24 Jul 2012

Author Margaret Mahy dies

5:38 am on 24 July 2012

New Zealand children's author Margaret Mahy has died in Christchurch following a brief illness.

She was 76.

Her first book A Lion in the Meadow won the Esther Glen award for the best New Zealand children's book of 1970, and has become a classic.

A family member confirmed her death, on Monday afternoon, to Radio New Zealand.

Ms Mahy, 76, won many awards, including Britain's premier children's book award - the Carnegie Medal - twice and the Hans Christian Andersen Award - the world's top prize for children's literature given for a lifetime of achievement.

She was a favourite with children and would often dress in character, complete with colourful wigs and costumes, when visiting schools or libraries to read her works.

She was a prolific author whose work has been translated into a dozen languages.

Witches sparked US ban

She wanted her readers to experience an imaginative connection with the world, as she had in her own reading but, as she told an audience at the Press Christchurch Writers' Festival in 2006, not everyone approved of her work.

"I've had books banned over in the USA. Picture books in particular because they had witches in them. Some people said I'd put witches in them because I was trying to guide children towards Satanism, which was most untrue."

Ms Mahy was appointed a Member of the Order of New Zealand in 1993 and had honorary doctorates from Canterbury and Waikato Universities. In 2005 she received an Arts Foundation Icon Award.

She was a single mother - in the 1960s when it was not widely accepted - and wrote despite having two small children to raise alone. Her daughters came from what she once described as a "romantic and compelling love affair".