William Taylor’s literary career began in the late sixties, while he was head teacher of a small country school in Hawkes Bay. Over five years he published six adult novels in New Zealand and England; an apprenticeship, he always said, for his novels for children.
Some 13 years and four early children’s books later, he won the Choysa Bursary for children’s writers in 1986, enabling him to write full time. Despite being variously at times a school principal, mayor of Ohakune, a restaurant owner and a solo father of two boys, he produced a steady stream of books, one almost every year.
The break-through book was Possum Perkins in 1987, published in the US as Paradise Lane and still in print there. Then came such classics: Break a Leg!, The Worst Soccer Team Ever!, Making Big Bucks, I Hate My Brother Maxwell Potter, The Porter Brothers, Supermum & Spike the Dog and another, Knitwits, which continues to do well in the US.
His finest comic book, Agnes the Sheep, appeared in 1990, soon followed by the first of what he called his ‘serious’ books, Beth and Bruno, followed by The Blue Lawn, a ground-breaking and at the time controversial study of a relationship between two teenage boys and the first Kiwi YA book to be ‘stickered’ by booksellers with a warning about its graphic content.
For two decades Bill was a sought-after visitor to schools under the New Zealand Book Council’s Writers in Schools scheme. He was president of the Society of Authors for three years, later its President of Honour, and mentored writers’ groups in Taumaranui and elsewhere.
Two of his books made it to the small screen: The Worst Soccer Team Ever and Break a Leg were together serialised as All for One. The Blue Lawn was also adapted as a play in Wellington. His final years of publishing saw some light-hearted picture books, but his last YA novels, especially Jerome, Scarface and the Angel, and the tough read which he ironically titled The Land of Milk and Honey, dealt with dark themes. His last work was a well-reviewed memoir, Telling Tales: a Life in Writing, in 2010.
Bill’s novels won him international honours: Italy’s Premio Andersen, for the Italian translation of Agnes the Sheep; a six-month fellowship to the University of Iowa; invitations to international writers’ festivals in Melbourne and Chautauqua, New York State; and the inclusion of several of his novels in lists of ‘best books’ compiled annually by the American Library Association and the International Youth Library in Munich.
In 2004 he was awarded an ONZM for services to literature and the community. He died in September 2015.
- The Chrysalis (Robert Hale 1974).
- Pack Up, Pick Up and Off illustrated by Alan Howie (Price Milburn 1981).
- My Summer of the Lions (Reed Methuen 1986).
- Shooting Through (Reed Methuen 1986).
- Possum Perkins (published as Paradise Lane in the USA) (Ashton Scholastic 1987).
- Break a Leg! (Reed Methuen 1987).
- The Worst Soccer Team Ever! (Reed Methuen 1987).
- Making Big Bucks (Reed Methuen 1987).
- I Hate My Brother Maxwell Potter (Heinemann Reed 1989).
- Agnes the Sheep (Ashton Scholastic 1990).
- The Porter Brothers [Porter Brothers, book one] (Collins 1990).
- Supermum & Spike the Dog [Porter Brothers, book two] (HarperCollins 1992).
- Beth & Bruno (Ashton Scholastic 1992).
- Knitwits [Charlie Kenny, book one] (Ashton Scholastic 1992).
- Fast Times at Greenhill High (Puffin 1992).
- Zigzag: New Zealand Stories editor (Penguin 1993).
- S.W.A.T.: The Southside War Against Terrorists [Porter Brothers, book three] (HarperCollins 1993).
- The Blue Lawn (HarperCollins 1994).
- Numbskulls [Charlie Kenny, book two] (Ashton Scholastic 1995).
- Annie & Co. and Marilyn Monroe (Puffin 1995).
- Fatz Katz illustrated by Trevor Pye [Fatz Twins, book one] (HarperCollins 1995).
- Circles (Penguin 1996).
- Nick's Story (Shortland Street Books 1996).
- Fatz Twins and the Haunted House illustrated by Trevor Pye [Fatz Twins, book two] (HarperCollins 1996).
- Fatz Twins and the Cuckoo in the Nest illustrated by Trevor Pye [Fatz Twins, book three] (HarperCollins 1997).
- Hark: The Herald Angel [Charlie Kenny, book three] (Scholastic 1997).
- At the Big Red Rooster (Longacre Press 1998).
- Jerome (Longacre Press 1999).
- Hot Mail with Tessa Duder (Puffin 2000).
- Crash!: The Story of Poddy (Scholastic 2000).
- Scarface and the Angel (Longacre Press 2000).
- Spider (Longacre Press 2002).
- Albert illustrated by Ross Kinnaird [Kiwi Bites] (Puffin 2003).
- Albert the Cat illustrated by Ross Kinnaird (Puffin 2005).
- Gladys the Goat illustrated by Ross Kinnaird [Kiwi Bites] (Puffin 2005).
- Land of Milk and Honey (HarperCollins 2005).
- Telling Tales: A Life in Writing (HarperCollins 2010).
Esther Glen Award 1988 Shortlist for Possum Perkins.
Italian Premier Andersen Award 1991.
Esther Glen Award 1991 Medallist for Agnes the Sheep.
Esther Glen Award 1993 Shortlist for Knitwits.
AIM Children’s Book Awards 1993 Junior Fiction Shortlist for Supermum & Spike the Dog.
AIM Children’s Book Awards 1995 Senior Fiction Winner for The Blue Lawn.
Esther Glen Award 1995 Shortlist for The Blue Lawn.
AIM Children’s Book Awards 1996 Junior Fiction Shortlist for Numbskulls.
AIM Children’s Book Awards 1996 Senior Fiction Shortlist for Annie & Co. and Marilyn Monroe.
Esther Glen Award 1996 Shortlist for Numbskulls.
Esther Glen Award 1996 Shortlist for Annie & Co. and Marilyn Monroe.
University of Otago College of Education Writer in Residence 1998.
Storylines Notable Book Awards 2000 Senior Fiction List for Jerome.
White Ravens List 2001 for Scarface and the Angel.
Storylines Notable Book Awards 2001 Junior Fiction List for Crash.
Storylines Notable Book Awards 2001 Senior Fiction List for Scarface and the Angel.
Storylines Notable Book Awards 2003 Young Adult Fiction List for Spider.
White Ravens List 2003 for Spider.
Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit 2004.
Storylines Notable Book Awards 2006 Young Adult Fiction List for Land of Milk and Honey.
White Ravens List 2007 for Spider.
Storylines thanks zeald.com for their ongoing support of the Storylines website.