94 | Joy Cowley - Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

94 | Joy Cowley - Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

Greatest Kiwi Of All Time: No. 94 -  Joy Cowley (Up 5 from 99 last year)

If you were a child of the ’80s or 90s, chances are the teacher read you one of Joy Cowley’s books.  Or three of them.  Or ten of them.  This prolific children’s author had to make our Today FM list of the Greatest Kiwis of All Time.

Born in Levin, like most authors, Cowley devoured books from a young age.  

She would take to writing early, having her first book published at the age of 31.  Contrary to children’s books she would become famous for writing, this one was a novel - Nest in a Falling Tree - made into a 1971 movie by Roald Dahl.  The themes of her early novels included mental illness, death and marital infidelity… not really the kinds of topics we know Joy for these days.

But children’s books became a real passion for Joy Cowley.  At the age of 16, she had edited the children’s page in the Manawatu Daily Times.  When she became a mother, she started writing stories for her own children.  She would be regularly published in School Journals, which were sent to schools up and down the country at the time.

Another passion for Joy was writing for children with reading difficulties or learning disabilities, something she had experienced in her own family.

Joy would go on to write a remarkable range of children’s books and stories, including The Terrible Taniwha of Timberditch, The Screaming Mean Machine, The Silent One and the internationally acclaimed Mrs Wishy Washy’s Farm.

Cowley has won the overall Book of the Year award three times at the Children’s Book Awards.  She is a member of the Order of New Zealand, the highest honour in the New Zealand honours system.

Her Mrs Wishy-Washy series has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.  A reminder of Mrs Wishy-Washy’s four rules - Be Clean - Be Neat - Look Tidy - Smell Sweet.

To date, Cowley has written more than six hundred stories for kiwi children, leaving an indelible mark on their childhood and helping hundreds of thousands to learn to read since the 1970s.  A great human, a great New Zealander - Joy Cowley - one of Today FM’s Greatest Kiwis of All Time.