In an age of screens, digital devices, and on-tap visual entertainment for kids, it’s heartening to know that there are still brilliant books being written for young readers to explore and immerse themselves in the written word. It’s also good to know that New Zealand is continuing a legacy of quality writing, pioneered by the likes of Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, and Maurice Gee.
New Zealand’s best books of 2018
On the 8th of August, the winners of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for 2018 were announced at a colourful event at Te Marae, Te Papa in Wellington. The passion that the authors and illustrators hold for their work was obvious, matched by the judges’ fervour for the titles they were tasked with whittling down to nominees and eventual winners.
Giggle of the night went to the CEO of the Wright Family Foundation, supporters of the NZ Book Awards, who quoted political satirist P.J. O’Rourke …
Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. ~P.J. O’Rourke
Eight awards were handed out on the night with the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award being taken out by a visually stunning non-fiction title, Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, written and illustrated by Gavin Bishop. The judges describe it as a book for every home, school and library.
“It’s masterful in its execution – a work of art that bears repeated and thoughtful reading and viewing of its vibrant and informative illustrations, a book of enduring significance in the canon of New Zealand children’s literature. We’ve seen nothing quite like it in New Zealand children’s publishing,” said convener of judges, Jeannie Skinner.
Books for every reader
Each award category offered up a feast of New Zealand talent. Picture Book Award winner, I Am Jellyfish, is beautifully written and illustrated by Ruth Paul, with fun luminous illustrations.
Invoking a touch of de ja vu, Bren MacDibble’s thought-provoking novel about a future without bees, How to Bee, won the Junior Fiction Award and then the author reappeared as the winner of the Young Adult Fiction. Written under the pseudonym Cally Black, In the Dark Spaces, is a science fiction thriller – a genre not that easy to find in local literature.
The Illustration Award winner is a cross between a comic book and a fairytale tome – Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts, written and illustrated by Craig Phillips, is the kind of book that may just help my pop-cultured, video-game-obsessed tween fall in love with reading again.
The best book in Te Reo Māori was awarded to Tu Meke Tūī! written by Malcolm Clarke and translated by Evelyn Tobin. The panel of judges praised the expertise of the translator in capturing “the breath and spirit of the story skilfully, locating it within a Māori viewpoint.”
The Best First Book Award winner, My New Zealand Story: Dawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith, tackles the not so simple topic of immigration, as viewed by a 13 year old girl in 70s New Zealand.
All the winners from the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults
Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award and Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction
Picture Book Award
Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction
Copyright Licencing Award for Young Adult Fiction
Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in te reo Māori
Russell Clark Award for Illustration
Best First Book Award
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, Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd, Copyright Licensing NZ, LIANZA, Wellington City Council, Nielsen Book and Te Papa. They are administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.
This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ.
Read more on Kidspot:
- 5 of the best kids books by Kiwis
- The 10 rules of reading aloud to kids
- Oat the Goat: digital story against bullying