Saturday, May 18, 2024

Author Agnew piles on the awards

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Leonie Agnew’s unpublished manuscript, ‘The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp’ was the winner of the 2022 Storylines Tessa Duder Award. Times Photo Wayne Martin

Pakuranga author, Leonie Agnew’s unpublished manuscript, ‘The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp’ was the winner of the 2022 Storylines Tessa Duder Award.

It also saw her awarded a contract with Walker Books.

Leonie says the idea for the manuscript came to her when she was sitting in the back of a Life Education bus with a class of school kids.

“It reminded me of a mobile library. I took out my pen and jotted down an outline for a story. Twelve years later I have a book!” says Leonie.

She has written five other titles in the meantime and a number of school readers.

This latest book saw her shift her focus to an older audience, writing a YA novel for the first time.

“It’s a work of magical realism and a homage to the power of books in our lives,” says Leonie.

In the manuscript, Hannah Kemp is dealing with a traumatic accident for which she was responsible.

Misunderstood and frustrated, Hannah escapes the disapproving glances in her small town by losing herself in books.

Hannah’s story changes when she meets Dylan, a boy who works in a bookstore, and a mysterious mobile library comes to town.

Every book on the bus contains true stories about local people, revealing an impossible collection of hidden secrets.

Leonie Agnew (Right) pictured with Tessa Duder (Left).

Why does this library exist and where did it come from? Hannah isn’t sure she cares, not once she learns that information is power. Until, of course, she discovers her own book on the shelves … and her world suddenly turns upside down.

This includes two New Zealand Book Award for Children and Young Adults winners, with Leonie awarded the 2022 Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction for her last novel, The Memory Thief.

“The story has a modern context but also pulls on the classics such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

“This book asks a lot of questions including what makes a person a monster and whether our origins absolve us of the moral responsibility for our actions.

“It also frames people as stories themselves and asks whether we are the authors of our own story, or whether we’re shaped by outside influences beyond our control,” says Leonie.

All the books that Hannah reads were ones Leonie studied at university or read herself as a child, so this story is also about her love of reading and the life-changing power of books.

In 2022, Leonie won the junior fiction prize at the New Zealand Book Awards for the second time.

Leonie has previously won the British David Fickling Master of the Inkpot prize, multiple Esther Glen awards, a national children’s choice award and more.

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