Record Number of Children’s Book Awards Entries Produces Strong Shortlist

The 2022 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults attracted a record 199 entries, with 28 titles announced as finalists today. This is the highest number of entries ever received for the awards, which are Aotearoa’s premier youth edition celebration.

Competing in six main categories, the 2022 finalists offer young New Zealand readers an educational, engaging and captivating selection of books with a unique Kiwi flavor.

“This year’s submissions explore a wide range of topics, including protest, autism, gender equality, racism and history, providing a platform for thoughtful discussions and, hopefully, serious discussions,” said presiding judge Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith.

“These big topics are so important to sparking conversations with tamariki and rangatahi. Being able to think about it and discuss it critically is crucial given the disruptions of recent years and the rise of misinformation that young people are now facing.

But Smith says it’s also wonderful to see authors having fun with themes for young readers, and many of the finalist books will delight and entertain.

The growing strength of books with the te ao Māori worldview and the increasing number and quality of titles in te reo Māori also stood out to this year’s judges.

“The Maori language and its worldview are taonga unique to Aotearoa. Their valorization in children’s literature is an encouraging sign of the growth of our nation,” says Smith.

As for the finalists, the judges outline this year’s award Picture Book Award shortlist as “a tutti-frutti of delights”. From quirky and whimsical to exuberant and mischievous, all stories feature dollops of humor and a hugely diverse palette of illustrations.

Picture Book Award Finalists

Bumblebee Grumpy,
David Elliot (Gecko Press)

Lion keeps the cakeRuth Paul (Scholastic New Zealand)

My cat can see ghosts, Emily Joe (Beatnik)

The Eight Gifts of Te Wheke, Steph Matuku, illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers (Huia Publishers)

The biggest Haka festival on EarthPania Tahau-Hodges, illustrated by Story Hemi-Morehouse (Huia Publishers)

It was an exceptional year for registrations at the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award Category. The judges say the finalists stand out not only for original concepts, but also for accomplished world-building, authentic characterization and settings, and ultimately, well-written stories for this important age group.

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award Finalists
Amorangi and Millie’s time travel Lauren Keenan (Huia Editors)

spark chaser, Sonya Wilson (Cuba Press)

memory thief, Leonie Agnew (Penguin Random House NZ)

The Tomo, Mary Anne Scott (OneTree House)

The Uprising: Cartographers of Cruxcia,
Eirlys Hunter illustrated by Kirsten Slade (Gecko Press)

The field of entries in this year
Young Adult Fiction Award shows the depth and breadth of stories available for New Zealand rangatahi. The stories of the five finalists are beautifully written and moving, and sometimes action-packed, tense and gripping, but always relatable, say the judges.

Young Adult Fiction Award Finalists

coast guard,
David Hill (Penguin Random House NZ)

Cristina Sanders (Walker Books Australia)

Katipo Joe: The Wolf’s Lair, Brian Falkner (Scholastic New Zealand)

Learn to love blue, Saradha Koirala (recording press)

Purple Black, Eileen Merriman (Penguin Random House NZ)

In the Elsie Locke Prize for Non-Fiction it’s the books that have dared to tackle big, sometimes even uncomfortable themes that have stood out. With powerful stories told in impeccable prose, thoughtful design and impressive production values, the judges say the finalists are a masterclass in engaging nonfiction.

Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction Finalists

Atua: Maori gods and heroes, Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House NZ)

Draw awesome stuff,
Donovan Bixley (Upstart Press)

Why is this spider dancing? Simon Pollard and Phil Sirvid (Te Papa Press)

How do I feel? A dictionary of emotions for children, Rebekah Lipp, illustrated by Craig Phillips (Wildling Books)
Kia Kaha: A Book of Stories About the Maori Who Changed the World, Stacey Morrison and Jeremy Sherlock (Penguin Random House NZ)

This year, the finalists of the Russell Clark Award for Illustration
created worlds that visually stimulate the mind, soul and imagination. The judges say each finalist excelled at bringing words to life with their own unique and diverse artistry.

Russell Clark Award for Illustration Finalists

Atua: Maori gods and heroes, Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House NZ)

Mokopuna Matatini,
Hemi-Morehouse story, written by Pania Tahau-Hodges (Huia Publishers)

Moose the pilot, Kimberly Andrews (Penguin Random House NZ)

My cat can see ghosts,Emily Joe (Beatnik)

The Eight Gifts of Te Wheke, Laya Mutton-Rogers, written by Steph Matuku (Huia Publishers)

The judges of the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award regarding books written entirely in te reo Māori, praised the language of all submissions, finding reo beautiful, with the depth and breadth needed to advance the te reo abilities of tamariki of all ages .

Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award Finalists

He Wheke Wai Mamangu Au, Stephanie Thatcher, translated by Pānia Papa (Scholastic New Zealand)

I Waho, I moana you,
Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, translated by Pānia Papa (Scholastic New Zealand)

Kite Moe Aotearoa, Donovan Bixley translated by Darryn Joseph (Upstart Press)

Mokopuna Matatini, Pania Tahau-Hodges, illustrated by Story Hemi-Morehouse (Huia Publishers)

Te Hipo Huna, Juliette MacIver illustrated by Sarah Davis, translated by Karena Kelly (Gecko Press)

There is no shortage of new talent emerging on the New Zealand book scene, and the judges had the unenviable task of selecting the finalists from 42 Best First Book Award

NZSA Best First Book Finalists

Hine and the Tohunga GateAtaria Sharman (Huia editors)

I am autistic
Chanelle Moriah (Allen & Unwin)

Mokopuna Matatini, Pania Tahau-Hodges illustrated by Story Hemi-Morehouse (Huia Publishers)

My cat can see ghostsEmily Joe (Beatnik)

spark chaser,
Sonya Wilson (Cuba Press)

Winners in each of the six main categories – Picture Book, Junior Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction, Illustration and te reo Māori – take home $7,500 and are then in the running to be named Margaret Mahy Book of the Year , with an additional prize of $7,500. Additionally, the judges will award a best first book award of $2,500 to an unpublished author or illustrator. The winners announcement ceremony will take place in Wellington on the evening of Wednesday August 10.

As well as recognizing the best and brightest books for children and young people, a key aspect of the mission of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is to foster literacy and a love of reading among tamariki and rangatahi from New Zealand.

This includes administering the hugely popular HELL Reading Challenge, which has encouraged children to read nearly 14 million books since its inception, aided by the bonus of a free pizza for every seven books completed. To add even more interest in 2022, libraries and schools can take tamariki on the Hell’s Great NZ Book Trip, where they can experience the rich tapestry of New Zealand literature all around the motu, whether of the author, a place or a setting in the story.

Another aspect of the awards is its program of popular Books Alive events, where authors and illustrators interact with Kiwi schoolchildren. Following the success of the online program over the past two years, Books Alive will again have a strong virtual component this year, run in partnership with the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA). In addition, on the day of the awards ceremony, hundreds of Wellington schoolchildren will also be able to enjoy a very comprehensive program featuring many of the shortlisted authors and illustrators in person.

The formidable task of narrowing the field to a shortlist of finalists was taken up by this year’s experienced jury: Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith MNZM (organizer), author and educator; Adele Broadbent, children’s bookseller and critic; Kyle Mewburn, one of New Zealand’s most eclectic and prolific writers; Laura Caygill, experienced public librarian; and Ruki Tobin, Kaihautū/Director Ratonga Māori at Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa National Library of New Zealand.

They were joined by a panel appointed by Te Rōpū Whakahau, the national body which represents Māori engaged in library, culture, knowledge, information, communication and systems technology in Aotearoa, to judge the entries. te reo Maori. Anahera Morehu (organizer), is Kaihautū Māori / Māori Director at Archives of New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kawanatanga; Horowaitai Roberts is Tuahine, online content service and developer Rauemi – Te Ao Māori at Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, National Library of New Zealand; and Te Amohaere Morehu is a communications specialist. Ruki Tobin also joined the jury of te reo Māori.

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults are made possible through the generosity, commitment and vision of funders and sponsors: Creative New Zealand, HELL Pizza, the Wright Family Foundation, LIANZA, Wellington City Council, New Zealand Society of Authors, Nielsen BookData and Books Alive 2022 site partner, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa. The awards are administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa.

To find out more about the shortlisted books, go to

© Scoop Media