> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 29 July 2015
  • ISBN: 9780143506874
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $25.00

First to the Top

Sir Edmund Hillary's Amazing Everest Adventure


Formats & editions


Meet Sir Edmund Hillary, a shy but determined beekeeper from New Zealand who dreamed of being the first person to climb to the summit of Mt Everest, the world's tallest mountain.

David Hill and Phoebe Morris's award-winning picture book tells the story of Sir Ed and his climb to the top of Mt Everest. It's a story about courage, skill and determination, and an inspiration to anyone who dreams of reaching the top.

Up on the world's highest mountain, the sky is tinged the black colour of space and the air is almost too thin to breathe.
How did Ed, a small, shy boy from the tiny town of Tuakau in New Zealand, grow up to become the world's most famous mountaineer and adventurer? How did he climb Everest and do so many other astonishing things?
This exceptional picture book, written by internationally acclaimed children's author David Hill and illustrated by Phoebe Morris, tells the story of Sir Ed and his climb to the top of Mt Everest. It's a story about courage, skill and determination, and an inspiration to anyone who dreams of reaching the top.

2016 Nonfiction winner of the HELL Children’s Choice Awards

2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book

2015 New Zealand Listener Top 50 Children's Books


  • Pub date: 29 July 2015
  • ISBN: 9780143506874
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $25.00

About the Authors

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 40 titles over the past three decades. His recent middle-grade novels include My Brother's War (2012), which in 2013 won the Junior Fiction Award and the Children's Choice Junior Fiction Award in the 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; and Finding (May 2018).

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.

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.

Phoebe Morris

Phoebe Morris has been drawing for herself since 1996, and for other people since 2013. From a small studio in Wellington, she has collaborated with acclaimed author David Hill on award-winning picture book biographies of famous New Zealanders for Penguin Random House New Zealand: Sir Edmund Hillary (First to the Top, 2015), Burt Munro (Speed King, 2016), Jean Batten (Sky High, 2017) and Sir Peter Blake (Hero of the Sea). Phoebe is also the illustrator of the Frankie Potts junior fiction series by Juliet Jacka.
Unanimously praised for the quality of the illustrations, First to the Top was named a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book. In a review for the New Zealand Listener, Ann Packer wrote 'Wellingtonian Phoebe Morris makes a stunning debut as an illustrator ... from the arresting cover, through cameos of his younger life, to haunting, other-worldly mountainscapes, Morris's style gives the old story a cool new edge.'
In 2018 Phoebe was shortlisted for the Russell Clark Award for Illustration in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Though much of her work focuses on narrative storytelling, Phoebe also creates illustrations for apps, websites, editorials, animation and interior design. Find out more about her work at phoebemorriscreative.com


Praise for First to the Top

“How can you possibly sum up the life of Sir Edmund Hillary in a picture book? Taking on a challenge that would have seen lesser writers fail, David Hill, best known for his award-winning children's fiction, captures the essence of the mountaineer's life in a taut yet never simplistic text, while Wellingtonian Phoebe Morris makes a stunning debut as an illustrator. First to the Top introduces Sir Ed to a new generation in a splendid homegrown picture book paying tribute to the heroic mountaineer's remarkable life. From the arresting cover, through cameos of his younger life to haunting, other-worldly mountainscapes, Morris's style gives the old story a cool new edge.”

Ann Packer, NZ Listener

“What I noticed while reading the book to my four-year-old son was a swelling of pride at, and there's no other way to put it, the New Zealandness of the story. It led my son and I to talk about how to be in the world, which all of the best children's stories do (and adult stories, for that matter). First to the Top: Sir Edmund Hillary's Amazing Everest Adventure highlights a certain New Zealand identity: a desire to be in the outdoors, a curiosity that when combined with hard work drives us overseas and to greatness; our deep streak of sensibleness and humility. It is also quite funny in places; when Ed is knighted by the queen the book states, 'He told friends, "Now I'll have to buy some new bee-keeping overalls".' ... It is easily the best children's book I've read this year.”

Sarah-Jane Barnett, Booksellers NZ Blog

“...another great book for encouraging children to dream big and work hard to achieve their dreams.”

Swings and Roundabouts

“Respected children's author David Hill has penned this biography of one of our most famous and well-loved New Zealanders, tracing ''Sir Ed's'' birth and education to his wartime and mountaineering achievements . . . For me, the richly coloured but uncluttered illustrations by first-time children's illustrator Phoebe Morris are the standout element.”

Helen Spiers, Otago Daily Times

“His stories are wonderful, full of action and are always teaching the reader about some aspect of our amazing country and our people.”

Gisborne Herald


Awards & Recognition

  • New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

    Winner • 2016 • Winner of the Hell Children's Choice Award for Non-fiction

  • Storylines Notable Book Award

    Notable Book • 2016 • Picture Book


Discover More

Article
Give the gift of time to your little one and choose one of these gorgeous picture books to read together and treasure this Christmas.

Related titles