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By June 7, 2018No Comments

A bumper crop of excellent books for young New Zealand readers have today been announced as the 33 finalists in the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

From sharks and dawn raids to earthquakes, kidnap plots, Jean Batten and the familiar chaos that is kids at breakfast time, their range is diverse. But they all share the magical ability to transport, inform and delight, says convenor of judges, Jeannie Skinner.  “These books, fiction and non-fiction, help us try on different lives, see the world through another’s eyes, and be inspired by stories of our past, present, and possible futures.”

There were 152 entries submitted for the 2018 awards, and finalist titles will compete in seven categories: Picture Book, Junior Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction, Illustration, te reo Māori and Best First Book. The winners of those categories will all compete to be named the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year.

The judges say the real strength of the shortlist is the range of vividly drawn and memorable characters who encounter challenges, both physical and mental.

They were also delighted by the richly authentic voices, which reflect the unique New Zealand landscape, vernacular and humour, with convincingly drawn family and peer dynamics.  Powerful settings of imagined futures, whether dystopian, inter-planetary or steampunk, add variety and wild imagination to the vibrant mix.

All experts in the field of children’s literature, the judges also sought the opinion of those who matter most: the children themselves. They worked with panels of young people to gauge how they reacted to and interacted with the titles.

Children are also involved in the awards through the HELL Reading Challenge. Now in its fifth year, this partnership has been hugely successful in getting kids reading and enjoying the pleasure of stories – with the added bonus of free pizza rewards. Since the 2018 programme began in early March, more than 200,000 pizza reading wheels have been ordered by over 730 schools and libraries around the country.

An exciting new sponsor further strengthens the Awards this year.  The Wright Family Foundation, a charitable trust, which already supports the Kids’ Lit Quiz and the New Zealand Spelling Bee, is funding two categories – the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award and the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction.

“The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is a perfect fit with the foundation’s goal of ‘growing the good’ in New Zealand,” says Wright Family Foundation CEO Chloe Wright. “Education is at the heart of everything we do, and supporting literacy is one of our key goals.”

“We encourage others to unleash their potential through education in various forms. The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is a wonderful vehicle to support New Zealand authors to create fantastic books that ignite the passion of our young people.”

Turning to the categories, the judges were delighted by the variety of this year’s entries for the Picture Book Award with their engaging wordplay and range of illustration styles. “New Zealanders can be very proud of their splendid picture book writers and illustrators – they are experts in their craft.”

The authentic voices of young New Zealanders are heard loud and clear in the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction shortlist. Whether in the past or present, drama or comedy, the judges found the characters to be warm and vividly real, as they face challenges and negotiate relationships.

The Copyright Licensing NZ Award for Young Adult Fiction was another exceptionally strong field this year, with themes of survival against the odds, challenges and mental health issues. Most importantly, the judges say, the authors in this category all nailed the voice of their young adult characters “in these well-written and deftly plotted books”.

The judges were excited to see such a bountiful number of high calibre nominations for the Elsie Locke Non-Fiction Award and they say the finalists shine with the authors’ expertise and passion for their subjects. “These non-fiction books take sometimes complex subjects and distil the essence, clearly and honestly, for their young audience to show what makes our world so interesting, wonderful, and various.”

“This splendid array of books demonstrates skilfulness in pacing, rewarding the turn of the page,” say the judges of the Russell Clark Illustration Award finalists. They are wide-ranging in style and media, running the gamut from classic watercolours to graphic illustrations. “In every book the characters are fully realised, their personalities captured in the briefest line or painterly detail.”

Fresh story telling from newly minted authors delighted the judges when it came to the Best First Book category. They discovered excellent world building across genres from contemporary to historical with a bit of steampunk thrown in for variety. “Every story is so masterfully written one completely forgets that these books are the first offerings from these New Zealand authors.”

The entries in the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for books written entirely in te reo Māori were described as ‘Ahakoa he iti he pounamu’. Although there were a smaller number of entries this year, they were “precious like greenstone”, and the judges praised both the content and the quality of the language used.

The formidable task of narrowing the field to a list of finalists was met by this year’s experienced judging panel: Jeannie Skinner (convenor) a facilitator at the National Library of New Zealand; Crissi Blair, a long-time promoter and champion of children’s books; Maureen Crisp, writer and blogger; Darryn Joseph, an academic and author; and Bridget Schaumann, a school librarian.
They were joined by a panel appointed by Te Rōpū Whakahau to judge the te reo Māori entries, which was led by Moana Munro (convenor), kaitiakipukapuka Māori for the Hastings District Libraries, Anahera Morehu, library manager for the Faculty of Arts, Māori and Pasifika Team of Te Tumu Herenga at the University of Auckland, and Jacqueline Joyce Snee, senior librarian Māori Research at Auckland Central Library.

School children will have a chance to meet the 2018 finalist authors and illustrators at four large-scale regional events in the week leading up to the awards ceremony. The first is in Hamilton (Wednesday 1 August in association with Waikato University, Hamilton Library and Hamilton Book Month); then Dunedin (Friday 4 and Saturday 5 August in association with Dunedin Public Libraries and UBS Otago); Christchurch (Monday 6 August in association with WORD Christchurch); and finally in Wellington (Wednesday 8 August in association with Te Papa and Wellington City Library).

The winners of the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults will be announced at a ceremony in the atmospheric Te Marae at Te Papa in Wellington on the evening of Wednesday 8 August.

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults 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. The Awards are administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.

The finalists for the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are:
Picture Book Award

Granny McFlitter the Champion Knitter, Heather Haylock, illustrated by Lael Chisholm (Penguin Random House)

I am Jellyfish, Ruth Paul (Penguin Random House)

That’s Not the Monster We Ordered, Richard Fairgray & Terry Jones (Penguin Random House)

The Gift Horse, Sophie Siers, illustrated by Katharine White (Millwood Press)

The Longest Breakfast, Jenny Bornholdt, illustrated by Sarah Wilkins (Gecko Press)


Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

How Not to Stop a Kidnap Plot, Suzanne Main (Scholastic NZ)

How to Bee, Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)

Lyla: Through My Eyes – Natural Disaster Zones, Fleur Beale, edited by Lyn White  (Allen & Unwin)

My New Zealand Story: Dawn Raid, Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith (Scholastic NZ)

The Thunderbolt Pony, Stacy Gregg (HarperCollins Publishers)


Copyright Licensing NZ Award for Young Adult Fiction

Because Everything Is Right but Everything Is Wrong, Erin Donohue (Escalator Press)

Catch Me When You Fall, Eileen Merriman (Penguin Random House)

In the Dark Spaces, Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Sticking with Pigs, Mary-anne Scott (OneTree House)

The Traitor and the Thief, Gareth Ward (Walker Books Australia)


Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction

Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House)

Explore! Aotearoa, Bronwen Wall, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews (Kennett Brothers)

New Zealand’s Great White Sharks, Alison Balance (Potton & Burton)

Sky High: Jean Batten’s Incredible Flying Adventures, David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris (Penguin Random House)

The New Zealand Wars, Philippa Werry (New Holland)


Russell Clark Award for Illustration

Abel Tasman: Mapping the Southern Lands, illustrated by Marco Ivančić, written by Maria Gill (Scholastic NZ)

Bobby, the Littlest War Hero, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, written by Glyn Harper (Penguin Random House)

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts, written and illustrated by Craig Phillips (Allen & Unwin)

I am Jellyfish, written and illustrated by Ruth Paul (Penguin Random House)

Sky High: Jean Batten’s Incredible Flying Adventures, illustrated by Phoebe Morris, written by David Hill (Penguin Random House)


Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for books written completely in te reo Māori

Hineahuone, Xoë Hall, translated by Sian Montgomery-Neutze (TeacherTalk)

Te Tamaiti me te Aihe, Robyn Kahukiwa, translated by Kiwa Hammond (Little Island Press Ltd)

Tu Meke Tūī! Malcolm Clarke, illustrated by Hayley King (AKA Flox), translated by Evelyn Tobin (Mary Egan Publishing)


Best First Book Award

Because Everything Is Right but Everything Is Wrong, Erin Donohue (Escalator Press)

Into the White, Joanna Grochowicz (Allen & Unwin)

My New Zealand Story: Dawn Raid, Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith (Scholastic NZ)

Pieces of You, Eileen Merriman (Penguin Random House)

The Traitor and the Thief, Gareth Ward (Walker Books Australia)




Social Media Links


Facebook: /NewZealandCYABookAwards/

Twitter: /nzcya

Hashtag: #NZCYA


For interview opportunities, images and further information please contact:

Gemma Finlay, Notable PR

P: 027 628 9695 E:


Notes for Editors:

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are a unique celebration of the contribution New Zealand’s children’s authors and illustrators make to building national identity and cultural heritage. Awards are made in seven categories: Young Adult Fiction (the Copyright Licensing NZ Award), Junior Fiction (the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award), Non-Fiction (the Elsie Locke Award), Picture Book, Illustration (the Russell Clark Award), te reo Māori (the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award) and the Best First Book Award. The main category awards carry prize money of $7,500 and the Best First Book winner receives $2,000. The overall prize, the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award, carries a further prize of $7,500.

The awards are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust (a registered charity). Members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Karen Ferns, Paula Morris, Catherine Robertson, Rachel Eadie, David Bowles, Pene Walsh and Melanee Winder. The Trust also governs the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

The Wright Family Foundation is a not-for-profit registered charitable trust that is dedicated to making a positive difference by advancing education and spreading knowledge, supporting individuals to achieve their full potential. Its goal is to “grow the good” in New Zealand. Supporting literacy and a passion for words and reading is a key focus of the foundation. Its CEO, Chloe Wright, is Patron of both the Kids’ Lit Quiz and the New Zealand Spelling Bee. By supporting the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, the foundation hopes to champion New Zealand writers who will inspire the imagination of children.

As the national museum of New Zealand, Te Papa houses many of the nation’s taonga (treasures) reflecting New Zealand’s society and culture through the ages.  Renowned for the unique way in which it tell these stories, Te Papa has welcomed more than 30 million visitors since it opened 20 years ago.  The museum also connects with people outside the museum through our touring exhibitions, collections online, learning programmes, and award-winning books produced by Te Papa Press.

Creative New Zealand has been a sustaining partner of New Zealand’s book awards for decades. Creative New Zealand encourages, promotes and supports the arts in New Zealand for the benefit of all New Zealanders through funding, capability building, an international programme, and advocacy. It offers financial support for emerging and established artists, art practitioners, groups and organisations, and provides training and online resources to help artists and practitioners develop professionally, grow audiences and markets, and manage their organisations. It also supports internships and national touring to help develop New Zealand arts. Creative New Zealand provides a wide range of support to New Zealand literature, including funding for writers and publishers, residencies, literary festivals and awards, and support of organisations which work to increase the readership and sales of New Zealand literature at home and internationally.

HELL Pizza was established in 1996 and now has 73 stores throughout New Zealand. HELL has reinforced its commitment to getting more kids hooked on books by sponsoring the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The HELL Reading Challenge, initiated in 2014, continues to grow. HELL says it has ‘always challenged the norm, and with kids now becoming so engrossed with modern technology, we are bucking that trend and making reading cool again. We want pizza to be the gateway drug to reading addiction!’ The programme rewards students with a free ‘333 HELLthy pizza’ once they have read seven books and had their achievement approved by a local librarian with a stamp in each segment of their HELL pizza wheel. In 2017, 562 schools and 180 public libraries around New Zealand took part, and 250,000 pizza wheels were distributed, which means that some 1.75 million books were read by Kiwi kids as a result.

Copyright Licensing Limited (CLNZ) sells licences that make copying, scanning and sharing printed works easy and legal for education providers, businesses and government departments on behalf of publishers and authors. It also advocates and lobbies in the interests of authors and publishers, pays them when their work is copied and takes action on their behalf if their rights are infringed.

LIANZA – the association for Library and Information professionals in New Zealand – introduced the first award for children’s fiction in New Zealand, establishing the Esther Glen in 1945. Awards added over the years included the Russell Clark (the only award specifically for illustrations in children’s books) and Te Kura Pounamu (celebrating Te Reo and introduced in partnership with Te Rōpū Whakahau). In 2015 LIANZA and the New Zealand Book Awards Trust merged the two awards, maintaining the long legacy of the LIANZA Awards.

Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd is the company that underwrites the sale of book tokens within New Zealand. It is administered by Booksellers New Zealand. Its tokens are fully guaranteed from financial risk.

Nielsen Book is the leading provider of book-related data services to more than 100 countries worldwide. Nielsen collects book information from over 70 countries (including the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa) and works closely with the leading data providers in the US to ensure it has the most consistent and comprehensive global database of title records available.

Wellington City Council‘s arts policy positions the city as a place where both Wellingtonians and visitors are able to actively explore our culture and experiment with their own creativity. It values heritage arts, culture and traditions and focuses on new ways of expressing what is happening now and experiences that result from collaboration, both within the professional arts sector and with communities. The Council believes in the importance of literacy and imagination in the development of New Zealand children, and it supports a wide range of arts for and by children.