The finalists in the 10th annual New Zealand Post Book Awards for children's writing were announced today, with organisers declaring the influence of political correctness on subject and content matter was over.
Judging panel convenor Julie Harper said all the finalists had demonstrated a pride in New Zealand and its heritage, from the natural world to the country's recent history.
Ms Harper said fellow judges - TV3's Carol Hirschfeld and writer Graeme Lay - had spent the summer reading books written by New Zealand authors which included tales of cannibalism, Maori land and environmental issues and smart young characters taking on international corporations.
"The age of political correctness is over with our children's writers becoming more confident in writing about - in particular - issues related to race and Maori land."
The finalists were selected from more than 120 children's books published in New Zealand in 2005 and submitted for the awards. The winners will be announced on May 17.
Once more with feeling: "The age of political correctness is over".
What's that mean?
That shrinking violets such as Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley and David Hill have been in previous years too timid to tackle issues affecting young people in New Zealand?
A similar claim from Linda Kelly about "whitewashing" in publishing in a recent NZ Author was greeted with a fiery response by authors such as the redoubtable Tessa Duder, who wrote: "the extravagant, unsubstantiated claims made in this piece could be easily be refuted by any author, publisher, bookseller, librarian or teacher with a working knowledge of just what is being currently published here and elsewhere."
I'll have to do some more thinking and talking to understand what's going on here.
In the meantime, here are the fiction finalists:
Hunter, by Joy Cowley (Puffin)
Maddigan's Fantasia, by Margaret Mahy (HarperCollins Publishers)
My Story: Chinatown Girl - The Diary of Silvey Chan, Auckland, 1942, by Eva Wong Ng (Scholastic NZ)
Sil, by Jill Harris (Longacre Press)
Super Freak, by Brian Falkner (Mallinson Rendel)
Deep Fried, by Bernard Beckett and Clare Knighton (Longacre Press)
Kaitangata Twitch, by Margaret Mahy (Allen & Unwin)
Running Hot, by David Hill (Mallinson Rendel)
The Unknown Zone, by Phil Smith (Random House New Zealand)
With Lots of Love from Georgia, by Brigid Lowry (Allen & Unwin)