This year’s Book of the Year for young readers is The Bomb.
A sparkling story of courage and transformation has been judged the best book for young readers at this year’s national children’s book awards. The Bomb by Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan, was awarded the highest prize in children’s publishing – The Margaret Mahy Book of the Year – during a ceremony at Te Papa in Wellington to celebrate the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
The judges were captivated by the spell this book cast. They described it as a summery, waterlogged, quintessentially Kiwi story about a child growing in self-confidence while striving to achieve the perfect “bomb”, supported every step of the way by the reassuring presence of his Nan.
“Joy and humour permeate the story and illustrations of The Bomb, and the reader is rewarded with each encounter – they see a new layer, another detail is revealed, fresh energy bubbles up,” says convenor of judges Crissi Blair. The judges also commended the language, which naturally incorporates te reo Māori, and the illustrations which celebrate our multicultural community.
The win rounded out an action-packed few months for the author and illustrator team of Cotter and Morgan, who have a winning partnership off the page as well, having recently become engaged and welcomed their first child into the world.
Best books for young readers
Seven other significant awards were also presented at the ceremony, held in Te Papa’s atmospheric Te Marae and attended by the country’s top children’s authors, illustrators, translators and publishers.
The Bomb also won the Picture Book Award. The judges said the books in this category “defied gravity” – being both simple and sophisticated in their message and illustration with serious child appeal but the ability to also delight adults.
The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, an enthralling eco-drama about a future without grasses, was awarded the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction, marking the second year in a row this category has been won by MacDibble. The judges found the unique voice and characterisation ensured the reader was emotionally invested while debating alternatives to the sometimes-violent measures taken to ensure survival.
Teenagers are very hard to please, said the judges in announcing the Young Adult Fiction Award, but the panel was confident the winner of this category, Legacy by Whiti Hereaka, was a book teens would love. They were unanimous in their appreciation for this novel, with its assured writing, cleverly constructed story and pitch-perfect historical rendering, which teaches much about life as a WWI Māori soldier.
A winning start
An instantly engaging, slyly educational book peppered with a sense of humour won the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction. Art-tastic by Sarah Pepperle is a rare book that makes art – in this case the iconic works in the Christchurch Art Gallery – accessible and fun for young readers and shows how it can touch all aspects of our lives.
With such high praise from the judges, it’s no surprise Art-tastic also took out the Best First Book Award, a fiercely contested prize in a field of books which all cut straight to the heart of what being a young person is about in very different ways. But the judges couldn’t go past Pepperle’s “out-of-this-world talent” for presenting information – both factual and abstract – in a digestible, hilarious, approachable way, and praised her rare instinct for understanding how children work.
When it’s done well, children’s book illustration is a high form of art combining technique, taste and vision with the ability to tell a story. The judges found the art exceptional in Russell Clark Award for Illustration winner, Puffin the Architect by Kimberly Andrews. They cited Andrews as an early-career treasure trove of talent, saying New Zealand children are lucky to have the rest of her career to look forward to.
Te reo Māori
The Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for te reo Māori was awarded to Te Haka a Tānerore by Reina Kahukiwa, illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa, translated by Kiwa Hammond. The panel of judges convened by Te Rōpū Whakahau said the book enhanced readers’ understanding of Māori performing arts by telling the origin story of haka. They praised the way its close connection to identity and heritage was illustrated with exceptional artwork.
2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults Winners
Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award and Picture Book Award
Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction and Best First Book Award
Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction
Young Adult Fiction Award
Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in te reo Māori
Russell Clark Award for Illustration
The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are a unique celebration of the contribution that New Zealand’s children’s authors and illustrators make to building national identity and cultural heritage. The awards are made possible through the generosity, commitment and vision of funders and sponsors: Creative New Zealand, HELL Pizza, the Wright Family Foundation, LIANZA, Wellington City Council, Nielsen Book and Te Papa. They are administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.
Information in this article was provided for media release.
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