Several local authors and illustrators have been shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
The awards celebrate the contribution that children’s authors and illustrators make to ‘build national identity and cultural heritage’.
A total of 164 entries were received for the awards this year, with 29 books making the shortlist.
Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao, written by Debbie McCauley and illustrated by Debbie Tipuna is shortlisted for the Elsie Lock Award for Non-Fiction. Slice of Heaven, written by Des O’ Leary is shortlisted for Best First Book.
Ko Mauao te Maunga retells the traditional legend of Mauao and the bilingual book is suitable for people of all ages.
Debbie says she is over the moon with the book being shortlisted for the non-fiction category.
“It’s wonderful to have a uniquely Tauranga story in the awards. It’s the heart of things here so it is lovely to see it so warmly received.”
She thinks the book was shortlisted because it fills a gap in the market through sharing Tauranga legends.
“Tauranga does not have many of its stories out there for children and we deserve our own stories.”
“If children who live here have a book about something they can walk on, and take care of, that is so much more relevant for them than books set overseas.”
Slice of Heaven is a young adult novel which tells the story of a group of teenagers who attend a multi-cultural high school in South Auckland.
Des says he was inspired to write the novel after his experience teaching at Aorere College in South Auckland.
“I really loved the multicultural environment there. It was a real eye-opener, there was no single dominant culture which meant that everyone was a minority.”
Des also believes his book fills a niche, as there is a lack of stories out there about culturally diverse groups within NZ schools.
“I think the book was shortlisted because there is not a lot of novels that are aimed at that particular group.”
“I started looking for a book that was set in a multicultural New Zealand school and at that time I didn’t find any. I decided I would try and write one, and fortunately, I was able to get a publisher to pick it up.”
NZCYA Convenor of Judges Crissi Blair praises the depth of the subject matter amongst the finalist titles, exploring subjects of climate change to representations of diversity.
The winners of each of the main six categories are Picture Book, Junior Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction, Illustration and te reo Māori will be in the running to be named Margaret Mahy Book of the Year.