Agnew a book awards finalist

Author and teacher Leonie Agnew is in line for yet another award. Times photo Wayne Martin

Award-winning children’s writer Leonie Agnew, of Pakuranga, is a finalist for a national junior fiction award.

Agnew, a teacher, is in the mix again, this time in the 2022 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults which attracted a record 199 entries. Hers is one of 28 titles announced as finalists.

She was declared one of the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award category finalists with The Memory Thief (Penguin Random House NZ).

In this category, the judges said the finalists stood out with not only original concepts, but also accomplished world-building, authentic characterisation and settings and, ultimately, well-written stories for this important age group.

The winners of each of the six main categories – picture book, junior fiction, young adult fiction, non-fiction, illustration and te reo māori – will take home $7500 and will then be in the running to be named the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, with a further $7500 prize money.

In addition, the judges will award a Best First Book prize of $2500 to a previously unpublished author or illustrator. The ceremony to announce the winners is in Wellington on August 10.

The Times last month reported Agnew had won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award, a national competition for a young adult manuscript. The winner gets a publishing deal with Australasian book publisher Walker Books Australia.

The award is named for celebrated Kiwi author Tessa Duder.

The manuscript is currently titled The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp.

With regard to these current awards, the judges said it is the highest number of submissions ever received for the awards, “the preeminent celebration of publishing for young people in New Zealand”.

“Competing across six main categories, the 2022 finalists offer New Zealand’s young readers an educative, engaging and engrossing selection of books with a uniquely Kiwi flavour,” convenor of judges Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith said.

“This year’s entries explore a vast range of topics, including protest, autism, gender equality, racism and history, providing a platform for thoughtful and, hopefully, some gritty discussions.

“These big topics are so important for sparking conversations with tamariki and rangatahi. Being able to think about and discuss them critically is crucial given the disruptions over the past few years and the rise of misinformation young people now face.”

Smith said it is wonderful to see authors having fun with themes for younger readers and that plenty of the finalist books will delight and entertain. The growing strength of books with te ao Māori world view and the growing number and quality of titles in te reo Māori also stood out to this year’s judges.

Several of Agnew’s books have been shortlisted for or won awards, including the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2010, the Junior Fiction Section, the Children’s Choice Junior Fiction section and the Best First Book Award of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2012, and the Master of the Inkpot Competition in 2015.

She has also been the recipient of a writing residency at the University of Otago.

Agnew grew up in Howick and attended Baradene College for four years, then Howick College for a year.