They may have scooped top honours in two of New Zealand's major book awards, but the real prize for author Sacha Cotter and illustrator Josh Morgan is likely to provide them inspiration for years to come – and feedback on whether they continue to be "the bomb".

Wellington-based Cotter and Morgan tonight received the highest prize in NZ children's publishing, the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, for their picture book The Bomb. Last month, it won the duo and designer Te Kani Price the Publishers Association of NZ (Panz) design award for best children's book and was also nominated for best book cover.

Cotter and Morgan couldn't attend the Panz ceremony because they were at home with their newborn son, Finn, but last night they took him to the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults hoping the 6-week-old would be calm enough to see his parents presented with the Margaret Mahy and best picture book awards.

While they had worked together on previous books, much of that was done remotely from their respective homes. In 2016, when Cotter decided to write a story about "bombing", she asked Morgan to draw the pictures before taking their ideas to Huia Publishers.


Two years of regular meetings and working more closely together saw the young couple become life as well as publishing partners.

They hope their success will start to instil in Finn a life-long love of books and reading and he'll be able to give valuable kid-centric comments on future books.

The wins may even allow them, one day down the track, to work fulltime on books because both have "day jobs" – Cotter at the Victoria University of Wellington's library and Morgan as an architect's administration assistant.

"So the writing and illustrating are done on the weekends and the wee small hours of the morning," Cotter says.

She got the idea for The Bomb on a summer holiday at her Bay of Plenty home, where she watched kids at various swimming spots diving off bridges, wharves and piers trying to do the best bombs into the water.

"I started thinking about what a huge part of a Kiwi summer it is for many kids and its place in the culture of Aotearoa but I hadn't seen any books about it," she says. "I thought it would be cool for kids to see a picture book with different types of bombs, with their different names. I wanted to pay homage to the art of it."

Judges described The Bomb as a captivating tale of courage and transformation, saying it's a summery, waterlogged, quintessentially Kiwi story about a child growing in self-confidence while striving to achieve the perfect "bomb", supported by the reassuring presence of his Nan.

They also commended the language, which naturally incorporates te reo Māori, and the illustrations which celebrate multicultural NZ. Huia Publishers has put out English and te reo Māori versions of the book.


It was also a big night for Australian-based writer Bren MacDibble, whose eco-drama about a future without grasses, The Dog Runner, won the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction.

It's the second year in a row MacDibble has won the category after making history last year when she took home that prize and, writing under the pseudonym Cally Black, the Copyright Licensing Award for Young Adult Fiction.

The finalists in the picture book award, which was won by The Bomb. The book also won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award.
The finalists in the picture book award, which was won by The Bomb. The book also won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award.