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Jessica Le Bas
Photo Credit: Photograph by Thomas Le Bas

Jessica Le Bas

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Jessica Le Bas is an award-winning poet and author who divides her time between Nelson, New Zealand and Rarotonga. As well as being mother to seven children, she has variously worked for the United Nations, as a private secretary to a government minister, as a truck driver, a restaurant manager and a high school teacher.

Her poems have been published in literary journals and collected in books. Her first poetry collection, Incognito, won the Best First Book of Poetry Award at the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. A second collection, Walking to Africa, which explored adolescent mental illness, released in 2009 and was a finalist in the 2010 Ashton Wylie Book Awards.

In 2010 the novel Staying Home, her first work for children, was published under the pseudonym Jesse O. It was researched and written after the outbreak of H1N1 swine flu, imagining a (at that time hypothetical) situation of New Zealand in lock down and won a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award in 2011. This imagined influenza pandemic scenario became reality in 2020, with the outbreak of Covid-19. Taking on a new relevance the novel rereleased in 2021, as Locked Down, with illustrations by Toby Morris.

In 2019, Jessica Le Bas won the prestigious Sarah Broom Poetry Prize for a sequence of poems described by the judge, Toronto Poet Laureate Anne Michaels, as ‘alive with detail acutely observed’.

Books by Jessica Le Bas

Locked Down

Jesse O's award-winning novel about a deadly pandemic and a family in lockdown, rereleased with all new illustrations by Toby Morris.

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More features

A sneak peek at our 2021 kids books!

After an exhausting and unusual 2020, we’ve got plenty of reasons to be grateful for a new year, not least because of the stellar line up of children’s books we have coming your way over the next few months!Read on for a sneak peek at some of the best new children’s books we’re bringing to you in 2021.

Locked Down: A note from the author

When Jesse O wrote Locked Down (then titled Staying Home) back in 2011, she never imagined that almost a decade later, the events of her novel would prove spookily accurate . . .

Locked Down: Real Reader Reviews

We wanted to know what young Kiwi readers thought about Jesse O's book Locked Down (hint: they loved it!). Read on to see their reviews.