Earlier this month, the finalists for the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced. After reading through the longlist, we were not at all surprised to hear that whittling down a shortlist proved difficult.
“The quality of submissions was impressive this year,” says convenor of judges Crissi Blair. “We had serious problems selecting the finalists for each category and it was heartening to see a healthy number of submissions from mainstream, indie and self-publishers, all of which are represented in the shortlist.” A core aspect of the NZCYA Awards’ mission is to foster literacy and a love of reading among New Zealand’s children and teenagers.
With this in mind, we've asked the authors on the shortlist to share with us their favourite New Zealand children's book. To be more precise, we asked:
What New Zealand children's book changed you growing up?
Today, we're featuring the finalists for the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award, which is for books written entirely in te reo Māori. First up: the authors of a special book about Matariki.
Ngā Whetū Matariki i Whānakotia, Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Zak Waipara, translated by Ngaere Roberts (Scholastic NZ)
Author Miriama Kamo says:
"The New Zealand children's book that changed me was Pounamu Pounamu by Witi Ihimaera, because it marked the transition between my reading as a child to a young adult. It spoke to my own experiences as a Māori child in a wide, yet tight, whanau - and celebrated those things in print. As a voracious reader I’d never encountered that before, so it was revolutionary, telling me that our worldview was valued and valuable.’’
Illustrator Zak Waipara says:
"The New Zealand children's picture book that changed me was How Maui Found His Mother by Peter Gossage because it was a doorway into a larger Maori world and the New Zealand children's prose book that changed me was The Halfmen of O by Maurice Gee because it showed that New Zealand had unexplored corners that could lead to magical places.”
Te Hīnga Ake a Māui i Te Ika Whenua, written and illustrated by Donovan Bixley, translated by Darryn Joseph (cultural adviser) and Keri Opai (Upstart Press)
Author and illustrator Donovan Bixley says:
"The New Zealand children’s book that changed me was Footrot Flats. I just fell in love with the series and its depiction of rural New Zealand. I would spend hours copying Murray Ball's style and making my own comics. There was even a brief period when I wanted to become a farmer too – but thankfully I followed Murray’s Footrot footsteps into a career in books instead.
The other finalists in this category are Reina Kahukiwa and Robyn Kahukiwa, author and illustrator of Te Haka a Tānerore, translated by Kiwa Hammond (Mauri Tū).