E kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Nau mai, haere mai rā ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington
I specifically acknowledge: Nicola Leggatt, Chairperson of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust and the trustees present this evening - tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House today for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. This is the first time we have hosted the Awards, and we are delighted to be able to join you in celebrating the very best books produced for our young people over the last year.
American author Neil Gaiman once said “A book is a dream you hold in your hand.” This is something that holds true for authors as well as their readers. Every one of the books being acknowledged here tonight represents someone’s dream. From the author with a story to tell, the illustrator with images to create, the publisher tasked with taking it to the public, each of them had an idea or a goal of what they want their book to achieve. Every one of these books has a history of inspiration, creativity and hard work that led to their existence. Readers are privileged to share those dreams and aspirations.
These awards are widely regarded as a valuable indicator of a good book. For many parents and caregivers, they are a tick of confidence that a book is worth buying to read.
The awards also acknowledge the importance of celebrating New Zealand stories by New Zealand writers. When Janine and I were at school, the activities of children in books seemed far removed from our everyday experience. Those children went on trips with their nannies to the zoo in Regents Park or had amazing adventures like the Famous Five! It’s great to get an insight into other countries and cultures, but it’s also good to see your own reality reflected on the page.
Janine and I have always encouraged a love of reading in our children and that continues with our grandchildren. As book buyers, we can see how books for young people have changed over the years and now include things that are familiar and special to us.
Our eldest son and his family are currently living overseas and it was great to take New Zealand themed books for our grandson. Despite being thousands of miles away, our grandchildren can still be grounded in Kiwi culture and language, thanks to the skilful work of our home-grown authors and illustrators.
The list of past winners and finalists from the last 25 or so years reads like a Who’s Who of New Zealand writing. Margaret Mahy, Lynley Dodds, Jack Lasenby, Maurice Gee, Lloyd Jones, Tessa Duder have all been past recipients. I’m told that there was some uncertainty as to whether the awards would proceed this year. Loss of sponsorship is a big hurdle to overcome and I’d like to acknowledge the various organisations which rallied round to ensure these Awards happened. Your commitment and help shows the value placed on these awards by your sector.
I’d also like to acknowledge the judges, who have read, discussed and evaluated around 150 books. Judging is not an easy task; your time, effort and devotion are very much appreciated.
Finally, I’d like to say congratulations and good luck to the finalists. Tonight is a special night for you – a public acknowledgement of your work. You’ve all made a contribution to the creative life of this country.
Those of us who have never written a book may not understand how much work the process involves. We do however understand the thought, care and creativity that go into it.
The best measure of success though remains the approval of your audience. With the finalists having been on tour and visiting schools and libraries in the weeks leading up to the awards, I’m sure you’ve had lots of amazing feedback from the young people who read your books. They are your biggest fans, your harshest critics and the reason you pull the chair up to your desk each day. Thank you for teaching them, for encouraging them, for giving them amazing places to travel to in their minds and for sharing your dreams.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa