Children around the world have grown up with the humour, fantasy and adventure of Margaret Mahy’s work since her first picture books were published in 1969. A true storyteller, Margaret Mahy had a magical way with words. She worked as a librarian for ten years before becoming a full-time writer, and her enticing stories have been consistently published for over 30 years in more than 15 languages.
Margaret Mahy (1936 – 2012) is the only author ever to have been appointed an Ordinary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (1993), and she won many of the world’s major prizes for children’s writers. In 2006 she won the highest international award for children’s literature – the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, and is the only New Zealander to have done so. In New Zealand she was awarded the Esther Glen Medal and the New Zealand Post Book of the Year Award multiple times.
The five stamps in this issue celebrate five of Margaret Mahy’s popular books, and are a charming tribute to her life and work.
70c – A Lion in the Meadow
A little boy tells his mother repeatedly that there is a \”big, roaring, yellow, whiskery lion in the meadow!\”. His mother doesn\’t believe him, but pretends there is a dragon that will grow large and vanquish the lion. When the ‘made up’ lion rushes inside and a fire-breathing dragon is revealed outside, the mother is chastened and the little boy reproves her. This simple story – Margaret\’s first picture book – also powerfully suggests that imagination is just as important as reality, something that Margaret fervently believed.
$1.40 – A Summery Saturday Morning
Margaret used a real incident – two dogs running from the geese they had just been chasing – to make this story rhyme. The simple verses were perfectly matched by illustrations from Margaret’s fellow Banks Peninsula resident, Selina Young. The sun-bleached hillsides of Lyttelton’s crater rim and the pale blue skies of a Canterbury summer morning were the first depictions in a Mahy picture book of a distinctive New Zealand landscape.
$1.90 – The Word Witch
This magical collection brought together an abundance of Margaret’s verses, written throughout her life. Alongside the pyrotechnical word play of \’Bubble Trouble\’ and \’Down the Back of the Chair\’ are quiet lyric poems, celebrations of nature’s small wonders, comic dramas, and moments of philosophic reflection.
$2.40 – The Great White Man-Eating Shark
The Great White Man-Eating Shark tells the hilarious story of Norvin the actor, who is plain and shark-like. Resentful of the other swimmers who obstruct his desire to \”shoot through the water like a silver arrow\”, Norvin fashions a dorsal fin and creates merry havoc in the ocean. Our very human faults – envy, selfishness, revenge – are captured with playful language and wry sympathy.
$2.90 – The Changeover
This ‘supernatural romance’ details Laura Chant’s passage from childhood to young adult, from ordinary human to 20th century witch. In Margaret’s hands this suburban fairy story became a thrilling exploration of family relationships, a young girl’s erotic development, and the age-old battle between good and evil. The Changeover’s unique blend of magic and humour, suspense and philosophy won Margaret her second Carnegie Medal in 1984.