While Australia may have acquired movie award winner Russell Crowe for the long term, we are lucky to have award-winning children's author Pamela Allen back in New Zealand after a number of years across the Tasman.

Born in Devonport, Auckland in 1934, Pamela's first picture book, Mr Archimede's Bath, was published in 1980 and was an instant hit with young children and their parents.

Initially Allen thought she would be a book illustrator but then she discovered that writing could be as much fun. Subsequently, she has written and illustrated some 30 picture books, many of which have won prestigious awards. In Australia, she is the only author to win the CBC Picture Book of the Year in two consecutive years.

Allen was the winner of the New Zealand AIM Children's Picture Book of the Year in 1991 for My Cat Maisie, and in 2001, Who Sank the Boat? won the Gaylyn Gordon Award for a much-loved book. This year she is the winner of another illustrious literary award, the Margaret Mahy Medal, which has been presented to her by Storylines: Children's Literature Foundation of New Zealand for a distinguished contribution to children's literature and literacy.


When announcing the award, CLFNZ chairman, Wayne Mills, said: "For over a generation, Pamela Allen's range of literary characters and settings have given children immense intellectual delight, leaving both child and parent amused and challenged".

So it comes as no surprise that Allen is once again a finalist in this year's New Zealand Post Book Awards in the picture book section. What is remarkable is that she has two books nominated in the section.

The first is called Cuthbert's Babies and is a hilarious tale of sibling rivalry. Cuthbert is a small boy who lives with his parents and grandparents. He is used to being the centre of attention and when he is told that he will soon have a baby brother he is not at all impressed.

Much to Cuthbert's shock and horror, there is worse news to come. Instead of arriving home from the hospital with one baby brother, his parents present him with "four darling little baby girls". Of course all the aunts and uncles make a fuss of the new babies, while Cuthbert finds that no one has any time for him.

Cuthbert feels unloved and unwanted, and wishes for a big, bad boy to play with. Three pirates overhear his wish and mysteriously appear in his bedroom, where all four have a pirate party, complete with a firing cannon. Of course, the babies wake up and the pirates disappear. Cuthbert helps his mother comfort his little sisters and he decides that maybe they are not so terrible after all.

The other nominated title is Thomas and Grandpa. In this charming story Allen gently portrays the special relationship between Thomas and his grandfather as they spend a day on the beach together. Little New Zealanders will quickly identify with the experiences of paddling at the beach, making sandcastles and feeding the seagulls.

Pamela Allen has been called a phenomenon in the world of children's books and her stories have been translated into French, Swedish and Japanese. Her books have been described as "full of the music of language" and "fragments of theatre". Indeed eight of her titles were adapted for the stage and performed in the Sydney Opera House.

Publisher: Penguin

Price: $27.99

Age: 0-6

Recommended by: Dorothy Vinicombe