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Storylines Joy Cowley Award


The Storylines Joy Cowley Award  was established in 2002 when Storylines contacted Scholastic New Zealand, one of Joy's publishers, asking them to join with Storylines in creating an award that would recognise the exceptional contribution Joy Cowley has made to children’s literature and literacy in New Zealand and internationally.

The Storylines Joy Cowley Award for an original picture book text, in partnership with Scholastic NZ, is open to all New Zealand writers who meet the eligibility criteria as stated on the entry form and is made annually, when merited.

There is a monetary prize of $1500 from Scholastic New Zealand, and an offer of publication.
Storylines Joy Cowley Award copy-844
The aim of the award is to foster the publication of excellent picture books by writers permanently resident in New Zealand.

The award is open to all New Zealand writers who meet the eligibility criteria as stated on the entry form. Read the entry form and guidelines.

Winning this award has launched the careers of some of New Zealand’s best-loved authors, including Kyle Mewburn and Lucy Davey. Two of the most successful title to date is Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! by Kyle Mewburn, published in New Zealand, Australia, the USA and South Korea (translated into Korean) and Elaine Bickell's The Little Ghost who Lost her Boo!, published in New Zealand, Australia and the USA.

Scholastic has produced a poster celebrating previous Storylines Joy Cowley Award winners.

A full list of winners is at the bottom of this page. Details of recent winners can be found here.

Joy Cowley 2018-699
Judging and deadlines
The judging panel is made up of representatives from Storylines and Scholastic New Zealand. All the judges read every manuscript carefully and make comments on the strongest. They then meet and debate their preferences. The judges usually end up reading the stories out loud to each other, as this helps understanding of the story, and highlights any failings in the structure.

Award entries close on 31 October each year. The award winner is announced in April and the published book launched the following year.

Some notes on judging and tips for new writers

Storylines and Scholastic are committed to ensuring the quality and success of the award-winning manuscript on publication, and there have been two occasions when no award was made.
If you are intending submitting a picture book text for the Storylines Joy Cowley Award, Storylines strongly advises that you write it in prose, and put aside ambitions to write in rhymed verse.
“Rhyme is difficult,” Joy Cowley says in her how-to book Writing from the Heart, ”and must be done well. It needs natural language and rhythm, and must scan."
Many of the texts submitted for the award in recent years have been in rhyming verse, but have not met Joy’s criteria. Each year the judges report their disappointment that good ideas are spoiled by imperfect, hard-to-read verse, rather than simple, clear prose.
You can read further advice from Joy on this topic here.
Award-winning author Melinda Szymanik,  a successful picture book writer and a previous judge of the Storylines Joy Cowley Award, has compiled a useful set of tips for new writers. Read these here.


  • The award is open to all New Zealand writers who meet the eligibility criteria as stated on the entry form.
  • Previous winners are not eligible.
  • The manuscript submitted must not have been published in either digital or print format for trade (i.e. sold through physical or online bookstores) or for educational purposes (such as school readers), or be in the process of publication in any format.

Making a Submission:

  • The manuscript, of no more than 1000 words, must be for a picture book for children two to seven years, suitable for publication in book format.
  • Do not include illustrations. If you feel illustrations are essential in order to convey your story then include a brief description of the image content, sufficient to achieve the level of understanding you believe is needed.
  • Manuscripts, with accompanying form (which you can find here) and fee payment should be sent to Tina Collins, Storylines Awards administrator (refer to the entry form for instructions), and must be postmarked no later than 31 October each year.

Entry form and checklist:

You can make an electronic payment for your entry here.
NB: Members must be logged into the website to access the Members discounted entry fee.


Recipients of the Storylines Joy Cowley Award:
  • 2003: Julie Leibrich; manuscript published as The Biggest Number in the Universe
  • 2004: Jean Prior; manuscript published as The Waka
  • 2005: Kyle Mewburn; manuscript published as Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!
  • 2006: Moira Wairama; manuscript published as The Puppet Box
  • 2007: No award
  • 2008: Michelle Osment; manuscript published as Tiny Miss Dott and Her Dotty Umbrella
  • 2009: June Peka; manuscript published as Magpie Mischief
  • 2010: Lucy Davey; manuscript published as Out of Bed, Fred! August 2011
  • 2011: Sarah Johnson; manuscript published as Wooden Arms
  • 2012: Isaac Drought; manuscript published as Alphabet Squabble
  • 2013: Aimee McNaughton; manuscript published as I Can’t Imagine How That Happened
  • 2014: Emma Vere-Jones, manuscript published as Stan the Van Man
  • 2015: Joy H. Davidson, manuscript published as Witch's Cat Wanted, Apply Within
  • 2016: Sarah Grundy, manuscript titled 'The rare and endangered Archew', published as The Curious Ar-chew
  • 2017: No award
  • 2018: Elaine Bickell, manuscript published as The little ghost who lost her boo
  • 2019: Janelle Wilkey, manuscript titled 'Mrs Brook's Chook', published as Omeletta Hen
  • 2020: Tania Sickling, manuscript titled 'Grandpa versus Swing'
  • 2021: Kirsty Wadsworth, manuscript titled 'Īhaka, the Unexpected Visitor'
Storylines Joy Cowley Award copy-844



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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