Hastings Leader - 2021-11-24


Mahy award the ultimate prize


Adisabled Ma¯ori boy who meets a mermaid on the beach won over the hearts of the judges at this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea by Christchurch author TK Roxborogh was awarded the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, the highest accolade in children’s publishing. Ma¯ori mythology is woven into the story as Charlie draws on the pu¯ra¯kau and waiata his grandad taught him, as well as the down-to-earth lessons from family life, to mediate between battling, sibling gods. The book also took out the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction, and impressed the judges with its diversity of characters and their authenticity, and the inclusion of a main protagonist with a disability. We asked Roxborogh some questions. You’ve just been crowned winner of the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award, tell us how you felt when your name was announced? A hot rush of adrenaline mixed with joy, shock, relief and excitement. All the books up for the supreme award are incredible so I was more than happy to ‘sit’ with my first award ‘The Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction. What’s the best thing about being crowned Margaret Mahy Book of the Year winner? The first story I remember reading as a child was A Lion in the Meadow in the School Journals in the early 1970s. The story captivated me because the boy knew a truth that the adults couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see and I understood that frustration (and danger). Later, I got to know Margaret as a fellow writer and am grateful for the times I spent in her company and the words of encouragement she gave me. Margaret Mahy is the greatest writer so to have been given an award in her name is the ultimate prize for me. Why drives you to write? The stories inside me. The intense drive to find out why something is the way it is – for me, writing is like going on an adventure or at least an exploration. Sometimes I think I’m driven to write because I’m trying to make up for the times as I child I felt I had no voice or power over my life; or it’s a way of capturing the child self – her thoughts, hopes, dreams, experiences. What was the inspiration for this book? A question that I just threw out there as an example of the types of weird and wacky questions you could ask to get yourself started with a story. I was in ‘full flight’ teaching my students about how to start a story and the question which popped into my mind was ‘What would you do if you found a mermaid wash up on the beach?’ Before I had finished writing that question up on my white board, I could hear this young boy’s voice telling me what he’d do. That night I went home and wrote the first chapter. What do you hope young readers will get out of the story? Laughter, understanding. And appreciation for the importance of family – those who are with us now and those who have passed on. But, mostly I want kids (big and small) to laugh out loud, hold their breaths at the scary/tense moments and, ultimately to come away feeling good about the potentiality of the human spirit. How do you think parents can foster a love of reading in children? Read books themselves, talk about books, share the joy of reading books. Go to the library or bookshops and make this a special thing. Find out about the lives of the authors. But also, encourage children to write their own stories as well. So, something like, ‘Hey, that was a great story. What do you think happened next? Why don’t you write the next chapter?’


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