David Hill (1942-) Biography
Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1942, in Napier, New Zealand; Education: Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, M.A. (with honors), 1964. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, tramping, traveling, "cheering for the All Blacks" (the New Zealand national rugby team).
High school teacher in New Zealand and England, 1968-82; writer, 1983—. Visits schools as part of New Zealand Book Council's Writers In Schools program; Robert Lord writer-in-residence, 2003. Military service: New Zealand Army, 1965-68.
AIM Children's Book Merit Award, Booksellers New Zealand, 1993, for See Ya, Simon, and 1996, for Take It Easy; Special Needs Award, Times Educational Supplement, 1995, and Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book, Children's Literature Foundation, 2002, both for See Ya, Simon; New Zealand Post Children's Book Merit Award, Booksellers New Zealand, 1997, for Cold Comfort; Esther Glen Medal, New Zealand Library Association, 1997, and New Zealand Post Children's Book Merit Award, 1998, both for Fat, Four-eyed, and Useless; Esther Glen Medal shortlist, LIANZA, for The Sleeper Wakes; Esther Glen Medal, and New Zealand Post Children's Book Award shortlist, both 2003, both for Right Where It Hurts; New Zealand Post Book Awards junior fiction finalist, 2004, for My Story: Journey to Tangiwai; New Zealand Post Book Awards senior fiction finalist, 2004, for No Safe Harbour.
See Ya, Simon, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 1992, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
Curtain Up, Heinemann (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
Kick Back, Ashton Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
Take It Easy, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 1995, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
The Winning Touch, Ashton Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
Cold Comfort, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 1996.
Seconds Best, Ashton Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 1996.
Treasure Deep, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 1997.
Fat, Four-eyed, and Useless, Scholastic New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 1997.
Comes Naturally, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 1998.
Give It Hoops, Scholastic New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 1998.
Boots 'n' All, Scholastic New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 1999.
Afterwards, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 2000.
The High Wind Blows, Puffin (Auckland, New Zealand), 2001.
The Name of the Game, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 2001.
The Sleeper Wakes [New Zealand], 2001, Penguin (New York, NY), 2003.
Time Out, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2001.
Where All Things End, Puffin (Auckland, New Zealand), 2002.
Right Where It Hurts, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 2002.
No Safe Harbour, Mallinson Rendel (Wellington, New Zealand), 2002.
My Story: Journey to Tangiwai, Scholastic New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 2003.
PLAYS; FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Get in the Act: Three One-Act Plays, Heinemann (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985.
Ours but to Do: A Two-Act Play for Teenagers, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1986.
A Time to Laugh: A Play for Teenagers, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1990.
Takes Two, Heinemann (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
Be All Right, New House, 1998.
Work represented in drama anthologies, including On Stage Book 3: Four Plays for Secondary Schools, Longman, 1989; Generations: Plays for Young People, Longman, 1993; and White Lies, New House (Auckland, New Zealand), 1994.
On Poetry: Twelve Studies of Work by New Zealand Poets, Heinemann (Auckland, New Zealand), 1984.
Response to the Short Story, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985.
(With Sarah Davey) Just Write, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.
English, 2nd edition, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1992.
Gossip Writing, Wairarapa Education Resource Centre (Masterton, New Zealand), 1993.
(With Christine Ryan) You Know Something: Research Using the Encyclopedia, illustrated by Alison Green, Curriculum Concepts (New Plymouth, New Zealand), 1994, adapted for younger readers as You Know Something, Pinnacle (New Plymouth, New Zealand), 1996.
(With Christine Ryan) Right Number: Research Using the Telephone Book, illustrated by Eugene Kreisler and Alison Green, Curriculum Concepts (New Plymouth, New Zealand), 1994.
(With Christine Ryan) Having a Word: Research Using the Thesaurus (also see below), illustrated by Brendon Watts, Curriculum Concepts (New Plymouth, New Zealand), 1994, adapted for younger readers as Having a Word, Pinnacle (New Plymouth, New Zealand), 1996.
Life on Other Planets, illustrated by Peter Lole, Rainbow Reading Programme (Nelson, New Zealand), 1997.
(With Elizabeth Smither) The Seventies Connection, McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1980.
Moaville Magic, illustrated by Eric Heath, Hodder and Stoughton (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985.
(With Elizabeth Smither) Taranaki, photographs by Jane Dove, Hodder and Stoughton (Auckland, New Zealand), 1987.
The Boy, illustrated by Chris Slane, Benton Ross (Auckland, New Zealand), 1988.
More from Moaville, Hodder and Stoughton (Auckland, New Zealand), 1988.
The Year in Moaville, Inprint (Lower Hutt, New Zealand), 1991.
A Bit of a Blow: The Inglewood Tornado: Interviews, Learning Media (Wellington, New Zealand), 1991.
Dairy Farmer: An Interview with a Dairy Farmer, Learning Media (Wellington, New Zealand), 1992.
Contributor to sound recordings Grampa's Place: Molestation, Replay Radio, 1984; Science Project (contains "Nightrunner"), Learning Media, 1992; Some Light on the Problem, Learning Media, 1992; Tough Talk, Learning Media, 1994; Papaka and Koura (in Maori), Te Pou Taki Korero (Te Whanganui a Tara, New Zealand), 1995; Once Bitten, Learning Media, 1996; Danger Dog, Learning Media, 1997; and Double Act (contains "Moving On"), Learning Media, 1998.
Introducing Maurice Gee, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1981.
(With Christina Calveley) The New Zealand Family Quiz Book, Penguin (Auckland, New Zealand), 1982.
(Adaptor with June Melser) New Zealand Disasters (based on the book by Eugene Grayland), illustrated by John Cole Longman, (Auckland, New Zealand), 1983.
The Games of Nanny Miro (picture book; bilingual English and Maori text), translated by Irene Curnow, illustrated by June Grant, Moana (Tauranga, New Zealand), 1990.
Contributor to periodicals in New Zealand, including School Journal, Allsorts, NZ Listener, and Landfall, and Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Hill's work has been published in Australia, Japan, Denmark, Germany, and Holland and has been translated into Estonian, French, and Chinese.
See Ya, Simon was recorded by Radio New Zealand, 1994, told by Peter Hambleton. Take It Easy was recorded by Radio New Zealand, 1996, told by Eryn Wilson.
An internationally recognized author of juvenile and adult fiction, as well as textbooks, New Zealand native David Hill is perhaps most highly praised for See Ya, Simon, a novel popular with young adults. See Ya, Simon chronicles a year in the life of a teenage boy named Simon. Sadly, the year is Simon's last, as he is dying of muscular dystrophy. The story is narrated by Nathan, Simon's compassionate best friend, who accepts Simon's situation and tries to make his last year a memorable one. The two boys have the typical teenage adventures with classmates, teachers, and girls, all the while coping with the realization that Simon will never see adulthood. Although Simon is disabled by his disease, Hill portrays the teen as well-adjusted, popular, and fun-loving.
Reviewing See Ya, Simon, several critics have been impressed with the way in which Hill refrains from over-dramatizing the tragedy of Simon's death at such a young age. School Library Journal contributor Renee Steinberg observed that "the author avoids a maudlin tone, thus adding to the book's power." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called See Ya, Simon "a noble counterpart to weepy melodramas about dying teens," and praised Hill's depiction of Simon and Nathan's relationship, calling the novel "a glowing and memorable tribute to a stalwart, life-affirming friendship." Deborah Stevenson in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books claimed that the book has "enough boyish life and charm to appeal to a far wider audience than would a sentimental dying-by-inches drama." Hill himself noted his tendency to downplay tragedy, telling SATA: "I like using dialogue, corny jokes, ordinary domestic events…. I hate the depression when it won't fit."
Another of Hill's novels for young adults portrays a teenager's attempts at dealing with death. In Take It Easy the main character, Rob, has just lost his mother and as a result is having trouble communicating with his father. In the hope of escaping his problems, Rob goes with five other teenagers on a camping expedition through the New Zealand bush country. The trip turns into a disaster when the group's guide dies and the kids must fend for themselves, dealing with bad weather and injuries as they try to make it back home. Rob, who is actually the most experienced hiker, stands by watching the others make bad decisions until he realizes that he must become a leader. Critics lauded Hill's use of realism in this novel. A Kirkus Reviews contributor observed that "every brush with danger … is so vivid that … readers will feel as wrung out as if they've actually been along for the ride." Tracy Taylor noted in a School Library Journal review that "The emotions of these young people are realistically developed." In a Booklist review, Chris Sherman called Take It Easy "a fast-paced story" to be grouped "with other great survival stories."
Hill turned to more light-hearted themes with two sports novels, Seconds Best and Give It Hoops. Seconds Best follows the story of a group of high-school cricket players who start off as the underdogs, but, with the help of an enthusiastic teacher, make their way to the regional championships. In a Magpies review, Kevin Steinberger declared that in Seconds Best "young cricketers—boys and girls—will quickly find themselves and familiar experiences and dilemmas." Give It Hoops recounts the quandary of a high school senior basketball team in a small rural community that has barely enough players and a coach with a bad attitude. The team's adventures make for what a Reading Time reviewer called "a rattling good basketball story: brutal, honest, well-researched, well paced and well written."
In The Name of the Game Hill combined the sports theme with the tense politics of the Springbok rugby tour of 1981. The Springboks were the national rugby team of South Africa, a country still racially segregated under apartheid at the time. New Zealanders found themselves being either pro-tour and wanting the games to continue, or anti-tour, standing against both the apartheid of South Africa and making a statement about unresolved issues in New Zealand's own colonial past. Alan, Hill's main character, is passionate about rugby, but when he confronts the political and moral issues involved with the tour he finds himself having to make some difficult choices. Should he stand with his rugby friends at school, or participate in the anti-tour protests?
The Sleeper Wakes, like Take It Easy, focuses on the relationship between a father and son. In this story, however, Cory and his father are a team, and both of them share a love for a dormant volcano located nearby, which they call 'the sleeper.' While hiking together, they realize that the sleeper is about to wake up, putting a nearby town in danger. The Sleeper Wakes was written by Hill as a part of an initiative by the Taranaki Regional Council to promote awareness of natural hazards, such as dormant volcanoes, and was shortlisted for the Esther Glen Medal for a distinguished contribution to literature for children and young adults.
A supernatural occurence forms the basis for Time Out. Kit loves to run, mostly because it helps him avoid his problems: His peers don't accept him, and his parents fight all the time. While out running on a strange, stormy day he is almost hit by a truck, and though he is not hit, he falls into a ditch near the side of the road and loses consciousness. When Kit wakes up, he finds himself in a strangely parallel universe where, instead of being an outcast, he is praised by his friends for his running talents and, instead of living with his arguing parents, he resides with an uncle and aunt. Though he enjoys his new role, Kit can't help but think about his parents and wonder how they are without him. "While the pace of the plot is fast and urgent, quiet motivation and survival are the key to the story," wrote Alison Follos in her review of Time Out for School Library Journal. Marcia Nash in Childhood Education noted that the novel "combines real-life teen problems with a compelling science fiction plot." Hill also uses a science-fiction plot for Where All Things End, a story about Jotan, who lives on a space station in 2040, and how the attempt to explore a black hole may bring about the end of the world.
No Safe Harbour and My Story: Journey to Tangiwai both use historical settings as a background for their stories. In No Safe Harbour, set in 1968, twins Stuart and Sandra are taking the ferry Wahine home to Wellington. Unfortunately, the weather turns bad and things go terribly wrong. Based on the true story of the wreck of the ship Wahine in Wellington Harbor, Hill uses historical details to heighten the suspense; will his two heroes make it out alive, or are they among those who will die that day?
My Story: Journey to Tangiwai is the diary of Peter Cotterhill. The year is 1953, and Peter receives a dairy for his thirteenth birthday. Although he doesn't want to write in it, his mother tells him she will check to see that he is using it. Peter's diary not only describes what life was like for a teenager during the aftermath of World War II, but recounts the worst railway accident in New Zealand's history, the 1953 crash of the night express into the Whangaehu River. Both My Story and No Safe Harbour were nominated in separate categories for New Zealand Post Book Awards in 2004.
Hill once told SATA: "I'm a very timetabled writer. I try to work very regular hours—8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., five days a week, plus an hour each evening. I make huge numbers of notes before I start, because I like to have details worked out in advance. In spite of this, I always change my mind as I write—writing is a process of discovery.
"I like writing about fears and embarrassments; I reckon that these are common ground which we all recognise, and I believe that writing anything which gives you that 'I know that' response is likely to be effective.
"I like writing for kids and teenagers because they're such a truthful audience. They recognise padding and boring bits very quickly, and they keep you on your toes."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 1, 1997, Chris Sherman, review of Take It Easy, pp. 105-106.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1994, Deborah Stevenson, review of See Ya, Simon, pp. 13-14; June, 1997, p. 360.
Childhood Education, mid-summer, 2002, Marcia Nash, review of Time Out, p. 306.
Junior Bookshelf, August, 1993, p. 153.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1997, review of Take It Easy, p. 118.
Magpies, March, 1997, Kevin Steinberger, review of Seconds Best, pp. 33-34.
Publishers Weekly, June 6, 1994, review of See Ya, Simon, p. 66.
Reading Time, May, 1998, review of Give It Hoops, p. 33.
School Librarian, November, 1993, p. 153.
School Library Journal, July, 1994, Renee Steinberg, review of See Ya, Simon, p. 116; June, 1997, Tracy Taylor, review of Take It Easy, p. 118; October, 2001, Alison Follos, review of Time Out, p. 160.
New Zealand Book Council Web site, http://bookcouncil.org.nz/ (March 30, 2004), profile of Hill.*