A non-fiction book commemorating Anzac heroes from both world wars has taken out the top prize at today's New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Maria Gill's Anzac Heroes was crowned Margaret Mahy Book of the Year at a ceremony at Wellington's Circa Theatre tonight.

It also won the Elsie Locke award for the best non-fiction book. Together the prizes are worth $15,000.

The competition's judges described the book as "simply stunning, with gold-standard production values".


Teacher-librarian Fiona Mackie, who convened the judging panel, said it "was impossible to put down".

Featuring life-like illustration by Marco Ivancic, maps, fact boxes and a medal room, Anzac Heroes "brings to life the people who risked everything, left everything and lost everything" including nurses, pilots, soldiers and spies.

The novel From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle, by Kate De Goldi, which won the Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction, was also commended.

The judges commented it was: "Surprising, gripping, heartbreaking and ultimately incredibly moving".

The annual awards celebrate Kiwi authors' and illustrators' contributions to building national identity and cultural heritage, and are run in conjunction with the Hell Pizza Children's Choice Awards.

Hell Pizza's general manager Ben Cumming said the Kiwi-owned company was "really encouraged" by kids' responses to this year's awards.

"Creativity is at the heart of what Hell Pizza stands for and, more importantly, it is what drives young readers to keep picking up books and be inspired.

"Getting kids excited about books is exactly why we've been involved with the awards for the past three years, and why we continue to drive our Reading Challenge through schools and libraries across the country."


Along with Mackie, librarian Kathy Aloniu and author Melinda Szymanik judged the awards for books published in English.

Librarians Te Rangi Tangohau and Lawren Matrix, and senior outreach programmer at Auckland Museum, Meran Taungapeau, judged this year's te reo Maori entries.

Auckland University's Kaitiaki Maori librarian, Riki-Lee Saua convened the panel.

Seasoned international book awards jury member Professor of Illustration Martin Salisbury advised the judging panel for the Russell Clark Illustration Award. Professor Salisbury leads Anglia Ruskin University's MA Children's Book Illustration programme in Cambridge, UK.

Full List of the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults winners:

Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and winner of the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction
Prizes: $7500 for the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and $7500 for the Non-Fiction Award
Anzac Heroes by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic; Scholastic New Zealand
Best First Book Award: Prize $2000
Allis the Little Tractor by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Helen Kerridge; Millwood-Heritage Productions
Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in te reo Māori: Prize $7500
Whiti te rā! by Patricia Grace, translated by Kawata Teepa, illustrated by Andrew Burdan; Huia Publishers
Picture Book Award: Prize $7500
The Little Kiwi's Matariki written and illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson; David Ling Publishing (Duck Creek Press)
Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction: Prize $7500
From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi; Penguin Random House (Longacre)
Young Adult Fiction Award: Prize $7500
Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner; Pan Macmillan Australia (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Russell Clark Award for Illustration: Prize $7500
Much Ado About Shakespeare illustrated by Donovan Bixley; Upstart Press

Recipients of $1000 per prize
Te reo Māori
Te Hua Tuatahi a Kuwi written and illustrated by Kat Merewether, and translated by Pānia Papa; Illustrated Publishing
Picture Book
The House on the Hill by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Sarah Davis; Scholastic New Zealand
Junior Fiction
The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg; Harper Collins
First to the Top by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris; Penguin Random House (Puffin)
Young Adult Fiction
Stray by Rachael Craw; Walker Books