login login

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, coincidentally 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 Slough, England and has lived in New Zealand sinceshe 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.

Kirsty has a whole room in her house dedicated as a ‘library’, although she admits some bookcases have spilled out into the lounge!

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

Congratulations to Tania Sickling for the enticingly titled Grandpa Versus Swing, the winner of this year’s 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.

Tania's roots are in rural Waikato, but she has been drawn to the shimmering 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.

Tania tells us she “finds inspiration in the chaos and charm of days spent with children. I shape my ideas into stories in the quiet of the night, playing with meaning and rhythm, and losing all sense of time.”

When she is not mixing up words, play dough, or children, Tania wades through toys to get to her garden, or to look out over the blue of the bay.

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,” says 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 possible. 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.

“Given the challenging times at present, we will confirm publication dates after the lockdown period and once Scholastic distribution is able to operate once more.

Watch the video here..


Congratulations also to authors on the shortlist:

  • Melanie Koster from Christchurch for two manuscripts: Blue canoe and a cockatoo and The brilliant plan that Stan had
  • Melanie Woolford from Henderson – Lollicops and slobbers
  • Juliette MacIver from Porirua – Scamper, scarper, flee
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 as planned, due to family commitments. In her absence Lynette Evans, publisher at Scholastic NZ, presented the award to Janelle. 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 where they enjoyed relaxed days on the beach, fishing, gardening and spending time with family. 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. Two years ago, Janelle moved with her family to 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

2019 Storylines Joy Cowley Award shortlist

Shortlisted for the Storylines Joy Cowley Award in 2019 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)
  • 'Mrs Brook's Chook' by Janelle Wilkey (Blenheim)
Kate, Nicole Melanie and Janelle were presented with their certificates by Lynette Evans, publisher, and  Penny Scown, senior editor, from Scholastic NZ, sponsor of the award.
Storylines Joy Cowley Award finalists with publisher Lynette Evans Kate Galinski Melanie Woolford Nicole Miller Janelle Wilkey Penny Scown IMG 3730-295

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 only 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



for  Storylines e-news and updates
First Name*
Last Name*
In order to assist us in reducing spam, please type the characters you see:


Storylines welcomes your support for all its activities and events. Whether as a volunteer or sponsor for annual events or specific activities, your support (large or small) towards helping young New Zealanders love books is greatly appreciated.