New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2024: Children’s Finalists!

It’s been another wonderful year for children’s books in Aotearoa New Zealand — so why not check out the shortlist for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, officially announced last week. This is always a super exciting time of year for us at the library — picture librarians huddled anxiously around computer screens awaiting the announcement, exclaiming with joy and anticipation upon seeing the list go up, scrolling to see if our favourites made the cut.

The good news is many of our favourites did make the cut this year! And there are a few local Wellington authors too! The books on the list are by turns funny, quirky, beautiful, profound, and so distinctly Aotearoa in quality that they only could have come from here. To help you make your mind up about which books you think should win their categories, we thought we’d share the full list here, with links to all the books in our catalogue. Just click on the title and you’ll be able to reserve the next available copy to read. But get in quick — we don’t think they’ll stay on the shelf for very long!

Picture Book Award

Judges’ comments:”The judges were impressed by the boldness and brilliance of this year’s Picture Book Award finalists. Each created a unique world to experience, and demonstrated mastery in writing, illustration, and the harmony between the two.”

At the bach / Cowley, Joy
“Creaky old bed with rumpled sheet, sunburned skin and sandy feet… An evocative bedtime story that conjures the essence of summer at the bach.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dazzlehands / Cotter, Sacha
“The cow says ‘moo’, the chicken says ‘cluck’ and the pig says … ‘Dazzlehands!’ As hard as the farmer tries, pig won’t go ‘oink’. Instead, pig gets all the animals moving to: ‘Train hands, rain hands, fly-it-like-a-plane hands. Bursting with the razzle, gotta liberate these Dazzlehands!” (Catalogue)

Read this book in te reo Māori

Lucy and the dark / Szymanik, Melinda
“”A story about a child who faces her fears and makes friends with the Dark. They go on a wild nocturnal adventure together – but what happens to everyone else when the Dark has run away? … One night, Lucy befriends the Dark and zooms away with it on an adventure to explore all the wonderful things that happen when the Dark is around. But back home, everyone else is discovering that they really do miss the Dark after all. Can Lucy and Dark be convinced to return?” (Catalogue)

Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai / Keeble, Michaela
“A bold and multi-layered picture book about self-determination narrated by a young boy full of ideas and questions about growing up, belonging, spirituality, culture and who is the boss”–Publisher’s website.” (Catalogue)


Junior Fiction Award

Judges’ comments: “Themes of identity, belonging, community and connection run throughout all the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award finalists. Engaging stories hook the reader from the start and the judges believe these books have some of the best ever first lines.”

Big Little Blue [3] : DoubleDippers / McGrath, Raymond
“Delightful Bigsies and Littles are back, showcasing the importance of being kind and helping others. There are three simply illustrated, playful stories in this graphic novel-style volume, each one featuring two friends, Big Blue and Little Blue. Each story is connected by a wellbeing theme, and is designed to offer children coping strategies for navigating friendships, understanding emotional responses, and the importance of mindfulness and being yourself.” (Catalogue)

Lopini the Legend / Tuʻakoi, Feana
“When Lopini is replaced as kapa haka leader at school, he starts to spiral. It doesn’t matter that he thinks it’s a good idea, or that he agreed to the change in the first place. He’s a hard-out perfectionist and this feels like a public failure. Lopini’s best mate, Fi, thinks he’s overreacting. After all, he’s so successful that everyone at school calls him Lopini the Legend. But Lopini still freaks out whenever something goes wrong – and he HATES it. He decides to practise failing, so he won’t feel like that anymore. Can Lopini still be a legend, if everyone knows he isn’t perfect?” (Catalogue)

Nine girls / Gregg, Stacy
“They dug a hole and they put the box filled with gold inside it. To keep it safe until they could return, one of them placed a tapu on it. A tapu so that anyone who tried to touch the gold would die. Titch is determined to find the gold buried somewhere on her family’s land. It might be cursed but that won’t put her off. Then an unexpected encounter with a creature from the river reveals secrets lying beneath its surface… As Titch uncovers the truth about the hidden treasure, she learns about her own heritage– and what it’s like to feel like an outsider in your own world.” (Catalogue)

Take me to your leader / Agnew, Leonie
“Eleven-year-old Lucas has got a new worry – his rural school is on the list for closure. What’s his mum going to do if he and his sister have to start travelling to a school an hour or two away? If the closure goes through, they might have to move to the city. And there’s no way Lucas will ever leave his dad’s grave behind. He and his friends come up with a mad idea to revive their town and save their school: an alien encounter. Before they know it, tourists are flocking in to check out the crop circles and it looks like the plan might working. But before Lucas knows it, he’s lost control of his plot, and the chain of unpredictable events that follow quickly turn to chaos!” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Grimmelings / King, Rachael
“The same evening Josh Underhill went missing, the black horse appeared on the hill above the house. Ella knows that words are powerful. So she should have known better than to utter a wish and a curse on the same day. Who is Gus, the boy with the impish grin, who seems to appear in answer to her wish? And what does the black horse want? When Ella finds that her grandmother’s warnings of creatures that dwell in the lake are more than just stories, she and her pony Magpie are drawn into a dangerous, life-saving mission.” (Catalogue)

Read the dyslexia-friendly or ebook edition


Non-Fiction Award

Judges’ comments: The finalists in this year’s Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction encourage children to look closely at both our own history and the natural world around them. Superbly written, illustrated and designed, the judges said all shortlisted books in this category have the wow factor.”

Patu : the New Zealand wars / Bishop, Gavin
“Discover the key people, perspectives and battles of the New Zealand Wars in this… visual history by Gavin Bishop. Auē! Te mamae! Navigate the defining moments of the wars, visit the battle sites and explore the sweeping change that took place in Aotearoa during the 19th century. Guiding readers through the bitter armed clashes over land and sovereignty.” (Catalogue)

The observologist / Clarkson, Giselle
“An observologist is someone who makes scientific expeditions every day, albeit very small ones. They notice interesting details in the world around them. They are expert at finding tiny creatures, plants and fungi. They know that earthworms have bristles, that moths come out in the daytime and how many tentacles a slug has. An observologist knows that there are fascinating things to be found in even the most ordinary places.”–Back cover.

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Tuatara : a living treasure / Furze, Katie
“Meet Tuatara, ancient wonder, wildlife treasure … and survivor! Blinking, she pulls her scaly body into the light. She’s as long as a finger, and with the row of spines on her back she looks like a baby dragon. Tuatara are survivors of an ancient era and sometimes referred to as living wonders – their closest relatives died out during the time of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago! This book is a fascinating look at the life cycle of a tuatara.” (Catalogue)

Ultrawild : an audacious plan to rewild every city on Earth / Mushin, Steve
“Join maverick inventor Steve Mushin as he tackles climate change with an avalanche of mind-bending, scientifically plausible inventions to rewild cities and save the planet. Jump into his brain as he designs habitat-printing robot birds and water-filtering sewer submarines, calculates how far compost cannons can blast seed bombs (over a kilometre), brainstorms biomaterials with scientists and engineers, studies ecosystems, and develops a deadly serious plan for future cities. A tour de force of extreme problem-solving for anyone who loves big ideas.” (Catalogue)

Read as an ebook

Wot knot you got? : Mophead’s guide to life / Marsh, Selina Tusitala
“‘What do you do if nothing is right – not at home, at school, anywhere? One morning, Selina wakes up with a twisting, tangling, knotty problem. It takes over everyone and everything – work, kids, life, the lot. How can she get out of a knot this tight? Then she remembers: kids write to her all the time – they ask some of life’s toughest questions. Can she help them, and through helping them, can she find a way out of her own? In this self-help give-it-a-go moppy-mayhem-filled workbook-that’s-all-about-play, join Selina as she scribbles and draws and writes her way out of the darkness. A book for readers from eight to eighty and for anyone in a dark place, no matter what knot you’ve got.” (Catalogue)


Illustration Award

Judges’ comments: “From our fraught and bloody history to our wild and colourful internal worlds, all the illustrators on this year’s Russell Clark Award for Illustration shortlist show great sympathy with, and understanding of, their subjects.”

Dazzlehands / Cotter, Sacha
“The cow says ‘moo’, the chicken says ‘cluck’ and the pig says … ‘Dazzlehands!’ As hard as the farmer tries, pig won’t go ‘oink’. Instead, pig gets all the animals moving to: ‘Train hands, rain hands, fly-it-like-a-plane hands. Bursting with the razzle, gotta liberate these Dazzlehands!” (Catalogue)

Read this book in te reo Māori

Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai / Keeble, Michaela
“A bold and multi-layered picture book about self-determination narrated by a young boy full of ideas and questions about growing up, belonging, spirituality, culture and who is the boss.” (Catalogue)

Patu : the New Zealand wars / Bishop, Gavin
“Discover the key people, perspectives and battles of the New Zealand Wars in this… visual history by Gavin Bishop. Auē! Te mamae! Navigate the defining moments of the wars, visit the battle sites and explore the sweeping change that took place in Aotearoa during the 19th century. Guiding readers through the bitter armed clashes over land and sovereignty’.” (Catalogue)

The dream factory / Matuku, Steph
“An amazing building rises on the edge of town – it’s the dream factory. Every night, it sends out magical mist. Flying cars, flower cakes and talking tigers fill people’s dreams. And the next day, the people make those dreams come true. But when a kererū flies into the dream factory, and a feather floats into a cog, everything goes terribly wrong.” (Catalogue)


Te Kura Pounamu Award for Te Reo Māori

Judges’ comments: “The finalists for this year’s Te Kura Pounamu Award have retold stories of te ao Māori with care, and in a way that is meaningful to young readers. The books all showed different forms of auahatanga creativity, and hiranga inspiration. They also demonstrated exceptional knowledge and understanding of te reo Māori.”

He tārū kahika / Szymanik, Melinda
“The Clouds think Sun and Rain would get along well, but Rain thinks Sun doesn’t want to know her as Sun always vanishes when she turns up. Likewise, Sun feels that Rain stays away when Sun is around. The Clouds think they’d be a good match, however, and scheme a meeting, resulting in the most beautiful union … a rainbow!” (Catalogue)

Read this book in te reo Ingarihi

Te pīkari pipi / Belcher, Angie
“Shuffle to the left, then shuffle to the right. Twist your hips from side to side, with all your might. Wriggle and shuffle along with Mumma and Bubs as they do a happy pipi dance to gather kai from the moana for their picnic dinner with the whānau.” (Catalogue)

Read this book in te reo Inharihi 

Te pukapuka ka kore e pānuihia / Tipene, Tim
“Some people find it hard to read – the boy in this book does. But there are books that make you read them and they open up fantastic worlds in their pages. The Book that Wouldn’t Read is just such a book. Open it – or maybe it will open itself…” (Catalogue)

Read this book in te reo Inharihi 

Te rā kura ki Aotearoa / Bixley, Donovan
“Starting school is a big step up. This book familiarises children and their parents with the structure of the kiwi school day and puts them at ease with elements of the New Zealand curriculum: – What do you do at school? – Who will be there? – What will I learn? – What will my classroom be like? Author and illustrator Donovan Bixley has visited hundreds of schools across Aotearoa and has created a friendly introduction to the kiwi school day, gently incorporating the values of the New Zealand school curriculum: excellence, diversity, teamwork, respect, curiosity, and te ao Maori. Parents and children about to start school will recognise and identify with this book, with the theme, ‘school is fun'” (Catalogue)

Read this book in te reo Inharihi


Best First Book

Judges’ comments: “The books shortlisted for the NZSA Best First Book Award range across categories and showcase the work of very talented first-time authors and illustrators. The judges said the calibre of the finalists bodes well for the future of New Zealand’s literary landscape.”

New dawning / Dixon, A. M.
“In book one of this startling new trilogy, we meet Merel, a girl living on a futuristic island in the middle of a sea. Many years have past since the community survived the floods and the severe heat that has forced their forbears to shadow their world.” (Catalogue)

Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai / Keeble, Michaela
“A bold and multi-layered picture book about self-determination narrated by a young boy full of ideas and questions about growing up, belonging, spirituality, culture and who is the boss.” (Catalogue)

Rere atu taku poi! = Let my poi fly / Paul, Tangaroa
“Rangi loves doing kapa haka but performing poi is his favourite – even though his classmates say it’s just for girls. What an assumption! When the female leader for the poi falls sick before a school performance, Randi steps into her place. How will the other students and the audience react? ‘Surely a boy can’t lead the poi?'” (Catalogue)

Tsunami / Wenlock, Ned
“At school, being right isn’t always the right answer. Peter’s bull-headed commitment to the truth has already picked him out as a target for the school bullies. The misfit new girl is a complete badass, but seems as interested in his nemesis, Gus, as she is in Peter, and his parents are too busy bickering to care about any of it. It all feels overwhelming to Peter – like a tsunami is coming and he isn’t sure he can stop it.” (Catalogue)

Ultrawild : an audacious plan to rewild every city on Earth / Mushin, Steve
“Join maverick inventor Steve Mushin as he tackles climate change with an avalanche of mind-bending, scientifically plausible inventions to rewild cities and save the planet. Jump into his brain as he designs habitat-printing robot birds and water-filtering sewer submarines, calculates how far compost cannons can blast seed bombs (over a kilometre), brainstorms biomaterials with scientists and engineers, studies ecosystems, and develops a deadly serious plan for future cities. A tour de force of extreme problem-solving for anyone who loves big ideas.” (Catalogue)

Read as an ebook

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