Jann Weeratunga

Programme Participant

Jann Weeratunga was born in 1963. She was a Primary School Teacher and a Scout/Cub Leader for over 20 years, which she felt was a very good grounding for what Middle-Grade Readers enjoyed reading. She has lived and worked in London, the UK: Sri Lanka: UAE, and Bahrain. She currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her fur babies.

Her flagship – The Polly’s Piralympics Series, was written and inspired by the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympic Games. In his closing speech, Sir Phillip Craven told how a young boy was reading with his mother. In the book, he saw a man with an eye patch, a hook for a hand, a parrot on his shoulder, and a wooden leg. When asked who it was, he said, “Well, he has only one leg, so he must be an Olympian.” Such was the strength of the London 2012 Paralympics that changed peoples’ perceptions of disability forever. The speech made her both laugh and cry and gave her the inspiration for the Polly’s Piralympics Series of books, which are both unique in concept as well as content and format – dealing with disabilities, bullying, and cheating. The books also have a comprehension page at the end of each chapter, where the participants can answer questions and draw their own characters.

Polly’s Piralympics Series (Middle Grade) includes: How Polly Became a Pirate, Polly Finds Treasure, Polly’s Piralympics, Polly’s Inuit Piralympics, Polly’s Hogmanay Holiday, Polly’s Rainy Day Piralympics and Polly Returns to Africa.
For younger (4-8 years) readers, she has developed The Toucane the Toucan Series colouring-in books with a story, song, and activity included. – Toucane is Different, Toucane and the Rubbish Rangers and Toucane Warns of Stranger Danger.

Patch’s Pirate Pals Series — Amazon Best Sellers. Jeremy and his sister, Rachel, love to play pirates. Even when they daydream and sleep the dream of being pirates. This series sees the siblings take to the high seas for adventures galore. It also includes colouring-in pages and highlighted words found in a dictionary at the end of the story for young Wordsmiths.

In March 2018, she set up the Schools Reading Road Show – an NPO – intending to improve literacy for pupils in the Primary Sector in South Africa. They have visited schools, read to the learners, and given motivational talks on anti-bullying and that it’s ok to be different. She has also addressed a Head Teachers Conference (Embrace) in 2018 and 2019, where she gave a workshop on the importance of reading. She gives workshops for YA pupils on how to write a book and participated on panels at the JBBF (Jozi Books and Blogs Festival) 2017/2018, South African Children’s Book Fair 2018, and Kingsmead Book Fair 2019 where she gave a presentation. In 2020 on the eve of lockdown (five days earlier to be precise), she organised and ran the Bennies Book Fayre – to date the largest gathering of children’s and child authors in South Africa.

For adults, she has written a poetry book, Echoes from the Forest, published in May 2018 and is part of an anthology – Ethereal, which came out Sept 2018 and is a light horror/dark fantasy book, nominated for African Best Anthology (African Speculative Fiction Society). Conceived and produced lock down Behind the Mask in 2020 — a collection of short stories from eighteen women written during lock down. 2023, Angry Tears Dark short stories anthology.