There were whoops and fist-pumps as a local author found out he had made the finalists line-up for a national award.
From a field of 166 entries, the 28 finalists in the 2021 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced today.
Across six main categories, these books offer the nation's young readers a smorgasbord of titles, packed with meaty themes and addictive plot lines.
Rotorua author Tom E Moffatt is a finalist in the Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction with his book "You're Joking: Become an Expert Joke-Teller".
In the book, which is aimed at a young readership, he teaches the skill of joke-telling with easy-to-follow instructions and simple exercises.
He says he found out about his finalist status on a very busy day, and he got the news in a hurried check of his emails while preparing to emcee a McLeods Booksellers Quiz Night.
"There would have been quite a bit of whooping and fist-pumping, I was pretty excited."
He says being a finalist means a lot.
"My book is a self-published title ... one of the things about being self-published is the amount of self-belief you need to keep going."
Tom says being a finalist like this helps with that self-belief - knowing you are good enough and on the right path.
He says he came to writing as a teacher, and seeing what a good book can do for young people was the initial motivation to get into it.
"It was seeing children appreciate great writing and seeing them be motivated from that."
Tom is looking forward to the winner announcement ceremony and being able to catch up with his illustrator Paul Beavis.
He is currently working on a follow-up book called 'You're Joking: How To Write Your Own Knock Knock Jokes'. Next month he will also be releasing his new collection of original jokes.
"The diversity of ideas in this year's entries really stood out," says convenor of judges Alan Dingley.
"It's clear that our authors truly credit kids and young people with having the emotional intelligence to deal with complex themes, issues and feelings."
Whether that's celebrating Māori culture or redressing the injustices of inequality, seeing a reflection of their own small-town community or exploring issues around body image, disability and adversity, no topic is off-limits.
But big ideas are delivered in a way that also entertains, Alan says.
"Dystopian futures, ecological battles and immersive fantasy all take the reader into new worlds, something that has been so important of late, after so many have been trapped in their homes."
And while kids will find no shortage of reading material on the finalist list, Dingley thinks adults will discover plenty of treasures too.
"It's a really accessible selection. If a child brings any one of these books home, I guarantee an adult will enjoy reading it also."
The judges found the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction a particularly strong category this year, stating "to say there is something for everyone is an understatement, this list has everything, for everyone".
Other award categories include Picture Book, Junior Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Illustration and te reo Māori.
The winners of each of the six main categories take home $7500 and are then in the running to be named the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, with a further $7500 in prize money.
In addition, the judges will award a Best First Book prize of $2000 to a previously unpublished author or illustrator.
This year finalists and publishers plan to celebrate in person with a ceremony to announce the winners at Tiakiwai Conference Centre at the National Library in Wellington on August 11.