2023 NZCYA Picture Book Award Finalists

Editor Linda Jane Keegan took the picture book finalists to Tākaka Primary School to get the opinions from some of the junior classes. They were very receptive and engaged, and loved sharing their thoughts on the books (and anything else vaguely related, as young children are delightfully wont to do).

Duck Goes Meow, by Juliette MacIver & Carla Martell (Scholastic NZ)

This was a clear favourite from both groups of classes I read to. The Year 0-1 class were already laughing just after hearing the title! They unanimously loved that the duck says meow – “it was supposed to quack!” – and enjoyed making all the animal noises along with me. This is what a few of the students had to say about it:

I liked the duck when it says meow.

Reeve, 6

I liked it when the cat called its kittens and the duck came.

Jake, 7

I liked it when the duck’s mama was coming and the yak said your mother will teach you.”

Evelyn, 7

I liked it when the cow and the yak were surprised.

Mana, 6

How My Koro Became a Star, by Brianne Te Paa & Story Hemi-Morehouse (Huia Publishers)

I read this with a Year 0-1 class and we had a few pauses along the way to remind ourselves about the names of the Matariki stars and learn some new words in te reo. This is what they had to say about the book:

I’m really sad because Koro died.

I liked it because it was a sad ending that came to a good ending.

Damien, 5

I liked the ending when they were all being nice.

Stevie, 5

The person told the dad not to eat all the food.

Lucas, 5

I liked it because it’s Matariki.

Jack, 5

The Lighthouse Princess, by Susan Wardell & Rose Northey (Penguin Random House)

This was the third one I read with the Year 0-1 class. There was some initial suspicion from some boys about a princess book but once we’d read it they discovered it was actually pretty cool. It was the second most popular out of these three that I read to them.

[I liked it because] the boy stayed with the princess.

Mei, 5

It was awesome how they lived together when the boat washed up.

Kasayus, 5

They looked after the boat.

Evie E, 5

It was too stormy.

Ariana, 5

Roo and Vladimir, by Minky Stapleton (Scholastic NZ)

I read this to a group of mixed Year 2-3 classes. I could tell they were immediately excited about a dog book, and we talked about the different sizes on the dogs on the cover. It was the second most popular of the three books I read to this group.

I loved all of it.

Violet Rose, 7

I liked that Roo helped the other dogs going across the river.

April, 6

I really thought it was funny that one of them said, “is that a yeti?”

Quentin, 7

I liked that Roo found a friend.

Riley, 7

I liked it when they all went “aarooooo.”

Eliza, 7

I liked the bit where the enormous dog helped the others get across the stream.

Rosa, 6

Farewell, Anahera, by Vanessa Hatley-Owen & Scott Irvine, translated by Kanapu Rangitauira (Duck Creek Press)

I read the English text to the Year 2-3 group, with a sprinkling of the te reo version since one class was in the bilinugal English/Māori unit. At the end we talked a little about what the book was about and what happens at a tangi. This is what they liked about it:

I liked when she gived all the people her love.

Iyla, 6

I liked when she flew with the tūī.

Benjamin, 8

I liked all of it.

Poppy, 6

I liked it when she was sleeping.

Chase, 6

I liked where she got wrapped up in the blankets for three days.

Lili, 7

Check out our coverage of the other Book Awards for Children & Young Adults categories:

The 2023 NZCYA finalists announcement, including our picks to win.

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Linda Jane is the lead editor of The Sapling, a parent, and a writer of picture books, poetry, and other tidbits. Her background is varied, including work in ecology, environmental education, summer camps, and a community newspaper. She is Singaporean-Pākehā, queer, and loves leaping into cold bodies of water.