In the run-up to this year's New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, we've asked the finalist authors and illustrators to tell us about meaningful reading experiences from their childhood.
We will share their responses in installments, every Tuesday before the NZCYA ceremony on August 10.
Meet the finalists for the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award category
Meet the finalists for the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction category
Meet the finalists for the Young Adult Fiction category
Meet the finalists for the Russell Clark Award for Illustration, and the Picture Book Award.
Here's the exact question we asked:
We want to celebrate the life-changing power of children’s books and how they can strengthen young minds and imaginations. Tell us about a book or reading experience from when you were younger that was a little bit life-changing for you?
This week, we're featuring the finalists for the NZSA Best First Book Award.
Ataria Sharman: NZSA Best First Book Award finalist for Hine and the Tohunga Portal (Huia Publishers)
At 8, 9 and 10 years old, I was part of a group of tamariki from Tawa Primary School chosen to help out at the New Zealand Children’s Book Awards. I think my nerdish bookishness led to this year-after-year inclusion by the teachers.
Held at the Governor General’s House, I remember being read to by, I think it was, Margaret Mahy one year. Getting to sit with the author as she masterfully read her picture book always stuck in my mind. Maybe it even helped lead me to my writing journey.
Emily Joe: NZSA Best First Book Award finalist / Picture Book Award finalist / Russell Clark Award for Illustration finalist for My Cat Can See Ghosts (Beatnik)
When I was younger, I loved rhyming descriptive books. I loved books that found new words to describe concepts I already thought I knew. I think children’s books have a unique power to teach us that there’s always more than one way to look at our world.
A dog who says ‘woof woof’ in one book is just as correct as the dog who ‘bark bark’ in another - and it’s liberating to know that whatever you think a dog might say could be equally right as well.
Sonya Wilson: Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award finalists / NZSA Best First Book finalist for Spark Hunter, (The Cuba Press)
I remember getting Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree for Christmas one year, with those dubiously-named children who escaped into other worlds via the branches of a tree. I dreamed of escaping into one of those other worlds too, even though I was lucky, and didn’t have much to escape from. My most pressing problems usually consisted of two annoying sisters and a plate of mashed swede and mince that needed to be avoided at tea time. Still, I climbed up through the branches of the sprawling oak tree at the racecourse across the road from our house, hoping to arrive in Topsy-Turvey land when I emerged through the first layer of leaves. I’d stay up there for ages, imagining the worlds I might emerge in to, if only I could find the right branch. I was always a reader, but I wish I read more. All the smartest people I know are readers. By which I mean they read fiction: fantasies, novels, made-up stuff, and because of this, they are world-wise and empathetic and curious and interested in the world and in other people and that, surely, is the best way to be.
Chanelle Moriah: NZSA Best First Book Award finalist for I am Autistic (Allen & Unwin)
The honest answer is that I was very late diagnosed autistic and for me, that meant having poor story memory without the understanding of that in order to manage it or find books that were easier to read. This meant that I didn't really get to enjoy books like others.
I loved the Horrible Science series by Nick Arnold because I'm very interested in the human body and I enjoyed Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans because I found some relation in the fact that Madeline was the odd one out but outside of that, reading was not particularly accessible to me. I wish it was.
I remember my Mom talking about how much she loved reading, how it gave her an escape or how you could learn new things or feel less alone. I wish I had that.
Also in this category of finalists are Pania Tahau-Hodges and Story Hemi-Morehouse, author and illustrator of Mokopuna Matatini (Huia Publishers). Story is pictured at right, with the English and te reo Māori editions of this book.