Thursday, 17 May 2012

New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards

Writers, illustrators, designers, editors, publishers, booksellers, teachers, librarians, friends, family and members of the Wellington children’s book world - all met and mingled amongst giant cut-outs of the shortlisted books in the Amora ballroom on Wednesday night for the NZ Post Children's Book Awards ceremony.

MC Miriama Kamo with Sam and June Jackson who carried out the Mihi ceremony

Hekia Parata – standing in for Chris Finlayson – commented that she had been in the same room 12 hours earlier for a government policy announcement, and it had looked quite different then. Six long tables were decorated with tall vases of flowers and set out with individual place settings. Bottles of wine and jugs of juice, plates of savouries and cupcake stands laden with club sandwiches, lamingtons and chocolate-dipped strawberries kept the audience nibbling and filling their glasses while the judges read out the finalists and then the prizes in each category.

There are always winners and surprises, but no losers, as just to make the shortlist is such a huge achievement with so many wonderful books (over 130) submitted (although once again the judges called for more non-fiction, particularly in areas that don’t seem to be covered at all such as music and sport.) It was also interesting to see such a wide range of publishers represented in the winners.

Highlights of the evening included:

  • Chris Szekely (winner of the Picture Book category) and Matt Elliott (winner of the Non-Fiction category and NZ Post Children’s Book of the Year) both visibly moved as they received the prizes for their books and paid tribute to others involved in their creation: Chris to illustrator Malcolm Ross (1948-2003), and Matt to his grandfather Cyril whose wartime diaries inspired Nice day for a war.
  • Matt Elliott commenting that this is his first children’s book – “and it’s all downhill from here.”
  • Jack Lasenby, winner of the Young Adult Fiction category, much loved and treasured Wellington writer, still going strong at 81
  • Leonie Agnew, scooping up winner of the  Junior Fiction category, Best First Book and Children’s Choice award for Junior Fiction. “I love kids books and tonight it seems they love me,’ she said, obviously delighted but almost lost for words after going up on stage to receive her third prize
  • The Children’s Choice Awards – great to give the children themselves a chance to vote in each category
  • The much valued sponsorship by NZ Post who have been involved with these awards for 16 years - long may it continue – and the recognition by everyone in the room of the importance of kids’ books and getting our children reading.

And the only brickbat – I thought more time could have been given for the authors and illustrators to reach the stage (sometimes difficult given the seating arrangement) before the description of their book was read out.

Thanks also to the organisers of the nationwide festival of events that precedes the awards ceremony. It’s a huge commitment by many people putting in hours of work to publicise and promote these wonderful books and their authors and illustrators.

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