Topic: Little Blue Penguin Swims into Another Nomination (2015)

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On Tuesday 9 June 2015 a children’s picture book from Tauranga was announced as a Finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The book tells the story of a little blue penguin caught up in the the oil spill from the 2011 Rena disaster.

Mauao Publishing: Little Blue Penguin Swims into Another Nomination

Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill: A Story from the Rena Disaster (2014) by Debbie McCauleyAlready a finalist in the LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards, Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill: A story from the Rena Disaster has just been announced as a finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

The bilingual picture book  is the second book for children by Tauranga author and librarian Debbie McCauley. “It’s fantastic to be nominated,” says Debbie. “New Zealand is a place that inspires creativity with writers and illustrators producing some excellent work for children”.

Mōtītī Blue tells the story of a little blue penguin caught up in Rena’s oil spill before being rescued and treated at the Te Maunga Oiled Wildlife Response Centre. “The disaster was devastating, not only for the people of the area, but for the many thousands of birds and sea creatures who were covered in the toxic oil,” says Debbie. “I’ve tried to tell a positive story out of all the carnage caused by the oil spill. The story of the thousands of sea creatures that died was just too sad to be the main focus of a children’s book”.

With it’s simple text, Mōtītī Blue is useful as a read aloud for children. The text is supported by an abundance of fact boxes, along with a timeline, maps and graphics. The beautiful cover is by Tauranga artist Elliot Mason and the translation into Te Reo Māori by Tamati Waaka.

The layout of the book was a collaboration between Debbie and book designer Sarah Elworthy. “Sarah was just amazing,” says Debbie. “She was as committed to the story as I was. Her patience as we went back and forth with ideas and her incredible talent helped to bring the whole project together”.

Debbie’s indie publishing company, Mauao Publishing, has been receiving orders for Mōtītī Blue from around New Zealand as well as Australia and Germany. “Copies are held at the International Youth Library in Munich,” says Debbie, who is pleased that the story of the environmental disaster will not be forgotten.

Early next week Debbie flies to Wellington for the LIANZA Awards Ceremony which will be held at The National Library in Wellington on 15 June. The LIANZA Awards are sponsored by Hell Pizza and celebrate excellence in children’s books in New Zealand.

Debbie will also be taking part in an author tour of selected Tauranga schools as part of the New Zealand Book Awards and in conjunction with Tauranga City Libraries on Monday 3rd of August.

The winners of the New Zealand Book Awards will be announced on 13 August at Government House in Wellington at an event hosted by their Excellencies The Governor-General of New Zealand Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae.

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2015 (Non-Fiction category) 

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Great Richness and Diversity in This Year’s Finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Pirates, orcas and penguins leap from the pages of the 22 books picked as finalists in the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

In the 25th year of these venerable awards, New Zealand authors have once again produced beautifully written and illustrated books that are wonderful to hold and read, showing that publishing for New Zealand children is in very good heart.

One hundred and forty-nine books were submitted for the Awards. A panel of three judges (judging convenor and children’s book reviewer and literary consultant Bob Docherty; author and children’s bookshop owner, Annemarie Florian; and teacher-librarian Fiona Mackie), with the assistance of Te Reo Māori language adviser, freelance Māori writer and editor Stephanie Pohe-Tibble, have spent months reading, analysing and enjoying all entries.

The finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are selected across four categories: Picture Book, Non-Fiction, Junior Fiction and Young Adult Fiction, and there is an additional award for books written in Māori, for which there are finalists for the first time.

Judging panel convenor Bob Docherty says the judges were very pleased with the high quality of this year’s writing. “We likened the process to a vintner looking forward to tasting this year’s vintage. Having tasted, we all were delighted with this year’s production of titles – not only in terms of the actual writing, but also the fantastic quality and style of the illustrations and the actual presentation of the books. It’s heartening to see that book production in New Zealand is getting better and better. We’re pleased that publishers continue to put as much emphasis on the look and feel – literally – of a book as well as its content.

“The Picture Book category gave the judges the most difficulty – in the best possible way. With a whopping 75 entries, there was fierce competition to pare these down to five finalists. This indicates that New Zealand is producing its fair share of wonderfully strong visual stories – stories with simple integrity yet with expressive characters, where both author and illustrator work together to capture our interest on every page,” says Bob.

“All books submitted in the Non-Fiction category were particularly impressive - almost in defiance of the trend for some libraries to dispense with their non-fiction collections in favour of online sources. The judging panel believed all the Non-Fiction entries contained material that was far superior to any online source, and all entries deserved to be finalists, says Bob.

There were 35 entries in Junior Fiction category. “All these books were a delight to read. This year’s finalists have combined comic book illustrations with the traditional novel format, and four of the five books have an historical connection. Fantasy and adventure also figure, and there is a strong anti-bullying link within the finalists’ titles in this category.

The judges agreed that all 21 entries in the Young Adult Fiction category were stunning. The high standard of writing reflects the calibre of New Zealand’s world-class writers. The human condition and teenage relationships were intimately discussed, and dialogue was a strong feature of all of these novels.


Two finalists for the Māori language award

Seven books were submitted in the Māori language award, with two selected as finalists. Te Reo Māori language adviser, Stephanie Pohe-Tibble, says that all of this year’s entries had something for every reader - from beginning speakers of Māori to children and whānau involved in kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori. The two finalists both stood out with their innovative approach to translation, wonderful text and illustrations, and creativity of storylines. Stephanie says, “I hope that all parents wishing to enrich their children’s lives with the Māori language will get to spend some special time with their children reading and enjoying these books.”


New Children’s Choice finalists’ list now decided by children

Children’s choices rule in the newly revamped Children’s Choice Awards in 2015. This year, more than 6,500 children and young adults from 106 schools from throughout the country have selected their own finalists from the 149 books submitted for the Awards. In previous years, the Children’s Choice was made from the judges’ finalist list, rather than from the full number of submitted books.

Nicola Legat, chair of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, says, ”We wanted to hand this section over to the children – for them to decide which books they engaged with and which books they loved, rather than making their choices based on the criteria the judges used to make their decisions. Of the 20 books chosen as Children’s Choice finalists, seven match those on the judges’ list, so we’re very much looking forward to seeing the results of round two of the children’s vote over the next seven weeks.”

Voting for the Children’s Choice opens on Tuesday, 9 June and closes on Friday, 31 July. This year there will be a winner in each category.


Prince George to receive Picture Book finalists

For the second year, the five Picture Book finalists books are about to be sent to Prince George of Cambridge and his newborn sister Princess Charlotte. Each of the five books has a personal message from its author to both children.

“Each year the New Zealand Book Awards Trust is sending Prince George, and now his little sister, specially signed books from the authors of the Picture Book finalists. As they grow older the Cambridge family will receive the Non-Fiction finalists, then the Junior Fiction. When George is 13, we’ll send the autographed Young Adult Fiction books. By the time the Cambridge children have grown up, they’ll have a wonderful collection of New Zealand children’s and young adult literature – all personally inscribed,” says Nicola Legat.

The finalists for the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are:

Picture Books

  • Construction, Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock, Walker Books Australia
  • I Am Not a Worm, Scott Tulloch, Scholastic New Zealand
  • Jim’s Letters, Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper, Penguin Random House
  • Keys, Sasha Cotter and Joshua Morgan, Huia Publishers
  • Little Red Riding Hood . . . Not Quite, Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley, Scholastic New Zealand


  • Ghoulish Get-Ups: How to Create Your Own Freaky Costumes, Fifi Colston, Scholastic New Zealand
  • Māori Art for Kids, Julie Noanoa and Norm Heke, Craig Potton Publishing
  • Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill: A Story from the Rena Disaster, Debbie McCauley, Mauao Publishing
  • The Book of Hat, Harriet Rowland, Makaro Press/Submarine
  • Under the Ocean: explore & discover New Zealand’s sea life, Gillian Chandler and Ned Barraud, Craig Potton Publishing

Junior Fiction

  • Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand, Leonie Agnew, Penguin Random House/Puffin
  • Dragon Knight: Fire!, Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley, Scholastic New Zealand
  • Monkey Boy, Donovan Bixley, Scholastic New Zealand
  • The Island of Lost Horses, Stacy Gregg, HarperCollins
  • The Pirates and the Nightmaker, James Norcliffe, Penguin Random House/Longacre Child

Young Adults

  • I Am Rebecca, Fleur Beale, Penguin Random House
  • Night Vision, Ella West, Allen & Unwin
  • Recon Team Angel: Vengeance, Brian Falkner, Walker Books Australia
  • Singing Home the Whale, Mandy Hager, Penguin Random House
  • While We Run, Karen Healey, Allen & Unwin

Māori Language Award

  • Hoiho Paku, Stephanie Thatcher and Ngaere Roberts, Scholastic New Zealand
  • Nga Ki, Sasha Cotter and Joshua Morgan, Huia Publishers (translation of Keys, a finalist in the Picture Book category)

A Finalist Authors’ Tour will run from 3-7 August nationwide, with authors appearing in bookshops, libraries and schools.

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is organised by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, and administered by Booksellers NZ. The Awards are sponsored by Creative NZ, Book Tokens Ltd, Copyright Licensing Limited New Zealand and Nielsen Book Services. Publishers have also supported the awards this year.

The winners will be announced on the evening of Thursday, 13 August at Government House in Wellington.



Mauao Publishing (Press Release, 9 June 2015).

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (Press Release, 9 June 2015). 

Rena tale makes book awards (Bay of Plenty Times, 10 June 2015).

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Little Blue Penguin Swims into Another Nomination (2015)