Fleur Beale

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Fleur Una Maude Beale ONZM (née Corney, born 22 February 1945) is a New Zealand teenage fiction writer, best known for her novel I Am Not Esther, which has been published worldwide.[1]


Beale was one of six children of a dairy farmer, Cedric Corney, and of a teacher and author, Estelle Corney (née Cook). She was born in Inglewood, Taranaki, New Zealand, on the farm where her father was born. Beale grew up in the town and attended Inglewood High School From 1958, before attending Victoria University, Wellington and Christchurch Teachers' College, where she met her husband, Tim (Timothy Gerald Beale). She taught at Melville High School in Hamilton from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s. Beale's first stories were written for the children's radio programme Grandpa's Place. Her first book was a small reader and picture book for young children and she started to write for teenagers in 1993. Her stories often involve troubled adolescents engaged in outdoor activities.[1]

Beale was a finalist in the AIM Children's Book Awards (junior fiction) and her 1998 novel I Am Not Esther was shortlisted for the senior fiction section of the 1999 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards. In 1999 she was awarded the Children's Writing Fellowship at Dunedin College of Education and quit teaching to write full-time. Her 2001 novel Ambushed was a finalist for the Junior Fiction section of the 2002 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards. Her 2004 account of how an indigenous girl discovers how her education can save her tribal lands (My Story A New Song in the Land. The Writings of Atapo, Pahia, c.1840) received a Storylines Notable Book Award in 2005, as did Walking Lightly.[1] In 2012, Beale became the last recipient of the Margaret Mahy Award during Margaret Mahy's lifetime.[2][3][4]

In the 2015 New Year Honours, Beale was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.[5]

I Am Not Esther[edit]

Fourteen-year-old Kirby Greenland's mother leaves her with unfamiliar relatives in a strange city, supposedly leaving New Zealand for two years to help refugees. Kirby's new guardians and their six children belong to a strict fundamentalist Christian sect called the Children of the Faith. They abhor all recreation and any immodesty, devoting themselves to industry and bible study. They insist that Kirby must leave her old self behind and emphasise that Kirby dissent, her uncle insists that the entire family prays over her until she repents. Concern for her youngest cousin prompts her to relent but she soon becomes aware that she is losing her identity and determines to escape although she feels responsible for the cousins that she has grown to love. She is also concerned about the fate of her cousin, Miriam, who disappeared shortly before her arrival, but is barely mentioned by the family, other than her being "dead". She knows that not all the children of the cult members are completely indoctrinated: her cousin Daniel wants to be a doctor, despite the proscription on higher education, and her schoolfriends misbehave when they are away from home. Kirby and Daniel are thrown out of the sect at the end of the book because he reveals his wish to be a doctor "so I can help you all". A mass brawl/fight scene ensues as the Elders beat Daniel. They go to Wellington, and find Kirby's mother in a psychiatric hospital and help her to recover. Meanwhile, Kirby has been having nightmares about becoming Esther again; it is only when she sees a documentary about the faith that she realises "Esther is dead".[6]

The title I Am Not Esther comes from Kirby's catchphrase "I am not Esther", as this is what her aunt, uncle and other people in the faith insist on calling her. She is worried that she is turning into Esther particularly when it is pointed out to her that Kirby would have said "I'm not Esther" – the faith did not use abbreviated words.[6]

Beale was inspired to write this by "a boy I taught who had been thrown out of his family because he wanted to be a doctor".[7] She describes the cultists with respect; she is hostile to the behaviour and not the people. Despite this, the cultists are depicted as brutal opponents of the brave doubters, largely as a consequence of using Kirby's perspective.

In 2012, Beale published a sequel to I Am Not Esther, titled I am Rebecca. One of the sequels is written from the perspective of her cousin Rebecca, who is moving to Nelson with the rest of her family, as shown at the end of I Am Not Esther. The third book is called "Being Magdalene" which is written from Magdalene's point of view.

Printed works[edit]

  • The Great Pumpkin Battle’' (1988), Shortland
  • A Surprise for Anna (1990), Cocky's Circle
  • Slide the Corner (1992), Scholastic
  • Against the Tide (1993), HarperCollins
  • Driving a Bargain (1993), HarperCollins
  • Over the Edge (1994), Scholastic
  • The Fortune Teller (1995), HarperCollins
  • Dear Pop (1995), Land's End
  • The Rich and Famous Body and the Empty Chequebook (1995), Land's End
  • Fifteen and Screaming (1996), HarperCollins
  • Rockman (1996), HarperCollins
  • Further Back than Zero (1998), Scholastic
  • Keep Out (1999), Learning Media
  • Destination Disaster (1999), Shortland
  • Playing to Win (2000), Scholastic
  • Trucker (2000), Learning Media
  • Deadly Prospect (2000), Scholastic
  • Ambushed (2000), Scholastic
  • Seven readers for Pearson Education, Singapore (2001)
  • Lucky for Some (2002), Scholastic
  • Red Dog in Bandit Country (2003), Longacre [non-fiction]
  • Lacey and the Drama Queens (2004), Scholastic
  • My Story A New Song in the Land. The Writings of Atapo, Pahia, c.1840 (2004), Scholastic
  • Walking Lightly (2004), Mallinson Rendel
  • A Respectable Girl (2006), Random House
  • The Transformation of Minna Hargreaves (2007), Random House
  • My Life of Crime (2007), Mallinson Rendel
  • Slide the Corner (2007), Scholastic
  • End of the Alphabet (2009), Random House
  • Dirt Bomb (2011), Random House
  • The Juno series:
    • ‘’Juno of Taris (2008)
    • ‘’Fierce September (2010)
    • ‘’Heart of Danger (2011)
  • I Am Not Esther
    • ‘’I Am Not Esther (1998), ISBN 0-7868-0845-4
    • ‘’I am Rebecca (2014), ISBN 978-1-77553-549-2
    • ‘’Being Magdalene (2015), Random House


  1. ^ a b c 'Fleur Beale', New Zealand Book Council Retrieved 2 March 2005
  2. ^ "Margaret Mahy Medal Award". Christchurch, New Zealand: Christchurch City Libraries. 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Margaret Mahy Award". Storylines.org.nz. Auckland, New Zealand: Storylines Children's Literature Charitable Trust of New Zealand. 2012. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Children's author Mahy dies at 76". BBC News. London: British Broadcasting Corporation. 24 July 2012. OCLC 33057671. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  5. ^ "New Year honours list 2015". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b Fleur Beale, I am not Esther (Long Acre Press/Hyland House, 1998) ISBN 0-7868-0845-4
  7. ^ Fleur Beale posting to The Reading Room Archived 7 May 2005 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2 March 2005

External links[edit]