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This year’s Book of the Year for young readers is “The Bomb”

By August 8, 2019No Comments

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.

Josh Morgan and Sacha Cotter at the 2019 NZCYA Awards. Image ©VanessaRushtonPhotography

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The full list of winners for the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults:

Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award $7500

The Bomb, Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan (Huia Publishers)


Picture Book Award $7500

The Bomb, Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan (Huia Publishers)


Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction $7500

The Dog Runner, Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)

Young Adult Fiction Award $7500

Legacy, Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers)

Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction $7500

Art-tastic, Sarah Pepperle (Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)

Russell Clark Award for Illustration $7500

Puffin the Architect, written and illustrated by Kimberly Andrews (Penguin Random House)

Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for te reo Māori $7500

Te Haka a Tānerore, Reina Kahukiwa, illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa, translated by Kiwa Hammond (Mauri Tū)

Best First Book Award $2000

Art-tastic, Sarah Pepperle (Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)


Social Media Links


Facebook: /NewZealandCYABookAwards/

Twitter: /nzcya

Hashtag: #NZCYA


For interview opportunities, images and further information please contact:

Gemma Finlay, Notable PR

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Notes for Editors:

The judges of the 2019 awards were:  Crissi Blair (convenor), a long-time promoter and champion of children’s books; Jane Arthur, an editor, commentator and poet; Raymond Huber, a children’s author and editor, Tania Roxborogh, an educator and author; and Simie Simpson, a 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), kaitiaki pukapuka Māori for the Hastings District Libraries, Anahera Morehu, president-elect of LIANZA, and Jacqueline Joyce Snee, senior librarian Māori Research at Auckland Central Library.

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 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, Jenna Todd, David Bowles, Anne Morgan and Melanee Winder. The Trust also governs the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

Creative New Zealand is the national arts development agency of Aotearoa and has been a key partner of New Zealand’s book awards for decades. Creative New Zealand encourages, promotes and supports the arts in New Zealand and internationally for the benefit of all New Zealanders through funding, capability building, and advocacy initiatives. 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. In addition, it supports internships and national touring activities to enhance the development of 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 75 outlets 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 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 2018, 684 schools and 195 public libraries around New Zealand took part, and 300,000 pizza wheels were distributed, which means that some 2 million books were read by Kiwi kids as a

The Wright Family Foundation 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.

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 Junior Fiction Award in 1945. LIANZA added other awards over the years including the Russell Clark Award for Illustration in 1975 and the Elsie Locke Non-fiction Award in 1986. The Te Kura Pounamu Award for literature written in te reo Māori was established in 1996, in partnership with Te Rōpū Whakahau. In 2016 the LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards were merged with the Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, strengthening the 60-year legacy of the LIANZA Awards.

Nielsen Book provide a range of services to the book industry internationally, aiding the discovery and purchase, distribution and sales measurement of books.

Wellington City Council‘s arts and culture strategy positions the city as a place where both Wellingtonians and visitors are able to actively explore its culture and experiment with their own creativity. It values heritage arts, culture and traditions and focuses on contemporary 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.

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 tells these stories, Te Papa has welcomed more than 30 million visitors since it opened 21 years ago.  The museum also connects with people outside the museum through its touring exhibitions, collections online, learning programmes, and award-winning books produced by Te Papa Press.