Topic: Phyllis Johnston (nee Webby) (1935- )

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Since the death of Joyce West in 1985, Bay of Plenty Children's Literature Association Bookrapt, has been without a patron. At the 2013 Bookrapt Seminar, Tauranga author Phyllis Johnston was named patron of the organisation.

Born in Morrinsville in the Waikato on 14 October 1935, Phyllis Johnston was the eighth of nine children. Her parents were May Tarrant and Wally Webby who had married in August 1916. World War II dominated her childhood and had a big impact with two of her older brothers, Phillip and Eric, serving overseas.

Phyllis was a writer from a very young age. The stories of her mother and uncles growing up were told over and over,  and Phyllis always thought they should be written down for future generations. The thought floated around for years before she finally thought, just start! She literally wrote the first words of No one went to town in her kitchen, on the back of the brown paper the meat she was cooking for dinner had been wrapped in.

In 1983 Phyllis attended a children's literature meeting and thought, 'Why can't we have one of those in Tauranga?' 54 people attended the first meeting that she organised on 18 October 1983 and the Bay of Plenty Children's Literature Association was born. The association was later renamed Bookrapt. At that first meeting Phyllis was elected President, a role she held until 1996. She is a life member of the association.

Phyllis remembered the 'fast' committee meetings that she chaired. She recalls the wonderful social times they had and the work they did promoting children's literature.

On being named Patron by Jean Bennett, Phyllis expressed how proud she was "that you girls/women have honoured me by making me Patron". She also said, "I don't know what it involves" as she accepted a bouquet of flowers, adding that, "When you have a Patron of any Society, it just looks better".

Her stories have appeared in numerous editions of the School Journal and she has taught children’s writing at Waikato University and been a judge for competitions of writing by children.


  • 1980: No One Went to Town (May, #1) - Price Milburn
  • 1982: Black Boots and Buttonhooks (May, #2) - Price Milburn
  • 1984: My Things and the Hidden Light
  • 1985: A Comet in the Sky (May, #3) - Tauranga Moana Press
  • 1989: Then There Were Nine - Tauranga Moana Press
  • 1993: No Lily-livered Girl (May, #4) - Waiatarua Publishing
  • 2001: My Marine - Reed
  • 2003: Our First Twenty Years: The History of the Bay of Plenty Children's Literature Association Inc., 1983 to 2003
  • 2004: The Fugitive Soldier: A Fifteen-Year-Old Runs Away to War - Polygraphia
  • 2007: Dead Dan's Dee - Longacre
  • 2009: Brother Sister Soldier Cousin - Longacre
  • 2018: The Fortunate Ones (May, #5) - Phyllis Webby Trust


  • 1982: Manawatu Evening Standard Short Story Competition.
  • 1989: 1990: AIM Children's Book Awards fiction shortlist for Then There Were Nine.
  • 1998: Betty Gilderdale Award for outstanding services to New Zealand children's literature.
  • 1999: Writer in Residence of the South Auckland Children's Literature Association.
  • 1999: Awarded a project grand from Creative New Zealand.
  • 2008: New Zealand Post Book Awards Junior Fiction shortlist for Dead Dan's Dee.
  • 2008: Storylines Notable Junior Fiction list for Dead Dan's Dee.




Christchurch City Libraries

Longacre Press

New Zealand Book Council



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Phyllis Johnston (nee Webby) (1935- )

First Names:Phyllis
Last Name:Webby
Date of Birth:14 October 1935
Place of Birth:Morrinsville
Country of birth:New Zealand
Fathers name:Walter Webby
Fathers date of birth:20 December 1884
Fathers place of birth:Hawera, Taranaki, North Island, New Zealand
Fathers date of death:31 May 1967
Fathers place of death:Waitoa, Waikato, North Island, New Zealand
Mothers name:Inez May Tarrant
Mothers date of birth:28 August 1898
Mothers place of birth:Stratford, Taranaki, North Island, New Zealand
Mothers date of death:17 October 1988
Mothers place of death:Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Name of sibilings:Jim Webby, Mary Beatrice Bunton (Webby), Kenneth Webby, Brian Webby, Phillip Walter Webby, Estelle Corrol Webby, Eric Victor Webby, Morva Webby, and Loreen Webby