Mahy, Margaret 1936–
MAHY, Margaret 1936–
Born March 21, 1936, in Whakatane, New Zealand; daughter of Frances George (a builder) and May (a teacher) Mahy; children: Penelope Helen, Bridget Frances. Education: University of New Zealand, B.A., 1958; diploma from New Zealand Library School. Politics: "Anarchist." Religion: "Humanist." Hobbies and other interests: Reading, gardening.
Home—Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, New Zealand.
Writer. Petone Public Library, Petone, New Zealand, assistant librarian, 1958-59; School Library Service, Christchurch, New Zealand, librarian in charge, 1967-76; Canterbury Public Library, Christchurch, New Zealand, children's librarian, 1976-80. Writer-inresidence, Canterbury University, 1984, and Western Australian College of Advanced Education, 1985.
New Zealand Library Association.
Esther Glenn Medals, New Zealand Library Association, 1969, for A Lion in the Meadow, 1973, for The First Margaret Mahy Story Book, 1983, for The Haunting, 1985, for The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance, 1993, for Underrunners, and 2001, for 24 Hours ; Een Zilveren Griffel, 1978; Best Children's Books of 1982 citation, and School Library Journal Best Book citation, both 1982, both for The Haunting; Carnegie Medals, British Library Association, 1982, for The Haunting, 1986, for The Changeover, and 1987 for Memory; 1984 Notable Children's Book citation, Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), Children's Book of the Year citation, and Best Books for Young Adults award, American Library Association (ALA), all 1986, for The Changeover; honor list citation, Horn Book, 1985, for The Changeover, and 1987, for The Catalogue of the Universe; 17 Kings and 42 Elephants was named one of the year's ten best illustrated books in 1987 by the New York Times Book Review; Best Books of 1987 citation, Young Adult Services Division of the ALA, for The Tricksters, and Best Books of 1989 citation for Memory; Society of School Librarians International Book Award (Language Arts, Science and Social Studies category), and Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, both 1988, for Memory; May Hill Arbuthnot lecturer, ALSC, 1989; Order of New Zealand, 1993; New Zealand Post Honour Award, 2001, for 24 Hours; New Zealand Post Children's Book Award, 2003, for Alchemy; nominated for Hans Christian Andersen Award, International Board on Books for Young People, 2004; Phoenix Award, Canadian Children's Literature Association, 2005, for The Catalogue of the Universe; Phoenix Honor Book citation, 2006, for The Tricksters; Hans Christian Andersen Award, International Board on Books for Young People, 2006. In 1991 the Margaret Mahy Medal Award was established by the New Zealand Children's Book Foundation to recognize excellence in children's literature, publishing, and literacy in New Zealand.
A Lion in the Meadow (verse; also see below), illustrated by Jenny Williams, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1969, new edition, 1986.
A Dragon of an Ordinary Family, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1969.
Pillycock's Shop, illustrated by Carol Barker, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1969.
The Procession, illustrated by Charles Mozley, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1969.
Mrs. Discombobulous, illustrated by Jan Brychta, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1969.
The Little Witch, illustrated by Charles Mozley, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1970.
Sailor Jack and the 20 Orphans, illustrated by Robert Bartelt, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1970.
The Princess and the Clown, illustrated by Carol Barker, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1971.
The Boy with Two Shadows, illustrated by Jenny Williams, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1971.
17 Kings and 42 Elephants (verse), Dent (London, England), 1972, 2nd edition, edited by Phyllis J. Fogelman, illustrated by Patricia MacCarthy, Dial (New York, NY), 1987.
The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate, illustrated by Brian Froud, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1972, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain, Dent (London, England), 1985.
The Railway Engine and the Hairy Brigands, illustrated by Brian Froud, Dent (London, England), 1973.
Rooms to Rent, illustrated by Jenny Williams, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1974, published in England as Rooms to Let, Dent (London, England), 1974
The Rare Spotted Birthday Party, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1974.
The Bus under the Leaves, illustrated by Margery Gill, Dent (London, England), 1974.
The Witch in the Cherry Tree, illustrated by Jenny Williams, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1974.
Stepmother, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1974.
Ultra-Violet Catastrophe! or, The Unexpected Walk with Great-Uncle Mangus Pringle, illustrated by Brian Froud, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1975.
David's Witch Doctor, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1975.
The Boy Who Was Followed Home, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1975.
The Wind between the Stars, Dent (London, England), 1976.
Leaf Magic (also see below), Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1976.
Jam: A True Story, illustrated by Helen Craig, Atlantic Monthly Press (Boston, MA), 1985.
Beautiful Pig, illustrated by Rodney McRae, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1987.
An Elephant in the House, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1987.
The Rattlebang Picnic, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1994.
The Big Black Bulging Bump, illustrated by Robert Staermose, Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 1995.
Tingleberries, Tuckertubs, and Telephones: A Tale of Love and Ice-cream, illustrated by Robert Staermose, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.
Boom, Baby, Boom, Boom! illustrated by Patricia MacCarthy, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
A Good Knee for a Cat, illustrated by Lydia Halverson, Learning Media (Wellington, New Zealand), 1997.
Simply Delicious! illustrated by Jonathan Allen, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Down the Dragon's Tongue, illustrated by Patricia MacCarthy, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Dashing Dog! illustrated by Sarah Garland, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Down the Back of the Chair, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2006.
The Great Millionaire Kidnap, illustrated by Jan Brychta, Dent (London, England), 1975.
The Nonstop Nonsense Book, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Dent (London, England), 1977.
The Great Piratical Rumbustification, and The Librarian and the Robbers, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Dent (London, England), 1978.
The Birthday Burglar, and A Very Wicked Headmistress, Dent (London, England), 1984, new edition, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain, Godine (Boston, MA), 1988.
The Adventures of a Kite, illustrated by David Cowe, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985, Ottenheimer Publishers (Baltimore, MD), 1988.
Sophie's Singing Mother, illustrated by Jo Davies, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985, Allan Publishers (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
The Earthquake, illustrated by Diane Perham, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1985, Allan Publishers (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
The Cake, illustrated by David Cowe, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985.
The Catten, illustrated by Jo Davies, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985, Allan Publishers (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
A Very Happy Bathday, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller, Advertiser Magazines (North Sydney, Australia), 1985, Allan Publishers (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
Clever Hamburger, illustrated by Rodney McRae, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985, Allan Publishers (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
The Fight on the Hill, illustrated by Jan Van der Voo, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1986.
How Mr. Rooster Didn't Get Married, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England),1986.
When the King Rides By, illustrated by Betina Ogden, Ashton Scholastic (Gosford, New South Wales, Australia), 1986, Mondo (Greenvale, NY), 1995.
My Wonderful Aunt (four volumes), illustrated by Dierdre Gardiner, Wright Group (De Soto, TX), 1986, revised edition in one volume, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1988.
Tinny Tiny Tinker, illustrated by David Cowe, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1987, Allan Publishers (Baltimore, MD) 1989.
Jacko, the Junk Shop Man, illustrated by Jo Davies, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1987.
The Robber Pig and the Ginger Beer, illustrated by Rodney McRae, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1987.
The Robber Pig and the Green Eggs, illustrated by Rodney McRae, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1987.
The Mouse Wedding, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1987.
The Long Grass of Tumbledown Road, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller, Arnold-Wheaton (Leeds, England), 1987.
The Seven Chinese Brothers, illustrated by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
The Great White Man-Eating Shark: A Cautionary Tale, illustrated by Jonathan Allen, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1990.
Making Friends, illustrated by Wendy Smith, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Pumpkin Man and the Crafty Creeper, illustrated by Helen Craig, Cape (London, England) 1990, Green-willow Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Keeping House, illustrated by Wendy Smith, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1991.
The Dentist's Promise, illustrated by Wendy Smith, Omnibus (Norwood, Australia), 1991.
The Queen's Goat, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1991.
Underrunners, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.
The Horrendous Hullabaloo, illustrated by Patricia MacCarthy, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.
A Tall Story and Other Tales, illustrated by Jan Nesbitt, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1992.
The Girl with the Green Ear: Stories about Magic in Nature, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.
A Busy Day for a Good Grandmother, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain, McElderry (New York, NY), 1993.
The Good Fortunes Gang, illustrated by Marian Young, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.
The Three-Legged Cat, illustrated by Jonathan Allen, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.
A Fortunate Name, illustrated by Marian Young, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.
Tick Tock Tales: Stories to Read around the Clock, illustrated by Wendy Smith, Allen & Unwin (St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia), 1993, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Greatest Show Off Earth, illustrated by Wendy Smith, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.
Tangled Fortunes, illustrated by Marian Young, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1994.
The Christmas Tree Tangle, illustrated by Anthony Kervins, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1994.
A Fortune Branches Out, illustrated by Marian Young, Delacorte, 1994.
The Other Side of Silence, Viking (New York, NY), 1995.
The Five Sisters, Puffin (New York, NY), 1999.
The Horribly Haunted School, illustrated by Robert Staermose, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1997, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.
Beaten by a Balloon, illustrated by Jonathan Allen, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1997, Viking Penguin (New York, NY), 1998.
A Summery Saturday Morning, illustrated by Selina Young, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.
A Villain's Night Out, illustrated by Harry Horse, Puffin (London, England), 1999.
Down in the Dump with Dinsmore, illustrated by Stephen Axelsen, Puffin (London, England), 2000.
Don't Read This!, 2004.
Maddigan's Fantasia, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Also author of Ups and Downs, Wibble Wobble, The Dragon's Birthday, and The Spider in the Shower, all 1984; author of Out in the Big Wild World, 1985, and The Three Wishes, 1986.
juvenile fiction with joy cowley and june melser
Roly-Poly, illustrated by Dierdre Gardiner, Shortland (New Zealand), 1982.
Cooking Pot, illustrated by Dierdre Gardiner, Shortland (New Zealand), 1982.
Fast and Funny, illustrated by Lynette Vondrusha, Shortland (New Zealand), 1982.
Sing to the Moon, illustrated by Isabel Lowe, Shortland (New Zealand), 1982.
Tiddalik, illustrated by Philip Webb, Shortland (New Zealand), 1982.
Clancy's Cabin, illustrated by Trevor Stubley, Dent (London, England), 1974, new edition illustrated by Barbara Steadman, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1995.
The Bus under the Leaves, illustrated by Margery Gill, Dent (London, England), 1974.
The Pirate Uncle, illustrated by Mary Dinsdale, Dent (London, England), 1977, new edition illustrated by Barbara Steadman, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1994.
Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles, illustrated by Peter Stevenson, Dent (London, England), 1981, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1993.
The Pirates' Mixed-Up Voyage: Dark Doings in the Thousand Islands, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain, Dent (London, England), 1983, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1993.
The Blood-and-Thunder Adventure on Hurricane Peak, illustrated by Wendy Smith, Dent (London, England), 1989.
Dangerous Spaces, Viking Children's Books (New York, NY), 1991.
young adult novels
The Haunting (also see below), illustrated by Bruce Hogarth, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1982.
The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.
The Catalogue of the Universe, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1985.
Aliens in the Family, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1986.
The Tricksters, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Memory, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1988.
24 Hours, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Alchemy, McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Kaitangata Twitch, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2005.
for schools; published by school publications branch, department of education (wellington, new zealand)
The Crocodile's Christmas Thongs, illustrated by Deirdre Gardiner, 1982.
The Bubbling Crocodile, illustrated by Deirdre Gardiner, 1983.
Mrs. Bubble's Baby, illustrated by Diane Perham, 1983.
Shopping with a Crocodile, illustrated by Deirdre Gardiner, 1983.
Going to the Beach, illustrated by Dick Frizzel, 1984.
The Great Grumbler and the Wonder Tree, illustrated by Diane Perham, 1984.
Fantail, Fantail, illustrated by Bruce Phillips, 1984.
A Crocodile in the Garden, 1985.
A Crocodile in the Library, illustrated by Deirdre Gardiner, 1985.
the "sunshine series" of leveled readers; published by the wright group, except as indicated
Level 6: The Trouble with Heathrow, illustrated by Rodney McRae; The Pop Group, illustrated by Madeline Beasley; Baby's Breakfast, illustrated by Rodney McRae; The Man Who Enjoyed Grumbling, illustrated by Wendy Hodder, 1986, revised edition, Heinemann Educational (Oxford, England), 1987.
Level 7: Muppy's Ball, illustrated by Jan Van der Voo; The Garden Party, illustrated by Rodney McRae; The Tree Doctor, illustrated by Wendy Hodder; Feeling Funny, illustrated by Rodney McRae, 1986, revised edition, Heinemann Educational (Oxford, England), 1986.
Level 8: A Pet to the Vet, The King's Treasure, The New House Villain, The Funny Funny Clown Face, illustrated by Miranda Whitford, 1986, revised edition, Heinemann Educational (Oxford, England), 1987; Leap Year, illustrated by Belinda Lyon, 1990.
Level 9: Tai Taylor Is Born, illustrated by Nick Price; Grow Up Sally Sue, Trouble on the Bus, illustrated by Wendy Hodder; Shuttle 4, Mr. Rumfitt, illustrated by Nick Price; The Terrible Topsy-Turvy, Tissy-Tossy Tangle, 1986, revised edition, Heinemann Educational (Oxford, England), 1987; The Little Round Husband, illustrated by Val Biro, 1990.
Level 10: White Elephants, illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello, Heinemann Educational (Oxford, England), 1990.
Level 11: The Mad Puppet, Iris La Bonga and the Helpful Taxi Driver, The Haunting of Miss Cardamon, The Girl Who Washed in Moonlight, Elliott and the Cats Eating Out, 1987.
New Zealand: Yesterday and Today, illustrated with photographs and line drawings by Jim Robins, maps by Sandra Grantham and S. Brackenborough, F. Watts (London, England), 1975.
My Mysterious World, photographs by David Alexander, R.C. Owen (Katonah, NY), 1995.
A Dissolving Ghost: Essays and More, Victoria University Press (Wellington, New Zealand), 2000.
The First Margaret Mahy Story Book: Stories and Poems, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Dent (London, England), 1972.
The Second Margaret Mahy Story Book: Stories and Poems, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Dent (London, England), 1973.
The Third Margaret Mahy Story Book: Stories and Poems, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Dent (London, England), 1975.
The Chewing-Gum Rescue and Other Stories, illustrated by Jan Ormerod, Dent (London, England), 1982, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1991.
Leaf Magic and Five Other Favourites, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain, Dent (London, England), 1984.
The Downhill Crocodile Whizz and Other Stories, illustrated by Ian Newsham, Dent (London, England), 1986.
Mahy Magic: A Collection of the Most Magical Stories from the Margaret Mahy Story Books, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Dent (London, England), 1986.
The Horrible Story and Others, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Dent (London, England), 1987.
The Door in the Air and Other Stories, illustrated by Diana Catchpole, Dent (London, England), 1988, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1991.
The Boy Who Bounced and Other Magic Tales, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Puffin (London, England), 1988.
Chocolate Porridge and Other Stories, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Puffin (London, England), 1989.
Wonderful Me! Poems and Stories, illustrated by Peter Bailey, Dolphin (London, England), 2002.
The Gargling Gorilla and Other Stories, illustrated by Tony Ross, CollinsChildren'sBooks (London, England), 2003.
Mahy's work also collected in A Lion in the Meadow and Five Other Favourites, 1976.
(Adaptor) The Haunting of Barney Palmer (screenplay based on The Haunting), [New Zealand], 1987.
The Tin Can Band and Other Poems, illustrated by Honey De Lacey, Dent (London, England),1989.
Bubble Trouble and Other Poems and Stories, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1992.
(Contributor) Don't Read This! And Other Tales of the Unnatural, illustrated by Tjong Khing, Front Street (Asheville, NC), 1998.
Author of preface, St. James Guide to Children's Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999. Author of scripts A Land Called Happy, Wooly Valley, Once upon a Story, and The Margaret Mahy Story Book Theatre for Television New Zealand, and scripts for the Gibson Group television series Cuckooland. Mahy's works have been translated into many languages, including Russian, German, French, Chinese, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Italian, Afrikaans, and Icelandic.
Cassette versions of Mahy's works include The Haunting, 1986, The Chewing-Gum Rescue and Other Stories, 1988, and The Pirates' Mixed-Up Voyage, all read aloud by Richard Mitchley, and Nonstop Nonsense, read by Kenneth Stanley, all published by G.K. Hall; Maddigan's Fantasia was adapted as a television series.
New Zealand author Margaret Mahy is well known around the world for her fantastical adventures that tell how people get along in family life. The author of more than fifty books since her first publication, A Lion in the Meadow, Mahy has written about a world full of unexpected possibilities, a world familiar to children, and one which, she insists, remains real for adults. Mahy's younger characters help each other to learn about the world of adults; through friendship tested by adventure, teens and preteens wounded by childhood experiences find healing. This healing helps them to continue their journeys into adulthood. Many critics have placed Mahy's work, which appeals to readers of all ages, among the best in the field of young people's literature. Mahy "has deserved her reputation as queen of the light fantastic with stories and picture-book texts which erupt with delightful visions," stated Times Literary Supplement critic Sarah Hayes. When writing about aliens with unusual powers, intelligent adolescents, or "a primeval New Zealand of immense rain forests and sulphurous volcanoes …, she writes with all the force and precision and richness of a poet," Elizabeth Ward observed in the Washington Post Book World.
The first of many books concerned with the relationship between fantasy and reality, A Lion in the Meadow shows a mother in trouble because she refuses to take her son seriously when he relates a report that seems incredible to her. Annoyed by his warnings that there is a lion in the meadow, and thinking that he is playing an imaginative game with her, the busy mother gives the child a box of matches. Inside it, she says, is a little dragon that can grow large enough to scare the lion away. She soon regrets having lied to the child and vows not to lie to her children again. The fable illustrates that though fantasy is important to children, it is dangerous for adults not to recognize and teach the difference between fantasy and reality.
In addition to being valued for their themes, Mahy's books for young children are popular and highly acclaimed because of her skills as a poet. The rhythmic verses in 17 Kings and 42 Elephants, which describe a parade of kings, elephants, tigers, and other jungle animals as it winds from an unnamed beginning to an unnamed destination, display "language [that] is a miraculous mixture of concision and freedom, joy and mystery, silliness and seriousness, all rolled into one," Arthur Yorinks commented in the New York Times Book Review. More of Mahy's enjoyable wordplay is found in The Birthday Burglar, and A Very Wicked Headmistress. Puns and alliterations of the letter B abound in this story of a rich but lonely man who steals birthday parties. Confronted with the family and friends of an elderly woman who intend to reclaim her stolen birthday party, he returns all the stolen birthdays and becomes a beekeeper. Mahy's artistry as a wordsmith is most noticeable in her collected short stories, wrote Mary M. Burns in Horn Book. The comic wordplay in The Great Millionaire Kidnap helps the plots along, said a reviewer for the Spectator. For instance, the two crooks who kidnap a kind rich man are named Scarcely and Hardly Likely, and their mother's name is Pretty. In addition to Mahy's sense of humor, delightful comic names, and a matter-of-fact presentation of improbable sights such as a roller-skating alligator, "her wonderful sense of words and timing" make her one of the best short story writers writing today, a reviewer commented in a Junior Bookshelf review of The Downhill Crocodile Whizz and Other Stories.
Simply Delicious! is another rhythmic narrative with a silly, enjoyable storyline. The story concerns Mr. Minky, who is trying to ride a bicycle home to his son while carrying an ice cream cone in one hand. His determination to protect the ice cream from the perils of butterflies and other creatures, as well as his struggle to stay upright on his bicycle, form the events of the story, told in "tongue-twisting, alliterative text" and with repetition and onomatopoetic language," according to a Horn Book reviewer. Another picture book, Down the Back of the Chair, features a father and his children searching for lost keys behind a chair. Their hunt reveals a host of surprising discoveries, including a missing sibling, a pair of elephants, and a long-lost will that makes them all rich. Down the Back of the Chair is a "rollicking, rhyming treat" from a "uniquely talented" author, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
The family relationships of young adults are the focus of Mahy's books for that age group. The author uses characters of different ages from a wide range of backgrounds to demonstrate this theme. Various problems faced by teens everywhere are given special attention in each new book. The author also makes use of many different fictional techniques from fantasy to dramatic dialogue.
In The Haunting, a young man finds out he is in line to inherit psychic powers that he feels are a curse more than a blessing. Barney Palmer describes a sequence of mealtime family discussions and ties them together with explanations of his own thoughts and feelings. In the end, Barney needs the help of his older sisters to ward off a series of aunts and uncles who determine to make him accept his inheritance. Critics praised Mahy's ability to develop likeable characters and an ambitious theme within this framework. Barney and his family "are beautifully drawn, and perhaps because they care so much for each other, readers care for them, too," Michael Cart commented in School Library Journal. Hayes observed in the Times Literary Supplement: " The Haunting manages to combine a realistic approach to family life in which how you feel about your parents and yourself is actually important with a strong and terrifying line in fantasy."
"The book is in fact a powerful demonstration of the perils and rewards of imagination as it works through the Scholar family," Margery Fisher noted in Growing Point. Marcus Crouch, writing in a Junior Bookshelf review, commented that the book's strength "lies in the way Miss Mahy relates the fantasy to the relationships of ordinary life. The Scholars and the Palmers may be unusual but they are real people, and it matters greatly to the reader that the harmony of their lives should not be destroyed."
Aliens in the Family combines elements of science fiction and drama. The story begins with a blended family group made up of twelve-year-old Jake's father, stepmother, and a new brother and sister who do not accept her. When an alien from outer space appeals to them for help in his escape from his pursuers, the children become allies and friends through the process of problem solving. Unexpected time travel helps the group to find a new starting point from which they learn to define themselves by looking forward to common goals instead of hanging onto roles that defined them in the past. Penny Blubaugh summarized in Voice of Youth Advocates, "Using Bond and Jake as aliens in their own situations, Mahy has written a story of families learning to accept and believe in each other in spite of, and even because of, their differences."
The Tricksters provides an insightful look at the inner lives of people who celebrate Christmas together at a New Zealand beach house. The Hamiltons share their celebration with their British friend Anthony. During his visit, the seven family members take turns telling him the story of the house and the family who built it (the Cardinals), each giving a new twist to the story of a boy who had died by drowning. Anthony suspects the legends he hears about the boy's death and the house are not completely factual. Helen J. Hinterberg remarked in the Christian Science Monitor that "Mahy creates an eerie atmosphere worthy of a classic gothic novel and suspense worthy of a first-rate thriller." The group's interactions become even more interesting with the arrival of three young men, the Cardinal brothers, who claim to be related to the family who built the house. The Hamiltons suspect that something more sinister explains their visit. Perhaps they are ghosts, or the ghost of the drowned boy returned, incarnated in three different aspects of his personality. Seventeen-year-old Ariadne fears that she has called them into being by writing a romantic novel that she hides from the rest of the family. The Cardinal brothers' unnerving similarity to her characters helps to convince her that they are tricksters with harmful plans. "Just when it seems evil is going to win, Mahy throws in a surprising ending" which is tidy if not completely satisfying, Kristie A. Hart wrote in a Voice of Youth Advocates review.
Keeping whimsy "just a step away," here Mahy also offers "the solidity of a robust and affectionate family, with its shared language, its traditional squabbles, accepted rivalries and secrets," Hayes summed up. Hayes also remarked that "the ability to combine a dazzling fantasy with painfully real emotions is a particular gift." According to Robin McKinley in the New York Times Book Review, Ariadne's thoughts in the novel express Mahy's theme that convincing storytellers have a dangerous skill. Some critics recommended it to adult readers of contemporary fantasy as well as to young adults.
Dangerous Spaces presents one young woman's struggle to control her habit of trying to avoid life's difficulties by escaping to a private world inhabited by her great-uncle's ghost. Anthea's own parents have died suddenly and she lives with relatives whose complicated and noisy lives are no comfort to her. Soon she is retreating to the spacious dream-world Viridian every night, and her trips become so dangerous that her life is threatened. Compared to the dream-worlds in other books, Mahy's Viridian "is unique in its slow slide from … a place of beauty to one of menace and danger," wrote Patricia Manning in the School Library Journal.
Down-to-earth Flora, the cousin who resents the glamorous Anthea at first, charges in to Viridian to rescue her and puts an end to the haunting that has plagued the family for generations. Descriptions of Viridian that are challenges at the book's beginning make more sense to the reader when Mahy brings the book to a memorable close. The skillful weaving of adventure with insights into family relationships for which Mahy is known rewards readers who finish the book, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer who concluded: "This novel will linger in the mind of the reader."
The importance of family relationships to young adults is just one of the author's major themes. Hayes wrote in the Times Literary Supplement: "The double aspect of things man and beast, [good] and evil, young and old intrigues Margaret Mahy." The Catalogue of the Universe finds a balance between rational thinking and idealistic belief. The main characters are high school seniors working out the problems of identity common to that age group. Angela has lived without a father for many years, and feels that the blessings of beauty, a loving mother, and intelligence have not compensated for his absence. Tycho, her friend since early childhood, who is looking to science and astronomy to provide a rational basis for his life, helps Angela in her search for her missing father. When they encounter the lost parent, a disappointment leaves Angela to find out who she is apart from family ties.
"Angela and Tycho learn what they have suspected all along, that neither idealism nor rationalism [alone] is the key to coping with an existence that must be made up minute by minute," Colin Greenland noted in theTimes Literary Supplement. Furthermore, their story shows that while forgiveness can help relationships to survive, it does not always change the imperfections of others, and it is difficult to forgive. Mahy's story makes these points without becoming pessimistic or sentimental. "Angela shares with her friend Tycho a fascination with matters like the square root of two and the moons of Jupiter which outlast emotional pains and the novel moves lightly," Gillian Wilce maintained in the New Statesman.
The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance, presents a fourteen-year-old girl's collaboration with adult witches who have told her that magic is the only way to save her three-year-old brother from death. The child's health had begun to fail at about the same time that Laura's divorced mother took a growing interest in a man she does not trust. Soon after, Laura becomes convinced that an evil warlock has cast a spell on her brother, and she determines to break the spell in a ritual that turns her into a witch. Set in contemporary New Zealand, the story copes realistically with Laura's feelings and "reconciles a number of disparate elements," said Horn Book reviewer Paul Heins, who related that Mahy keeps the supernatural and realistic components of the story well balanced.
Critics believe the supernatural elements in The Changeover are secondary to what it teaches about growing up in a threatening environment. "The author's insights into the jagged tensions of family life in contemporary New Zealand count for much more than her world of witches," Robert Dunbar remarked in the School Librarian. "In the manner of all good supernaturalists, [Mahy's] stories always have a perfectly possible rational explanation," Hayes observed in the Times Literary Supplement. "This one could be about the products of a young girl's fevered imagination during a period of physical and emotional turmoil; or about the influence of a boy traumatized by a cruel foster father and years of psychotherapy; or about a miracle cure, a single parent, and a dirty old man." The story of entrapment and rescue lends itself to many such interpretations. In addition, Laura's changeover coincides with her passage through puberty. Hayes concluded, "It is rare to find a novel which captures so well the changeover from child to adult, and from what is real in the mind to what is real outside."
Mahy compares the powers and limitations of magic and science in the well-received junior novel The Blood-and-Thunder Adventure on Hurricane Peak. Michael Dirda, writing in the Washington Post Book World remarked, "In my book you can't beat a slapstick novel starring an evil industrialist, a beautiful scientist and a bumbling sorcerer, two talking cats, a supernatural forest and plot mixups right out of [Shakespeare's comedy] A Midsummer Night's Dream. " The threads of the entertainingly tangled plot take as many unexpected turns as the book's roller-skating policemen. Horn Book reviewer Nancy Vasilakis added: "We are also the beneficiaries of some discerning Mahy wisdom regarding the truth of fairy tales and forests, enchanted or otherwise, as well as the meaning of the imagination and art and its application to science." Times Literary Supplement reviewer John Mole explained: "There is a romance between the acting principal of the school and the scientist Belladonna Doppler, in which the rival claims of magic and science argue their way towards a happy marriage." The scientist sums up near the end that though sorcery had brought them into the forest, they needed science to come back out.
Memory explores how the ability to remember can be both a curse and a blessing. Main character Jonny Dart blames himself for the accidental death of his sister, and the passage of five years has not helped to ease his sense of loss. For the old woman he lives with, however, a better memory would solve problems. Because she suffers from Alzheimer's disease, Sophie forgets where she is, wakes Jonny at night thinking he is someone else, and wears a tea cozy instead of a hat. These challenges bring Jonny's attention to present realities and help him to discover that he is kindhearted.
Mahy wrote Memory while thinking of her own experiences with caring for the elderly. She explains in the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture published in Journal of Youth Services in Libraries: "For a number of years I was in charge of my aunt, and though my aunt and Sophie are not the same person, they are similar in many ways. A lot of the happenings, a lot of the conversations, in Memory are directly transposed from life with my aunt, and if the story lacks the nastiness, the sheer fatigue of response involved in looking after a demented person, it is partly because, though these elements were present, they were not a commanding part of my life with [my] aunt."
Like her other books, Memory contains material that communicates to adults as well as to children. Doug Anderson saw "a well-defined political context" for the book. He wrote in the Times Literary Supplement: "It is full of allusions to issues in contemporary New Zealand politics; Maori rights, the social complexities of a racially mixed nation, the disintegration of a traditional culture in the face of rampant commercialism (references that non-New Zealanders are unlikely to understand are carefully footnoted). Above all, Mahy raises the idea that anger at injustice is a good thing, something to be nurtured and focused."
Mahy's ability to combine themes relevant to young adults with fantasy is matched by her consistently nonsexist perspective on roles and relationships. Jan Dalley, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, pointed out that Mahy "continually pushes at the boundaries of [fairy-tale] conventions," and "roots out the sexism that used to be integral" to fiction for young readers. For example, though the roles of rescuer, leader, and problem-solver have been traditionally assigned to males, she gives these roles as often to females of various ages and levels of social status. In Mahy's books, the roles of home economist and nurturer, traditionally assigned to women, is also assigned to men. Growth to sexual maturity is equally exciting and frightening to her male and female adolescents. Adults of both sexes are equally subject to weakness and failure to discern the needs of their children. All her characters face the same challenges to strike a balance between freedom and commitment, reason and emotion. And they all benefit from recognizing the power of the imagination, which they learn to celebrate as well as to contain.
While many of her books explore the need to keep fantasy in its proper proportion to reality, Mahy indulges fantasy most freely in The Door in the Air and Other Stories. In "The Bridge Builder," for example, the main character creates bridges that double as bird cages, musical instruments, and aquariums. "Best of all are the quality and texture of her fantasy: vivid, dreamlike, seldom whimsical, with images that last," Dalley commented in the Times Literary Supplement. Keeping the collection in perspective as whimsy is the humorous story "A Work of Art," in which two young men exhibit a home-baked birthday cake as a sculpture in a local gallery. There, the fruitcake receives praise for its "passionate equilibrium." The presence of this story suggests that while A Door in the Air entertains readers of one age group, they also can be appreciated by older readers as a study of the purpose of art and art criticism.
Mahy provided a fast-paced story of one day in the life of a seventeen-year-old named Ellis in her novel 24 Hours. Ellis, an intelligent, rebellious New Zealand prep school graduate hopes to strike out on his own and find work as an actor. Over the course of twenty-four hours, his life is changed through a series of escalating incidents. From an elite, society party to a sordid flophouse in the inner city, to the discovery of dark family secrets and the heroic rescue of a baby, the novel proceeds at a "breathless pace," according to Gillian Engberg in Booklist. Amid all the action, Ellis also confronts inner challenges and discovers his own strength. Engberg found some of the narrative "contrived," but nevertheless predicted that readers would "be drawn to the richly depicted characters" in this novel.
In an interview with Audrey Marie Danielson for Teen-Reads, Mahy explained that in 24 Hours, Ellis feels as if time has stopped, "partly because he's been drinking but also because of the strange circumstances in which he finds himself. He feels as if he has entered a timeless state. However, time does not stop for the reader, who is continually reminded that it is flowing implacably on. Writing the story, I tried to make events that were (intentionally) confusing to Ellis clear to the reader and hoped that the two states would work together."
Another seventeen-year-old is the central character in Mahy's novel Alchemy, published in 2004. Roland is a student who seems to have a good life. Although his father deserted his family years before, he is successful at school, dates a beautiful classmate, and has a happy home life with his mother. It seems that Roland's biggest problem is his disturbing dreams about being somehow transformed, as a young child, by a wicked magician. Things in his real life take a nasty turn when a teacher accuses him of shoplifting, then blackmails him into investigating an unpopular student named Jess Ferret. Roland's sleuthing first reveals that Jess has magical powers; he then discovers that he also has them himself. The wicked magician of his dreams continues to stalk him, but Roland now realizes the threat is real, and he must defend himself and Jess from his rival. The novel ends with "a thrilling final showdown," according to a Booklist reviewer Paula Rohrlick. Susan P. Bloom, reviewing Alchemy for Horn Book, praised the author's "linguistic adroitness."
In her interview with Danielson, Mahy was asked what advice she might give aspiring writers. She replied: "Every writer has to find their own way into writing. My general advice would be to read a great deal and to know within yourself why certain books work well for you. And I think aspiring writers often need to be reminded how important it is to be persistent. Every now and then a young writer has a first book published, and the book is well reviewed, widely read and successful. However, this is rare. Most people have to go through a stage of putting a lot of work into their books and then having them turned down."
In her work as a librarian, Mahy is called upon to distinguish works of fact from works of fiction by shelving them separately. Yet, she believes the distinction is an imaginary rift. This "dislocation," as she calls it in her lecture, comes from the contrast between the British culture she learned from books and the tropical New Zealand environment in which she lived. The "imaginative truth" seemed to be more true than "the facts and images of my everyday life," she recalled. The celebration of Christmas, for example, which she has always observed in the sunny islands, is not complete for her without stories of England's snow drifts and holly. "The imaginative truth and the factual truth are at odds with one another but I still need those opposites to make Christmas come alive for me," she explained. She finds that the same kind of paradox applies to differences between make-believe and science. Pointing to changes in scientific theories about how the world began, she commented that what we think of as scientific fact sometimes proves to be wrong in the light of new discoveries, "and the truest thing in science is wonder just as it is in story. And I never forget that story is as important to human beings as science, more powerful at times because it is more subversive."
In her lecture, Mahy stated that one does not have to impose the truth onto children, because "they demand to be told. When a child writes and asks me 'Do you believe in supernatural things?' they may be asking me to confirm that a story like The Haunting is literally true. But mostly they are asking 'Just where am I to fit this story in my view of the world?' … Part of giving them the truest answer we can give also involves telling stories of desire: once there was a man who rode on a winged horse, once there was a boy who spoke to the animals, and the animals talked back to him, once there was a girl who grew so powerful that she was able not only to overcome her enemy but to overcome the base part of herself. Beware or the wolf will eat you and then you will become part of the wolf until something eats the wolf and so on … It is a gamble because we cannot tell just what is going to happen in the individual head when the story gets there and starts working." Commenting on her own work, she summed up: "I have told the children all the truth I know from personal experience."
Mahy concluded by explaining that what has always driven her to read and write is a fascination with what can be known through stories, a fascination that she believes has always been an important part of human nature. She emphasized: "The mere cadence of six syllables, A Tale of Adventure instantly conjures up in the mind a jumbled and motley host of memories. Memories not only personal but we may well suspect racial; and not only racial but primeval. Ages before history had learned its letters, there being no letters to learn, ages before the children of men built the city and the tower called Babel and their language was confounded, the rudiments of this kind of oral narrative must have begun to flourish. Indeed the greater part of even the largest of dictionaries, every page of the most comprehensive atlases consists of relics and records in the [most concise] shorthand from bygone chapters of the tale whereof we know neither the beginning nor the end that of Man's supreme venture into the world without and into the world within."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 7, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1984.
Mahy, Margaret, The Door in the Air and Other Stories, Dent (London, England), 1988, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1991.
Mahy, Margaret, The Great Millionaire Kidnap, Dent (London, England), 1975.
Mahy, Margaret, My Mysterious World, photographs by David Alexander, R.C. Owen (Katonah, NY), 1995.
Booklist, June 1, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of The Rattlebang Picnic, p. 1810; March 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Boom, Baby, Boom, Boom! p. 1173; September 1, 1999, Michael Cart, review of Simply Delicious! p. 141; November 15, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of 24 Hours, p. 634; October 1, 2002, Karin Snelson, review of Dashing Dog! p. 337; May 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, article about winners of the 2006 Hans Christian Andersen Awards, p. 90.
Christian Science Monitor, June 6, 1986, review of The Catalogue of the Universe, p. B6; November 4, 1988, review of The Boy with Two Shadows, p. B3; January 25, 1989, Helen J. Hinterberg, review of The Tricksters, p. 13.
Fantasy Review, March, 1985, review of The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance, p. 27.
Growing Point, November, 1982, Margery Fisher, review of The Haunting, p. 3985.
Horn Book, November/December, 1984, Paul Heins, review of The Changeover, p. 764; November/December, 1989, Nancy Vasilakis, review of The Blood-and-Thunder Adventure on Hurricane Peak, pp. 772-773; March, 1991, Mary M. Burns, review of The Door in the Air and Other Stories, p. 201; September, 1999, review of Simply Delicious!, p. 596; May-June, 2003, Susan P. Bloom, review of Alchemy, p. 352.
Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, summer, 1989, Margaret Mahy, reprint of May Hill Arbuthnot lecture, pp. 313-329.
Junior Bookshelf, February, 1983, review of The Haunting, p. 45; August, 1986, review of The Downhill Crocodile Whizz and Other Stories, p. 144.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of Down the Back of the Chair, p. 520; July 15, 2002, review of Dashing Dog! p. 1037.
Kliatt, September, 2004, Paula Rohtlick, review of Alchemy, p. 30.
Library Journal, October, 1994, Lauralyn Persson, review of The Rattlebang Picnic, p. 93; September, 2002, Mary Ann Carcich, review of Dashing Dog! p. 201.
Listener, November 8, 1984, review of The Changeover, p. 29.
New Statesman, November 8, 1985, Gillian Wilce, review of The Catalogue of the Universe, pp. 27-28.
New York Times Book Review, July 13, 1986, Roger Sutton, review of The Catalogue of the Universe, p. 22; May 17, 1987, Robin McKinley, review of The Tricksters, pp. 31, 44; November 8, 1987, Arthur Yorinks, review of 17 Kings and 42 Elephants, p. 40; July 6, 1997, Jon Agee, review of Boom, Baby, Boom, Boom! p. 16.
Plays, October, 1998, review of The Horribly Haunted School, p. 64.
Publishers Weekly, February 1, 1991, review of Dangerous Spaces, p. 80; July 4, 1994, review of The Rattlebang Picnic, p. 62; February 17, 1997, review of Boom, Baby, Boom, Boom! p. 218; July 17, 2000, review of Down the Dragon's Tongue, p. 192; October 15, 2001, review of 24 Hours, p. 74.
School Librarian, September, 1984, Robert Dunbar, review of The Changeover, p. 260.
School Library Journal, August, 1982, Michael Cart, review of The Haunting, p. 119; April, 1991, Patricia Manning, review of Dangerous Spaces, p. 121; April, 1991, Ann Welton, review of The Pumpkin Man and the Crafty Creeper, p. 98; May, 1997, Ann Cook, review of Boom, Baby, Boom, Boom!, p. 106; December, 2000, Robin L. Gibson, review of Down the Dragon's Tongue, p. 116; June, 2006, Carol L. MacKay, review of Down the Back of the Chair, p. 122.
Spectator, December 6, 1975, review of The Great Millionaire Kidnap, p. 732.
Times Literary Supplement, September 17, 1982, Sarah Hayes, review of The Haunting, p. 1001; July 13, 1984, Sarah Hayes, review of The Changeover, p. 794; November 8, 1985, Colin Greenland, review of The Catalogue of the Universe, p. 1274; December 13, 1985, review of Jam: A True Story, p. 1435; August 1, 1986, Sarah Hayes, review of The Tricksters, p. 850; October 9, 1987, review of The Boy with Two Shadows, p. 1120; October 30, 1987, Doug Anderson, review of Memory, p. 1205; November 25, 1988, Jan Dalley, review of The Door in the Air and Other Stories, p. 1323; April 7, 1989, John Mole, review of The Blood-and-Thunder Adventure on Hurricane Peak, p. 378.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1987, Penny Blubaugh, review of Aliens in the Family, p. 39; June, 1987, Kristie A. Hart, review of The Tricksters, p. 80.
Washington Post Book World, October 12, 1986, Elizabeth Ward, review of Aliens in the Family, p. 11; January 14, 1990, Michael Dirda, review of The Blood-and-Thunder Adventure on Hurricane Peak, p. 10.
Wilson Library Bulletin, February, 1995, review of The Rattlebang Picnic, p. 95.*
TeenReads,http://www.teenreads.com/ (October 12, 2006), Audrey Marie Danielson, interview with Margaret Mahy.*