Being a reluctant learner at school, I never had a lot of time for reading. I definitely wasn’t a fan of books with chapters. My parents were probably disgusted, especially as Dad was a librarian and Mum a primary school teacher. I hated reading with a passion, and once even tried sending my brother up to the teacher to do mine for me.
However, a fond memory I do have is one day I was sitting in my primary school classroom when a sparkly, spirited Margaret Mahy arrived wearing a rainbow coloured wig. This wonderful appearance naturally made me interested. Mahy’s fantastic, bubbly, character and amazing narrative won me over. Unlike most adults, she knew how to enter the world of children which made her truly unique.
A great picture book is multifaceted, complemented by illustrations and appeals to adults as much as they do children. Mahy’s books such as A Lion in the Meadow, The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate and The Spider in the Shower illustrate her wonderful imagination. Children can put themselves in the shoes of the characters in these stories.
Sitting at Margaret’s farewell, in Hagley Park Geo Dome, it did occur to me how important it is that teachers, parents and caregivers try to understand what is going on in the world of children. Sometimes, the story itself isn’t enough, it is how it is told. As the service went on with renowned New Zealand literary greats, such as Tessa Duder, Rosie Belton, Gavin Bishop and Kate De Goldi paying homage to this wonderful New Zealander, I loved the fact a little girl came back and forth to pat the guide dog of an attendee, you could hear children playing and birds chirping in Hagley Park and oddly enough I had a ladybird fly into the Dome and settle on me. I think Margaret would love knowing this occurred.
Mahy’s books will continue to be cherished by future generations of children nationally and internationally and no doubt reprinted. Check out her wonderful collection at Christchurch City Libraries. Interestingly, this reluctant reader is now a trained librarian.
Rest in peace Margaret, you will never be forgotten.