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Coup for underrated children's literature

Last updated 05:00 31/12/2012


A Christchurch children's author says his New Year honour is a welcome recognition of the children's literature "renaissance" in New Zealand.

Author and illustrator Gavin Bishop has been named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to children's literature.

Bishop's career began when his first picture book, Mrs McGinty and the Bizarre Plant, was released in 1981.

He has published over 40 books translated into nine languages, winning NZ Children's Picture Book of the Year and NZ Children's Book of the Year three times each.

Bishop said the honour was particularly significant, given the difficulty of winning recognition as a children's author.

"It's hard to be taken seriously, because people mistakenly see it as something you can do very easily," he said.

"It has to have simplicity, but it also needs resonance and a story that kids want to read again - it's actually quite hard, it's not something that anyone can do."


Bishop first became interested in children's illustrations while at arts school, collecting picture books when they were on sale.

He based his stories on what he enjoyed during his childhood, and tried to ensure that all his work would resonate with children.

"The biggest mistake you can make is to forget about the kids and try to write something for the adults who may be reading it, because then you end up with something dishonest."

Bishop, who mentors aspiring illustrators through a special award in his name, said children's literature was experiencing a "renaissance" in New Zealand as more authors and illustrators joined the scene.

"When I first started, there were very few people, very, very few people . . . but now children's literature can be more successful than adults' writing," he said.

- The Press

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