Margaret Mahy (1936–2012) is New Zealand’s most celebrated children’s writer. As the author of more than 120 titles - which have since been translated into 15 different languages – Mahy’s readership is vast. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a librarian for over 10 years. Mahy’s books ring with humour, fantasy, adventure, science, and the supernatural, aspects that the author skilfully balances with her interest in the narrative possibilities of the ordinary world. Awarded the Order of New Zealand in 1993, she also won many global prizes for children’s writers, including the Carnegie Medal and the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award.
Place of residence: Christchurch, New Zealand
The Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award was first presented in 1991 to Margaret Mahy in recognition of her marvellous contribution to the world of literature for children and young adults. The medal continues to be one of the most prestigious awards in New Zealand children's literature today.
Margaret Mahy is a six-time recipient of the Esther Glen Award, part of the LIANZA Children's Book Awards. The award-winners include: A Lion in the Meadow (1970), The First Margaret Mahy Storybook (1973), The Haunting (1983), The Changeover (1985), Underrunners (1993), and 24 Hours (2001).
Mahy’s early-reading book The Great White Man-Eating Shark (1989) is a cautionary tale about Norvin, a rather plain looking boy who just happens to look rather like a shark.
Mahy received the A W Reed Award for Contribution to New Zealand Literature in 1998. She also received the 1998/1999 Antarctica New Zealand Arts Fellowship, which allowed her to visit the world-leading science centre in Antartica and to artistically explore the concept of the country through her literature.
A Summery Saturday Morning, written by Mahy and illustrated by Selina Young, won Book of the Year and Best Picture Book at the 1999 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
24 Hours (2000) was shortlisted in the senior fiction category and received an Honour Award at the 2001 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The Riddle of the Frozen Phantom (2001), was short listed in the juniot fiction category at the awards in the following year.
Mahy was the first recipient of the Auckland College of Education's Sylvia Ashton Fellowship in 2002.
Alchemy (2002) has won Best in Senior Fiction at the 2003 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults . 'This book,' said the judges, 'succeeds on several levels, incorporating some fairly erudite philosophical concepts, but Mahy, as usual, wears her intelligence lightly', and never loses sight of the characters' humanity. Alchemy was shortlisted for the LIANZA Esther Glen Award in 2003.
Notes of a Bag Lady (2003) is one of the Four Winds Press Montana Estates Essay Series titles, edited by Lloyd Jones.
Tragedy's Wild Twin: The Mixed Nature of Humour is the text of the public lecture Margaret Mahy gave when she was the Sylvia Ashton-Warner Fellow (Auckland College of Education, 2004).
In 2005, Mahy received a second honorary doctorate (University of Waikato) and the Phoenix Award from Canada's Children's Literature Association. In the same year, she was honoured as a living icon of New Zealand art as part of the second biennial Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Awards, in addition to having received the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement for fiction, for which she was awarded $60,000.
Mahy's Zerelda's Horses was published in the same year as part of the Kiwi Bites series (Penguin). Illustrated by Gabriella Klepatski, it is the story of a girl with a strange and wonderful secret - she can understand horse language.
Margaret Mahy: A Writer's Life by Tessa Duder, and Maddigan's Fantasia were published in 2005 by HarperCollins.
Kaitangata Twitch, published by Allen & Unwin in 2005, won the Young Adult Fiction Honour Award at the 2006 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Margaret Mahy was announced as the winner of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006.
Portable Ghosts was published by HarperCollins in 2006, and Changeover was published by HarperCollins in 2007.
Roly-poly (McGraw-Hill), a collection of stories by Mahy, Joy Cowley and June Melser, was published in 2007; Sing to the Moon (McGraw-Hill, 2007) was published soon after, and was also the product of collaboration between Mahy and Cowley.
Down the Back of the Chair, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Polly Dunbar, received a Storylines Special Mention in 2007.
Magician of Hoad (HarperCollins, 2008) is a teen fantasy novel, described by the New Zealand Listener as having ‘an epic sweep and fascinating characters, and when … Mahy slips the leash on her descriptive powers, the effect of the sudden soaring lyricism is overpowering’.
A DVD documentary of Mahy’s life, The Magical World of Margaret Mahy, was released in 2008. The documentary was directed by Euan Frizzell, and produced by Gnome Productions.
Bubble Trouble (Frances Lincoln, 2008) is a stand-alone publication of one of Mahy’s previously-anthologised stories.
The Dark Blue 100 Ride Bus Ticket, a short novel for young adults, was published by HarperCollins in 2009. When Carlo and his mother, Jessica, accept a free bus ticket from a strange old woman in a supermarket, they are really only being polite. Secretly, they think she must be slightly batty, with her talk of one hundred free bus rides at the end of the world – but what begins as fun and laughter quickly morphs into something far more sinister.
Margaret Mahy's books have been continually shortlisted for or listed as Storylines Notable Books. They include: Down the Dragon's Tongue (2002), Alchemy (2002), The Riddle of the Frozen Phantom (2002), Dashing Dog (2003), Kaitanga Twitch (2006), Maddigan's Fantasia (2006), and most recently, The Dark Blue 100 Ride Bus Ticket (2010).
The Word Witch, written by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot and edited by Tessa Duder, was also released by HarperCollins in 2010. The work was a finalist in the picture book category of the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It was the Honour Award Recipient.
The Margaret Mahy Treasury: Eleven Favourite Stories from the Marvellous Margaret Mahy was published by Puffin in 2011.
Margaret Mahy passed away on 23 July 2012, at the age of 76. Though Mahy’s personality will be sadly missed in the New Zealand children's publishing world, her perennial work continues to delight future generations of young New Zealanders, with new editions of her classic works published each year.
Mister Whistler, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Gavin Bishop, was published posthumously by Gecko Press in 2012. The work was awarded Best Picture Book at the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, and in the same year, the top New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards prize was renamed in her honour, to become the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year.
In December 2015, the Margaret Mahy playground was opened in Christchurch. The playground's design was inspired by by the characters and settings of Mahy’s best-known fantasy books.
Last updated March 2016.