New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Winners announced!

The day has finally come — the winners of the 2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults have been announced! The Supreme Winner at the Awards this year is former New Zealand Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh, for her book Mophead. Mophead, which won both the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award as well as the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction, is an incredible book that is hard to describe in words and in every way is a taonga worthy of this highest honour. Find it, and the books that won the other six categories, on our catalogue below:


Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award; Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction

Mophead : how your difference makes a difference / Marsh, Selina Tusitala

Judges’ comments: This magic book reaches past our brains and squeezes life into our hearts and imaginations. Mophead places its writer at the centre of her own story, but also draws lines out to all the stories and histories that make up an individual: cultures, literature, family and education.
With exquisite design and production, it is part picture book, part graphic novel, part memoir, part poem — its form is exactly what it wants and needs to be, which is the message of the book too.
Mophead is clever and joyful and inspiring, with not a smidgen of pretension or condescension. It is — dare it be said — perfect.

Our thoughts: Yes! While the calibre of the shortlist this year was nothing short of astonishing, we are beyond pleased to see this taonga take the top prize. This book is everything — by turns funny and poignant, strident and comforting, impetuous and patient; capable both of rousing a righteous anger and of gently taking the reader by the hand and leading them to a new point of view. This book is essential reading, and we’d like to see a copy in the hand of every child in the land. Plus, it’s about time the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award was won by a Pasifika author. Ka rawe!


Picture Book Award

Abigail and the birth of the sun / Cunningham, Matthew

Judges’ comments: This book ticks all the boxes for a great picture book. Abigail is a very real and relatable character: children will be able to see themselves in her, and adults will recognise her. Her curiosity is what drives the story, and is formed in a magical question on possibility. Her father tenderly cradles this curiosity, creating a beautiful narrative answer to her big question that is part magic, part science. The language is evocative and poetic and times, and yet still packed with facts. The illustrations support this gentle yet fantastical approach, with bold colours and big skyscapes combined with little touches like the ever-present family cat, and the astronaut teddy bear.

Our thoughts: This gorgeously-realised book will be a favourite for bedtime and storytime for years to come. The colour palette throughout is what most caught our eye — the stunning range of sunny yellows and ochres, reds so deep you could fall into them, verdant greens and velvety blacks, blues and purples — the book is a joy to look at. The text is the right combination of imagination-inspiring and comforting. We think you’ll like this one — be sure to pick it up next time you come to the library, though you may need to reserve it first!


Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

Lizard’s tale / Chan, Weng Wai

Judges’ comments: Lizard’s Tale is a standout not only for its gripping storytime, but for its convincing characters and historical detail. Set in the crowded slums of Singapore’s Chinatown during World War Two, Lizard’s Tale tells the story of a young teenage boy who is offered big money to steal a mysterious box — and finds himself drawn into a dangerous world of espionage, kidnapping, daring escapes and covert missions. Readers are given a tantalising insight into a culturally diverse world, and a glimpse of history seen from a new, exciting angle. Fast paced and assured, this is a confident debut from an exciting new talent.

Our thoughts: This book was a standout for us amidst the extremely strong junior fiction field. The at times breakneck-exciting pace is perfectly measured by periods of quiet development and observation. At times the writing is reminiscent of classic 1940s spy and detective fiction, at times it’s more reflective and thoughtful. Before long, you find yourself inevitably drawn in to compellingly-drawn and richly historical world.


Young Adult Fiction Award

Aspiring / Wilkins, Damien

Judges’ comments: Aspiring demonstrates a stunning insight into the teenage mind, both in its exploration of character and its respect for the intelligence of its audience. In Ricky, the book has a kind, thoughtful main character, even as he towers over those in his life and deals with difficult memories of family trauma. Books like this can provide a bridge from young adult reading to feeling confident to start tackling literary books for grown-ups. There are plenty of teens out there like Ricky, and it is to be hoped that seeing themselves reflected on the page in all their uncertain, wildly imaginative glory will remind them to stay true to their thoughtful and inquisitive selves.

Our thoughts: We loved the verbosity and relatability of 15-year-old Ricky’s near-constant internal monologue throughout this book — it’s full of the kinds of observations about life in a small town that we recognise and empathise with. It’s exciting to see the author’s bold and unpretentious voice applied to young adult themes and characters for the first time in this book, and we’re hoping there’s more to come in this space in the future!


Russell Clark Award for Illustration

The adventures of Tupaia / Meredith, Courtney Sina

Judges’ comments: Mat Tait’s illustrations reach the reader on an intellectual, gut and aesthetic level. They teach us about our history in part by engaging our emotions, via dramatic perspectives and powerful colours. We witness a battle for power as we journey through the Pacific, and are struck by confusion and grief. A clever combination of modes is used: comic strips, vignettes, full spreads of starry skies, and symbols from throughout the Pacific. The pared back, simple lines and limited colours have us the sense that history isn’t merely something from the past — it’s still happening now. These illustrations are modern and cool — but with an urgent fire in their belly.

Our thoughts: The visual style of this excellent non-fiction book is striking, deliberate, dignified, and sharp. In comparison to some of the other books on the shortlist for this award, the colour palette is slightly muted and pared back — but this is entirely to the book’s benefit. The prevalence of cool greens, the fullest range of blues and purples, with subtle flashes of warmer colours, and the ingenious use of whites and creams as highlights, gives the story a sense of solemn unity without ever detracting from the fierce excitement of the true story being told. We think this book, along with being a wonder to behold, is an essential read for anyone wanting to learn more about the history of the Aotearoa in the Pacific.


Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for Te Reo Māori

Tio Tiamu / Kurahau

Judges’ comments: Tio Tiamu, aka Toe Jam — what a dreadful predicament, oh the humiliation! Tio Tiamu is a gigantic character with the kindest heart and genuine love for his hapū. He overcomes many challenges and deliberate acts of nastiness, only to be shunned. There are mixtures of ‘if only’ moments, cautiously laid like and absorbing tangi the senses of the reader are tuned in to. ‘Ha aha te mea nui o te ao, he tangata’ — it is known the most important thing in the world is its people. This te reo journey exudes manaaki tangata with generosity, benevolence, and grace.

Our thoughts: This book really is the complete package. The story feels at times very much like a legend being told in a traditional oral storytelling mode — the text often repeats, loops back in on its self, steps forwards or backwards to further explain a point or leave something poetically unsaid. There is an incredible sense of balance throughout, where the weight of the storytelling is shared equally between the stylised, yet detailed illustrations and the entrancing, sometimes very playful, language. Yet the story does not pull its punches, and we can’t guarantee there won’t be tears the first time it is read by your tamariki. At the core of it all lies an incredibly powerful message that resonates especially powerful right now — that kindness to others is the only thing that matters, in the end.


Best First Book Award

#Tumeke! / Petherick, Michael

Judges’ comments: #Tumeke! is every bit as diverse as the Newtoun community, which we see revealed piece by piece, flyer by flyer, as the fun, endearing mosaic that makes New Zealand the unique paradise it is. Michael Petherick tells a sweet and funny tale, with a creative multi-media format that engages the eye and challenges the brain. Ages and cultures merge in this story of a small community filled with huge heart. Readers will find themselves cheering on every new character, and will easily see themselves somewhere in this fantastic, genre-bending book.

Our thoughts: This is a completely unique book with so much to discover — a whole diverse community, in fact (that may or may not bear more than a passing resemblance to our very own Newtown). Really, this book is a whole series of relationships, events, conversations, debates, personal thoughts, and public announcements all distilled into a format that bursts off the pages. You can absolutely read it in one sitting, drawn into the experience of the new kid at school and the swirling excitement of the organisation of a community event. But equally, you can dip in and out, reminding yourself every now and then of why it is you have grown to love and care about the eccentric and relatable characters sketched so expertly within. A challenging and different read, but absolutely worthy of that elusive Librarian’s Choice sticker.

Ockham NZ Book Awards Illustrated Non-Fiction Long List

As well as General Non-Fiction, the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards have a special category for Illustrated Non-Fiction. The 2020 long list for this category, which has just been announced, includes magnificently illustrated books that both inform and entertain.

The Ockham short lists will be announced on 4 March, and the final prize winners will be presented with their awards on 12 May.

Check out the titles in the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award category long list!

Crafting Aotearoa: a cultural history of making in New Zealand and the wider Moana Oceania / Chitham, Karl
“A major new history of craft that spans three centuries of making and thinking in Aotearoa New Zealand and the wider Moana (Pacific). Paying attention to Pākehā, Māori, and island nations of the wider Moana, and old and new migrant makers and their works, this book is a history of craft understood as an idea that shifts and changes over time.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Protest Tautohetohe: objects of resistance, persistence and defiance / Gibson, Stephanie
“Aotearoa New Zealand has a long legacy of activism. This richly illustrated book brings together over 300 objects made by protestors to proclaim and symbolise their causes and their struggles. From banners to badges, t-shirts to tea towels, posters to photographs, it is a vivid reflection of 250 years of resistance and persistance.” (Catalogue)

Frances Hodgkins: European journeys
“This vivid and revealing book is published alongside a landmark exhibition focused on one of our most internationally recognized artists, Frances Hodgkins. Complete with a rich visual chronology of the artist’s encounters abroad, alongside over one hundred of Hodgkins’ key paintings and drawings, the book is an illuminating journey that moves us from place to place through the writings of a number of distinguished art historians, curators and critics.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Funny as: the story of New Zealand comedy / Horan, Paul
“On TV, film, and live, New Zealand comedy has never been bigger. Published alongisde a major Television New Zealand documentary series, Funny As is a big, authoritative, funny history of New Zealand’s funny men and women. From capping bands to the Topp Twins, hori humour to Billy T James, Lynn of Tawa to Fred Dagg, New Zealanders have made each other laugh in ways distinctive to our peoples and our culture. In 400 pictures and a text built on deep research and over 100 interviews with comics, this book will be Funny As.” (Catalogue)

We are here: an atlas of Aotearoa / McDowall, Chris
“This compelling mix of charts, graphs, diagrams, maps and illustrations is beautiful, insightful, and enlightening. It helps us make sense of our country, to grasp its scale, diversity and intricacies, and to experience feelings of connection to land, to place, to this time in our history, and to one another. By making data visible, each graphic reveals insights: Who visits us? How many fish are in the sea? How do we hurt ourselves? Where do our cats go to at night?  Essays by some of New Zealand’s best thinkers complete the package.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Louise Henderson: from life
“This is the first major survey of the life and work of French-born, New Zealand artist Louise Henderson (1902-1994). Featuring work from across Henderson’s seven-decade career, the book and accompanying exhibition trace the development of the artist’s bold and colourful abstract style. Henderson worked alongside other major figures including Rita Angus, John Weeks, Colin McCahon and Milan Mrkusich and was one of the first New Zealand artists to commit herself to an overtly modern style.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

McCahon country / Paton, Justin
“In this landmark book, celebrated writer and curator Justin Paton takes readers on a journey through the landscape of Aotearoa, as the artist loved and painted it. From Otago to Canterbury, Takaka to Taranaki, Muriwai to Northland and many more places in between, Paton brings his curator’s eye to a selection of nearly 200 of McCahon’s paintings and drawings, including iconic and beloved works and others never before published.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Colin McCahon: there is only one direction. Vol. I 1919-1959 / Simpson, Peter “In the first of a two-volume work chronicling 45 years of painting by New Zealand artist, Colin McCahon, leading McCahon scholar, writer, and curator Peter Simpson chronicles the evolution of McCahon’s work over the artist’s entire career. Each volume includes over 300 colour illustrations, with a selection of reproductions (many never previously published), plus photographs, catalogue covers, facsimiles and other illustrative material.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

The meaning of trees / Vennell, Robert
“This treasure of a book pays homage to New Zealand’s native plant species while telling the story of plants and people in Aotearoa. Beautifully illustrated with botanical drawings, paintings and photographs, it shows us how a globally unique flora has been used for food, medicine, shelter, spirituality and science. From Jurassic giants to botanical oddballs – these are our wonderful native and endemic plants.” (Adapted from our catalogue)


The New Photography: New Zealand’s First-generation Contemporary Photographers / McCredie, Athol
“Athol McCredie is a leading NZ photography curator and in this beautiful book he tells the story of the beginning of contemporary/art photography in Aotearoa. Photographers discussed include Gary Baigent, Max Oettli, and Ans Westra.” (Adapted from Fishpond)

Wellingtonian author Pip Adam wins top NZ fiction prize!

Local Wellingtonian author Pip Adam has won the top fiction prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards with her fantastic novel The New Animals. Published in 2017, this is Pip’s second novel. The award win includes a $50,000 cash prize and has been won previously by Catherine Chidgey, Eleanor Catton, Emily Perkins and other fantastic writers.

In November we interviewed Pip about The New Animals, so make sure to give the blog post a read if you haven’t already. We have the book in our collection in both print and ebook formats, so be sure to reserve it now!

Syndetics book coverThe new animals / Pip Adam.
“Carla, Sharon and Duey have worked in fashion for longer than they care to remember, for them, there’s nothing new under the sun. They’re Generation X: tired, cynical and sick of being used. Tommy, Cal and Kurt are Millenials, they’ve come from nowhere, but with their monied families behind them they’re ready to remake fashion. They represent the new sincere, the anti-irony. Both generations are searching for a way out, an alternative to their messed-up reality. Pip Adam’s new novel walks the streets of Auckland city now, examining the fashion scene, intergenerational tension and modern life with an unflinching eye. From the the wreckage and waste of the 21st century, new animals must emerge.” (adapted from Syndetics)

Pip Adam's The New Animals