Katherine Shanks from the Publishers’ Association of New Zealand with Eboni Waitere from Huia (Photo: Supplied)
Katherine Shanks from the Publishers’ Association of New Zealand with Eboni Waitere from Huia (Photo: Supplied)

BooksApril 9, 2024

Huia Publishers wins big at Bologna

Katherine Shanks from the Publishers’ Association of New Zealand with Eboni Waitere from Huia (Photo: Supplied)
Katherine Shanks from the Publishers’ Association of New Zealand with Eboni Waitere from Huia (Photo: Supplied)

New Zealand’s leading indigenous publishers have been recognised for their excellence on the world stage at this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Huia Publishers have won the Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year, Oceania, at Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy – one of the biggest and most competitive book markets in the world, where publishers and agents scout for, and sell, rights to books.

The award is given out annually to publishing houses from around the world that display exceptional “creativity, innovation and the quality of their editorial choices”. This year’s shortlist for Oceania included Affirm Press, Fremantle Press, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing (all from Australia), and Scholastic New Zealand. The shortlist was compiled by publishers, publishers’ associations and institutions devoted to reading promotion. Winners were voted for by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair exhibitors and announced at a ceremony at the fair on 8 April.  

Huia Publishers announced as the Oceania winner at a ceremony at Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

“To be recognised for our children’s books on the global stage is a huge privilege,” said Pania Tahau-Hodges (Ngāti Tūwharetoa/Ngāti Tūtemohuta, Tūhoe), director at HUIA. “These books represent so much of why we do what we do at Huia. Books have the potential to capture and reflect how we as Māori understand our place of belonging and our language, identity and culture. In this sense, children’s literature has a significant impact on society as it helps shape the young people who will be our rangatira of tomorrow. Representing our books and authors at Bologna is a great opportunity in and of itself – we see how our books resonate with a global audience, and we introduce the incredible talent of our authors to new readers. Receiving this recognition from our industry enables us to shine a light on Indigenous publishing as a whole. The careers of our Māori and Indigenous creatives are so worth investing in, and we love championing their work.”

Huia is an independent, Māori-owned and operated publishing house that has been running for over 30 years. Their recent children’s books include The Dream Factory by Steph Matuku, illustrated by Zak Ātea which is also published in te reo Māori as Te Wheketere Moemoeā; Dazzlehands and Ringakōreko by Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan; and How my Koro Became a Star by Brianne Te Paa. As well as children’s books, Huia also publish nonfiction and adult fiction for the commercial market and develop resources for the educational sector. 

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is an annual event that brings publishers from all over the world together to represent their authors. This year there are 1,456 exhibitors from 90 countries; among them are eight Aotearoa publishers (including Huia) exhibiting at a collective stand including Oratia Media, Scholastic New Zealand, Gecko Press and Frances Plumpton Literary Agency. The stand is managed by Katherine Shanks from Publishers Association of New Zealand Te Rau o Tākupu (PANZ). Eye-catching decoration is a tradition and necessity at book fairs: the Aotearoa stand is decorated with the art of wildlife illustrator and author Martin Bailey (also co-owner of Black Chook Books).

Eboni Waitere, director of Huia, is representing the publisher at the fair and says it is a privilege to represent their authors and take Māori stories to the world. “I am particularly passionate about children’s books,” she says, “because I’ve experienced first-hand the transformative power they have in shaping the aspirations of our young people.” 

Director of Huia, Eboni Waitere, with Huia’s award for Best Children’s Publisher, Oceania, at Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

Huia is Aotearoa’s largest independent publisher and are known for their high-quality production and the attention paid to illustration as well as clarity and care of language, both te reo Māori and English. They have published five hundred indigenous writers and upwards of one thousand books in te reo Māori. 

Huia was founded on the backdrop of the Māori renaissance movement and have, for decades now, devoted themselves to developing and illuminating excellence in indigenous literature. At Huia, indigenous people direct the narrative at every step of the process. “As Indigenous people, we’re often subjected to stereotypes and old-fashioned perceptions of what it means to be Māori,” says Waitere. “Our books constantly defy these expectations – we are time travellers and magicians, inventors and innovators, detectives and problem-solvers. When we shape and tell our own stories, our aspirations and lived experiences as Māori are limitless.”

Bologna Children’s Book Fair started in 1964 and this year runs for four days, until 11 April. The full list of prize winners is online here. Huia’s Eboni Waitere will speak on a panel called Origins: Indigenous Voices in Children’s Books on Wednesday 10 April at the Book Lovers’ Bistro at the fair.

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