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Thursday, July 26, 2012

RIP Margaret Mahy - One of New Zealand's Greatest Writers

Margaret Mahy, ONZ (21 March 1936 – 23 July 2012) was an outstanding New Zealand author of children's and young adult books. Her passing was a loss experienced worldwide.
Many of her story plots had strong supernatural elements but her writing concentrates on the themes of human relationships and growing up. She wrote more than 100 picture books, 40 novels and 20 collections of short stories. She was one of thirty writers to win the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, for her lasting contribution to children's literature.

Mahy won the annual Carnegie Medal in Literature from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject, both for The Haunting (1982) and for The Changeover (1984). She was also a "Highly Commended" runner up for Memory (1987). Mahy was the first writer from outside Britain to be awarded the Carnegie Medal.

Among her children's books, A Lion in the Meadow and The Seven Chinese Brothers and The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate are considered national classics. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Catalan and Afrikaans. In addition, some stories have been translated into Russian, Chinese and Icelandic.

Early lifeMahy was the eldest of 5 children. She was raised in her birthplace of Whakatane. Her father was a bridge builder and often told his children adventure stories which later influenced Mahy's writing. Her mother was a teacher. She wrote her first published story when she was 7, called "Harry Is Bad". She showed it to her class to let them know that they could write a story whatever their age.

She went to the local high school, where she was acknowledged as a talented swimmer.


Mahy completed her undergraduate BA at Auckland University College (1952–1954) and Canterbury University College, graduating in 1955. In 1956 she trained at the New Zealand Library School, Wellington as a librarian.

She worked as a librarian in Petone, the School Library Service in Christchurch, and in 1976 was appointed Children's Librarian at Canterbury Public Library. During this time she had many stories published in the New Zealand School Journal, and her first book, "A Lion in the Meadow", published in 1969 saw her become known internationally.

She became a fulltime writer in 1980, and had gone on to win numerous awards for her books, and honours for her contribution to New Zealand and children's literature, including an honorary doctorate in the form of a Doctor of Letters from the University of Canterbury. In 1985 she established the Margaret Mahy Fees Scholarship at University of Canterbury.

For her contributions to children's literature she has been made a member of the Order of New Zealand. The Margaret Mahy Medal Award was established by the New Zealand Children's Book Foundation in 1991 to provide recognition of excellence in children's literature, publishing and literacy in New Zealand. In March 2009, Mahy was commemorated as one of the Twelve Local Heroes, and a bronze bust of her was unveiled outside the Christchurch Arts Centre.

In 2010 a television series of her book Kaitangata Twitch aired on Maori Television. Directed by Yvonne Mackay and produced by The Production Shed.TV, the series includes a cameo appearance by Margaret Mahy in a library scene.

Personal Life
Mahy lived at Governors Bay on the Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, in the South Island of New Zealand. She was a solo mother and raised two daughters there.
Mahy died in Christchurch on 23 July 2012, aged 76.[1][12] She had been diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous jaw tumour in April 2012 and had been moved to a hospice about nine days before her death.

In 2006, Margaret Mahy won the prestigious biennial international Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing, in recognition of her lifetime contribution to children's literature.[13][14][15] In a press release announcing the award, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) said:

In awarding the 2006 Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Writing to Margaret Mahy, the jury has recognized one of the world’s most original re-inventers of language. Mahy’s language is rich in poetic imagery, magic, and supernatural elements. Her oeuvre provides a vast, numinous, but intensely personal metaphorical arena for the expression and experience of childhood and adolescence. Equally important, however, are her rhymes and poems for children. Mahy’s works are known to children and young adults all over the world.

Mahy was the first person outside of Britain to win the Carnegie Medal in 1982, for her book The Haunting. In 1984 she won the medal again for The Changeover.

The Margaret Mahy Award, named for Mahy, is presented annually to "a person who has made a significant contribution to the broad field of children’s literature and literacy". Mahy was the first recipient of the award in 1991. Lectures by the winners are published, the standard of which was set by Mahy's inaugural lecture, Surprising Moments.

Other awards of Mahy's include:
Best young adult novel, New Zealand Post children's book awards, 2003, Alchemy[20]
Phoenix Award, 2005, The Catalogue of the Universe (1985)[21]
Phoenix Honor Book 2006 for The Tricksters[citation needed]
Sir Julius Vogel Award 2006 for services to New Zealand science fiction and fantasy[22]
Phoenix Award 2007 for Memory[23]
New Zealand Post Children's book of the Year, 2011, for The Moon and Farmer McPhee[24]

A Lion in the Meadow (1969)
The Procession (1969)
The Little Witch (1970)
Seventeen Kings and Forty-Two Elephants (1973)
Clancy's Cabin (1974)
Ultra-Violet Catastrophe! (1975)
The Pirate Uncle (1977)
The Great Piratical Rumbustification & The Librarian and the Robbers (1978) with Quentin Blake
Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles (1981)
The Chewing-gum Rescue and Other Stories (1982)
The Haunting (1982)
The Pirates' Mixed-Up Voyage (1983)
The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance (1984)
The Birthday Burglar (1984)
Aliens in the Family (1985)
JAM: A True Story (1985)
The Catalogue of the Universe (1985)
The Tricksters (1986)
The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate (1987) with Margaret Chamberlain
The Five Sisters (1987) with Patricia MacCarthy
Memory (1987)
The Downhill Crocodile Whizz & Other Stories (1988) (collection)
The Boy Who Bounced and Other Magic Tales (1988) (collection)
The Door in the Air and Other Stories (1988)
Leaf Magic and Five Other Stories (1988) with Margaret Chamberlain (collection)
The Great White Man-Eating Shark: A Cautionary Tale (1989)
The Blood-and-Thunder Adventure on Hurricane Peak (1991)
The Girl With the Green Ear: Stories About Magic in Nature (1992) (collection)
Dangerous Spaces (1992)
Underrunners (1992)
A Tall Story and Other Tales (1992) (collection)
The Greatest Show Off Earth (1994)
Tingleberries, Tuckertubs and Telephones (1995)
The Other Side of Silence (1995)
The Horribly Haunted School (1998)
A Villain's Night Out (1999)
24 Hours (2000)
Alchemy (2004)
Don't Read This! (2004)
Maddigan's Fantasia (2005)
Kaitangata Twitch (2005)
Portable Ghosts (2006)
The Magician of Hoad (2008)
Awesome Aotearoa: Margaret Mahy's History of New Zealand (2009) illustrated by Trace Hodgson
Footsteps through the Fog (2012)
Television Children's literature portal
The Haunting of Barney Palmer (1986)
Strangers (1990)
The Magical World of Margaret Mahy (1994)
Maddigan's Quest (2006)

Check out a radio interview on RNZ here;