Exciting news about the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

It has finally happened.  One of the best decisions for authors and illustrators of books for children in New Zealand has been made.  The NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards is merging next year to create the MEGA awards for children’s literature.  It means that more effort can be put into promoting the best books for children and teens in NZ and it will hopefully be less confusing for kids and adults alike.  I really like that they’re taking the best of both awards and putting them together.  The Hell Pizza Wheels have been a great way to get kids reading and I believe that it is incredibly important to acknowledge both the author and illustrators when it comes to picture books.

Read the press release below to find out all the details:

Leading New Zealand Children’s Book Awards merge and Hell Pizza encourages Reading addiction – Prize money now totals $59,500

The New Zealand Book Awards Trust and the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) have announced today that they are merging their respective children’s book awards, setting the stage for even more activity and visibility around books for New Zealand children. Complementing the Awards, Hell Pizza has partnered with the New Zealand Book Awards Trust to sponsor the Hell New Zealand Reading Challenge.

The awards have a combined legacy of more than 100 years; the Trust-governed awards began in 1975 and LIANZA’s were established in 1945. A shared passion for children’s literature has brought the two awards together in a desire to increase children’s engagement with reading.

“We are thrilled about this decision to amalgamate the awards,” says New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat. “The LIANZA awards are highly regarded by authors and publishers and we acknowledge how difficult it has been for LIANZA’s board to take this historic decision. We feel privileged to have LIANZA’S trust, and their awards will be in very good and sustainable hands. They will be cherished within our organisation.

“The merged awards now have a prize money pool of $59,500. This amount is a significant contribution to the children’s literature economy in this country.”

LIANZA President, Kris Wehipeihana, is equally delighted. “Merging the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards with the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is exactly the kind of collaboration that our sector endorses.” she says. “This is a win for both organisations, and for Aotearoa New Zealand children’s literature. We’re looking forward to working with the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.”

While the new awards will still be known as the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults they will incorporate important elements of the LIANZA awards. The awards will continue to bestow the Esther Glen title to the junior fiction category which maintains the tradition of New Zealand’s oldest children’s book award. In addition, the awards will continue to confer the Elsie Locke title to the non-fiction award and will also include LIANZA’s award for illustration, the Russell Clark award.

LIANZA’s Te Kura Pounamu award for the best book in Te Reo will replace the current Māori language award. This award will continue to be judged by Māori librarian and information association, Te Ropu Whakahau,

The awards will be administered and governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, and a LIANZA representative will have a permanent seat on its board of trustees.

Hell Pizza’s high-profile relationship with LIANZA’s awards via its Reading Challenge will continue within the new format. “The success of the Reading Challenge has been hugely satisfying. With the announcement of this exciting merger of the awards we can take it to the next level and encourage even more New Zealand kids to enjoy reading books,” says Hell Pizza’s general manager Ben Cumming. “The 150,000 free pizza vouchers we gave out earlier this year amounted to more than one million books read by Kiwi kids. We would love to build on that number in 2016. Hell has always challenged the norm, and with kids now becoming so engrossed with modern technology we are bucking that trend and making reading cool again. We want pizza to be the gateway drug to reading addiction!”

Nicola Legat concludes, “The New Zealand Book Awards Trust is grateful for the support of our major funder Creative New Zealand as well as our other key sponsors Copyright Licensing New Zealand, Book Tokens Ltd and now Hell Pizza. We very much appreciate their significant investment and we are very much looking forward to next year’s awards.”

The call for entries in the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults opens on Monday, 16 November 2015 and the awards ceremony will held be in Wellington in August 2016.

Winners of the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Last night the winners of the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced in Wellington.  Not only were the judge’s winners announced but also the children’s winners, with the children of New Zealand choosing their favourites in the newly revamped Children’s Choice Award.

Congratulations to all the finalists and the winners!  You’re all super stars and absolutely deserve your recognition.

Junior Fiction Winner – Monkey Boy, by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic NZ)

Picture Book Winner – Jim’s Letters, by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Penguin Random House NZ (Puffin))

Nonfiction Winner – Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill, by Debbie McCauley and Tamati Waaka (translation) (Mauāo Press)

Young Adult Fiction Winner – Singing Home the Whale, by Mandy Hager (Penguin Random House NZ)

Maori Language Award – Ngā Kī, translation by Kawata Teepa (Ngai Tuhoe, Te Arawa) of Keys by Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan (Huia Publishers)

Best First Book Award – Māori Art for Kids, by Julie Noanoa (Potton & Burton)

Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award – Singing Home the Whale, by Mandy Hager (Penguin Random House NZ)


Children’s Choice Junior Fiction Winner – Island of Lost Horses by Stacy Gregg (HarperCollins)

Children’s Choice Picture Book Winner – The Anzac Puppy by Peter Millett, illustrated by Trish Bowles (Scholastic NZ)

Children’s Choice Nonfiction Winner – The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems by Paula Green, illustrated by Myles Lawford (Scholastic NZ)

Children’s Choice Young Adult Winner – Night Vision by Ella West (Allen & Unwin)


Children’s Choice Blog Tour Wrap-up


Together with Booksellers NZ, the NZ Book Council and some other wonderful NZ bloggers we have just finished a fabulous four-week tour around our author’s inspirations, aims and achievements with their Children’s Choice finalist books.  To read the Booksellers NZ wrap-up of the tour, complete with links to all the interviews and reviews check out their blog post here – The Blog to end our 20-day blog tour!

Now it is time for you to help your kids to vote their favourite book and author to win: they will be in to win a selection of finalists for themselves and their school if they do! Kids can select a winner in each category; the winning book of each category will win $2000 at the Book Awards ceremony on Thursday 13 August.

So if you haven’t yet, please help your children to vote at www.booksellers.co.nz/vote-childrens-choice.

2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Desna Wallace


Desna Wallace-smlDesna Wallace lived through the Canterbury Earthquakes, and it is no surprise that children from all over NZ voted her book Canterbury Quake, as one of their finalists in the Children’s Choice list. The book is part of Scholastic NZ’s ‘My New Zealand Story’ list, a series of fiction titles featuring notable NZ events. Desna Wallace is a school librarian in Christchurch who is passionate about children’s books. She has had a number of stories published in the School Journal, but Canterbury Quake is her first published novel. We wanted to know how it all came about.

  • As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book in particular?

A friend kept telling me that I needed to write about Christchurch’s devastating earthquakes. At first I kept saying no but eventually one day while driving home from work, the character of Maddy popped into my head and by the time I got home, her whole family were in there too. It was a bit crowded in there so I just began writing and kept on writing. I felt that Maddy’s story would be best told in diary format so that readers could experience the daily life of a family living through a national disaster.  Even though I lived through the earthquakes and life inside a broken city, I still had to do a heap of research to make sure everything was accurate. It needed to be exactly right as it is the story of one of New Zealand’s worst ever disasters. And I agree that it was a story that needed to be told and I feel so privileged that my Maddy, was the one to do the telling. I am so glad my friend had faith in me to give it a go.

  • Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

I was incredibly lucky with my book being published. I had written stories, poems and plays for the School Journal and even had a Ready-to-Read book published but in terms of writing a novel I was completely inexperienced.  I knew how it felt to be in the quakes, what it felt like to be scared and because I worked with children, I knew how they felt too so I guess my story was very real. I think this is why it was accepted; I was writing from true experience.

When it was accepted, everything happened very quickly which was a bit scary as I didn’t really know what I should be doing. I had deadlines to keep to and I was working my day jobs too, so there was a bit of pressure to do everything. I had kept my writing a secret until I knew it was going to be published, so that was a bit hard too. Then when it was accepted, I wanted to tell the whole world!


  1. How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?

This was the easiest thing to do. I knew I wanted a diary format and as I worked very closely with a group of ten and 11 year olds, I knew this was the group I wanted to write for. It was the age group of children I felt would understand Maddy best. Maddy was very real to me and I hoped that she would be real to children in this age group. Scholastic’s My New Zealand story format is very clear so I just followed their advice.

  1. Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?

I dedicated the book to my son, Calvin. After a divorce I raised him on my own from just a baby so it has always been just the two of us. He is my best friend and the most important person in my life, and I felt so proud to dedicate my book to him.

  1. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?

I would read any of the ‘My New Zealand Story’ books. There are so many important events in New Zealand’s history and reading the diaries is such a cool way to get to know about our past.

  1. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

I love scrapbooking, and gardening. Both of these hobbies are relaxing and rewarding. I love the finished page with photos and embellishments.  However, I really don’t like mowing my lawns. In fact I hate it! But I do like the way the lawns look after a cut and I love the smell of the grass after the lawn has been mowed. I have two cats and I love spending time with them in the garden. One of my cats (who is actually Dusty in my novel) loves climbing all over my keyboard when I type and in fact is doing it right now which makes typing very hard. It is a wonder I get anything finished.



Desna was the Christchurch Library Kids’ blogs star author in February 2014: https://christchurchkids.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/february-star-author-desna-wallace/ Scholastic NZ’s feature about Desna: http://www.scholastic.co.nz/publishing/author/pdfs/tileD.pdf

For a review of My New Zealand Story: Canterbury Quake, check out the Booksellers NZ blog here: https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/book-review-my-story-canterbury-quake-by-desna-wallace/

Friday’s feature was 1914: Riding into War, by Susan Brocker, both of whom were featured on Booknotes Unbound, www.booknotes-unbound.co.nz  Tomorrow’s feature will be another junior fiction title, The Island of Lost Horses, by Stacy Gregg,  which will be on Booksellers NZ’s blog here: https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/.

Win Canterbury Quake by Desna Wallace

Today I’m hosting an interview with the lovely Desna Wallace, author of My New Zealand Story: Canterbury Quake.  Desna is a good friend of mine and I was super excited for her when her book was published, and even more so when it was chosen by kids around New Zealand as a 2015 Children’s Choice Award finalist!  Canterbury Quake is a fantastic book that perfectly illustrates what it was like for the children who had to cope with the many earthquakes we had here in Canterbury.


Thanks to Booksellers New Zealand I have a copy of Canterbury Quake to give away.  To get in the draw all you have to do is leave a comment telling me ‘What is your favourite book that immerses you in a time or place?’ It could be a fantasy story that takes you to another world or a historical story that transports you to another period of history.

Competition closes Monday 20 July (New Zealand only).

Win Dragon Knight: Fire by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley


Today I’m hosting an interview with Kyle Mewburn to celebrate Dragon Knight: Fire, Kyle and Donovan’s finalist book in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  You can read Kyle’s interview here and Donovan’s interview from last week about Little Red Riding Hood: Not Quite and Dragon Knight: Fire.

FA (Page 1)

Thanks to Booksellers New Zealand I have a copy of Dragon Knight Fire to give away.  The main character in the Dragon Knight series is Merek, who is half boy and half dragon.  To get in the draw just leave a comment on this post telling me ‘What is your favourite mythical creature?’

Competition closes Thursday 16 July (New Zealand only).

2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Kyle Mewburn


Kyle Mewburn 15_smlDragon Knight: Fire!, written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Donovan Bixley, has been voted for by kids all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Junior Fiction  category. Dragon Knight: Fire!  is also on the judge’s finalist list. Kyle and Donovan have collaborated previously, on the best-selling Dinosaur Rescue series.

Central Otago-based Kyle Mewburn has form on his side in the Children’s Choice game, having won this prestigious award twice previously, with Kiss Kiss! Yuck Yuck!, and Melu , both illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly.

  • As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this series?

I don’t usually let my ideas float around in case they escape – or some other sneaky author steals one. My ideas are kept securely locked up in a deep, dark dungeon in the bottom of my brain. Unfortunately ideas can be very stubborn sometimes and refuse to reveal their secrets, no matter how nicely I talk to them. So generally I have to resort to torture.

I decided to write my Dragon Knight series because I knew lots of fans of Dinosaur Rescue would be very angry if I didn’t write a new series soon. My publisher wanted a series with dragons, but I wanted to write about a boy who goes to Knight School (I can never resist a pun. Indeed, some of my best stories have started as a simple pun!). Luckily ,dragons and knights go together perfectly.

  1. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

The journey was relatively smooth sailing. Apart from a few editorial tweaks the story went through the entire publishing process relatively unscathed. The only hurdle was rewriting a couple of the “fact” boxes because they apparently “weren’t funny enough”. The biggest challenge was drawing the pictures. Luckily, I had nothing to do with that.

  1. How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?

I don’t think it’s at all helpful to imagine yourself “tailoring” a story to any age group. That suggests any writer can write for any age group through a process of careful selection. I don’t actually agree that’s the case. The process is more organic than that. Either you can access your inner child or you can’t. If you can, then the stories tend to evolve naturally and take on a life of their own. If you can’t, then it’s no point really trying because any story you write will be prescriptive and fail to touch the reader. The only “tailoring” is actually more along the lines of editorial tinkering, such as debating the appropriateness of specific vocabulary or sentences structures.

FA (Page 1)

  1. Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?

Dragon Knight – Fire! is dedicated to Rio. I met Rio’s mum when I was at the Leipzig Book Fair – she was working for the NZ embassy at the time. She told me Rio was a super-keen reader, so I gave her some Dinosaur Rescue books. Rio loved them and started writing to me. When I finally met him a few years later I’d just finished writing Fire!, so I gave it to him to read. His verdict: “This is going to be HUGE. But make sure you include plenty of lists. Kids love lists.” So I decided to dedicate it to him right on the spot!

  1. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?

Indeed. I’d recommend my entire Dinosaur Rescue series and the other three episodes of Dragon Knight.

  1. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

When I’m not writing I’m either eating, building or pottering around my garden. When you write full-time it’s always good to do something in-between which doesn’t involve too much thinking. You can let your mind wander so new ideas can sneak up on you. Besides, if I didn’t do something involving physical activity I’d be hugely fat in no time because I really do love eating.

Dragon Knight: Fire! by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley Scholastic New Zealand ISBN 9781775432593 RRP $12.00 Target age 7 to 10 years


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If you want to know more about Kyle, check out his website here: http://kylemewburn.com/

If you want to know more about Donovan, check out his website here: http://www.donovanbixley.com/

For reviews of Dragon Knight: Fire! and its sequel Rats!, check out the Booksellers NZ review here: http://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/book-review-dragon-knight-fire-and-dragon-knight-rats-by-kyle-mewburn-and-donovan-bixley/.

This is day eleven of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards, and the first day featuring junior fiction.

Yesterday’s feature was Marmaduke Duck and the Wide Blue Sea, by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis, both of whom were featured on  http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/.  Tomorrow’s feature will be a second junior fiction title, 1914: Riding into War, by Susan Brocker, featured on NZ Book Council’s blog: www.booknotes-unbound.co.nz.

2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Yvonne Morrison

Yvonne Morrison’s book Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite), illustrated by Donovan Bixley, has been voted for by kids all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Picture Book  category. Little Red is also on the judge’s finalist list. She and Donovan collaborated last year, on the Children’s Choice award-winning The Three Bears (Sort Of).

Yvonne is a zookeeper, swing dance instructor, former school teacher, and children’s book author of such bestsellers as A Kiwi Night Before Christmas, A Kiwi Jingle Bells, Down in the Forest and The Three Bears (Sort of).

  1. I remember last year, you were struck by the idea for The Three Bears (Sort of) and wrote it very quickly. Was it more difficult following this up with another fairytale-inspired story – How did this come to you?

I used to be a primary school teacher, and I was visiting an ex-colleague who asked me to read Three Bears (Sort Of) to her class and conduct a follow-on writing lesson for her staff to observe as professional development. I used Red Riding Hood as a model of how to alter a fairy tale, and then the children had a go at doing their own. When my publishers suggested a follow-up to Three Bears, it was natural to turn to Little Red, as I’d already had a head-start. Once you really start thinking about the original story, the ideas flow. Why DOESN’T Little Red notice the wolf isn’t Granny right away? And how DOES a wolf swallow a Granny whole?

  1. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

Really, it was a breeze. I simply supplied the manuscript, my editors queried a few things (and rightly so), I tidied up some bits, and then it was good to go to Donovan Bixley for the hard part –  illustrating! I think he faced some considerable challenges in this book – we had discussions about how gruesome the drawings could be… it’s not easy to convey swallowed grannies and slit-open wolves in a tasteful manner, but Donovan achieved it!

  1. How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?

To be honest, I didn’t try all that hard. I tend to write books that amuse myself, and hope that by not talking down to children, they will pick up on whatever level of humour they are ready for. I also hope that the adults reading my books aloud are also amused by the stories, since they may be hearing and reading them frequently. Donovan helps in this by providing clever illustrations that work on all levels.

Incidentally, I also slipped in my own personal ethical philosophy by having the wolf end up at a wolf sanctuary. I’m always hoping that little things like that might lead to a teachable moment, or spark a classroom debate, and get kids thinking about such questions as the nature of good and evil – is a carnivorous wolf evil simply because he seeks to eat humans? I would like to think that both Little Red and Three Bears are encouraging questioning and skepticism in young people.

  1. Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?

I haven’t this time. At this point, I have a book dedicated to each of the people I love, and now I’ve run out of people!

  1. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?

The first fractured fairy-tale I read is still my favourite. It’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka. I also like anything quirky, like It’s a Book by Lane Smith, and of course my fellow finalist, I Am Not A Worm! by Scott Tulloch. I am pleased that publishers are becoming more open to non-traditional manuscripts and hope that this trend continues!

  1. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

I can’t choose just one thing! Here’s four: dancing, because it keeps me fit, lets me listen to great music and brings me joy; travelling, because it teaches me about different cultures and gives me new experiences to draw on; helping animals, because animals think and feel just like we do but are unable to speak for themselves, so I choose to be their voice; and eating, because food is awesome!

I am about to embark on a new adventure that will combine three of these things – my husband and I have just got a job in Vietnam managing a centre for endangered primates. We will be helping with rescues of gibbons, monkeys and lorises destined for the pet or traditional medicine trade and rehabilitating them for wild release. We will be living on an island in the jungle! And of course we will be seeing lots of South-East Asia and eating some amazing food.

Hopefully this adventure will fill me with fuel for writing too!


If you want to know more about Yvonne, check out her website here: http://www.yvonnewritesbooks.com/mybookskids.html

For reviews of Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite), check out the Booksellers NZ review here: https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/book-review-little-red-riding-hood-not-quite-by-yvonne-morrison-illustrated-by-donovan-bixley/

And my review here on the blog.

This is day seven of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards. Earlier today I posted Donovan’s answers to the illustrator’s interview for  this title and you can find that interview here – https://bestfriendsarebooks.com/2015/06/30/2015-new-zealand-book-awards-for-children-and-young-adults-interview-with-donovan-bixley/.  Yesterday’s feature was I am not a Worm, by Scott Tulloch, whose interview can be found here: http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/2015/07/nz-book-awards-for-children-and-young_2.html.  Monday’s feature will be our third picture book, Doggy Ditties from A to Z, by Jo van Dam and Myles Lawford will be covered back on Thrifty Gifty http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/.

Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) by Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley

Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley joined forces a couple of years ago to create the wonderful The Three Bears (Sort of).  It is a real favourite of mine and a book that I come back to again and again. When I saw that Yvonne and Donovan were collaborating on a new picture book, this time retelling Little Red Riding Hood, I knew that it would be fantastic and hopefully just as good as The Three Bears (Sort of).  I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

In Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) Yvonne uses the same storytelling technique that worked so well with The Three Bears (Sort of).  A parent reads the story of Little Red Riding Hood to their child (Small Blue Polka Dot Pyjamas) who keeps interrupting to question the story and poke holes in it.  This child is very switched on and has lots of questions like ‘Why was she called that?,’ ‘Don’t wolves usually hunt in packs?,’ and ‘Why didn’t he just eat the girl right there – and then go to Granny’s for dessert?’ The very patient parent answers all the child’s questions, adding their own twists to the tale.

Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) is another perfect picture book from this award-winning team.  I absolutely love this book and have to tell all the kids, parents and teachers I know all about it!  Yvonne Morrison sure knows how to tell a story and she gives readers a delightful twist on the traditional tale that is full of humour and a dash of sarcasm.  Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) is a great book for reading aloud, to children of any age, and it is especially fun to have two people reading the two different parts.

Donovan Bixley is one of my absolute favourite illustrators and his illustrations for Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) are stunning.  There are so many things I love about Donovan’s illustrations for this book that I have to list them:

  • The little details in the illustrations, from the wolf pattern in the wallpaper at the beginning to grandma reading Call of the Wild.
  • The wolf’s wonderful expressions, especially when he’s choking down grandma.
  • The range of materials that Donovan incorporates in to the story, including diagrams and maps that help to prove the child’s points.

Donovan has also done the brilliant design for the book.  I think that it’s this design that makes the book work so well and gives it that special appeal to children.

Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) is a book that every family should own.  It is a book that will get shared again and again, never loosing its appeal.  I can certainly see why children from around the country have chosen this book as a finalist in the 2015 Children’s Choice Award.  I can’t wait to see which story Yvonne and Donovan do next!

Check back tomorrow to read an interview with Donovan Bixley and Yvonne Morrison about how they went about creating Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite).  You can also enter here to win a copy of this wonderful book.

Win Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) by Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley

My Best Friends Are Books is part of the blog tour to celebrate the Children’s Choice Award in the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  Tomorrow I’m hosting interviews with Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley here on the blog and you can read my review of their wonderful book, Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite).

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition.  The winner is Chris.