Sophie Siers walked past the Allis Chalmers every day.

She always thought the old machine had a certain "cuteness" to it with its "sweet little" headlamp eyes.

It just sat there, under under a tree on the family's Waimarama property.

Her husband said once or twice, perhaps they should do something with the run-down piece of machinery.


Siers suggested it would make a nice story - a little boy getting an old tractor going again - and so her idea for a children's book was born.

"It really was as simple as that."

And now she and illustrator Helen Kerridge have been named finalists in the picture book category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for their first book Allis the little tractor.

The book is built around the little tractor. Her name is Allis Chalmers; once she was the most important tractor on the farm.

When a bigger tractor arrived she was driven under the trees and forgotten. That was until Toby discovered her and brought her alive in his imagination. Their adventures together give Allis hope that maybe, one day, she will be a very useful tractor again.

It's a universal story, Siers said, of something old wanting be useful again. A lot of people had bought the book to read to their grandchildren, she said.

Having trained as an early childhood teacher Siers had read many children's books and knew what she liked. Although she now spent her days working on their organic farm, there were still plenty of books around. The family of five were often found with their noses tucked in books.

Siers was also able to turn to her publisher mother, Judy, for a bit of guidance.

Her mother won a Montana NZ Book Award for her biography on The Life and Times of James Walter Chapman-Taylor.

Siers said it was a huge help being able to tap into her mother's knowledge as she created her first book.

Her company, Millwood-Heritage Productions, published the book. She enlisted the help of Hawke's Bay artist Kerridge.

The accomplished artist and art teacher had never attempted a book before and didn't know what to expect.

She started by painting the main character Toby on canvas but soon discovered the canvas didn't transfer so switched to acrylic painted on card.

Kerridge said it was a steep learning curve but one she thoroughly enjoyed.

And she was overwhelmed to be named as one of five finalists. There were about 60 picture books entered in the category.

"It already feels like a win."

Siers echoed her sentiments saying she was "thrilled" especially to be named alongside well-known author Patricia Grace.

On top of the award nomination, the book had also raised more than $2500 from sales to Save the Children. It was a charity close to Siers' heart. And sales are still going strong.

The pair are working on Allis' next adventure at the moment.

Another Hawke's Bay finalist in the awards is author Aaron Topp for his young adult fiction book Hucking Cody.

The nomination comes on the back of success at the 2016 Storylines Book Awards, he was one of four winners in the young adult section.

Topp said this latest nomination was another step up on the ladder.

"It's what every writer secretly strives for," he said. "I'm really excited. It's had a dream run."

He'd sent the book to publishing houses and received rejection letter after rejection letter. But what was different was no one ever said it was a bad book - it just wasn't for them. So he decided to have a go at self publishing.

It was also nice to see his "calculated risk" of self publishing with Mary Egan Publishing pay off.

His first book, Single Fin, won the Young Adult Fiction Award at the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Hucking Cody taps into New Zealand's obsession with mountain biking. It is about mountain biking brothers and their relationship - how the younger one has to grow out of his older brother's shadow.