Horniman, Joanne 1951–

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Horniman, Joanne 1951–

PERSONAL: Born November 2, 1951, in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia; daughter of J.W.R. (an overseer of works) and J.A. (a chef; maiden name, Tunsted) Horniman; married Tony Chinnery (a potter), 1978; children: Ry, Kay (sons). Education: Macquarie University, B.A., 1973; Armidale College of Advanced Education, graduate diploma, 1988. Hobbies and other interests: Collecting and planting seeds from rainforest plants, drinking coffee, talking with friends, reading.

ADDRESSES: Home—602 Cawongla Rd., Via Lismore, New South Wales 2480, Australia.

CAREER: New South Wales Department of Education's School Magazine, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, assistant editor, 1973–77; writer. Part-time lecturer in children's literature at Southern Cross University; adult literacy teacher at New South Wales department of technical and further education.

MEMBER: Australian Society of Authors.

AWARDS, HONORS: Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Notable Book designation, for Sand Monkeys, Jasmine, Bad Behaviour, and Billygoat Goes Wild; New South Wales Premier's Award shortlist, 1994, and Australian Multicultural Children's Literature Award shortlist, 1995, both for The Serpentine Belt; Literature Board of the Australia Council fellowship, 1995; Children's Peace Literature Award recommendation, 2001, and CBCA Honor Book designation, New South Wales Premier's Literary Award shortlist, and Ethel Turner Prize for Books for Young Adults, all 2002, all for Mahalia; Victorian Premier's Award for Young-Adult Fiction shortlist, New South Wales Premier's Award shortlist, and Queensland Premier's Award shortlist, all 2003, all for A Charm of Powerful Trouble; CBCA Book of the Year shortlist, New South Wales Premier's Award shortlist, Victorian Premier's Prize for Young-Adult Literature shortlist, Queensland Premier's Award for Young-Adult Literature, and Courier Mail Book of the Year shortlist, all 2005, all for Secret Scribbled Notebooks.


The End of the World Girl, Collins Dove (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1988.

The Ghost Lasagna, illustrated by Margie Chellew, Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1992.

Sand Monkeys, Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1992.

The Serpentine Belt, Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1994.

Furry-Back and the Lizard-Thing, illustrated by Samone Turnbull, Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1995.

Jasmine, illustrated by Margaret Power, Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1995.

(With Jacqueline Kent) Bad Behaviour (stories), Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1996.

Billygoat Goes Wild, illustrated by Robert Roennfeldt, Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1996.

Loving Athena, Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1997.

Sunflower!, Omnibus (Norwood, South Australia, Australia), 1999.

Mahalia, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2001, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.

A Charm of Powerful Trouble, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2002, Allen & Unwin/Independent Publishers Group (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Secret Scribbled Notebooks, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2004.

Little Wing, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Viewpoints.

Horniman's works have been translated into Dutch.

SIDELIGHTS: Australian writer Joanne Horniman has written novels and short stories for young adults centering on the realistic portrayal of unusual relationships, as well as picture books and easy readers for children. Many of her books take place in the rural Australian rainforest where she grew up. Her novels Sand Monkeys, The Serpentine Belt, and Loving Athena involve the search for a lost parent, as well as the establishment of strong bonds between characters who are not blood relations, while in A Charm of Powerful Trouble teen sisters Laura and Lizzie are absorbed in learning about their family history although their bohemian mother refuses to discuss her own past. As the novel unfolds, a visit from old friends fragments the family and exposes the past, creating an intricately woven storyline that a Kirkus Reviews critic deemed "atmospheric and exotic."

Horniman was born in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, and spent her childhood riding her bicycle near her rural home as well as reading and developing a puppet theatre to entertain her friends and fellow students. In college she studied English, history, and philosophy, then moved to Sydney where she worked as a magazine editor. Moving back to northern Australia several years later, she became involved in creating poster art, several examples of which were exhibited at Australia's National Gallery of art in Canberra. In addition to beginning her writing career in the late 1980s, Horniman works as a teacher and is involved in preserving the native plants of her rainforest region. Her first novel for children, The End of the World Girl, was published in 1988.

Horniman's imagination takes hold in her second novel, The Ghost Lasagna, about a mysterious invisible lasagna that replenishes itself after each bite. Antonella and Dip discover the ghost lasagna in a deserted restaurant and enjoy it daily, until the owner of the place catches them there. The ending emphasizes the importance of friendship and community. Magpies commentator Nola Cavallaro called the novel "appealing and accessible for newly independent readers."

Describing another of her books for younger children, Horniman once commented that Billygoat Goes Wild "was written for my son Kay about his pet hen (what we call in Australia a 'chook'). It was only afterwards that I considered I might offer it for publication. At the heart of it is the idea of what goes on outside at night when we are normally asleep, through the eyes of a domestic hen. It is really a much more difficult and dangerous other world."

Geared for older readers, The Serpentine Belt also deals with friendship. In this case, long-time friends Emily and Kat, who are both sixteen, find themselves growing apart as each learns more about her own unique background. While Kat becomes interested in her Koori heritage, Emily discovers that her own past may in fact be different from what she has been told. In the end, both girls learn to take a broader view of friendship. Horniman employs an unusual structural device in the novel, which is told as a series of interconnecting stories. The Serpentine Belt has "strongly-drawn characters and lots of ideas for the reader to chew on," according to Magpies contributor Moira Robinson, the critic adding that the book is "leisurely, reflective and highly enjoyable."

Jasmine is a realistic tale of one girl's difficulties growing up. In particular, Jazz has trouble making friends, especially with the new boy at school. Then she discovers an enchanting, magical new shop and its equally fascinating owner, Rosie. Jazz wonders if Rosie might be able to help her solve her problem. Writing in Magpies, Alan Horsfield commented that the children's and adults' "fears, anxieties, confusion and their pleasures all contribute to the portrayal of characters with which the reader can empathise."

Mahalia, an award-winning novel in Horniman's native Australia, was the first of the author's books to be released in the United States. Praised by a Kirkus Reviews contributor as "refreshingly honest," the novel focuses on Matt, a seventeen year old who, after his girlfriend abandons their newborn daughter, Mahalia, struggles to take care of the five-month-old infant by himself. Moving near his mother's home, he takes on full responsibility as a parent, and when his girlfriend returns to take custody of Mahalia, Matt has grown to a point where he can deal with the situation maturely. In the School Library Journal, Jane Halsall praised Mahalia and Matt as "winning, engaging, and genuine" characters and the novel as "a poignant and memorable love story" about a father and daughter. Noting the novel's lack of sentimentality, Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser wrote that Horniman's text includes "vivid details of the realities of everyday life," while in Horn Book Kitty Flynn described Mahalia as "a starkly candid and sensitive portrait of teenage parenthood."

"I've been writing now for twenty-one years," Horniman explained. "Where once my books were for a range of ages and genres, since Mahalia in 2001, I've been working exclusively in young-adult literature, particularly for the older end of the market. My particular interest now is in portraying the lives of young women. Place, particularly the far north coast of New South Wales where I was born and still live, has always been an important element in my writing. A former Labour Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, once insultingly commented that if you weren't living in Sydney you were 'camping out.' I hope my works portray the richness, in both their interior and exterior lives, of young people living in rural areas."



Niewenhuizen, Agnes, More Good Books for Teenagers, Mandarin Australia (Port Melbourne, Australia), 1995.


Australian Book Review, April, 2005, Mike Shuttle-worth, review of Secret Scribbled Notebooks, pp. 57-58.

Booklist, July, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Mahalia, p. 1881.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2003, review of Mahalia, p. 405.

Five Owls (annual), 2003, review of Mahalia, p. 30.

Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Kitty Flynn, review of Mahalia, p. 458.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of Mahalia, p. 388; February 1, 2005, review of A Charm of Powerful Trouble, p. 138.

Kliatt, March, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Mahalia, p. 12.

Magpies, November, 1992, Nola Cavallaro, review of The Ghost Lasagna, p. 30; March, 1995, Moira Robinson, review of The Serpentine Belt, p. 32; September, 1995, Alan Horsfield, review of Jasmine, pp. 31-32; July, 1996; March, 2001, review of Mahalia, p. 39; November, 2002, review of A Charm of Powerful Trouble, p. 38.

School Library Journal, April, 2003, Jane Halsall, review of Mahalia, p. 164.

Viewpoint, winter, 1997; spring, 2004, Judith Ridge, review of Secret Scribbled Notebooks, p. 33.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 2003, review of Mahalia, p. 134.


Allen & Unwin Web site, http://www.allenandunwin.com/ (December 12, 2005), "Joanne Horniman."

Aussie Reviews Online, http://www.ausiereviews.com/ (September 26, 2005), Sally Murphy, review of A Charm of Powerful Trouble.

Blurb.com, http://www.theblurb.com.au/ (September 26, 2005), Michele Perry, review of A Charm of Powerful Trouble.

Compulsive Readers Online, http://www.compusivereader.com/ (September 26, 2005), Bob Williams, review of A Charm of Powerful Trouble.