A 19-year-old just one year out of high school has become the youngest person to win a top New Zealand children's book award.

Lael Chisholm, from Fielding, received the Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration presented at this month's Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and National Awards Day.

Chisholm, who was 18 when she entered the competition and is now working at DIY retail giant Mitre 10, says the win was unexpected especially as she had just three weeks to get her entry in. When an uncle emailed her about the award, she decided to enter for the experience as much as anything and had to create a storyboard and sample illustrations for a children's book.

Lael Chisholm is the youngest person to win a Storylines National Award.
Lael Chisholm is the youngest person to win a Storylines National Award.

That book, by Heather Haylock, is called Granny McFlitter, the Champion Knitter and will be published next year.


"I got to work straight away and figured it would be good experience. I couldn't believe when I found out I'd actually won! I thought, 'did they say I'd won or just that I'd been shortlisted?'"

More than 25 submissions were received for the illustration award and Bishop, one of three judges, says Chisholm's entry was thoughtful and showed assured use of materials and techniques.

Chisholm says she likes the challenge of combining design, illustration and storytelling. Fielding High School's 2015 dux, she says her long-term ambition is to write and illustrate her own picture books.

The sixth child in a family of 10, she's been drawing since she was young.

"I'd say I've been drawing ever since I was able to hold a pencil," she says. "We don't really watch TV but have lots of books instead so I've always loved reading."

The Storylines Trust supports the development of local literature for children and young adults. It holds annual awards recognising top story-telling and illustration talent. This year's other winners were: Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award, Des Hunt: Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a children's novel manuscript by an unpublished writer, Christine Walker and Gaelyn Gordon Award for a much-loved book, Pamela Allen for Mr McGee.

Meanwhile, local published Gecko Press is celebrating the news that one of its authors, Wolf Erlbruch, has won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award - the largest award for children's and young adult literature. Erlbruch, from Germany, has had three of his book published by Gecko: The King and the Sea, The Fearsome Five, and Duck, Death and the Tulip.