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Storylines Joy Cowley Award winners

2021 Storylines Joy Cowley Award


Kirsty Wadsworth’s manuscript, 'Īhaka, the Unexpected Visitor', is the 2021 winner of the Storylines Joy Cowley Award for a picture book manuscript.

'The something-or-other' by Melanie Koster and 'Barnaby Bing' by Belinda O’Keefe, both from Christchurch, were highly commended. Commended were 'What did Sarah see?' by Karen Hinge of Whangarei; 'Ruby Loud Mouse' by Alice Pearce of Waiatarua, Auckland; and 'Hei aha, Hoihi' by Kathryn Saunders of Palmerston North.

Kirsty, from Levin, was born in England and has lived in New Zealand since she was two years old. She has been a primary school teacher for seven years, and loves sharing stories with her students. She had her first book, The Promise of Puanga: A story for Matariki, published in 2019. A Māori translation (Te Kī Taurangi a Puanga) won a Storylines Notable Book Award in 2020.

Scholastic commented on JCA winner, Īhaka, the Unexpected Visitor: “This is a refreshingly original, playful and child-friendly story that will illustrate beautifully. Introducing a somewhat lesser known Māori god, Ruaumoko, Guardian of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and incorporating te reo into the story in a natural and seamless manner, the content is not dumbed down in any way, and is an example of deftly written prose. We especially loved how the young child at the heart of the story is asked by a mighty god to help solve the problem, and how even the wispiest and littlest of lost clouds is important to the mighty Tāwhirimātea.”

Kirsty Wadsworth-699Kirsty Wadsworth, winner of the 2021 Storylines Joy Cowley Award

Storylines Joy Cowley Award winner 2020


Tania Sickling, with the enticingly titled 'Grandpa Versus Swing', was the winner of the 2020 Storylines Joy Cowley Award for a picture book manuscript, sponsored by Scholastic New Zealand.

We were unable to present the award in person in 2020. Watch the digital presentation to Tania instead.

Shortlisted authors were:
  • Melanie Koster from Christchurch for two manuscripts: 'Blue canoe and a cockatoo' and 'The brilliant plan that Stan had'
  • Melanie Woolford from Henderson for 'Lollicops and slobbers'
  • Juliette MacIver from Porirua for 'Scamper, scarper, flee'.

Tania's roots are in rural Waikato, but she has been drawn to the sea, and lives with her family near the beach north of Auckland. She wrote her MA thesis on the illustration of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales.

Grandpa Versus Swing is inspired by playful grandparents, by the everyday scrapes which become part of family lore, and by the lifelong allure of swings.

“We extend our congratulations to Tania Sickling winner of the 2020 Storylines Joy Cowley Award, for her beautifully written, playful and heartwarming story, 'Grandpa Versus Swing',” said Lynette Evans, Publishing Manager for Scholastic New Zealand. “This delightful story won the hearts of all the judges without question. It is with great pleasure that we welcome the Tania into the fold of Storylines Award winners and we very much look forward to working with her.”

“At this time, when the world as we know it seems to have gone a little topsy-turvy, it seems that people are turning to books more than ever before. Scholastic is committed to keeping kids and families reading and having fun with stories that expand the imagination and open new worlds of possibility. Through our partnership with Storylines and thanks to the vision of inspiring storytellers and educators, such Joy Cowley, we have the great privilege of publishing truly Kiwi stories, written by New Zealand authors and brought to life by New Zealand illustrators to keep local content and characters on our children’s bookshelves."

Watch the video here.

Tania Sickling-422Tania Sickling, winner of the 2020 Storylines Joy Cowley Award

2019 Storylines Joy Cowley Award Winner

Janelle Wilkey’s manuscript, titled ‘Mrs Brook’s Chook’, was the winner of the 2019 Joy Cowley Award. Joy Cowley was unfortunately unable to attend the Storylines Margaret Mahy Day to present the award. In her absence Lynette Evans, publisher at Scholastic NZ, presented the award.

Shortlisted were
  • 'Cauldron Stew' by Kate Galinski (Wellington)
  • 'Celia Seagull and the plastic sea' by Nicole Miller (Bethlehem, Tauranga)
  • 'Goo man and Squish' by Melanie Woolford (Auckland )
  • 'A leopard in the factory' by Paul Mason (Waiheke Island).
An experienced nurse, Janelle worked for 20 years in remote indigenous communities in Australia. She moved with her husband and son to Fiji in 2015. Janelle’s first love is art and writing and the time in Fiji without the distractions of modern life meant that she could explore this more. ‘Mrs Brook’s Chook’ was written in Fiji to entertain her son and his cousins and is about a real hen who delighted in laying in problematic places.
Janelle now lives in Blenheim, where she continues to write and paint and work as a community nurse.

Janelle Wilkey and Scholastic NZ senior editor Penny Scown

Storylines Joy Cowley award winner Janelle Wilkey with Penny Scown from Scholastic NZ IMG 3754-448-549-717

2018 Storylines Joy Cowley Award winner


The winner of the 2018 Joy Cowley Award for an original picture book text by a previously unpublished author was Elaine Bickell (Wellington) for 'The little ghost who lost her Boo'.

Speaking after receiving her award, Elaine said that being short-listed (for another manuscript) in 2017 fuelled her determination to follow her passion to write picture books. She noted that she read and re-read Joy Cowley's Writing from the Heart and attended several writing classes as she crafted her latest manuscript.

Two other works from the 140 entries were shortlisted:
  • Samantha Montgomerie (Dunedin) for 'Skipper and Scout'
  • Angela Walker (Auckland) for 'The journey we take together'.
IMG 6206 Elaine Bickell-388-678-815

2017 Commendations

There was no winner of the Joy Cowley award in 2017, but four commendation certificates were awarded to:
  • Christine Ashton, Southland, 'My Friend Fred' - Highly Commended
  • Lottie Holt, Auckland, 'The Princess and the Pirate' - Highly Commended
  • Elaine Bickell, Wellington, 'The Enormous Feet' - Commended
  • Belinda O’Keefe, Christchurch, 'The Truly Magnificent Stick'  - Commended
Two authors highly commended for the Storylines Joy Cowley Award, Lottie Holt and Elaine Bickell with Scholastic’s Penny Scown and Storylines Trustee Libby Limbrick. (Photo: Crissi Blair)
JCA Shortlist w LL and Penny Scown Scholastic MM Day 2017 -188


Storylines Trust Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki and Friends of Storylines Te Pou o Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki together form New Zealand’s only national organisation working year-round to promote New Zealand children’s and young adult literature through activities that include a major national Story Tour to schools, early childhood centres and communities, and awards for writers, illustrators and those who work in the area of New Zealand children’s literature



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