Singing Home the Whale

- a story of hope and promise set in the tranquillity of the Marlborough Sounds - is the winner of this year's Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award.

It also won in the young adult fiction category at the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Mandy Hager's book Singing Home the Whalee (published by Penguin Random House NZ) tells the story of Will, a teenage boy, and Min, a young orca. Singing Gilbert & Sullivan from the back of a boat in the Sounds, Will is heard by Min, who has been separated from his pod after seeing his mother killed by whalers.

Judging panel convenor Bob Docherty says that Singing Home the Whale stood out as relevant, timeless and powerful.

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"We think this novel would have won in any year it was entered, and the decision was unanimous for the panel. Mandy Hager is writing out of her skin at present and her understanding of the human condition and human attitudes towards each other and other inhabitants of Planet Earth are beautifully presented. This novel should be compulsory reading in any country that still hunts whales."

"The alternating narrative by Will and Min is captivating and believable, as well as easy to read."

Also on the judging panel was author and children's bookshop owner Annemarie Florian, and teacher-librarian Fiona Mackie - with assistance from Te Reo Māori language adviser, freelance Māori writer and editor Stephanie Pohe-Tibble.

The winners of the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced at a ceremony today at Wellington's Government House. The awards promote excellence and provide recognition for the best written and illustrated books for children and young adults published by New Zealand authors each year.

Best picture book was awarded to Jim's Letters by Glyn Harper and illustrated by Jenny Cooper. The book looks at the relationship between two brothers and their correspondence during World War 1.

Rotorua author Donovan Bixley won the best junior fiction award with Monkey Boy a story that mixes history with the supernatural and scatological.

The best non-iction category winner is Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill by Debbie McCauley and Tamati Waaka (translation). The book tells the story - both English and Māori - of a little blue penguin's struggle after being trapped in the Rena oil spill.

Ngā Kī by Sacha Cotter, translated by Kawata Teepa and illustrated by Josh Morgan, won the Māori language award. Ngā Kī conveys the special relationship between a father and his daughter. Te Reo Māori language adviser Stephanie Pohe-Tibble says Kawata Teepa demonstrates his ability to draw from te ao Māori (traditional Māori world) and te auo hou (modern world) in his use of metaphor and descriptive language.

The best first book award winner was Julie Noanoa for Māori Art for Kids. The judges commended the book for its combination of excellent production values and content.

The full list of winners is:
• Margaret Mahy book of the year: Singing Home the Whale - Mandy Hager
• Best young adult fiction title: Singing Home the Whale - Mandy Hager
• Best picture book: Jim's Letters - Glyn Harper and illustrated by Jenny Cooper
• Best non-fiction: Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill - Debbie McCauley and Tamati Waaka (translation)
• Best junior fiction: Monkey Boy - Donovan Bixley
• Māori language ward: Prize $1,000
• Māori language award: Ngā Kī - Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan, translation by Kawata Teepa
• Best first book: Māori Art for Kids - Julie Noanoa

In this year's newly revamped Children's Choice Award, nearly 16,000 votes were cast by children to select the winners from their own specially selected finalists' list.

The 2015 Children's Choice winners are:
• Picture book: The Anzac Puppy - Peter Millett and illustrated by Trish Bowles.
• Non-fiction: The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems - Paula Green and illustrated by Myles Lawford
• Junior fiction: Island of Lost Horses - Stacy Gregg
• Young adult fiction: Night Vision - Ella West

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are 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, the Fernyhough Education Foundation and Nielsen Book.