Hannken, Catherine

Hannken, Catherine



In Brief

Born and raised in Auckland, Catherine Hannken writes children's books. She attended the University of Auckland and since 1990 has worked as a primary school teacher. Hannken’s first book Selafina was selected as a Notable Book in the Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand Awards and was also short-listed in the Picture Book Category of the 2004 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.


Hannken, Catherine (1961- ) writes children's books.

Catherine Hannken was born and raised in Auckland. She attended the University of Auckland and Auckland College of Education. Since 1990 Hannken has worked as a primary school teacher.

Hannken published her first book Selafina in 2003. The book was selected as a Notable Book 2003 by the Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand Awards. The book was also short-listed for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award 2004, Picture Book Category.

The Weekend Herald’s Canvas magazine calls the book 'a simple story, yet surprisingly intense and moving.' Fliss Newton writes in the Wanganui Newspaper that the story is ‘a very uncomplicated, ordinary story which beautifully illustrates Samoan Life.’

Fiapule (Mallinson Rendel, 2007) is a story of New Zealand-Samoan culture. The book tells a tale of the moral dilemma of family versus friends from a young boy's point of view.

Hannken's latest work, Talia, was published by Mallinson Rendel in 2009.

Catherine Hannken lives in Auckland.


Catherine Hannken’s preferred age groups are primary and intermediate. She is happy to visit schools in Auckland (including West Auckland). She is prepared to discuss stories, writing, life and work.

KAPAI: Kids' Authors' Pictures and Information

General Questions
Where do you live?
On a farm in Waitakere township, West Auckland

What books do you read?
Lots and lots, mostly fiction

Who is your favourite author?
I can’t choose just one, I like so many e.g. William Saroyan, Anthony Browne, Roald Dahl, Sue Grafton and JRR Tolkien.

How do you think up your ideas?
I get ideas from people I know or things I’ve done and then dream up a story about it.

What is the best thing about being an author?
Reading my story to other people. Mostly I like making up stories.

Some Questions for Primary School Students
Do you have pets?
dog - Blaze, 2 cats - Scooby Doo & Streudels, 4 fish – Inky, Pinky, Ponky & Po, 1 rooster – Lord Flashheart, 4 chickens – Madam Peke, Fanny Adams, Jiggerboo, Flipitijibit.

Do you have a favourite colour?

Bright colours

Do you have a favourite food?

Do you have a favourite movie?
The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Do you have a favourite game?

What is the most fun thing about being an author?
Making up stories. It’s not real so I can make up anything I like.

How do you make books?
That’s the publisher’s job. They know all about making books. I send my stories to them and they make it into a book.

Where do you like to go on holiday?
I like going to lots of different places. I like going to the beach. My best holiday was in Samoa. The water was warm to swim in and there are so many coloured fish. They even have bright blue starfish!

What was naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I was never really naughty. Once when I was 6, the clock in the class had stopped so the teacher asked me to check the clock down the hall and tell her what the time was. I was too embarrassed to say I couldn’t tell the time, so I made up a time. I think she guessed it was a lie but she never said anything about it.

Some Questions from Secondary School Students

How did you get started?
I got an old notebook and started to write a story. I wrote my first stories for friends and gave them to them.

Who inspired you when you were getting started?
Tim Tipene – another of my favourite authors.

What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
Write whatever you want to write. Everyone writes differently so find out for yourself what suits you best.

Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?

What were you like as a teenager?
I didn’t like being told what to do. I was very independent and did a lot of things for myself.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your life?

When I was 4 I was bored one day I started playing with a big black spider. I kept stopping it from running away. Suddenly it jumped on my hand and bit me. It gave me a real fright (and it hurt). After that I was scared of spiders but didn’t want to tell my brothers or they would call me a sissy. When I was 9, there was a big black spider on my bed. I was really scared. I called my brothers and pretended I was really excited, saying ‘Hey come and look at this!’ I knew they would catch it and take it away, which is exactly what they did! I’m happy to say that I'm not scared of spiders anymore but I never annoy them!


  • Catherine Hannken on the Mallinson Rendel Publishers site
  • Catherine Hannken Interview - Christchurch City Libraries NZ Childrens Author Interviews
  • Catherine Hannken’s profile on the Storylines site

Updated January 2017.