Margaret Mahy's death a huge loss

Last updated 13:25 24/07/2012
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What is your favourite Margaret Mahy book?

A Lion in the Meadow

A Summery Saturday Morning

Down the Back of the Chair

The Word Witch

Awesome Aotearoa: A Kids' History of New Zealand

The Moon and Farmer McPhee

Bubble Trouble

Magician of Hoad

The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate

The Margaret Mahy Treasury: Eleven Favourite Stories from the Marvellous Margaret Mahy


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International tributes for Margaret Mahy are rolling in as news of her death spreads.

Mahy, 76, died in Christchurch yesterday after being diagnosed with cancer in April.

In an obituary in The Guardian, Mahy was described as one of New Zealand's "most acclaimed literary figures".

Fellow New Zealand children's author Judy Corballis, who is based in London, told The Guardian it was a "huge loss".

"She was only 76, we might have expected another 10 years," Corballis said.

"There was such scope and depth in what she did.

"She confronted any topic in her writing, particularly for older children, and she had a tremendous sense of fun, underpinned by a very high intelligence. She was interested in science, in the nature of death - all sorts of things. She was very widely read."

Both the Washington Post and the Huffington Post ran tributes to Mahy and Australia's the Herald Sun detailed her work.

Prime Minister John Key this morning expressed his sorrow.
Key said Mahy's books, short stories and contributions to the New Zealand School Journal hade been part of children's lives for generations.
"She is widely acknowledged as one of this country's finest authors, and one of the world's greatest writers of children's and young adults' stories."

Her stories were translated into many languages and resonated with children worldwide, said Key.

Key also extended his condolences to the Mahy's family and friends.

Mahy was awarded the Order of New Zealand in 1993. She won the Carnegie Medal in 1982 and 1984, making her the first writer outside Britain to receive the award. In 2006 she was awarded the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award for her enduring work.

Her daughter Penny Mahy, and her sisters Bridget and Helen, were at her side when she died at the Nurse Maude Hospice in St Albans just after 3pm.

"It was very special," Penny Mahy said.

"We're all in shock. Despite the fact we've known it was inevitable, it's still a shock when it actually happens. We're trying to group together as a family.

"We're hoping we'll take a lot of comfort in that."

"She was peaceful in the end," her daughter said.

Penny Mahy, said her mother's passing was a "double whammy", after the author's younger brother Frank died unexpectedly on Saturday.

She had "one or two [books] in the pipeline" when she died.

"She just had such an enormous output.

"Even in her last few months when she was suffering and in a bit of pain she would say 'oh, that could be an idea for a story'.

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Even in her last weeks she still had an eye for a story. It was so much part of her and central to who she was."

The family received copies of one of Mahy's final works, The Man from the Land of Fandango, last week.

Penny Mahy described her mother as "quite eccentric".

"She was a weirdo at school. She used to have a lot of fantasies.

"I think it did sort of mark her as being a bit special."

Award-winning author and literary professor Bill Manhire said the literary community would mourn Mahy's passing for some time.

"I think she was loved at the same level that Sir Edmund Hillary was. She's right up there as one of the great icons of New Zealand."

Her imagination set her apart from her peers, both at home and overseas, Manhire said.

Mahy was a bigger name internationally than many people realised and would not look out of place on the same pedestal as famous authors Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame, he said.

"I think people will mourn Margaret's death but at the same time they will celebrate her work. So she's not going to die at all really, she'll live forever.'

Fellow author Steve Evans said his friend "had a great feeling for people".

"She was outside the box.

"I knew her back when she was working at Canterbury Public Library.

"She was just wonderful with children. She had this gift. She would read them stories and later she would put on this crazy wig.

Literary blogger Graham Beattie called her one of New Zealand's greatest-ever writers.

"I put her up there with Katherine Mansfield," he said.

Mahy wrote more than 200 books and poems and won many prestigious children's book awards, including the Carnegie Medal, and was the only New Zealander to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

Last year she won the New Zealand Post Children's Book of the Year award for The Moon & Farmer McPhee with Dunedin illustrator David Elliot.

Mahy was made a member of the Order of New Zealand - the highest of the country's honours and open to only 20 living people at one time - in 1993.

- Fairfax Media


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