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About the book
  • Published: 1 August 2016
  • ISBN: 9780143507222
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $19.99

Speed King

Burt Munro, the World's Fastest Indian


Formats & editions


Meet Burt Munro, an unknown, elderly New Zealander whose obsession with setting a world land-speed record at Bonneville on his ancient Indian motorcycle made him a Kiwi legend.

In 1967 an unknown, elderly New Zealander and his ancient Indian motorcycle set a world land-speed record at Bonneville. The man was Burt Munro, and he became a Kiwi legend. How did he do it? His amazing true story is now a stunning picture book.

A crowd of people stand on a flat white plain. In the distance, a snarling, roaring dark speck is hurtling towards them. It's a motorbike. The rider is inside the shell, lying almost flat. 'Go, Burt!'
The red bike blurs past.
Fingers click stop-watches.
How fast has Burt Munro gone this time?

The moment young Burt Munro saw a motorbike chugging down a quiet Invercargill street, he was hooked. More than fifty years later, he and his ancient Indian motorcycle would amaze the world by setting a land-speed record — one that remains unbroken to this day.
Burt didn’t have much money. He wasn’t young. But he was determined. And he became a Kiwi legend.

A wonderful true story about a very unlikely New Zealand champion, by the award-winning author and illustrator of First to the Top.

  • Pub date: 1 August 2016
  • ISBN: 9780143507222
  • 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 40 titles over the past three decades. His recent middle-grade novels include My Brother's War (2012), which in 2013 won the Junior Fiction Award and the Children's Choice Junior Fiction Award in the 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; and Finding (May 2018).

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.

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) and Sir Peter Blake (Hero of the Sea). Phoebe is also the illustrator of the Frankie Potts junior fiction series by Juliet Jacka.
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 Speed King

“His stories are wonderful, full of action and are always teaching the reader about some aspect of our amazing country and our people.”

Gisborne Herald

“Start 'em young ... Although written for children aged 5-10, this Kiwi story of one man's obsession with speed will appeal to readers of all ages.”

Classic Driver

“A delightful picture book covering the basic facts about Burt Munro and his quest to race his Indian motor bike on the salt flats at Benneville in the USA. Phoebe Morris has captured the fun and quirkiness of this character in her superb and colourful illustrations showing a glimpse of life in the early to mid 20th century. David Hill has told Burt's story from where he grew up to the man in his sixties with humour and the sense of an ordinary Kiwi bloke with a passion that took over his life, and his success at an age when most are retiring. Highly recommended for all primary school libraries and as gifts for children.”

Jenny Millar, Magpies

“Speed King will delight teachers who aim to encourage the sort of boys who'd rather be racing around on their bikes than sitting in a classroom, to read. And girls, too - of course! Hill never leaves his sense of humour at home - why was it that the thought of Invercargill being invaded made me smile? - and this is a charming story celebrating those with attitude and tenacity ... I very much like Phoebe Morris's illustrative style, as well; the book is full of details that children could spend hours poring over. Lovely.”

Linda Burgess, NZ Books

“This true story of one of New Zealand's unlikely champions has been beautifully and humorously retold ... Little boys in particular will love this fast and furious story about the Kiwi who "always rode fast, even though he kept hurting himself".”

Helen Spiers, Otago Daily Times

“Hill crafts an insightful look at Munro’s life in Southland and his obsession with setting world speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States. Hill keeps his prose simple, straightforward and punchy—perfect for younger readers who might be turned off by too much technical detail—but still manages to capture Munro’s singular vision. Phoebe Morris’ illustrative style gives the book a vintage feel in keeping with the times.”

Graham Hepburn, Weekend Herald


Awards & Recognition

  • Storylines Notable Non-fiction Award

    Notable Book • 2017 • Storylines Notable Book


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