Margaret Mahy, 1936-2012

Margaret May Mahy was one of New Zealand’s most decorated children’s writers and lived most of her adult life in Christchurch. At the time of her death, she lived in Governor’s Bay.

Margaret Mahy is one of the local heroes celebrated in a series of bronze busts "Twelve Local Heroes" by sculptor Mark Whyte.

Her plaque reads:

"Christchurch children's librarian, world-famous writer of magical stories and verse for children and young adults, giver of the gift of imagination

Early life

Mahy wrote her first story at the age of seven, the start of a literary career that was to make her world famous. Born in Whakatane, she graduated from the University of Canterbury.


She gained a library diploma and held library appointments in Petone and Christchurch before becoming Children’s Librarian at the then Canterbury Public Library. As the mother of two small girls she found stimulus, and an audience, for her story telling talent.


Initially Margaret Mahy found few New Zealand outlets for her work, but in 1969 some stories in the School Journal took the attention of a New York publisher. A year later, seven of her picture books were in print there and in London, and public and critical attention was focused on the books that followed.

Delightful imaginative tales for toddlers were succeeded by vivid and arresting stories and poems for older children and in time Mahy also wrote novels for mature readers.

In 1979 she began to write full-time, but she continued to devote generous attention to reading and talking to children about books in schools and libraries.


Margaret Mahy held an honourary D. Litt. from the University of Canterbury, where she was writer-in-residence in 1984, is a recipient of the New Zealand Literary Fund Award for Achievement. In 1993, Women’s Suffrage Year, she was awarded the Order of New Zealand.


Margaret died on Monday 23 July 2012 in Christchurch. Her passing elicited tributes from New Zealand and around the world.


Photos of the Margaret Mahy bust

Margaret Mahy


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