'The Lorax', by Dr Seuss, is the reason I became a children’s book creator. I thought, “If I could create a book that was so undiminished in its energy, its vibrancy, and its message – a book that was still beloved by children almost 50 years after it was made … then that would be a worthwhile use of my talents as an writer and artist."

Donovan Bixley was born a stone’s throw from the golden beaches of Perth, Australia. Alas, his life as a bronzed, speedo-wearing, barbarqued-prawn-eating surf god was not to be. Instead his Kiwi parents returned to New Zealand where Donovan grew up in the geothermal wilds beside Lake Taupo in New Zealand's Central North Island, where spiky cabbage trees became Dr Seuss’s Truffula Trees and the stone-strewn hills were a perfect stand-in for Bill Peet’s Droofus The Dragon.

From prolific childhood doodler, Donovan has gone on to become one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed picture book creators, with books published in 31 countries and translated into 18 languages. His work is nothing if not varied, spanning high–brow to low–brow and every brow in between, from his sublime illustrated biography Faithfully Mozart, to the ridiculous hijinks of feline aviators in Flying Furballs and more than 100 books in between.

In 2017,  Fuzzy Doodle, written by Melinda Szymanik and illustrated by Donovan, was selected by the International Youth Library in Munich as a White Raven, listing it as one of the top 200 children’s books in the world. This was Donovan’s second White Raven, with his innovative hybrid, part-novel part-comic Monkey Boy being selected in 2015. Monkey Boy also won Best Junior Fiction at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (NZBACYA). His illustrated biography, Much Ado About Shakespeare won The 2016 Russell Clark Illustration Award. In 2014, The Three Bears Sort Of, written by Yvonne Morrison and illustrated by Donovan, won the Overall Children’s Choice at the NZBACYA. This book also won the Children’s Choice at the 2014 Western Australian Young Readers Book Awards. Eighteen of Donovan’s books have featured on the New Zealand bestseller list, often concurrently, and he has been a number one bestseller in Norway with the Dinosaur Rescue series, co-created with Kyle Mewburn. 

Donovan’s early drawings were dominated by dinosaurs and aeroplanes, and his unmatched skill at depicting trucks was a great way to get the school bully on side. At age seven his mother read him The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which were a huge influence on his creative development along with Asterix, Footrot Flats, and Graham Oakley’s Church Mice series. At high school Donovan was not allowed to study history because his teachers didn’t want him to do ALL art subjects (Heaven forbid!). They made him to do physics instead. Funnily enough Donovan has never needed to know physics for any of his books, but he HAS researched a lot of historical subjects.

Donovan studied film, illustration and design at AUT’s School of Art and Design in Auckland, working initially in the film and advertising industries. With a commercial background, Donovan has worked as an art director for many publishers across various genres, and his work has been recognised at the book design awards. Like many of New Zealand’s greatest children’s book creators, Donovan got his first entry into children’s books, illustrating and writing stories for the The New Zealand School Journal. Donovan’s real passion is for writing and illustrating chapter books for junior fiction readers, and as an author, illustrator and designer he brings a strong vision to all his projects. 

As well as his own books, Donovan has also worked with top international-selling New Zealand authors: Brian Falkner (illustrating the novels Northwood and Maddy West and the Tongue Taker); Kyle Mewburn (co-creating the Dinosaur Rescue, Dragon Knight and Dinosaur Trouble series); and illustrating Dashing Dog by New Zealand’s world famous children’s author, the late Margaret Mahy.

When not immersed in the world of picture books, Donovan plays saxophone, piano and guitar and is singer and percussionist for 13 piece funk/jazz ensemble Hot Tub. He has performed on stage as Marius in Les Misérables and also worked behind the scenes as a set designer and painter. He still lives in Taupo, New Zealand, with his wife and three daughters.

In 2017, Donovan received the Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award


The latest accolade for children’s writer and illustrator
Born in Perth Australia. Family soon return to New Zealand.
Family move to Taupo, where father, Paul, is a Geothermal Engineer and mother, Anna, is a school librarian. Draws a very good brontosaurus in the forest.
Discovers The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which become a huge inspiration for storytelling. Illustrates and writes a sequel to LOTR
Mother uses Donovan’s artwork in her high school classes.
Family move to Indonesia. Writes and draws a graphic diary.
Head Boy of Tauhara College, Taupo.
Accepted into AUT’s School of Art and Design. Works on graphic novels and film projects. Graduates with the first cohort in the new Bachelor of Graphic Design course.
Works in Auckland film industry as storyboard artist. Twice nominated for a Qantas Media Award Works as a freelance graphic designer for advertising agencies.
With wife, Jo, sets up Magma Design and Multimedia Limited.
Inspired by Dr Suess’s The Lorax, decides to do something worthwhile with his skills as an illustrator and author. Makes first attempts at making children’s books (unpublished). Begins creating cover designs for Tandem Press, which leads to pre-production concept design work for South Pacific Pictures.
Conceives the idea of a series of illustrated biographies for adults about Mozart, Shakespeare and Leonardo Da Vinci. Begins work on Mozart.
Illustrates 'Duck and Turkey' and 'Dog on Holiday' – first educational publications. Begins a decade of regular work for NZ School Journal.
First trade picture book, 'Harry Hobnail and the Pungapeople' (written by Barry Crump). Returns with family to home town of Taupo.
After 6 years work, 'Faithfully Mozart' is published in 8 countries.
'Faithfully Mozart' is a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Begins work on Monkey Boy, an ambitious junior novel that is part traditional novel, part comic.
Completes his vibrant NZ version of The Wheels on the Bus, which becomes an instant bestseller.
Begins work with Kyle Mewburn on the Dinosaur Rescue series.
The Three Bears Sort Of (written by Yvonne Morrison) wins Children’s Choice at the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. After being rejected 17 times, Monkey Boy is published.
Monkey Boy wins Best Junior Fiction and goes on to be named by the International Youth Library in Munich as one of the top 200 children’s books in the world.
'Much Ado About Shakespeare' is launched at the Taipei International Book Exhibition. Goes on to win The Russell Clark Award for illustration. Produces 12 books in one year.
Fuzzy Doodle (written by Melinda Szymanik) is a finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults & named a White Raven Recipient, The Mallinson Rendell Illustrators Award