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 instalments, every Tuesday before the NZCYA ceremony on August 10.
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 Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award category.
The judges say the finalists stand out with not only original concepts, but also accomplished world building, authentic characterisation and settings, and, ultimately, well-written stories for this important age group.
Mary-anne Scott for The Tomo (OneTree House)
I remember long afternoons at school when I was about ten, and my teacher, Sister Felicitas, an elderly, usually-unsmiling nun read aloud to us. When she read Just William by Richmal Crompton, she cried with laughter and in her hilarity, her usually stern voice rose to a squeak. As a class, we laughed at her, with her, and at the pranks of William.
I was amazed by this early lesson into the connection of shared story and I still love listening to a book being read aloud.
Lauren Keenan for Amorangi and Millie's Trip Through Time (Huia Publishers)
When I was a kid, pretty much everything I read was set on the other side of the World: Enid Blyton; Milly Molly Mandy; Ramona and Beezus; various other books about anthropomorphic animals.
Then I read Patricia Grace's Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street. Not only was it set in New Zealand (a rare thing back then), but in Porirua, where I lived. The kids in the pictures looked like children I knew. It was the first time I realised books could be about people like me.
Leonie Agnew for The Memory Thief, (Penguin Random House NZ)
Tough question. There are several significant books which jump out, such as Anne of Green Gables and Ramona the Brave.
However only one book was genuinely life changing - The Green Ghost by Alfred Hitchcock. I still remember the day I decided to visit the 'other side' of the school library where the chapter books were kept.
I must've been about seven and it was the first chapter book I ever got out of the library. I loved the Three Investigator series and actually had a crush on a fictional character, Jupiter Jones. In other words, this was the book that hooked me into reading, so I can't think of a more influential title. Was it great literature? Maybe not, but that didn't matter. It was the doorway to a whole new world and I loved every page.
Sonya Wilson 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.
Eirlys Hunter for The Uprising - The Mapmakers in Cruxcia, illustrated by Kirsten Slade (Gecko Press)
When I was seven or eight, I was given a book called something like John and Susan’s World. It showed a plan of the children’s bedroom, then a plan of their house, then a map of their street, their town and so on.
It turned me into a map nerd, searching out books with maps for endpapers, entranced by the way that maps could make the world of any story feel more real. And now my name’s on the cover of a pair of books with maps inside; I’m thrilled, and my eight-year old self would have been too.
I only wish I could remember the name and author of the book that set me on this path (thin hardback, no dust jacket, red, yellow and black cover if that helps).