Margaret Mahy: An outgoing, fun loving cousin

By APN, Lindy Laird

The late, great children's author Margaret Mahy is remembered as a fun-loving friend and a good communicator by a family member who lives in Whangarei.

Glass artist Keith Mahy said he was good friends with his cousin Margaret and they also shared an affinity because of their creative careers.

Margaret Mahy, the holder of New Zealand's highest honour - membership of the Order of New Zealand, died in Christchurch on Monday, aged 76, following a brief illness.

Ms Mahy has been described as highly regarded in the literary world as fellow New Zealander Katherine Mansfield.

She wrote 100 picture books, 40 novels and 20 collections of short stories and her works were translated into 15 languages.

She was known as a generous and humble person, and she brought the written word alive for thousands of Kiwi kids - often visiting schools and libraries, usually wearing fancy dress and a bright-coloured wig. Fast as her books flew off book store and library shelves in New Zealand and elsewhere, Margaret Mahy's popular public readings gained a reputation for performance art.

Her cousin Keith said Margaret Mahy made a point throughout her life of keeping in touch with family.

"She was a good communicator in private life as well as in her role as a writer. She was a very outgoing person. She didn't display a huge ego but she had a lot of self-confidence."

Mr Mahy said his own children and grandchildren had grown up loving her stories and had collections of her work. His own late mother had started a collection of the author's books, beginning with her first published work.

Ms Mahy's first book to be published in 1969, was A Lion in the Meadow, which was "discovered" by American editor Sarah Chockla Gross, who published five of the author's stories as picture books, launching her international career.

"It was one of those romantic things that happen," she said, of her own discovery.

Mahy went on to win numerous awards and honours for her contribution to New Zealand and children's literature. She was appointed to the Order of New Zealand in 1993, and made an honorary doctor of letters by the University of Canterbury.

Her most recent accolade was winning the New Zealand Post Children's Book of the Year award in 2011, for The Moon and Farmer McPhee.

Ms Mahy studied at university, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1955.

- Northern Advocate

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