New Zealand children’s Book Awards finalists announced

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The 2022 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults attracted a record-breaking 199 entries, with 28 titles announced today as finalists. This is the highest number of submissions ever received for the Awards, which are the preeminent celebration of publishing for young people in Aotearoa.

Competing across six main categories, the 2022 finalists offer New Zealand’s young readers an educative, engaging and engrossing selection of books with a uniquely Kiwi flavour.

“This year’s entries explore a vast range of topics, including protest, autism, gender equality, racism, and history, providing a platform for thoughtful and, hopefully, some gritty discussions,” says convenor of judges Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith.

“These big topics are so important for sparking conversations with tamariki and rangatahi. Being able to think about and discuss them critically is crucial given the disruptions over the past few years and the rise of misinformation young people now face.”

But Smith says it is also wonderful to see authors having fun with themes for younger readers, and that plenty of the finalist books will delight and entertain.

The growing strength of books with te ao Māori worldview and the growing number and quality of titles in te reo Māori also stood out to this year’s judges.

“Māori language and world views are taonga unique to Aotearoa. Having these valued in children’s literature is an encouraging sign of the growth of our nation,” says Smith.

Turning to the finalists, the judges describe this year’s Picture Book Award shortlist as “a tutti-frutti of deliciousness”. From quirky and whimsical to rambunctious and mischievous, all the stories feature dollops of humour and a richly diverse illustrative palette.

Picture Book Award Finalists

Bumblebee Grumblebee, David Elliot (Gecko Press)

Lion Guards the Cake, Ruth Paul (Scholastic New Zealand)

My Cat Can See Ghosts, Emily Joe (Beatnik)

The Eight Gifts of Te Wheke, Steph Matuku, illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers   (Huia Publishers)

The Greatest Haka Festival on Earth, Pania Tahau-Hodges, illustrated by Story Hemi-Morehouse (Huia Publishers)               
It was a bumper year for entries in the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award category. The judges say the finalists stand out with not only original concepts, but also accomplished world building, authentic characterisation and settings, and, ultimately, well-written stories for this important age group.

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award Finalists
Amorangi and Millie’s Trip Through Time,
Lauren Keenan (Huia Publishers)

Spark Hunter, Sonya Wilson (The Cuba Press)

The Memory Thief, Leonie Agnew (Penguin Random House NZ)

The Tomo, Mary-anne Scott (OneTree House)

The Uprising – The Mapmakers in Cruxcia, Eirlys Hunter illustrated by Kirsten Slade (Gecko Press)

The field of entries in this year’s Young Adult Fiction Award shows the depth and breadth of stories available to New Zealand’s rangatahi. The five finalists’ stories are beautifully written and emotive, and at times action-packed, tense and gripping, but always relatable, say the judges.

Young Adult Fiction Award Finalists

Coastwatcher, David Hill (Penguin Random House NZ)

Displaced, Cristina Sanders (Walker Books Australia)

Katipo Joe: Wolf’s Lair, Brian Falkner (Scholastic New Zealand)

Learning to Love Blue, Saradha Koirala (Record Press)

Violet Black, Eileen Merriman (Penguin Random House NZ)

In the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction it was the books that dared grapple with big, sometimes even uncomfortable, themes that stood out. With powerful stories told in flawless prose, considered design and impressive production values, the judges say the finalists are a masterclass in engaging non-fiction.

Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction Finalists

Atua: Māori Gods and Heroes, Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House NZ)

Draw Some Awesome, Donovan Bixley (Upstart Press)

Why is That Spider Dancing?, Simon Pollard and Phil Sirvid (Te Papa Press)

How Do I Feel? A Dictionary of Emotions for Children, Rebekah Lipp, illustrated by Craig Phillips (Wildling Books)
Kia Kaha: A Storybook of Māori Who Changed the World, Stacey Morrison & Jeremy Sherlock (Penguin Random House NZ)

This year, the finalists for the Russell Clark Award for Illustration created worlds that visually stimulated the mind, soul and imagination. The judges say each finalist excelled in bringing words to life with their own unique and diverse artistry.

Russell Clark Award for Illustration Finalists

Atua: Māori Gods and Heroes, Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House NZ)

Mokopuna Matatini, Story Hemi-Morehouse,written by Pania Tahau-Hodges (Huia Publishers)

Moose the Pilot, Kimberly Andrews (Penguin Random House NZ)

My Cat Can See Ghosts, Emily Joe (Beatnik)

The Eight Gifts of Te Wheke, Laya Mutton-Rogers, written by Steph Matuku (Huia Publishers)

The judges of the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award ,which is for books written entirely in te reo Māori, praised the language of all submissions, finding the reo beautiful, with the depth and breadth to advance te reo abilities of tamariki of all ages.

Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award Finalists

He Wheke Wai Mamangu Au, Stephanie Thatcher, translated by Pānia Papa (Scholastic New Zealand)

I Waho, i te Moana, Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, translated by Pānia Papa (Scholastic New Zealand)

Ki te Moe Aotearoa, Donovan Bixley translated by Darryn Joseph (Upstart Press)

Mokopuna Matatini, Pania Tahau-Hodges, illustrated by Story Hemi-Morehouse (Huia Publishers)

Te Hipo Huna, Juliette MacIver illustrated by Sarah Davis, translated by Karena Kelly (Gecko Press)

There’s no shortage of new talent emerging in New Zealand’s book scene, and the judges faced the unenviable task of selecting finalists from a whopping 42 Best First Book Award entries.

NZSA Best First Book Award Finalists

Hine and the Tohunga Portal, Ataria Sharman (Huia Publishers)

I am Autistic, Chanelle Moriah (Allen & Unwin)

Mokopuna Matatini, Pania Tahau-Hodges illustrated by Story Hemi-Morehouse (Huia Publishers)

My Cat Can See Ghosts  Emily Joe (Beatnik)

Spark Hunter, Sonya Wilson (The Cuba Press)

The winners of each of the six main categories – Picture Book, Junior Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction, Illustration and te reo Māori – take home $7,500 and are then in the running to be named the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, with a further $7,500 prize money. In addition, the judges will award a Best First Book prize of $2,500 to a previously unpublished author or illustrator. The ceremony to announce the winners will take place in Wellington on the evening of Wednesday 10 August.

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