Monday, January 14, 2013

Ode to a New Zealand legend

When I started school as a five year old, I loved going to the library each week and picking out a book to take home. In choosing a book I always looked for a particular kind of illustration. It had to be more rounded and bubbly with bright, vibrant colours rather than sharp with darker colours. I guess the pictures I liked were more... modern than the pictures I didn't like.

Aside from the books we chose from the library, we also were given books to take home each night to practice reading. In New Zealand, there was one children's author that wrote hundreds of books throughout her life and it was her books that regularly came home with me, either as the class "homework" reading or the weekly book I'd chosen from the library.

That author was Margaret Mahy. She's what I would call a New Zealand legend. There are very few New Zealander's under the age of 35 who weren't bought up on Margaret Mahy's books. She wrote more than 100 picture books, 40 novels and 20 collections of short stories.

Her most famous children's book would possibly be A Lion in the Meadow, which became known internationally after its publication in 1969, and The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate. When I was 12, my whole school performed this book as a two hour long production. I was a pirate and had one line - bonus! Margaret Mahy attended one of the performances and sat in the front row. It was so exciting!

In April 2012, Margaret was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous jaw tumor and just three months later on July 23, 2012 she died in hospice. For so many of us young Kiwi's who had grown up with her stories, the loss is huge. It's comforting to know, however, that her legacy will live on in the next generations of New Zealander's as they grow up reading through the many books Margaret published during her 76 years.

File:Margaret Mahy at the Kaiapoi Club, 27 July 2011, smiling (digitally altered).jpg


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Samantha. I'd never heard of Margaret Mahy before now. You have served her memory well. :)

  2. One of my favourite books when I was little was by Margaret Mahy. It's called Leaf Magic and I still own a copy of it. It's about a mysterious leaf that follows a little boy home and at the end of the story the leaf turns into a dog. I actually didn't realize Margaret Mahy was from New Zealand. I'm so glad you posted this tribute to her and reminded me of a very special piece of my childhood!

    1. I love that book! Ah, that's so cool Margaret Mahy was a part of your childhood too, she was such a great children's author!