Atua: Māori gods and Heroes - Māori author's efforts recognised

By Stefan Dimitrof

A book described as a taonga for this generation and the next has been crowned the Margaret Mahy book of the year at this year's New Zealand book awards for children and young adults.

'Atua, Māori Gods and Heroes, by writer and illustrator, Gavin Bishop (Nō Ngāti Pukeko, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Mahuta, Tainui) was praised by the judges for its sense of magic and the way it validates matauranga and te ao Māori truths.

Bishop isn’t new to the awards as this is his fifth time winning and said the excitement of winning never diminished.

'Remember them'

“You can never take it for granted. You can never just ‘well I’m just going to keep winning these prizes.’ It’s always a surprise and it’s always a thrill.”

Bishop said that he was a friend of Dame Margaret Mahy and they lived close by each other. “I was working on her last book when she died. I was illustrating it for her”.

Bishop said winning the award named for a friend meant a lot, “because you can remember them”.

'Strict guidelines'

This year Bishop also won the Elsie Locke Non-Fiction Award and said they were also good friends while she lived in Christchurch. He has also won the Russel Clark award, named after his teacher.

“It means a huge amount. It’s huge.”

Bishop said Atua – Māori Gods and Heroes was an introduction to the myths and legends because the original stories were complex and involved variations from tribe to tribe.

Bishop was asked by his publishers to create this book and was given strict guidelines to adhere to.

“I had to decide what elements I wanted to include and then I had to do a big reduction act.I had to reduce a lot of the text right down so that the illustrations were an important part of the storytelling