Why Margaret Mahy mattered to me

We are all mourning for Margaret Mahy, so very sad that our magnificent story teller has died. I recommend Jolisa’s and Craig’s tributes to her: “Glory! Glory! There’s the salt!” and OPEN HOUSE: Margaret Mahy, The Storyteller in The Meadow.

I loved her writing too, because it worked for me, as an adult reading picture books to my children, and as an avid reader of her fiction for young adults, because actually, it’s excellent fiction for not-so-young adults too. But something I’ve been reflecting on since the news of her death is the way that she wrote about good and effective parenting and partnering. I’m thinking of the mothers in The Lion in the Meadow and The Witch in the Cherry Tree, who both calmly carry on with their work, incorporating their small children’s imaginings into what they are doing, even entering into the imagining, and through it all providing security for the little ones, should their imagination become too frightening. It’s a beautiful model of how to work with and respond to children. This is yet another reason why I loved her writing so much: she helped me to learn how to be a better mother of young children.

Back in 2009, I wrote a post a day for New Zealand Book Week, each one about a children’s book I loved. Five of those posts are about books written by Margaret Mahy.

Yes, of course we have baked gingerbread witches using the recipe at the back of The Witch in the Cherry Tree. And thrown the burnt ones outside for any witches that might happen by.


3 comments on “Why Margaret Mahy mattered to me

  1. homepaddock says:

    Thank you for writing what I was trying to think – you have so clearly articulated another of the reasons why I love Margaret Mahy’s books.

  2. Denny says:

    Yes, I love your comment about good parenting and the way mothers embrace their children’s imaginings. Her stories taught me a few things. And I love the way she used vocabulary. I learned the meanings of so many wonderful words … rumbustification, as in “The Great Piratical Rumbustification”. She always spoke to children as intelligent, curious people.

  3. southernrata says:

    I just found this wonderful Mahy article on LeGuin and Earthsea. I have a not so irrational foreboding that she will be the next to go. Hoban, Sendak, Mahy, it’s been such a sad 12 months for children’s literature.


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