2021 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Finalists

The finalists for the 2021 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced early this morning. The judges have done an excellent job of selecting the best New Zealand books for children and teens, published in the last year. I’m so excited for the finalists, especially since many of my recent favourite NZ books have made the shortlist.

I’ll be highlighting the finalists on My Best Friends Are Books over the next few months, but in the mean time, here is the press release about the finalists:

From a field of 166 entries, the 28 finalists in the 2021 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are announced today. Across six main categories, these books offer the nation’s young readers a tasty smorgasbord of titles, packed with meaty themes and addictive plot lines.

“The diversity of ideas in this year’s entries really stood out,” says convenor of judges Alan Dingley. “It’s clear that our authors truly credit kids and young people with having the emotional intelligence to deal with complex themes, issues and feelings.”

Whether that’s celebrating Māori culture or dealing to the injustices of inequality, seeing a reflection of their own small-town community or exploring issues around body image, disability and adversity, no topic is off-limits. But, says Dingley, big ideas are delivered in a way that also entertains.

“Dystopian futures, ecological battles and immersive fantasy all take the reader into new worlds, something that has been so important of late, after so many have been trapped in their homes,” Dingley adds.

And while kids will find no shortage of reading material on the finalist list, Dingley thinks adults will discover plenty of treasures too.

“It’s a really accessible selection. If a child brings any one of these books home, I guarantee an adult will enjoy reading it also.”

This year’s Picture Book Award shortlist beautifully combines delicate illustrations that connect to and enhance sometimes delicate themes. There are laughs, tears, sighs (both contented and wistful) to be had in equal measure.

Picture Book Award Finalists

Hare & Ruru: A Quiet Moment, Laura Shallcrass (Beatnik Publishing)

Hound the Detective, Kimberly Andrews(Penguin Random House NZ)

Kōwhai and the Giants, Kate Parker (Mary Egan Publishing)

The Hug Blanket, Chris Gurney, illustrated by Lael Chisholm (Scholastic New Zealand)

This Is Where I Stand, Philippa Werry, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart (Scholastic New Zealand)

The books vying for the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award presented the judges with eclectic plot lines and endearing characters and they struggled to narrow down to a shortlist from the well-crafted titles.

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award Finalists
Across the Risen Sea, 
Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)

Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea, T K Roxborogh, illustrated by Phoebe Morris (Huia Publishers)

Red Edge, Des Hunt (Scholastic New Zealand)

The Inkberg Enigma, Jonathan King (Gecko Press)

The Tunnel of Dreams, Bernard Beckett(Text Publishing)

The top contenders for the Young Adult Fiction Award speak to the power of young people to profoundly influence the world around them, and don’t shy away from topics such as environmental destruction, oppression and injustice.

Young Adult Fiction Award Finalists

Draw Me a Hero, N K Ashworth (Lasavia Publishing)

Fire’s Caress, Lani Wendt Young, (OneTree House)

Katipo Joe: Spycraft, Brian Falkner (Scholastic New Zealand)

The King’s Nightingale, Sherryl Jordan (Scholastic New Zealand)
The Pōrangi Boy, Shilo Kino (Huia Publishers)

The judges found the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction a particularly strong category this year, stating “to say there is something for everyone is an understatement, this list has everything, for everyone”.

Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction Finalists

Egg and Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook, Alexandra Tylee, illustrated by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press)
Mophead Tu: The Queen’s Poem, Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press)

New Zealand Disasters, Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivančić (Scholastic New Zealand)

North and South, Sandra Morris (Walker Books Australia)
You’re Joking: Become an Expert Joke-Teller, Tom E. Moffatt, illustrated by Paul Beavis (Write Laugh Books)

The judges faced an outstandingly strong and large pool of entries for the Russell Clark Award for Illustration. The finalists are characterised by a diversity of styles and media, but the books all have in common an expert use of colour and line to communicate emotion and pace and skilfully add texture to the narrative.

Russell Clark Award for Illustration Finalists

Hare & Ruru: A Quiet Moment, Laura Shallcrass (Beatnik Publishing)

I Am the Universe, Vasanti Unka (Penguin Random House NZ)

Kōwhai and the Giants, Kate Parker (Mary Egan Publishing)

Moon & Sun, Malene Laugesenwritten by Melinda Szymanik (Upstart Press)
Te Uruuru Whenua o Ngātoroirangi, 
Laya Mutton-Rogerswritten by Chris Winitana (Huia Publishers)

The finalists in the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for books written entirely in te reo Māori will appeal to a broad range of abilities. Te reo in its simplest form will lift the language for beginners, while there are also titles with a depth of language to send the imaginations of confident speakers soaring. The judges were pleased to see a marked increase in the number of books written in te reo Māori, rather than translated from English.

Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award Finalists

Aroha Te Whai Ora, Rebekah Lipp, illustrated by Craig Phillips and translated by Karena Kelly (Wildling Books)

Mihi, Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)

Pīpī Kiwi, Helen Taylor, translated by Hēni Jacob (Penguin Random House NZ)

Ngake me Whātaitai, Ben Ngaia, illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers (Huia Publishers)
Te Uruuru Whenua o Ngātoroirangi, Chris Winitana, illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers (Huia Publishers)

Finally, the finalists for the Best First Book Award left the judges reassured that the future of children’s literature in New Zealand is in good hands. In fact, the standard is so high, that four of the books are also finalists in one or more of the main categories.

Best First Book Award Finalists

Laura Shallcrass for Hare & Ruru: A Quiet Moment (Beatnik Publishing)

Kate Parker for Kōwhai and the Giants (Mary Egan Publishing)

Jonathan King for The Inkberg Enigma (Gecko Press)

Amy Haarhoff (illustrator) for The Midnight Adventures of Ruru and Kiwi, written by Clare Scott (Penguin Random House NZ)
Shilo Kino for The Pōrangi Boy (Huia Publishers)

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 $2,000 to a previously unpublished author or illustrator.

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are the preeminent celebration of publishing for young people in Aotearoa. As well as acknowledging the best and brightest in books for children and teens, a core aspect of the Awards’ mission is to foster literacy and a love of reading amongst New Zealand’s children and teenagers.

This includes administering the ever-popular HELL Reading Challenge, which has encouraged children to read close to 12 million books since its inception, and running a programme of popular Books Alive events, which see authors and illustrators interact with Kiwi school children.Following the success of the online programme in 2020, Books Alive will have a strong virtual component again this year, in partnership with the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA). In addition, hundreds of Wellington school children will also be able to enjoy a very full programme featuring many of the shortlisted authors and illustrators in person on the day of the Awards ceremony.

After Covid made a virtual presentation necessary last year, this year finalists and publishers plan to celebrate in person, at a ceremony to announce the winners at Tiakiwai Conference Centre at the National Library in Wellington on 11 August.

The formidable task of narrowing the field to a list of finalists was met by this year’s experienced judging panel: Alan Dingley (convenor) has over 20 years of experience working in children’s/youth libraries; Mary Sangster, a specialist children’s bookseller; Nicola Daly, a senior lecturer in Children’s Literature at the University of Waikato; Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith, an author, educationalist and director of Mīharo Murihiku Trust; and Stephen Clothier, a librarian, composer and performer.

They were joined by a panel appointed by Te Rōpū Whakahau, the national body that represents Māori engaged in Libraries, Culture, Knowledge, Information, Communication and Systems Technology in Aotearoa, to judge te reo Māori entries. Anahera Morehu (convenor), is the Kaiārahi at the University of Auckland Faculty of Business and Economics; Ruki Tobin, the Poutiaki Rauemi National Manager Māori for Services to Schools at Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, National Library of New Zealand; and Te Paea Paringatai, is a Library and Information Advisory Commission Commissioner, and a Library Manager at the University of Canterbury.

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults are made possible through the generosity, commitment and vision of funders and sponsors: Creative New Zealand, HELL Pizza, the Wright Family Foundation, LIANZA, Wellington City Council, Nielsen Book and The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa. The Awards are administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.

To find out more about the shortlisted books, go to https://www.nzbookawards.nz/new-zealand-book-awards-for-children-and-young-adults/2021-awards/shortlist/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s