“When I have an idea properly established I think of it all the time… driving, gardening, shopping… sometimes the story becomes so interesting to me that real life becomes rather shadowy for a while. In effect I have to abandon my own life to let the life of the story take over.”
With her life ardently dedicated to the wonders beheld by books, Margaret Mahy’s widely acclaimed works are often shelved as children and young adult fiction. Born in Whakatane, New Zealand in 1936, Mahy worked on her first story at the tender age of seven, thus setting a literary tone for the times ahead. Her first published book ‘A Lion In The Meadow’ which saw her garner international fame, came out when she was working as a librarian in 1965. There was no looking back for Mahy from there. She has been credited with 40 novels, 20 collections of short stories and more than 100 picture books, each one better than the previous, the quality of her books scaling on an ever incremental level of writing.
It seemed as though Mahy was living a life wreathed together by the different arduous roles she effortlessly played – she worked as a librarian through the day to earn enough to support herself and her daughters, and wrote relentlessly as the night waned. “Even in her last few months when she was suffering and in a bit of pain she would say, ‘ooh, that could be an idea for a story’,” her daughter Penny Mahy recalls. Margaret lost her life to cancer on 23 July 2012.
Mahy’s books focussed largely on supernatural themes, dwelling into a child’s psychology and establishing a deep rooted connection with his fears, anxieties, anticipations and elations. The pendulum of her stories oscillated effortlessly between the real and the unreal, blurring the concrete boundaries between the two. With her stories resplendent with magical ingredients, Mahy mused that the magic did exist and was just not visible to all. A wizard with the written word herself, she managed to kindle children’s curiosities by her stimulating narratives.
Mahy received the The Biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award conferred by the International Board on Books for Young People in 2006, which is the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children’s books.
Her vivid and exhilarating tales continue to leave an indelible mark on the lives of those she comes in contact through her books.