Greedy Cat and Nickle Nackle get the gongs

Robyn Belton is this year’s winner of New Zealand’s most prestigious award for children’s literature, the Margaret Mahy Medal.
The award is given annually by Storylines (the Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand) for “a distinguished contribution to children’s literature and literacy”. Last year’s winner was the lovely David Hill.
Storylines also announced yesterday that much-loved author-illustrator, Lynley Dodd, creator of Hairy Maclary (who happens to be a dead-ringer for my late lamented dog Lil), has won the 2006 Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book for her first book, The Nickle Nackle Tree.
Published in Britain in 1976, the picture book was Dodd’s first after the successful My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes with writer Eve Sutton (1973), and has remained in print ever since.
The annual award recognises a book unheralded at the time of publication but which has remained in print and proven itself a favourite with readers. Last year’s winner was Tessa Duder’s classic Night Race to Kawau .
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Lynley Dodd has created such well-loved and iconic characters as Hairy Maclary, Slinky Malinky, Schnitzel von Krumm and her latest, Zachary Quack. Her books, admired for the wit and technical mastery of both the verse and pictures, have been regular award winners in New Zealand and are widely published in America, Australia and elsewhere.
Robyn Belton, a graduate of the Canterbury University School of Fine Arts, and now an illustrator and tertiary lecturer (based in Dunedin) has been a leading New Zealand illustrator for more than 20 years.
Her debut work, The Duck in the Gun, an anti-war picture book published in 1984 with text by Joy Cowley, won the Russell Clark Award and was one of 10 children’s books selected for the Hiroshima Peace Museum. But Belton’s most beloved creation is Greedy Cat (also with text by Cowley). I’m particularly fond of her exquisite Bow Down, Shadrach and The Bantam and the Soldier.
Belton will present the customary lecture, given each year as part of the acceptance of the award, at the Storylines annual Margaret Mahy Day, on March 11 in Auckland. The inaugural lecture was presented by Margaret Mahy in 1991. This year is also Margaret Mahy’s 70th birthday, to be celebrated that day with a dinner and a hui for writers and illustrators. I’ll be there, waving a sparkler or some such thing.
The next Storylines Festival of New Zealand’s Children’s Writers and Illustrators in on 11 to 18 June (in cities around NZ). I’ll be there, too.

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