A novel with an anti-whaling message has taken the title of the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Wellington author Mandy Hager was awarded the top prize for Singing Home the Whale at a ceremony at Wellington's Government House on Thursday.
REVIEW: Mandy Hager's prize-winning Singing Home the Whale
The book, which is set in the Marlborough Sounds, tells the story of a teenage boy who protects a baby orca after its mother was killed by whalers.
It also won the Best Young Adult Fiction award.
Judging panel convenor Bob Docherty, a children's book reviewer and literary consultant, said the novel would have won in any year it was entered, and the decision was unanimous.
"Mandy Hager is writing out of her skin at present and her understanding of the human condition and human attitudes towards each other and other inhabitants of Planet Earth are beautifully presented.
This novel should be compulsory reading in any country that still hunts whales."
Hager claimed $15,000 for her twin prizes.
The awards promote excellence and provide recognition for the best written and illustrated books for children and young adults published by New Zealand authors each year.
Docherty said the quality of this year's entries was outstanding.
"The demand for stunning books is clearly there, and the future of publishing in New Zealand looks healthy."
Best picture book - Jim's Letters by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Best junior fiction - Monkey Boy by Donovan Bixley
Best non-fiction - Motiti Blue and the Oil Spill by Debbie McCauley and Tamati Waaka
Maori language - Nga Ki by Sacha Cotter, translated by Kawata Teepa
Best first book - Maori Art for Kids by Julie Noanoa