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  • Published: 6 August 2019
  • ISBN: 9780143773221
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $19.99

Dinosaur Hunter

Joan Wiffen's Awesome Fossil Discoveries

Meet Joan Wiffen, a super-determined, self-taught palaeontologist, and join her on the hunt for the fossils that will prove New Zealand once had dinosaurs.

The award-winning true story of science superstar Joan Wiffen, whose fossil discoveries proved that dinosaurs lived in ancient New Zealand.

Once there was a clever girl who liked searching for interesting things on the ground. She wanted to know why shells could be found in rocks so far away from the sea. But her father thought education was no use to a girl, so Joan had to leave school.

Many years later, she bought an old map. To her amazement, she saw that it marked a treasure hoard. Not of gold and jewels, but of dinosaur bones.

Nobody had ever found dinosaur fossils in New Zealand before – in fact, top scientists had said it was impossible. But Joan was intrigued. She decided to learn everything she could about palaeontology and hunt for these dinosaur fossils.

This is the fifth picture book in an acclaimed series of true stories about the lives of famous Kiwis written by David Hill and magnificently illustrated by Phoebe Morris.

  • Published: 6 August 2019
  • ISBN: 9780143773221
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $19.99

About the authors

David Hill

David Hill is a prolific and highly regarded New Zealand writer, playwright, poet, columnist and critic. Best known for his highly popular and award-winning body of work for young people, ranging from picture books to teenage fiction, his novels have been published all around the world and translated into several languages, and his short stories and plays for young people have been broadcast here and overseas.

Born in Napier, New Zealand, David studied at Victoria University of Wellington and became a high-school teacher, teaching both in New Zealand and the UK. In 1982 he became a full-time writer and his first novel for teenagers, See Ya, Simon (1992), about a boy with muscular dystrophy, was shortlisted for major awards in New Zealand and the UK and won the 1994 Times Educational Supplement Award for Special Needs. An enduringly popular novel used as a class text in high schools all over New Zealand, in 2002 it was awarded the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book.

David has published more than 50 titles over four decades. His middle-grade novels include My Brother's War (2012), which won the Junior Fiction Award and the Children's Choice Junior Fiction Award in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, the LIANZA Librarian's Choice Award and was listed as a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction book, a White Raven and an IBBY Honour book. This was followed by novels Brave Company (2014) – also a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction book; The Deadly Sky (2015); Enemy Camp (2016), which won the 2016 HELL Children’s Choice Award for Junior Fiction; Flight Path (2017), a Storylines Notable Book; Finding (May 2018), Highly Commended in the New Zealand Heritage Book Awards 2018; and Coastwatcher (2021).

Below (2022) won the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2023. Described as 'a white-knuckle survival story set in a catastrophic tunnel collapse', the judges commended the way 'it trusts its young readers to handle big environmental ideas and come to their own conclusions'.

David is also the author of a number of critically acclaimed picture books with illustrator Phoebe Morris. First to the Top (2015) is their bestselling story of the life of Sir Edmund Hillary, which won the 2016 Children's Choice Award for non-fiction and was a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book. Speed King (2016), about the world-record-breaking achievements of Burt Munro, and Sky High (2017), recounting the life of the daring aviator Jean Batten, were both presented with Storylines Notable Picture Book awards. Hero of the Sea: Sir Peter Blake's Mighty Ocean Quests was published in 2018 and Dinosaur Hunter: Joan Wiffen's Awesome Fossil Discoveries was published in 2019.

In 2004 David was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in 2005 he was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, acknowledging his significant contribution to children's literature in New Zealand.

In November 2021 David was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement - Fiction in recognition of his outstanding contribution to New Zealand Literature.

He lives in New Plymouth with his wife Beth, and juggles his many writing projects with numerous school visits, leading professional development for teachers, mentoring new and emerging writers and tutoring creative writing.

Phoebe Morris

Phoebe Morris has been drawing for herself since 1996, and for other people since 2013. From a small studio in Wellington, she has collaborated with acclaimed author David Hill on award-winning picture book biographies of famous New Zealanders for Penguin Random House New Zealand: Sir Edmund Hillary (First to the Top, 2015), Burt Munro (Speed King, 2016), Jean Batten (Sky High, 2017), Sir Peter Blake (Hero of the Sea, 2018), Joan Wiffen (Dinosaur Hunter, 2019) and Jacinda Ardern (Taking the Lead, 2020).

Phoebe is also the illustrator of the Frankie Potts junior fiction series by Juliet Jacka.

In 2021 Phoebe illustrated The Adventures of Mittens by Silvio Bruinsma, following the adventures of Wellington's most famous exploring ginger cat.

Unanimously praised for the quality of the illustrations, First to the Top was named a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book. In a review for the New Zealand Listener, Ann Packer wrote 'Wellingtonian Phoebe Morris makes a stunning debut as an illustrator ... from the arresting cover, through cameos of his younger life, to haunting, other-worldly mountainscapes, Morris's style gives the old story a cool new edge.'

In 2018 Phoebe was shortlisted for the Russell Clark Award for Illustration in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Though much of her work focuses on narrative storytelling, Phoebe also creates illustrations for apps, websites, editorials, animation and interior design. Find out more about her work at phoebemorriscreative.com

Praise for Dinosaur Hunter

[T]his incredible true story is bound to inspire young readers. Science superstar Joan Wiffen was in her 50s when she made her first discoveries and went from having no formal schooling to teaching herself palaeontology. She excavated numerous dinosaur fossils to prove that Aotearoa was once alive with the “terrible lizards”. Hill’s pitch perfect words are matched by Morris’ entertaining drawings.

Dionne Christian and Zoe Gadd, Weekend Herald

[T]his is not just a book for little dinosaur lovers. It is a history book, a biography, a textbook, and an inspirational read about a woman scientist all in one.

Rebekah Fraser, NZ Booklovers

...simply a marvellous book and an inspirational account of a truly remarkable woman’s life.

Trevor Agnew, The Source

I love this series. David Hill knows how to pare back each story, without losing the fascinating details of that person's life story. He picks out all the really pertinent aspects of their life, builds up the tension, and then reveals what made that person famous. And Phoebe's illustrations are stunning; full of expression, lots of detail, and she always gets the colour tone just perfect for the era.

Maria Gill, Kids Books NZ

Dinosaur Hunter is a wonderful book...For Joan Wiffen, her remarkable story of fossil discovery didn’t begin till she was 40 years old! Safe to say, mum and son alike were inspired, engaged, and schooled by the Dinosaur Hunter, the true story of an exceptional, and most unordinary woman, and a 5 year old boy tucked into bed happily with what he’s determined to be an ankylosaurus.

Ronnie Swainston, Kidspot

Not only is this a story of New Zealand’s own dinosaurs, it is the tale of an ordinary woman who proved the experts wrong...A great book about an important Kiwi. It’s sure to interest budding fossil hunters.

Ann Kilduff, Kapiti News

Yes, Virginia, we did have dinosaurs. And they were discovered by a Hawke’s Bay wife, who discovered a passion for geology when she took her husband’s place in a night class. Palaeontologist and citizen-scientist Joan Wiffen, the latest subject of this award-winning duo’s picture book biographies, died in 2009, aged 87.

Ann Packer, NZ Listener Best Children's Books 2019

Awards & recognition

Storylines Notable Non-fiction Award

Awarded  •  2020  •  A Storylines Notable Non-fiction Book

NZ Booklovers Award

Finalist  •  2020  •  NZ Booklovers Best Children's Book Award