Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Word Witch
The Magical Verse of Margaret Mahy
Edited by Tessa Duder, illustrated by David Elliot
Harper Collins Publishers - Hardback - $44.99

Finally, Margaret Mahy’s much-loved poems and stories in rhyme have been collected together by her biographer, Tessa Duder, for the first time ever in the wonderful new book, The World Witch: The Magical Verse of Margaret Mahy.
With each of the 66 pieces accompanied by poignant illustrations by one of New Zealand’s best, David Elliot, and packaged as a beautiful hardcover edition, The Word Witch is set to delight generations of readers who have grown up with Mahy and enchant newcomers to her work for many years to come.
Included in The Word Witch are such classics as Bubble Trouble, Down the Back of the Chair and Dashing Dog, as well as other gems from Mahy’s School Journal days and her own childhood, and some previously unpublished works.

“The lyric poems shimmer . . . with imaginative power and vibrant imagery,” says Duder in her introduction, “[while] the comic verse sparkles with its verbal pyrotechnics, all mischief, energy and wit, sometimes acerbic but never unkind, and always technically accomplished.”

The Word Witch contains all the poems Tessa Duder knows of from school readers, collections, picture books, anthologies, magazines and the private papers she was privileged to access while researching her biography Margaret Mahy: A Writer’s Life in 2004. It is by no means the definitive collection, she says. “Margaret’s bountiful outpouring of fiction and poetry over some fifty years makes it impossible to be certain that within these covers lies all the poetry she ever wrote.”

I have long admired the artwork of David Elliott, had the privilege of publshing him once, and in this book his classically whimsical style of illustration paying homage to Mahy’s magnificent words, the book will appeal to the child in us all. There are no age limits on genius, as there are no age limits on this book.
About the talented trio responsible for this book:

Margaret Mahy needs no introduction. She is much-loved internationally for her wonderfully funny and imaginative children’s poems, stories and pictures books as well as ground-breaking novels for young adults, thrilling millions of readers for more than 40 years.

A member of the Order of New Zealand, an Honorary Doctor of Letters, twice-winner of Britain’s Carnegie Medal for Children’s Literature and twice winner of the America’s Phoenix Award, she has also been honoured by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand as a Living Icon, received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction, and been awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for her outstanding contribution to children’s literature.

Margaret lives in Governors Bay and has two daughters and seven grandchildren.

David Elliot is an award-winning children’s illustrator and author. He has written and illustrated five picture books of his own, including the Sydney Penguin books and Pigtails the Pirate (winner of the 2003 New Zealand Post Children’s Picture Book Award). He has also illustrated for many other New Zealand children’s authors, including Jack Lasenby, Janet Frame, Joy Cowley and Pauline Cartwright. The Word Witch is his first book for Margaret Mahy.
Since 2002, David has been illustrating internationally for Brian Jacques’ Redwall and Castaways series and also for US authors T.A. Barron and Jeffrey Kluger.

David lives in Port Chalmers. His work can be viewed online at

Tessa Duder has published more than 35 books — award-winning novels, picture books, non-fiction, plays and anthologies for children; a collection of short stories, anthologies and non fiction for adults. Her lifelong admiration for and friendship with Margaret Mahy was reflected in her portrait Margaret Mahy: A Writer’s Life, published in 2005. Tessa’s website is

1 comment:

Vanda Symon said...

This book is stunning with David's fabulous illustrations to Margaret's delightful words. I'm recommending it as a must have for every family.

I had to fair wrestle it off the kids to get a peek at it myself.