Margaret Mahy, New Zealand's most acclaimed writer for children, was born March 21, 1936, in the small town of Whakatane, New Zealand. The oldest of five children of a bridge builder/building contractor and a teacher, Mahy has been involved with books since childhood. She remembers that her mother read the children English classics including the works of Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter, and A. A. Milne and her father read them Rider Haggard, Marryat, and Ballantyne. From the age of seven she published poems and wrote stories.
Educated at the University of Auckland, Mahy received a B.A. in 1957 and a diploma of librarianship in 1958. Mahy worked as a librarian from 1958 to 1980. She was a writer in residence at Canterbury University, 1984, and Western Australian College of Advanced Education, 1985. .
Mahy's first stories were published in the School Journal, a magazine issued by the Department of Education. Then her work was noticed by an American editor at a printing exhibition in New York, and that led to the publication in the United States by Franklin Watts, Inc. in 1969 of A Lion in the Meadow, a picture book based on a tale her father had made up and told to his five children. The book received the Esther Glen Medal of the New Zealand Library Association and was chosen by School Library Journal as one of the best books of 1969. Other picture books followed rapidly: A Dragon of an Ordinary Family (1969), Pillycock's Shop (1969), The Procession (1969), Mrs. Discombobulous (1969), The Little Witch (1970), Sailor Jack and the Twenty Orphans (1970), The Princess and the Clown (1971), The Railway Engine and the Hairy Brigands (1972), 17 Kings and 42 Elephants (1972), a book of verse, and The First Margaret Mahy Story Book: Stories and Poems (1972). For the last book she was again awarded the Esther Glen Medal, the first author to be honored twice.
Mahy has gone on to publish more than 100 picture books, books of juvenile fiction, young adult novels, readers, and collections. She has also received numerous awards, among them many for her young adult novels. She received the Carnegie Medal, British Library Association, in 1982 for The Haunting (which also was the winner of the 1983 Esther Glen Medal), in 1986 for The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance, and in 1987 for Memory. The Changeover also received the Honor List citation, Horn Book, 1985; the Notable Children's Book citation, Association for Library Service to Children; Children's Book of the Year citation; and Best Books for Young Adults award, American Library Association, 1986. The Catalogue of the Universe was awarded the Honor List citation, Horn Book, 1987. The Tricksters received the Best Books of 1987 citation, American Library Association Young Adult Services Division, and Memory was honored with the same award in 1989, having previously received the Society of School Libraries International Book award and the Boston Globe/Horn Book award in 1988. Mahy was also named May Hill Arbuthnot Lecturer, Association for Library Service to Children, in 1989.
Died Monday 23 July 2012.