The embargo on this year’s list has just been lifted. Here are all the books in the running for a gong.
Huge caveat: we are yet to read them all. We’re working on that, snarled-up postal system permitting. So please consider these initial thoughts.
We’re very chuffed to see Our Toby (Morris) in there with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, an illustrated guide which basically never left the Unity Top 10s all year.
The Gobbledegook Book is a bright orange compendium of sweet Joy Cowley nonsense illustrated by Giselle Clarkson, and it has been brilliant for soothing a five-year-old through lockdown. Lots of cats which is also, obviously, brilliant.
Wildlife of Aotearoa is a kind of gentle spinoff of Gavin Bishop’s Aotearoa, which won the biggie, the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award, two years ago. The first book has heaps of wars and mining disasters and lessons about colonialism, and it is splendid – but sometimes what you need, and what Wildlife delivers, is some facts about seagulls. With a side of climate crisis and overfishing.
Finally, look at that YA lineup! We’ll do a full post on this category as soon as we’ve got our mitts on The History Speech and Ursa. Damien Wilkins’ Aspiring is a slight, delightfully clever wander around Wanaka and adolescence. And of course Sherryl Jordan has our eternal devotion.
But it will be incredibly hard to beat Lani Wendt Young’s Afakasi Woman. It’s a book of short stories set in Samoa and told with clarity and beauty and a hot, intelligent anger. Last year we put it among our top 10 fiction books for 2019. Forget best YA, this one’s our pick for the Margaret Mahy Award.
But let’s see what comes in the post.
Picture Book Award
Abigail and the Birth of the Sun by Matthew Cunningham, illustrated by Sarah Wilkins (Penguin Random House)
How Māui Slowed the Sun written and illustrated by Donovan Bixley (advised and translated by Dr Darryn Joseph and Keri Opai) (Upstart Press)
Mini Whinny: Goody Four Shoes by Stacy Gregg, illustrated by Ruth Paul (Scholastic NZ)
Santa’s Worst Christmas by Pania Tahau-Hodges and Bryony Walker, illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Huia Publishers)
The Gobbledegook Book by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press)
Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction
#Tumeke! by Michael Petherick (Massey University Press)
Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan (Text Publishing)
Miniwings Book 6: Moonlight the Unicorn’s High Tea Hiccup by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Kirsten Richards (Scholastic NZ)
Prince of Ponies by Stacy Gregg (HarperCollins Publishers)
Time Machine and other stories by Melinda Szymanik (The Cuba Press)
Young Adult Fiction Award
Afakasi Woman by Lani Wendt Young (OneTree House)
Aspiring by Damien Wilkins (Massey University Press)
The History Speech by Mark Sweet (Huia Publishers)
Ursa by Tina Shaw (Walker Books Australia)
Wynter’s Thief by Sherryl Jordan (OneTree House)
Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction
Kuwi & Friends Māori Picture Dictionary written and illustrated by Kat Quin, translated by Pānia Papa (Illustrated Publishing)
Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press)
Te Tiriti o Waitangi / The Treaty of Waitangi by Ross Calman and Mark Derby, illustrated by Toby Morris, translated by Piripi Walker (Lift Education)
The Adventures of Tupaia by Courtney Sina Meredith, illustrated by Mat Tait (Allen & Unwin, in partnership with Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum)
Three Kiwi Tales by Janet Hunt (Massey University Press)
Russell Clark Award for Illustration
Dozer the Fire Cat illustrated by Jenny Cooper, written by Robyn Prokop (Scholastic NZ)
Santa’s Worst Christmas illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, written by Pania Tahau-Hodges and Bryony Walker (Huia Publishers)
Song of the River illustrated by Kimberly Andrews, written by Joy Cowley (Gecko Press)
The Adventures of Tupaia illustrated by Mat Tait, written by Courtney Sina Meredith (Allen & Unwin, in partnership with Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum)
Wildlife of Aotearoa illustrated and written by Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House)
Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for books written completely in te reo Māori
Arapū Toi by Moira Wairama, illustrated by Austin Whincup (Baggage Books)
Ko Flit, te Tīrairaka, me ngā Hēki Muna written and illustrated by Kat Quin, translated by Ngaere Roberts (Scholastic NZ)
Ngā Hoa Hoihoi o Kuwi written and illustrated by Kat Quin, translated by Pānia Papa (Illustrated Publishing)
Te Kirihimete i Whakakorea by Pania Tahau-Hodges and Bryony Walker, illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, translated by Kawata Teepa (Huia Publishers)
Tio Tiamu by Kurahau, illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers (Huia Publishers)
Best First Book Award
Michael Petherick for #Tumeke! (Massey University Press)
Weng Wai Chan for Lizard’s Tale (Text Publishing)
Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (illustrator) for Santa’s Worst Christmas, written by Pania Tahau-Hodges and Bryony Walker (Huia Publishers)
Belinda O’Keefe for The Day the Plants Fought Back, illustrated by Richard Hoit (Scholastic NZ)
Laya Mutton-Rogers (illustrator) for The Smelly Giant, written by Kurahau (Huia Publishers)
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.