12 Aug 2021
A disabled Māori boy who meets a mermaid on the beach won over the hearts of the judges at this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea (Huia Publishers), by Christchurch author T K Roxborogh was awarded both the supreme Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction at a ceremony held at The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa on Wednesday evening. Māori mythology is woven into the story as Charlie draws on the pūrākau and waiata his Grandad taught him, as well as the down-to-earth lessons from family life, to mediate between battling, sibling gods.
The awards night recognised new talent, with half the category winners also being finalists in the Best First Book Award category. One of those talented first-timers was Kate Parker, author and illustrator of Kōwhai and the Giants (Little Love, Mary Egan Publishing). As well as winning the Best First Book Award, the book — described as a classic in the making — also scooped the Picture Book Award. The judges were enamoured with both the message and the original illustrations of this gentle environmental story.
Both T K Roxborogh and Kate Parker acknowledged the support of Creative New Zealand Arts Grants in developing their winning works.
The Young Adult Fiction Award was won by another debut author. Shilo Kino’s The Pōrangi Boy (Huia Publishers) was praised for delivering big themes of environmental damage, neocolonialism, bullying and poverty, but never slipping into didacticism or preachiness. Shilo Kino is a graduate of the Creative New Zealand supported Te Papa Tupu programme for Māori writers, administered by Te Waka Taki Kōrero / Māori Literature Trust.
A fresh talent also won the Russell Clark Award for Illustration, presented to Laura Shallcrass for Hare and Ruru: A Quiet Moment (Beatnik Publishing).
A visually delicious, tasty treat won the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction. Egg and Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook (Gecko Press), written by Alexandra Tylee and illustrated by Giselle Clarkson, impressed the judges with its varied and thoughtful recipes accompanied by luscious and often humorous illustrations. The publication of this work was aided by Creative New Zealand through its support for publisher Gecko Press.
The Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for te reo Māori went to Ngake me Whātaitai (Huia Publishers), written by Ben Ngaia and illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers, a pukapuka that takes the reader on a wonderful journey into the formation of Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington).
Many of this year’s finalists were also able to present their work to thousands of children through the Books Alive programme of online events and virtual story times, co-ordinated by LIANZA, the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa.
The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are made possible through the generosity and vision of a group of committed funders and sponsors: Creative New Zealand, HELL Pizza, the Wright Family Foundation, LIANZA, Wellington City Council, Nielsen Book and 2021 venue partner, The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa. The Awards are administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.