Margaret Mahy, New Zealand's most acclaimed children's writer, will be remembered not only for her contribution to literature, but for her ability to inspire a love of reading in people of all ages. With her zany characters and far-fetched plots, Margaret Mahy's stories have appeared countless times on the pages of The School Magazine. These much-loved and treasured pieces of writing will remain timeless in the hearts and minds of readers all over the world.
Capturing the spirit of childhood in words is something that Margaret Mahy appeared to do effortlessly, time and time again. Her stories have delighted children around the world for years. Her books have sent giggles around classrooms and have sent the most reluctant of readers rushing to the library to relish more of her witty and unimaginable storylines. Margaret Mahy had a very rare and special talent.
Growing up in New Zealand, Margaret had two children and worked as a children's librarian, and she always found time to write stories. But how did she get all of the ideas for her stories? Well, Margaret just looked around her. She once said, "Some real things happen, that are very surprising, but we just forget to look. Things like vacuum cleaners, lifts and dustbins." Margaret believed that everything could be the beginning of a story. It's just a matter of how you look at it.
When Anna Fienberg was a member of the editorial staff at The School Magazine, she was fortunate enough to visit a Sydney school where Margaret Mahy was reading to children. Anna recalls that she looked just like one of the characters from her storybooks. Margaret wore a long colourful skirt, dazzling socks, and hand-painted sandshoes. She also wore a startling green wig—just to set the atmosphere. Margaret was an entertainer in every sense of the word.
On this school visit, Margaret told Anna that she believed she was destined to become a writer. When she was born, Margaret's grandfather sent her a letter, with a poem tucked inside it. She was the only baby in the hospital ever to receive a letter! Perhaps he was sending a wish in her direction—that one day she would be a writer. Margaret believed this, and she called it a ‘magical reason' for writing. And magical is a good word to use when describing her writing—where ordinary things become extraordinary. Her magical words will continue to live on in book stores and libraries and homes and hearts all over the world.
Everybody has their own favourite Margaret Mahy story. What's yours?
Two of Margaret's stories which featured in The School Magazine are here for you to read.
The queen's goat (pdf 1205 KB) Countdown 8 2011
Don't cut the lawn! (pdf 755 KB) Blast Off 1 2011
Photo of Margaret Mahy with her grandchildren and characters courtesy of ProductionShed.TV, Margaret Mahy's Rumbustifications