Beloved author Margaret Mahy dies

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2012
Margaret Mahy
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
LITERARY GREAT: Margaret Mahy died in Christchurch, aged 76.

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Margaret Mahy, one of New Zealand's most beloved writers, died in Christchurch yesterday after being diagnosed with cancer in April. She was 76.

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 last night.

"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."

Mahy was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour in her jaw in April and was admitted to the hospice ten days ago.

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

She wrote more than 200 books and poems and won many prestigious children's book awards, including the Carnegie Medal and the prestigious 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.

Waikato Children's Literature Association committee member Joan Gibbons last night paid tribute to Mahy, whom she described as "a very empathetic person who loved children".

"She was very quick to feel with people."

Mrs Gibbons had met Mahy previously and had invited her to speak in Hamilton.

She recalled Mahy was adept at being able to fit her message to youngsters.

"She got on very well with kids.

"Once when I went to a children's literature association meeting in Hamilton, which was planned for adults, she changed the whole programme because there were some kids there.

"She made it more appropriate for children just because they were there."

Mrs Gibbons recalled the inaugural Margaret Mahy lecture, where hundreds of people had gathered to celebrate her.

"I remember her arriving off the plane and coming forward and greeting another author - Gaylene Gordon - who had just written her first book.

"She had her book in her hand saying ‘I really want you to sign this?'

"Here she was focusing on someone who was a new writer at an event to celebrate her.”

The Mahy family received copies of one of her final works, The Man from the Land of Fandangonf, last week.

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- Waikato Times

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