NZCYA Book Awards 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.

NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Children’s Finalists!

It’s that time of year again — the finalists for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults have been announced! It’s a truly outstanding lineup this year, with some truly gorgeous books in all categories. We have most of the finalists in our catalogue, but some of them are still on their way, so keep your eyes peeled! Here are all of the finalists in each of the children’s categories — if you want to read them yourself (and we highly recommend that you do!) just click on the title you want and place a reserve!

Picture Book Award

Abigail and the birth of the sun / Cunningham, Matthew
Abigail is a curious little girl. She likes to discover the answers to really BIG questions. One night, she thinks of a question that’s SO BIG she can’t sleep until she knows the answer. A gorgeously illustrated and beautifully told bedtime story that doubles as an introduction to astrophysics, Abigail and the Birth of the Sun will be enjoyed equally by young children and adults. (Catalogue)

How Māui slowed the sun / Bixley, Donovan
Donovan Bixley re-tells the story of Maui slowed the journey of the sun through the sky each day, with Bixley’s unique twist and trademark humour. The pictures are bright and bring their own level of humour to the book. Darryn Joseph ensures that the story is accurate and culturally appropriate. (Catalogue)

Goody Four Shoes / Gregg, Stacy
Mini Whinny, the mischievous little horse, plans to escape her annoyingly perfect stable neighbour! Goody Four-Shoes is the best…at everything. She’s graceful. She can jump really, really high. And her mane is too perfect. Mini Whinny doesn’t like her. Not one little bit. So naughty little Mini Whinny decides to run away.Another adorable story of horsey friendship from internationally best-selling Kiwi author Stacy Gregg and talented illustrator Ruth Paul. (Catalogue)

Santa’s worst Christmas
There are just a few days to go before Christmas, and everyone’s busy putting up decorations, preparing food and getting ready for the big day. Then comes the shock news: Santa’s cancelled Christmas. Santa had so many disasters last year that he can’t face it again, and he’s quit. The elves try everything, but they can’t get him to change his mind. In this Aotearoa Christmas picture book, the kids come up with a clever plan and amazing gadgets to get Christmas back on and Santa back in the sleigh delivering presents. (Catalogue)

The gobbledegook book : a Joy Cowley anthology / Cowley, Joy
Joy Cowley’s favourite stories, poems and nonsense rhymes collected in a hardback gift volume for the family to treasure. Flue-flam and Gobbledegook collects Joy Cowley’s favourites in a beautiful hardback picture-book volume that will become a family treasure. It selects the best of Cowley’s poems and stories to read aloud, including much-loved classics such as Greedy Cat and Nicketty-Nacketty Noo Noo Noo. Fully re-illustrated with humour and energy by newcomer Giselle Clarkson, these short stories, picture books and funny poems will bring joy to a new generation. (Catalogue)

Junior Fiction Award

#Tumeke! / Petherick, Michael
An exuberant multimedia novel for young readers and the young at heart. In the boundary-riding tradition of the Annual project, Annual Ink’s latest title #Tumeke brings you the lives, loves and larrikin spirit of an inner-city neighbourhood. The story is told through texts, Instagram posts, emails, fliers, committee minutes, posters, diary entries, blog posts, chatrooms, school homework, raps and the reliably bonkers community noticeboard. Stuffed with big personalities, surprising friendships and a little intrigue, this multimedia story brims with creativity and comedy, and everyday heartaches, too. A narrative — but not quite as we know it — for middle readers and anyone who loves to connect. (Catalogue)

Lizard’s tale / Chan, Weng Wai
A heart-racing middle-grade adventure mystery set on the streets of Singapore against the backdrop of World War II, exploring issues of belonging, race and diversity It’s Singapore in 1940, war is just around the corner–but 12-year-old Lizard doesn’t know that. He lives in Chinatown above a tailor’s shop, surviving on his wits and hustling for odd jobs. When he steals a small teak box containing a Japanese code book from a Raffles Hotel suite, he finds himself in a dangerous world of wartime espionage. Lizard doesn’t know who to trust. How is the mysterious book inside the box connected to his friend Lili, a girl full of secrets and fighting skills? Can he trust her, or will she betray him in the end? (Catalogue)

Moonlight the unicorn’s high tea hiccup / Sutton, Sally
When Clara and Sophia’s Honorary Great-Aunties invite the girls to ‘high tea’, the girls are very excited. It means getting dressed up in a twirly dress – and wearing a fancy hat and shoes! Those mischievous Miniwings like the sound of ‘high tea’ too – dinky little sandwiches and sweet treats – but Clara says they’re not invited. Oh really? Does she think ‘not being invited’ is going to stop those rascally, tiny, flying horses? Look out! (Catalogue)

Prince of ponies / Gregg, Stacy
War destroyed their worlds, now two young girls and their remarkable horses are fighting once more – this time to win. War destroyed their worlds, now two young girls and their remarkable horses are fighting once more – this time to win. When twelve-year-old Mira stumbles across a white stallion in a forest in Berlin, she doesn’t realise that this horse will take her on an incredible journey. Together, they’re going to ascend the starry heights of Grand Prix show jumping, and sweep back in time to Poland in 1939 where another young girl is risking everything to save the horse that she loves… Prince of Ponies is a story of courage and the will to win against all odds. (Catalogue)

Time machine & other stories / Szymanik, Melinda
What happens when you sleep with a crocodile tooth under your pillow, or the mess under your bed turns into something terrifying? How can a football be a passport, and what does it mean when the contraption in the basement starts to hum and glow? You can be sure the answers will never be boring and almost always take you on an unexpected adventure. Step aboard the time machine and discover new and selected stories by the award-winning author of The Were-Nana, The Song of Kauri and A Winter’s Day in 1939. (Catalogue)

Non-Fiction Award

Kuwi & friends Māori picture dictionary / Merewether, Katherine Q.
From the #1 bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator of the Kuwi the Kiwi series, Kat Merewether, comes a large scale, stunningly illustrated visual dictionary. Full of over 1000 basic words in te reo Maori and English, perfect for every New Zealander. (Catalogue)

Mophead : how your difference makes a difference / Marsh, Selina Tusitala
At school, Selina is ridiculed for her big, frizzy hair. Kids call her ‘mophead’. She ties her hair up this way and that way and tries to fit in. Until one day – Sam Hunt plays a role – Selina gives up the game. She decides to let her hair out, to embrace her difference, to be WILD! Selina takes us through special moments in her extraordinary life. She becomes one of the first Pasifika women to hold a PhD. She reads for the Queen of England and Samoan royalty. She meets Barack Obama. And then she is named the New Zealand Poet Laureate. She picks up her special tokotoko, and notices something. It has wild hair coming out the end. It looks like a mop. A kid on the Waiheke ferry teases her about it. So she tells him a story . . . (Catalogue)

Te Tiriti o Waitangi / Morris, Toby
This is a ground-breaking reorua (dual language) flipbook-style graphic novel about our founding Treaty. The text and illustrations work together to present important information about our history in a visually appealing, calm, and balanced way. There are also resources to allow young readers to learn more about each of the topics, as well as links to the Treaty in more than 30 languages. (Catalogue)

The adventures of Tupaia / Meredith, Courtney Sina
The incredible story of Tupaia, Tahitian priest navigator, who sailed on board the Endeavour with Captain Cook on his first voyage to Aotearoa. Join him as he meets up with Cook in Tahiti and sails as part of the crew on the Endeavour across the Pacific to Aotearoa. Witness the encounters between tangata whenua and the crew as the ship sails around the coast, and discover the important role Tupaia plays as translator and cultural interpreter (Catalogue)

Three Kiwi tales : more fabulous fix-it stories from Wildbase Hospital / Hunt, Janet
Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North is a very special hospital for very special animals, and in this follow-up to the hugely successful How to Mend a Kea, author Janet Hunt focuses on the tales of three kiwi who have been treated there. The stories are fascinating and touching accounts of their different experiences at Wildbase, and the innovative approaches to their treatment and rehabilitation that were needed to ensure their eventual return to the wild. Linked to the wider issues of kiwi conservation, these tales introduce readers to the challenges and triumphs of caring for New Zealand’s unique national icon. Wonderful photos, a lively text and an engaging design all combine to make this a superb book. (Catalogue)

Award for Illustration

Dozer the Fire Cat : a New Zealand story : inspired by true events / Prokop, Robyn
In February 2019, a tiny spark in a Pigeon Valley paddock became the largest fire in New Zealand since 1955. Up to 150 volunteer firefighters fought the blaze. Around 3,500 people were evacuated, including the whole town of Wakefield. Story is based on a real cat that survived the fires. While his family is busy packing up to evacuate, Dozer is oblivious, busy doing what Dozer does . . . stalking, pouncing, washing . . . and sleeping. But when he wakes up, his family has gone and the world is a frightening place!” — Publisher information. (Catalogue)

Santa’s worst Christmas
There are just a few days to go before Christmas, and everyone¿s busy putting up decorations, preparing food and getting ready for the big day. Then comes the shock news: Santa’s cancelled Christmas. Santa had so many disasters last year that he can’t face it again, and he’s quit. The elves try everything, but they can’t get him to change his mind. In this Aotearoa Christmas picture book, the kids come up with a clever plan and amazing gadgets to get Christmas back on and Santa back in the sleigh delivering presents. (Catalogue)

Song of the river / Cowley, Joy
In this resonant story, Cam the mountain boy follows the river from its trickling source in the mountain snow all the way to the coast. The river leads him through forest, farms, and towns to the salty wind of the sea. Dramatic landscape illustrations evoke a North American landscape and are packed with detail to explore the world of the river. (Catalogue)

The adventures of Tupaia / Meredith, Courtney Sina
The incredible story of Tupaia, Tahitian priest navigator, who sailed on board the Endeavour with Captain Cook on his first voyage to Aotearoa. Join him as he meets up with Cook in Tahiti and sails as part of the crew on the Endeavour across the Pacific to Aotearoa. Witness the encounters between tangata whenua and the crew as the ship sails around the coast, and discover the important role Tupaia plays as translator and cultural interpreter (Catalogue)

Wildlife of Aotearoa / Bishop, Gavin
Long before waka touched Aotearoa’s shores, the land of the long white cloud was home to an array of creatures uniquely adapted to its environments and protected by its isolation. Encounter New Zealand’s incredible wildlife in this spectacular visual exploration. Journey through ocean, sky and land to meet a marvellous range of organisms. Discover fascinating facts, and learn how we influence the survival of our living treasures. In this magnificent companion volume to Aotearoa- The New Zealand Story, Gavin Bishop weaves a compelling visual narrative of our land, our people and our wildlife – past, present and future. (Catalogue)

Te Kura Pounamu Award for Te Reo Māori

Arapū Toi / Moira Wairama (coming soon!)
This gorgeously-illustrated book uses short poems in gentle, rhythmic te reo Māori to emphasise ideas of wellness, the sights, sounds and feelings of everyday life, and poetic imagery such as the darkness of night, or a whale singing in the depths of the ocean. A picture is truly worth a thousand words in this unforgettable gem of contemporary Māori children’s literature.

Ko Flit, te Tīrairaka, me ngā Hēki Muna / Merewether, Katherine Q.
Flit has found some eggs … but whose could they be? It is a misty morning in the forest. Flit the fantail chick is practising his landings. Flap, flop, slip, FLIP. Flit slips on something slippery and round. He has stumbled upon eight rubbery white eggs. Join Flit and his friends, Kiki the kaka, rascally robins Bit and Bob, Keri the kiwi and wise old Ruru as they exercise some teamwork. Can they figure out who the mystery eggs belong to? (Catalogue)

Ngā Hoa Hoihoi o Kuwi / Kat Quin and Pānia Papa (coming soon!)
Kuwi the kiwi wants a hot cup of kawakawa tea and some peace and quiet — but Huwi the kiwi chick and friends want to play LOUDLY, and so this energetic tale begins. Te reo Māori is used skilfully throughout, with witty adaptations to mimic sounds and situations, encouraging readers to become involved in the story. Items of Kiwiana are scattered throughout the illustrations, so that curious readers can search and make new discoveries in every story time.

Te Kirihimete i whakakorea
There are just a few days to go before Christmas, and everyone’s busy putting up decorations, preparing food and getting ready for the big day. Then comes the shock news – Santa’s cancelled Christmas. Santa had so many disasters last year that he can’t face it again, and he’s quit. The elves try everything, but they can’t get him to change his mind. In this Aotearoa Christmas picture book, the kids come up with a clever plan and amazing gadgets to get Christmas back on and Santa back in the sleigh delivering presents (Catalogue)

Tio Tiamu / Kurahau
In this picture book, gentle, clever Toe Jam grows to be huge, and this causes a problem in his community because his feet smell. The bigger he gets the worse the smell. While Toe Jam helps others and wants to be part of his village, everybody teases him and avoids him, and Toe Jam becomes very lonely. Finally, the people make him leave and live far away. Toe Jam never loses his kind heart, and when there are floods, wild winds and droughts, he returns to help his people. But each time, the people take his help then send him away again. Until, one day, something amazing happens… (Catalogue)

Best First Book Award

#Tumeke! / Petherick, Michael
An exuberant multimedia novel for young readers and the young at heart. In the boundary-riding tradition of the Annual project, Annual Ink’s latest title #Tumeke brings you the lives, loves and larrikin spirit of an inner-city neighbourhood. The story is told through texts, Instagram posts, emails, fliers, committee minutes, posters, diary entries, blog posts, chatrooms, school homework, raps and the reliably bonkers community noticeboard. Stuffed with big personalities, surprising friendships and a little intrigue, this multimedia story brims with creativity and comedy, and everyday heartaches, too. A narrative — but not quite as we know it — for middle readers and anyone who loves to connect. (Catalogue)

Lizard’s tale / Chan, Weng Wai
A heart-racing middle-grade adventure mystery set on the streets of Singapore against the backdrop of World War II, exploring issues of belonging, race and diversity It’s Singapore in 1940, war is just around the corner–but 12-year-old Lizard doesn’t know that. He lives in Chinatown above a tailor’s shop, surviving on his wits and hustling for odd jobs. When he steals a small teak box containing a Japanese code book from a Raffles Hotel suite, he finds himself in a dangerous world of wartime espionage. Lizard doesn’t know who to trust. How is the mysterious book inside the box connected to his friend Lili, a girl full of secrets and fighting skills? Can he trust her, or will she betray him in the end? (Catalogue)

Santa’s worst Christmas
There are just a few days to go before Christmas, and everyone’s busy putting up decorations, preparing food and getting ready for the big day. Then comes the shock news: Santa’s cancelled Christmas. Santa had so many disasters last year that he can’t face it again, and he’s quit. The elves try everything, but they can’t get him to change his mind. In this Aotearoa Christmas picture book, the kids come up with a clever plan and amazing gadgets to get Christmas back on and Santa back in the sleigh delivering presents. (Catalogue)

The day the plants fought back / O’Keefe, Belinda
Two boisterous boys who made lots of noise, found it dreadfully hard to be good; always charging and barging, fighting and biting, and not acting quite as they should. Patrick and Wayne drove their parents insane, but they could be good if they tried. Still, they’d roar and they’d claw, they’d scoot and they’d shoot until someone eventually cried. An action-packed, hilarious story about two wild, rascally boys and the trouble they cause in the garden, until the plants decide to teach them a lesson … because, as the boys discover, plants have eyes and ears too! (Catalogue)

The smelly giant / Kurahau
In this picture book, gentle, clever Toe Jam grows to be huge, and this causes a problem in his community because his feet smell. The bigger he gets the worse the smell. While Toe Jam helps others and wants to be part of his village, everybody teases him and avoids him, and Toe Jam becomes very lonely. Finally, the people make him leave and live far away. Toe Jam never loses his kind heart, and when there are floods, wild winds and droughts, he returns to help his people. But each time, the people take his help then send him away again. Until, one day, something amazing happens… (Catalogue)