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A book described as a taonga for this generation and the next, written and illustrated by one of the country’s most lauded authors, was tonight crowned the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year at the 2022 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults ceremony, held at the Alan Gibbs Centre, Wellington College.
Atua: Māori Gods and Heroes by multi-award-winning author Gavin Bishop was praised by the judges for its sense of magic and the way it validates matauranga and te ao Māori truths.
“Atua is an instant classic, a ‘must have’ for every Kiwi household and library, that is packaged in stunning production values,” said convenor of judges Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith.
“The book is much more than a list of Gods and legendary heroes – it’s a family tree, presented with power and simplicity. The text is never overstated, with the glory of the illustrations as the primary mode of storytelling, rewarding the reader who closely examines them.”
As well as taking out the highest accolade in children’s publishing, Atua also won the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction and the Russell Clark Award for Illustration.
It’s the fifth time Ōtautahi-based Bishop's work has been acknowledged with the coveted Book of the Year prize. He has now won it three times for titles he authored and illustrated and twice for books where he was the illustrator. This is more than any other children’s author or illustrator in New Zealand, even the award’s namesake Margaret Mahy, who won the supreme award twice.
OTHER AWARD WINNERS
While Atua took out the lion’s share of the prizes on the night, it was a cheeky lion who impressed the judges when it came to the Picture Book Award, which went to Lion Guards the Cake by Wellington’s Ruth Paul. The judges loved the masterfully blended words and images, calling it confident storytelling of the highest calibre.
An imaginative, thought-provoking novel with “a bit of creepy stirred in” was how The Memory Thief by Leonie Agnew of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland was described. It won the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction, with the judges praising the skill and writing craft of the author, as well as the depth and quality of language.
Learning to Love Blue by Melbourne-based New Zealander Saradha Koirala was awarded the Young Adult Fiction Award. The judging panel was enamoured by this novel that deals with striking out alone, navigating relationships and finding one’s feet in a new city, calling it an emotional and always relatable read.
The standard and beautiful flow of reo in I Waho, i te Moana, translated from Yvonne Morrison’s text by Pānia Papa (Pōneke Wellington) and illustrated by Jenny Cooper, saw it awarded the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for te reo Māori. The judges praised the expertise of the translator, and also said the illustrations bring to life the authenticity of this story about the many taniwha that act as guardians in the moana.
Among the 199 entries into this year’s awards, some of the most exciting for the judges to read were those from new voices. With the calibre encouragingly high, it was a tough category to call but the NZSA Best First Book Award went to Spark Hunter by Sonya Wilson from Auckland. The judges felt the book was perfectly pitched for middle fiction readers, with its debut author deftly weaving history, culture, conservation, humour, tension and adventure into the story.