2020 Winners of the NZ Book Awards for Children & Young Adults Announced

Published: 28-Aug-2020

The winners of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults have been announced.

NZ Book Awards Press Release:

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are a unique celebration of the contribution that New Zealand’s children’s authors and illustrators make to building national identity and cultural heritage.

To hear what the judges had to say about these fantastic books, visit NZ Book Awards.

Image(s) via New Zealand Book Awards Trust.

If you would like to put any of these books on hold, just click the book jacket and it will take you straight to our catalogue!

All descriptions below are from the NZ Book Awards winners' announcement.

Margaret Mahy Book of the Year:

Mophead cover
Mophead - Selina Tusitala Marsh

"This magic book reaches past our brains and squeezes life into our hearts and imaginations. Mophead places its writer at the centre of her own story, but also draws lines out to all the stories and histories that make up an individual: cultures, literature, family and education. With exquisite design and production, it is part picture book, part graphic novel, part memoir, part poem – its form is exactly what it wants and needs to be, which is the message of the book too. Mophead is clever and joyful and inspiring, with not a smidgen of pretension or condescension. It is – dare it be said – perfect."

Picture Book Award:

Abigail and the birth of the sun cover
Abigail and the Birth of the Sun - Matthew Cunningham, illustrated by Sarah Wilkins

"This book ticks all the boxes for a great picture book. Abigail is a very real and relatable character: children will be able to see themselves in her, and adults will recognise her. Her curiosity is what drives the story, and is formed in a magical question of possibility. Her father tenderly cradles this curiosity, creating a beautiful narrative answer to her big question that is part magic, part science. The language is evocative and poetic at times, and yet still packed with facts. The illustrations support this gentle yet fantastical approach, with bold colours and big skyscapes combined with little touches like the ever-present family cat, and the astronaut teddy bear."

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction:

Lizard's Tale cover
Lizard's Tale
- Weng Wai Chan

"Lizard’s Tale is a standout not only for its gripping storyline, but for its convincing characters and historical detail. Set in the crowded slums of Singapore’s Chinatown during World War Two, Lizard’s Tale tells the story of a young teenage boy who is offered big money to steal a mysterious box – and finds himself drawn into a dangerous world of espionage, kidnapping, daring escapes and covert missions. Readers are given a tantalising insight into a culturally diverse world, and a glimpse of history seen from a new, exciting angle. Fast paced and assured, this is a confident debut from an exciting new talent."

Young Adult Fiction Award:

Aspiring cover
- Damien Wilkins

"Aspiring demonstrates a stunning insight into the teenage mind, both in its exploration of character and its respect for the intelligence of its audience. In Ricky, the book has a kind, thoughtful main character, even as he towers over those in his life and deals with difficult memories of family trauma. Books like this can provide a bridge from young adult reading to feeling confident to start tackling literary books for grown-ups. There are plenty of teens out there like Ricky, and it is to be hoped that seeing themselves reflected on the page in all their uncertain, wildly imaginative glory will remind them to stay true to their thoughtful and inquisitive selves."

Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction:

Mophead cover

-  Author and illustrator Selina Tusitala Marsh

"This book is a taonga. In Mophead, Selina Tusitala Marsh shares her own journey, from a self-conscious child unsure of her place in the world, to Poet Laureate rubbing shoulders with world leaders and literary luminaries. It is educational, it is inspirational, it is encouraging. The writing is masterful – accessible to any young reader, while still sparkling with personality and verve. It's impossible to imagine the text without the illustrations and indeed vice versa. This is a whole package that should be placed in the hands of every child in Aotearoa, especially young Polynesian children who might not yet know their own creative power."

Russell Clark Award for Illustrations:

The adventures of tupaia cover

The Adventures of Tupaia - Illustrated by Mat Tait

"Mat Tait’s illustrations reach the reader on an intellectual, gut and aesthetic level. They teach us about our history in part by engaging our emotions, via dramatic perspectives and powerful colours. We witness a battle for power as we journey through the Pacific, and are struck by confusion and grief. A clever combination of modes is used: comic strips, vignettes, full spreads of starry skies, and symbols from throughout the Pacific. The pared back, simple lines and limited colours give us the sense that history isn’t merely something from the past – it’s still happening now. These illustrations are modern and cool – but with an urgent fire in their belly."

Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for Te Reo Māori:

tio tiamu

Tio Tiamu
- Written by Kurahau, illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers

"Tio Tiamu, aka Toe Jam – what a dreadful predicament, oh the humiliation! Tio Tiamu is a gigantic character with the kindest heart and genuine love for his hapū. He overcomes many challenges and deliberate acts of nastiness, only to be shunned. There are mixtures of ‘if only’ moments, cautiously laid like an absorbing tangi the senses of the reader are tuned in to. ‘He aha te mea nui o te ao, he tangata’ – it is known the most important thing in the world is its people. This te reo journey exudes manaaki tangata with generosity, benevolence, and grace."

Best First Book Award:

#Tumeke! cover
-  Michael Petherick

"#Tumeke! is every bit as diverse as the Newtoun community, which we see revealed piece by piece, flyer by flyer, as the fun, endearing mosaic that makes New Zealand the unique paradise it is. Michael Petherick tells a sweet and funny tale, with a creative multi-media format that engages the eye and challenges the brain. Ages and cultures merge in this story of a small community filled with huge heart. Readers will find themselves cheering on every new character, and will easily see themselves somewhere in this fantastic, genre-bending book."