News GKC 2015 web2

Published on March 17th, 2015 | by Booknotes Administrator


Janet Frame’s Owls Do Cry announced as the 2015 Great Kiwi Classic book

GKC logosThe New Zealand Book Council and the Auckland Writers Festival are pleased to announce this year’s Great Kiwi Classic is Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame.

Nominated by readers around the country in a month-long search for New Zealand’s most treasured and classic books, Owls Do Cry is a firm Kiwi favourite and will be celebrated in a special event at the Auckland Writers Festival in May.

Published in 1957, Owls Do Cry was Janet Frame’s critically-acclaimed debut novel and is seen as a seminal work of New Zealand literature. It has been in print for nearly 60 years and was most recently republished in 2014 as part of the Text Classics series (Text Publishing, Australia, 2014).

Distinguished UK novelist Margaret Drabble wrote the introduction to the Text Classics edition of Owls Do Cry. On hearing news of the book’s selection, she said, “I am delighted that Owls Do Cry has been selected as the 2015 Great Kiwi Classic. It is an unforgettable and startlingly original work, a true and timeless classic of enduring power.”

New Zealand Book Council Chief Executive Catriona Ferguson said choosing this year’s Great Kiwi Classic was difficult due to the compelling arguments put forth by passionate readers in favour of their book of choice.

“We received hundreds of nominations for books of all persuasions. It was fascinating to read through the nominations and to realise how much love there is for our country’s writers and their books.

“This year’s choice stood out from the others not only for the extraordinary writing, but also because of Frame’s standing in our country’s literary and social history,” said Ferguson.

The Great Kiwi Classic event at the Auckland Writers Festival will feature Owls Do Cry in a lively discussion, where all views on the book and its claim to classic status will be explored and debated. Chair of the event, Kate De Goldi, will be joined on stage by New Zealand writers Courtney Sina Meredith and Anne Kennedy, alongside Scottish author Damian Barr.

Leading up to the event, the legacy and appeal of Owls Do Cry will be explored on the Book Council’s online readers’ hub, Booknotes Unbound (, and on the Great Kiwi Classic Facebook page:

Visit Booknotes Unbound to catch up on last year’s Great Kiwi Classic, the Booker Prize-winning novel The Bone People, celebrated at a moving Auckland Writers Festival event with author Keri Hulme as special guest, and a rapt audience.

 The Great Kiwi Classic event will be held on Sunday 17 May, 4.30pm, at the Aotea Centre as part of the Auckland Writers Festival.

For more information about the event visit:


About Owls Do Cry

Owls Do Cry (1957) was the critically acclaimed first novel of New Zealand’s beloved Janet Frame, a seminal work and a set text for many teenage New Zealanders. Semi-autobiographical, it soared beyond the social realism that dominated much of New Zealand’s literature at the time (and perhaps still does), winning the NZ Literary Fund Award for Achievement in 1958 and finding an international audience.  Poetic and experimental, Owls Do Cry recounts the story of the Withers family, gently exploring mental health, poverty and loneliness.

Janet Frame 1958 300About Janet Frame

Janet Frame (1924-2004) is New Zealand’s most distinguished writer. Among her numerous honours, Frame is a Member of the Order of New Zealand, a Nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature and an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She was among ten of New Zealand’s greatest living artists named as Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Artists in 2003. Traumatic childhood events and other life experiences find displaced fictional treatment in her writing; nevertheless, Frame warned against the ‘blurring of the fine distinction between the writer’s work and the writer’s life’ — the naive treatment of her fictional creations as autobiography. In 1999, before her death in 2004, she founded the Janet Frame Literary Trust.

For more information visit Janet Frame’s writers profile on the Book Council website:, Janet


For further information, contact New Zealand Book Council Chief Executive, Catriona Ferguson on 021 024 82637 or

Key points:

  • The New Zealand Book Council and Auckland Writers Festival have announced Owls Do Cry (1957) by Janet Frame is the 2015 Great Kiwi Classic book.
  • A free panel event will be held as part of the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 17 May at the Aotea Centre to discuss and celebrate the 2015 Great Kiwi Classic.
  • A celebration of Owls Do Cry will take place leading up to the Festival event on Facebook and Booknotes Unbound (

Key links:

Author photo of Janet Frame (above right) restricted use: Photo is copyright the Janet Frame Literary Trust and can only be used in conjunction with the 2015 Great Kiwi Classic campaign and for related publicity. Media can request a higher resolution version of the photo by contacting the New Zealand Book Council.

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