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Margaret Mahy: A Writer's Life: A Literary Portrait of New Zealand's Best-Loved Children's Author

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A literary portrait of New Zealand's best-loved children's author. Margaret Mahy was one of the world's leading authors for younger readers for four decades. In her own country she was popularly known as the writer in the multicoloured wig who wrote marvellously funny picture books and enchanted generations of school children. Her story had its fairy-tale elements. In 1968 A literary portrait of New Zealand's best-loved children's author. Margaret Mahy was one of the world's leading authors for younger readers for four decades. In her own country she was popularly known as the writer in the multicoloured wig who wrote marvellously funny picture books and enchanted generations of school children. Her story had its fairy-tale elements. In 1968, a hard-pressed solo mother of two daughters, working as a librarian by day and writing long into the night, she was 'discovered' by a leading American publisher who flew 'to the end of the earth' to offer her a multi-book publishing contract. From those first picture books, through the great novels of the 1980s and new books and awards right up to the year of her death, she came to be regarded as the third in New Zealand's literary pantheon, alongside Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame. In 2006 her achievements were recognised by IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People), awarding her the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the world's 'Little Nobel', for her distinguished contribution to children's literature.


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A literary portrait of New Zealand's best-loved children's author. Margaret Mahy was one of the world's leading authors for younger readers for four decades. In her own country she was popularly known as the writer in the multicoloured wig who wrote marvellously funny picture books and enchanted generations of school children. Her story had its fairy-tale elements. In 1968 A literary portrait of New Zealand's best-loved children's author. Margaret Mahy was one of the world's leading authors for younger readers for four decades. In her own country she was popularly known as the writer in the multicoloured wig who wrote marvellously funny picture books and enchanted generations of school children. Her story had its fairy-tale elements. In 1968, a hard-pressed solo mother of two daughters, working as a librarian by day and writing long into the night, she was 'discovered' by a leading American publisher who flew 'to the end of the earth' to offer her a multi-book publishing contract. From those first picture books, through the great novels of the 1980s and new books and awards right up to the year of her death, she came to be regarded as the third in New Zealand's literary pantheon, alongside Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame. In 2006 her achievements were recognised by IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People), awarding her the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the world's 'Little Nobel', for her distinguished contribution to children's literature.

30 review for Margaret Mahy: A Writer's Life: A Literary Portrait of New Zealand's Best-Loved Children's Author

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Dixon

    Margaret Mahy was acknowledged as one of the best contemporary writers for children in the world. Sadly, she died quite recently, and children's literature is now the lesser without her prodigious output. This literary biography does true justice to Mahy and was a real pleasure to read (Tessa Duder is herself an accomplished author). (and I wrote notes for a full review but have LOST them) Margaret Mahy was acknowledged as one of the best contemporary writers for children in the world. Sadly, she died quite recently, and children's literature is now the lesser without her prodigious output. This literary biography does true justice to Mahy and was a real pleasure to read (Tessa Duder is herself an accomplished author). (and I wrote notes for a full review but have LOST them)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    I already thought that Margaret Mahy was quite brilliant before I started reading this book and I didn't find out anything that made me think she was more brilliant or less but now I know why she had a skull tattoo. I managed to squeeze out 4 stars. I was a little disappointed that Tessa Duder didn't write more of the book. I'm not saying that she didn't put in the time and do the research because it's obvious that she did. But it seems that Duder more or less made an outline and then, more and I already thought that Margaret Mahy was quite brilliant before I started reading this book and I didn't find out anything that made me think she was more brilliant or less but now I know why she had a skull tattoo. I managed to squeeze out 4 stars. I was a little disappointed that Tessa Duder didn't write more of the book. I'm not saying that she didn't put in the time and do the research because it's obvious that she did. But it seems that Duder more or less made an outline and then, more and more as the book progressed, plugged in excerpts from Mahy's speeches and essays. If you have read Mahy's A Dissolving Ghost: Essays and More, you will feel like you've read most of this book already. There were also quotes, long and short from other sources, from editors and from reviews. On page 85 Duder takes "one giant leap for mankind" as Neil Armstrong once said. I had to flip back a few pages to see if a chapter had been torn out of my book. Negative criticism was included only so it could be refuted and the book ends in 2005 before Mahy's apparently very short illness and death, so don't expect those. The extensive use of excerpts from Mahy's speeches also resulted in some repetition when anecdotes or commentary overlapped. That Americans don't know the word "paddock" was repeated more than once and I'd like to note that, actually, Americans do know the word paddock. UPDATE: The very next book on my "to read" pile was The Ainsley Case, published in New York City by Random House, that I bought at the Berry Hill Books summer sale recently. So what do I find on page 244!?! Phelps, New York, was celebrating their centennial with a pageant and had carpenters building a temporary outdoor stage in a paddock. This is the most complete biography of Margaret Mahy as it is 304 pages longer than Mahy's My Mysterious World. Honestly, My Mysterious World has better pictures and Magical Margaret Mahy is a quicker interesting read. For libraries or big Mahy fans, this book should be a keeper. Considering Margaret Mahy's phenomenal success as an author of both children's and YA books, the number of awards she received and, if nothing else, the sheer number of books that she wrote, I can't believe that HarperCollins didn't see fit to publish this book in hardcover. No stars to HarperCollins.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Margaret.Clare Buchanan

    This book is So well researched! I was introduced to Margaret Mahy sometime in 2009 when my friend, Lisa was looking after Margaret as a cook and companion. After the Lyttleton Market, on a Saturday morning I would join Margaret in her jumbled home for a cup of tea. She just loved a chat! This book is a pleasure to read with excellent research as well as anecdotal stories. Highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Deb Hill

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nina

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sharai

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Shortcake

  8. 5 out of 5

    James Auckland

  9. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenny2

  12. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Cash

  13. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  14. 4 out of 5

    Luc

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ami

  16. 5 out of 5

    colin gibson

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  18. 4 out of 5

    NZBook Girl

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anne

  21. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ineka

  23. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

  24. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shaun Barnett

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie James

  28. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Houghton

  30. 4 out of 5

    Annie

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