A formal maroon and gilt viceregal setting contrasted with the ebullience of writing for children and teens at the presentation of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults last Thursday, 13 August, in Wellington.
The star book of the night was Mandy Hager’s Singing Home the Whale, which first won the Awards’ Young Adult Fiction category and later the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award. The story of young Will and an orca called Min which he befriends while rowing also addresses ecological concerns. “This novel should be compulsory reading in any country that still hunts whales. The alternating narrative by Will and Min is captivating and believable, as well as easy to read,” said judging convenor Bob Docherty.
Mandy Hager received $7,500 for each of her awards. Singing Home the Whale is published by Penguin Random House NZ.
Also on the judging panel were author Annemarie Florian and teacher-librarian Fiona Mackie with the assistance of Te Reo Māori language adviser, Stephanie Pohe-Tibble.
Guests at the event were appreciative that an awards ceremony was possible, despite the lack of sponsorship this year. The theatre style presentation of the awards was followed by drinks – and a chance to view reception rooms at the Wellington residence of Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Mateparae.
Best Picture Book (prize $7,500) was awarded to Jim’s Letters, by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper. Based on the relationship between two brothers and their correspondence during World War 1, this book is a heart-wrenching story, testament to the pre-internet written word as a means of recording and retelling history. Publisher; Penguin Random House NZ.
Rotorua author Donovan Bixley won the Junior Fiction award (prize $7,500) with Monkey Boy. A ‘rollicking read’ say the judges as Monkey Boy has mixed history with the supernatural and scatological. Publisher; Scholastic NZ.
The Non-Fiction category winner is Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill, (prize $7,500) by Debbie McCauley and Tamati Waaka. Using narrative devices and compelling design, this book tells the story in both English and Māori of little blue penguin Mōtītī Blue’s struggle after being trapped in the Rena oil spill. Publisher; Mauāo Press.
The Māori Language award (prize $1,000) went to Ngā Kī, by Sacha Cotter, translated by Kawata Teepa and illustrated by Josh Morgan. Beautifully capturing a child’s voice, Ngā Kī conveys the special relationship between a father and his daughter. Publisher; Huia Publishers.
Winner of the Best First Book Award (prize $2,000) is Julie Noanoa, for Māori Art for Kids. The judges commended this book for its combination of excellent production values and outstanding content. Publisher; Potton & Burton.