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Rachel and Rebecca

A Love Letter to Margaret Mahy

23.07.13 | Comment?

Dear Margaret Mahy

We miss you. We miss your vibrant personality and most excellent wigs. We miss your humour, your descriptions, your characters and the way you made us believe in people. No one has master the art of writing longish short stories based on improbable casts of characters and far-fetched plots better than you. Nor has anyone done so with greater panache and infectious enjoyment. You are one of New Zealand’s greatest writers and as much as we love you, we want to thank you as well. For the 100 picture books, 40 novels and 20 collections of short stories that made us laugh, cry but most of all, believe. You sparked our imaginations over and over again and for that, we most sincerely thank you.

With love and respect,

R n R

Margaret Mahy worked as a librarian for more than 10 years before becoming a full-time writer. She has won many awards for her work including the Carnegie Medal and the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award and in 1993 she was awarded the Order of New Zealand. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Catalan and Afrikaans.

The Margaret Mahy Medal Award was established by the New Zealand Children’s Book Foundation in 1991 to provide recognition of excellence in children’s literature, publishing and literacy in New Zealand. In March 2009 she was commemorated as one of the Twelve Local Heroes and a bronze bust of her was unveiled outside the Christchurch Arts Centre.

All in all, Margaret Mahy was an incredible woman. We’ve raved about some of her work before but here are (some more of) our personal favourites from her vast work:

book cover courtesy of Syndetics

We know you’re all far too old to be reading picture books but it’s impossible to leave these gems out! In fact we could probably do an entire post about the brilliance of Margaret Mahy’s picture books for readers of all ages. They’re witty, original, and damn good stories.

The blood-and-thunder Adventure on Hurricane Peak – yes, it’s another one for younger readers but it’s also a personal favourite from my childhood. I re-read it recently and it had me snorting with laughter. Set in the Unexpected School on top of Hurricane Peak and in the great city of Hookywalker below this blood-and-thunder adventure has the best characters. Villains, an inventor, a tartar of a principal, a boy and girl in need of an education, a cat masquerading as a headprefect, a magician practicing school teacher, an inquisitive postman and two school inspectors hopelessly out of their depth.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsKaitangata Twitch – Kaitangata is an island with a rocky fist punching skywards. In pre-European New Zealand the tiny island was the scene of awful happenings and now it seems to have a life of its own. It dreamt terrible dreams. The local tribe knew it was best to leave it alone. And so the island slept again. But now Kaitangata is twitching. It’s moving. It’s waking up! The last time it twitched was over 50 years ago and a girl disappeared without a trace, apparently swallowed up by the island. Now, it’s moving again. Dreaming again. Can Meredith, the dreamer of the family, save the island from an unscrupulous developer? It’s also been made into a tv series.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsA dissolving ghost : essays and more – this is a collection of talks and articles, largely about children’s literature, plus a short story for adults and an interview with Margaret Mahy. Another such work is Notes of a Bag Lady.

And if you want more information about Margaret Mahy, these are some biographies:

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMargaret Mahy : a writer’s life, by Tessa Duder – in which Margaret Mahy is described as “a brilliant essayist, an expert on children’s literature, a scholar and philosopher. For many fellow writers, teachers and librarians she was a treasured friend, supportive, generous and wonderful company. For children, she was the storyteller supreme, warm, full of wonder, magic and mischief – and on their side.” A biography for older readers.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMagical Margaret Mahy, by Betty Gilderdale – asks the questions who was Margaret Mahy? What was she like as a child? Where did her weird and wonderful ideas come from? A biography for younger readers.


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