Were-nana a win­ner with young read­ers

Central Leader - - News - By Rhi­an­non Hor­rell

An off-hand com­ment by a chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter, which was picked up by Mt Eden au­thor Melinda Szy­manik, has led to an award-winning book The Were-Nana.

Her book, il­lus­trated by Sarah Nelisiwe An­der­son, is about a grand­mother who turns into a were­wolf – a were-nana.

“I was watch­ing Stu­dio 2 and the pre­sen­ter Matt Gibb made an off-hand com­ment say­ing maybe your grand­mother is a were-nana,” she says.

“I emailed him to say thanks for the idea and he replied say­ing he was glad to have in­spired the book,” she says.

The New Zealand Post Book Awards were held last Wed­nes­day night and Ms Szy­manik re­ceived the pres­ti­gious Chil­dren’s Choice Award.

More than 25,000 chil­dren voted for their favourite book and she says it is fan­tas­tic to have so many chil­dren vot­ing.

“They’re the au­di­ence you want to im­press.”

Il­lus­tra­tor Brian Love­lock won the pic­ture book cat­e­gory for Road­works, writ­ten by Sally Sut­ton.

He was sur­prised to re­ceive the award.

“I felt like an im­poster among all the tal­ent. There was a lot of se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion.

“It was a great event – ex­cit­ing.

“It was a great priv­i­lege to at­tend, I’m quite a novice,” Mr Love­lock says.

Based in Ep­som, he is cur­rently work­ing on The Rain Train, writ­ten by Elena deRoo.

Mr Love­lock says the il­lus­tra­tions take a while, usu­ally about six to eight months to com­plete.

Ms Szy­manik says she re­alised af­ter writ­ing her book that many el­e­ments from her own child­hood had been in­cluded.

“It was my sub­con­scious mix­ing in.”

She feels part of the suc­cess is the right pair­ing with an il­lus­tra­tor and they have to un­der­stand what it is about.

Ms Szy­manik is now work­ing on a num­ber of other pic­ture books and a young adult book which she is two-thirds of the way through.

The judg­ing panel for the New Zealand Post Book Awards in­cluded book­seller Jenni Keestra and chil­dren’s writer and re­viewer Rose­mary Tis­dall.

They said they thor­ough- ly rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity to read nearly ev­ery­thing that was pub­lished for New Zealand chil­dren and young adults in 2008.

“We ap­plaud the au­thors, il­lus­tra­tors and their pub­lish­ers for con­tin­u­ing to strive for sto­ries that stim­u­late, ex­cite, take risks, in­spire and, ul­ti­mately, be­come part of the fab­ric of a reader’s mem­ory.”

The win­ner of each cat­e­gory was awarded $7500 and the Chil­dren’s Choice Award win­ner re­ceived $2000.

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