Margaret Mahy - Award-winning children’s author

 

"But Abel, though a treble, was a rascal and a rebel, fond of getting
into trouble when he didn't have to sing. Pushing quickly through the
people, Abel clambered up the steeple with nefarious intentions and a
pebble in his sling…"

Bubble Trouble typifies Margaret Mahy's infectious skill as a storyteller to children – and to grown-ups. A baby has been trapped in a bubble and wafts in search of mischief into the local church, where the choir is practising. With a fondness for alliteration (she was christened Margaret Mary Mahy) and a genius for quirky yet entirely believable invention, Mahy could sail any sea of story-making and return with an irresistible catch.

Her first book, A Lion in the Meadow, came about in 1969 when a New York children's editor spotted a short story in a children's magazine. She wrote to its author, a librarian in New Zealand, asking if she had any further material. By return of post she received a hoard of 100 unpublished stories. Kaye Webb, the long-serving editor of Puffin Books, soon spotted this talented new arrival. In 1971, she brought her latest star author down to The Red House in Thame, Oxfordshire.

I had left Fleet Street two years earlier to open a specialist children's bookshop. Margaret seemed somewhat diffident and withdrawn; she was a long way from home and still adjusting to her new life as an author. But she gladly graced our monthly Puffin Club meeting with a wonderful story session, one of many more to come.

The simplicity and charm of her lion tale had gripped me. I asked how it had come about: "Well, I had been in the library all day. Came home hoping to write. Put the girls to bed. Sat forever… and then it simply dropped into my lap." It is the perfect tale of the fearful fantasy world of a child, who tells his mother that there is a lion in the meadow; his mother goes along with its reality by giving precious growing space to her offspring. "Here's a matchbox… why not put it in there..."

Margaret Mahy, the eldest of five children, was born in Whakatane, North Island. Her father was an engineer in whose Irish blood flowed endless stories which he regaled to his children. Her ambitious mother, a teacher, made sure Mahy went to university. Words were her thing: she still kept the MS of a story written when she was seven. She trained as a librarian, working in Christchurch until she was appointed children's librarian.

A single mother, Mahy worked during the day, cared for her two daughters and then would write the night long, sipping black coffee. In 1980, growing success enabled her to write full-time: her published work amounts to some 100 picture books, 40 fiction titles for teenagers and 20 collections of short stories and poems; she is translated into 15 languages.

Her empathy for a growing audience moved on to stories for teenagers. The Changeover deals with the joys, fears and failures of puberty. Laura meets Sorenson Carlisle at her school. He is a complex loner dressed frequently in Gothic black: Laura knows him for what he is, a male witch with family problems at home. But she falls for him, especially when he steps in to help Jacko, her ailing baby brother who has been marked by a demon who seems to be sucking his life away.

The romance between Laura and Sorry (his new name once he has been sent away to an abusive foster home) as they learn to love themselves when they fall in love with each other, is skilfully and credibly told.

Mahy is the only children's author to have received the Carnegie Award twice, for her first two works of older fiction. In 1993 she received New Zealand's greatest honour, the Order of New Zealand, joining Prince Philip in the equivalent of the Order of Merit. But what delighted her most, as much as her many children's storytelling sessions decked out in her woolly rainbow bonnet, was being given The Hans Christian Andersen medal for services to children's literature.

Margaret Mary Mahy, author: born Whakatane, New Zealand 21 March 1936; two daughters; died Christchurch, New Zealand 23 July 2012.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering