the dearth of books with Māori content to encourage and interest Māori children. So he began writing. His first book, The Boy and the Taniwha, followed by Rua and the Sea People, were milestones in our children's book history. And Ron just kept writing – Māori legends, folklore, created stories, series, trilogies, fact-based books – all with Māori influence, all with the aim of encouraging young people in the knowledge and understanding of language and culture. He held to strict standards for the titles published in his name, insisting on a Māori illustrator and himself choosing Para Matchitt for those first two books.
Much of Ron’s work was published for book clubs and was therefore not readily available through normal bookshop outlets, hence he was less known and appreciated by the wider readership. There are more Māori-interest books being published now, more respect for those values that Ron wrote and taught about for so many years; and many of his books are now being made available again by Waiatarua Press. This can only serve to enrich the body of New Zealand literature available to our children.

Selected bibliography:
  • The Boy and the Taniwha illustrations by Para Matchitt (Collins 1966).
  • Rua and the Sea People illustrated by Para Matchitt (Collins 1968).
  • Again the Bugles Blow illustrations by V.J. Livingston (Collins 1973).
  • The House of the People illustrations by Robert Jahnke (Collins 1977).
  • Hatupatu and the Bird Woman illustrated by S.J. Woods (Collins 1979)
  • The Fish of Our Fathers illustrations by Robert Jahnke (Waiatarua Publishing 1984).
  • Hemi Dances illustrated by Sharon O'Callaghan (Waiatarua Publishing 1985).
  • Wind illustrated by Philippa Stichbury (Ashton Scholastic 1985).
  • Hotu-puku illustrated by Frank Bates (Waiatarua Publishing) 1985
  • Ruru and the Green Fairies illustrated by Frank Bates (Waiatarua Publishing 1985).
  • The Home of the Winds illustrations by Robert Jahnke (Waiatarua Publishing 1986).
  • Maui and Kuri illustrated by Frank Bates (Waiatarua Publishing 1985).
  • Little Pukeko and the Tiki illustrated by Frank Bates (Waiatarua Publishing 1985).
  • Bay illustrated by Sandra Morris (Ashton Scholastic 1987).
  • Legend of Kiwi illustrated by Steve Dickinson (Waiatarua Publishing 1987).
  • Fisherman's Tale illustrated by Steve Dickinson (Waiatarua Publishing 1988).
  • Waikaremoana illustrated by Steve Dickinson (Waiatarua Publishing 1988).
  • Tangaroa and the Tekoteko illustrated by Steve Dickinson (Waiatarua Publishing 1988).
  • Clay Boy illustrations by Chris Gaskin (Hodder & Stoughton 1989).
  • Hemi and the Whale illustrations by Sharon O'Callaghan (Waiatarua Publishing 1988).
  • Banjo Man illustrated by Kelvin Hawley (Ashton Scholastic 1990).
  • Three Surprises for Hemi illustrated by Anita Vink (Waiatarua Publishing 1990).
  • Kite illustrated by Kelvin Hawley (Hodder & Stoughton 1991).
  • Hemi, the Skateboard and Susquatch Harrison illustrated by Richard Hoit (Waiatarua Publishing 1992).
  • Taniwha illustrations by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1995).
  • The Naming of the Land illustrations by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1998).
  • The Fierce and Greedy Woman: A Story from North Island's East Coast illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • Peketua's Egg: A Story from North Island's East Coast illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • Two Taniwha illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • Monoa and the Birds: A Story from North Island's West Coast illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • Mountain of Fire: A Story from the Mount Tongariro illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • The Woman Who Was Like a Man: A Story from North Island's East Coast illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • Maui's New Hook: A Story of Maui illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • How Gourds Came: A Story from the North illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • When Tieke Danced illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • Te Tahi and the Rain: A Story from Whakatane illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 1999).
  • The Great Jellification at the House of Ebenezer illustrated by Richard Hoit (Waiatarua Publishing 2002).
  • The Woman Whose Son was a Taniwha: A Story from Rotorua illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004).
  • Hapopo and the Pohutukawa: A Story of the Canoes illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
  • Haumia and his Kumara: A Story of Manukau illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
  • Moana and Kiwa: A Legend of the Sea illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
  • How Weaving Came: A Story from Hauraki illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
  • The Maero, the Very Fierce People: A Story from the Wild Mountains of Aotearoaillustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
  • Matakauri the Giant Killer: A Story of Wakatipu illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
  • Mohoao, the Fierce Fairy Person: A Story from the Forests of Whanganui illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
  • Pania, the Woman from the Sea: A Story from Hawke's Bay illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
  • Parata the Taniwha: Another Legend of the Sea illustrated by Manu Smith (Waiatarua Publishing 2004). 
Awards:
  • New Zealand Picture Book of the Year 1985 for The Fish of Our Fathers.
  • CLA Award for Services to Children's Literature 1994 (now the Storylines Betty Gilderdale Award).
  • New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards 1999 Non-fiction Shortlist for The Naming of the Land..  
 

Storylines thanks zeald.com for their ongoing support of the Storylines website.

Page checked and updated February 2013.

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