Margaret Mahy, born 1936, is one of New Zealand’s greatest authors of children’s literature and is regarded as one of the best authors of English books for children in the world. As well as writing many prolific, popular, and award winning books, she has written scripts for television and is a playwright and storyteller. In addition, she has made a significant contribution to children’s education. She has been involved extensively with the Writers-in-Schools Scheme and over the years, her wild and colourful imagination has produced timeless stories which have influenced and encouraged many New Zealand children and young adults to read. Many of her well-known titles continue to enhearten readers to this day and are still read some 20 years after they were first published.
In 1980, after a 20 year long career as a librarian, she retired to become a full-time children’s writer. Previously, she worked for the Petone Public Library and the School Library Service in Christchurch and was the children’s librarian at Canterbury Public Library.
Margaret Mahy, who wrote her first story when she was seven years old, has an impressive array of titles to her credit. She has had more than 100 titles published, which spread across many genres. Her picture books include her first book A Lion in the Meadow and The Witch in the Cherry Tree, The Boy Who Was Followed Home, and The Great White Man Eating Shark. She has written verse, non-fiction, and had stories published in the Ministry of Education’s School Journals. She has written books for emergent readers in The Jelly Beans Series, The Story Chest Series, and The Sunshine Books Series. Her popular collections of stories include The Piratical Rumbustification, The Librarian and the Robbers, and The Birthday Burglar & A Very Wicked Headmistress. She has also written novels for junior readers, such as The Pirate Uncle and The Bus Under the Leaves, and older readers, such as The Haunting, The Catalogue of the Universe, and Memory. Other cherished titles include Nonstop Nonsense and The Boy with Two Shadows. She has had work published in England and America, and her stories have been translated into more than fifteen languages.
Margaret Mahy’s work has won many national and international awards and has been included in prestige listings by journal editors, librarians, and educationalists. She has received the New Zealand Library Association’s Esther Glen Award for the Most Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Children’s Literature on four occasions; in 1970 for A Lion in the Meadow, in 1972 for The First Margaret Mahy Story Book, in 1983 for The Haunting, and in 1985 for The Changeover. In addition, she received the New Zealand Literature Fund Award for Achievement in 1985, The Goodman Fielder Wattie Award for Junior Fiction for Underrunners in 1992, and The Young Observer Fiction Prize for The Tricksters in 1986. She was also awarded the prestigious British Carnegie Medal for The Haunting in 1982 and for The Changeover in 1984, the first writer outside of Britain to receive it. She also won the The Italian Premier Grafico Award for The Wind Between the Stars in 1976 and the Dutch Silver Pencil Award for The Boy Who was Followed Home in 1977.
In 1984, she was the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Canterbury and in 1993, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the same university. She has held writing fellowships in New Zealand and Australia, regularly visits schools all over the country to read stories, and individually answers the letters she receives from children all over the world.
Citation prepared 1993