Not enough heros for girls in kids books

There is a ‘girl power’ void in new books for Kiwi kids, according to judges on a children’s book awards panel.

Finalists for The New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards were released this morning, with 19 books picked out of hundreds to contend for awards across four categories.

The sections were best picture book, junior fiction, young adult, and non-fiction.

Though the selection showed writers confident enough to pursue their own interests, Chief Judge Bernard Beckett said it was surprising to see so few heroines.

“We were surprised to see how few strong female characters there were in these pages,” he said.

“Young girls are in danger of seeing themselves once again as serving only decorative roles in stories, and we hope this is more a blip than the beginning of a retrograde trend.”

War was a dominant theme in the entries this year, as the centenary of the First World War approached next year.

“As judges, we were pleased to see coverage given to conflicts less likely to be known to young readers such as The Boer War or the conflict in Malaysia,” said Bernard.

“Prominence was also given to the bravery of those who resisted armed conflict, both in World War One and at Parihaka – that strikes us as tremendously important.”

He said the judges also noticed many books had “great potential” but were let down by formatting, design, illustrations, and editing.

Children’s literature expert and author Eirlys Hunter, presenter of Radio New Zealand’s Arts on Sunday Programme Lynn Freeman, and author Bernard Beckett sat on the judging panel. The winners will be announced on 24 June.


Picture Book
A Great Cake by Tina Matthews
Melu by Kyle Mewburn, Ali Teo & John O’Reilly
Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy & Gavin Bishop
Mr Bear Branches and the Cloud Conundrum by Terri Rose Baynton
Remember That November / Maumahara ki trā Nōema by Jennifer Beck, Lindy Fisher &
Kawata Teepa

Junior Fiction
The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi & Gregory O’Brien
The Queen and the Nobody Boy (A Tale of Fontania) by Barbara Else
My Brother’s War by David Hill
Red Rocks by Rachael King
Uncle Trev and His Whistling Bull by Jack Lasenby

Young Adult Fiction
Earth Dragon, Fire Hare by Ken Catran
Into the River by Ted Dawe
The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager
Reach by Hugh Brown
Snakes and Ladders by Mary-anne Scott

100 Amazing Tales From Aotearoa by Simon Morton & Riria Hotere
Kiwi: the real story by Annemarie Florian & Heather Hunt
Taketakerau, The Millennium Tree by Marnie Anstis, Patricia Howitt & Kelly Spencer
At the Beach: explore & discover the New Zealand seashore by Ned Barraud & Gillian

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