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  • Published: 28 February 2023
  • ISBN: 9781776958009
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.00


A nerve-wracking underground adventure from an award-winning storyteller . . .

Caught in a tunnel collapse, Liam and Imogen have to use all their wits to survive in this gripping novel for readers eight years and up.

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction 2023

When you stood deep inside the tunnel, you could hear the mountain groaning overhead. That's what Liam Geary's father had told him, anyway. It sounded stupid, till you stood inside a big tunnel; felt those billions of tonnes pressing in from above and the sides; heard water dripping from ceilings, or even trickling like something's blood behind the concrete walls; sensed the blackness that lay beyond the TBM's blazing lights as it ground its slow way through the stone ahead. Then you knew that a major tunnel like the Puketapu was a place of power, somehow; that darkness and danger lurked all around.

When Liam dares his classmate Imogen to come on a forbidden tour of the railway tunnel being drilled through a nearby mountain, he hopes she’ll quit protesting about it damaging the environment — his dad is an engineer working on the tunnel, after all.

Just as they reach the huge tunnelling machine everything goes horribly wrong. When the rocks stop falling and the dust settles, they are trapped, kilometres below ground, in the dark. Water is trickling in and beginning to rise. And nobody knows where they are.

Can they stop arguing and start working together to escape before time runs out?

  • Published: 28 February 2023
  • ISBN: 9781776958009
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.00

About the author

David Hill

David Hill is a prolific and highly regarded New Zealand writer, playwright, poet, columnist and critic. Best known for his highly popular and award-winning body of work for young people, ranging from picture books to teenage fiction, his novels have been published all around the world and translated into several languages, and his short stories and plays for young people have been broadcast here and overseas.

Born in Napier, New Zealand, David studied at Victoria University of Wellington and became a high-school teacher, teaching both in New Zealand and the UK. In 1982 he became a full-time writer and his first novel for teenagers, See Ya, Simon (1992), about a boy with muscular dystrophy, was shortlisted for major awards in New Zealand and the UK and won the 1994 Times Educational Supplement Award for Special Needs. An enduringly popular novel used as a class text in high schools all over New Zealand, in 2002 it was awarded the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book.

David has published more than 50 titles over four decades. His middle-grade novels include My Brother's War (2012), which won the Junior Fiction Award and the Children's Choice Junior Fiction Award in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, the LIANZA Librarian's Choice Award and was listed as a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction book, a White Raven and an IBBY Honour book. This was followed by novels Brave Company (2014) – also a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction book; The Deadly Sky (2015); Enemy Camp (2016), which won the 2016 HELL Children’s Choice Award for Junior Fiction; Flight Path (2017), a Storylines Notable Book; Finding (May 2018), Highly Commended in the New Zealand Heritage Book Awards 2018; and Coastwatcher (2021).

Below (2022) won the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2023. Described as 'a white-knuckle survival story set in a catastrophic tunnel collapse', the judges commended the way 'it trusts its young readers to handle big environmental ideas and come to their own conclusions'.

David is also the author of a number of critically acclaimed picture books with illustrator Phoebe Morris. First to the Top (2015) is their bestselling story of the life of Sir Edmund Hillary, which won the 2016 Children's Choice Award for non-fiction and was a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book. Speed King (2016), about the world-record-breaking achievements of Burt Munro, and Sky High (2017), recounting the life of the daring aviator Jean Batten, were both presented with Storylines Notable Picture Book awards. Hero of the Sea: Sir Peter Blake's Mighty Ocean Quests was published in 2018 and Dinosaur Hunter: Joan Wiffen's Awesome Fossil Discoveries was published in 2019.

In 2004 David was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in 2005 he was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, acknowledging his significant contribution to children's literature in New Zealand.

In November 2021 David was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement - Fiction in recognition of his outstanding contribution to New Zealand Literature.

He lives in New Plymouth with his wife Beth, and juggles his many writing projects with numerous school visits, leading professional development for teachers, mentoring new and emerging writers and tutoring creative writing.

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Praise for Below

Every page is gripping, lucidly and deftly penned, and is the kind of book you need to clear a space for, so you can read it in one satisfying gulp...David Hill at his crackingly brilliant best.

Paula Green, Poetry Box

[A] page-turning thriller about courage, teamwork, friendship and caring for the environment. With Below David Hill delivers a rich cast of characters and a gripping read for junior readers.

NZ Booklovers

Awards & recognition

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Winner  •  2023  •  Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

Storylines Notable Book Award

Awarded  •  2023  •  Storylines Notable Junior Fiction

NZ Booklovers Award

Winner  •  2024  •  NZ Booklovers Award for Best Junior Fiction Book

NZ Booklovers Award

Shortlisted  •  2024  •  NZ Booklovers Award for Best Junior FictionBook

Discover more

2023 Storylines Notable Books List

The highest quality books in five genres published between August 2022 and November 2023.