Tessa Duder was educated in Auckland and as a teenager swam butterfly for New Zealand at the 1958 Cardiff Empire Games. She then trained and worked as a journalist in Auckland and London before marrying and raising four daughters in London, Pakistan and New Zealand.
Tessa began writing fiction when she was 38. Her novels for young readers, published in America, Britain, Australia, Canada, and in five languages, include Night Race to Kawau, Jellybean, the Alex quartet, Mercury Beach, Hot Mail (with William Taylor) and the Tiggie Tompson trilogy. In 1993 Alex was adapted as a full-length movie. Her non-fiction books include anthologies for both young and adult readers and, in 2005, she published the first full-length portrait of Margaret Mahy. Other literary activities include occasional teaching, visiting schools, judging, and serving as a Trustee of the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust of New Zealand. She is a former Trustee and deputy chair of the Spirit of Adventure Trust.
Among her awards are three New Zealand Children’s Book of the Year awards and three Esther Glen medals, and she received the 2005 Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for Night Race to Kawau. She held the Waikato University Writer’s Fellowship in 1991, the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship to Menton, France, in 2003, and in 2007 travelled to Antarctica on an Artists to Antarctica fellowship. She was awarded a New Zealand Commemorative Medal in 1990, an OBE in 1994, and the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal in 1996. In 2008 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for services to youth by the University of Waikato. In 2020 she was awarded the CNZM for services to literature and youth, and the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (Fiction).
Her recent work includes a non-fiction family book on the first voyage of James Cook, First Map: how James Cook charted Aotearoa New Zealand, and a re-issue of all four of the Alex books in one volume, Alex the Quartet.
Work-in-progress-includes an historical novel for young adults.
Among her leisure interests are theatre-going, music, reading and sailing. She lives in Auckland, and has two grandchildren.
In 2010 Storylines established the Storylines Tessa Duder Award in her name, in honour of the place Tessa holds in the establishment of the young adult genre in the New Zealand literary landscape. It is given biennially for a young adult manuscript to be published by Walker Books Australia.
- Night Race to Kawau (Oxford University Press 1982).
- Jellybean (Oxford University Press 1985).
- Alex (Oxford University Press 1987); published in the USA as In Lane Three, Alex Archer (Houghton Mifflin Co. 1989).
- Alex in Winter (Oxford University Press 1989).
- Alessandra: Alex in Rome (Oxford University Press 1991).
- Songs for Alex (Oxford University Press 1992).
- Journey to Olympia: The Story of the Olympic Games illustrated by Grant Cole (Ashton Scholastic 1992).
- The Making of Alex the Movie photographs by Gil Hanly and Ken George (Ashton Scholastic 1993).
- Nearly Seventeen: New Zealand Stories collected by Tessa Duder (Penguin 1993).
- Crossing: New Zealand and Australian Short Stories edited by Tessa Duder and Agnes Nieuwenhuizen (Reed 1995).
- Falling in Love edited by Tessa Duder (Puffin 1995).
- Warrior Virgin: A New Play about Joan of Arc with Martin Baynton; music by Laughton Pattrick (Heinemann 1996).
- Mercury Beach (Puffin 1997).
- Personal Best edited by Tessa Duder and Peter McFarlane (Reed 1997).
- The Tiggie Tompson Show (Puffin 1999).
- Hot Mail with William Taylor (Puffin 2000).
- A Book of Pacific Lullabies edited by Tessa Duder, illustrated by Anton Petrov (HarperCollins 2001).
- Tiggie Tompson, All at Sea (Puffin 2001).
- Storylines: The Anthology edited by Tessa Duder. (Scholastic 2003).
- Tiggie Tompson’s Longest Journey (Puffin 2003).
- Down to the Sea Again: True Sea Stories for Young New Zealanders edited by Tessa Duder (HarperCollins Publishers 2005).
- Margaret Mahy: A Writer’s Life (HarperCollins 2005).
- Carpet of Dreams illustrated by Mark Wilson (Angus & Robertson 2006)
- Too Close to the Wind and Other Stories (HarperCollins 2006)
- Out of the Deep and Other Stories about New Zealand and the Pacific edited with Lorraine Orman, illustrated by Bruce Potter (Reed 2007)
- The Word Witch: The Magical Verse of Margaret Mahy edited by Tessa Duder, illustrated by David Elliot (HarperCollins 2009)
- The Story of Sir Peter Blake (Libro International 2012)
- Out on the Water: twelve tales of the sea (Libro International 2014)
- First Map; How James Cook charted Aotearoa New Zealand (HarperCollins 2019)
- Alex the Quartet (new edition of four Alex books). (One Tree House Publishers 2019)
- New Zealand Government Publishing Awards New Zealand Children’s Book of the Year Award 1988 for Alex.
- Esther Glen Award Winner 1988 for Alex.
- AIM Children’s Book Awards 1990 Fiction Winner for Alex in Winter.
- Esther Glen Award Winner 1990 for Alex in Winter.
- Waikato University Writer-in-Residence 1991.
- AIM Children’s Book Awards 1992 Fiction Third Prize for Alessandra: Alex in Rome.
- Esther Glen Award Winner 1992 for Alessandra: Alex in Rome.
- AIM Children’s Book Awards 1993 Senior Fiction Winner for Songs for Alex.
- Esther Glen Award Shortlist 1993 for Songs for Alex.
- OBE 1994.
- AIM Children’s Book Awards 1994 Non-fiction Shortlist for The Making of Alex the Movie.
- Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal 1996.
- New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Young Adult Fiction Winner 2000 for The Tiggie Tompson Show.
- Storylines Notable Book Awards 2000 Senior Fiction List for The Tiggie Tompson Show.
- Storylines Notable Book Awards 2002 Non-fiction List for A Book of Pacific Lullabies.
- Storylines Notable Book Awards 2002 Senior Fiction List for Tiggie Tompson All at Sea.
- Katherine Mansfield Fellowship to Menton, France, 2003.
- Storylines Notable Book Awards 2004 Young Adult Fiction List for Tiggie Tompson’s Longest Journey.
- Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award 2005 for Night Race to Kawau.
- Antarctic Arts Fellow 2007.
- New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards 2010 Picture Book Finalist and Honour Award Winner for The Word Witch.
- Sarah Mathew: Explorer, Journalist and Auckland’s First Lady (David Ling Publishing 2015)
- First Map: how James Cook charted Aotearoa New Zealand (HarperCollins 2019)
- Alex the Quartet (One Tree House Publishing 2019)
- Storylines Notable Book Awards 2020 list for First Map: how James Cook charted Aotearoa New Zealand (HarperCollins 2019)
- CNZM (Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit 2020.
- Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (Fiction) 2020.
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