“A landmark title which will stand the test of time” has been crowned the country’s best book for young readers. Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story by Christchurch writer and illustrator Gavin Bishop received the top honour at the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, announced tonight at an exuberant event at Te Papa in Wellington.

The judges describe it as a book for every home, school and library, which can be read and re-read by all ages.

“It’s masterful in its execution – a work of art that bears repeated and thoughtful reading and viewing of its vibrant and informative illustrations, a book of enduring significance in the canon of New Zealand children’s literature. We’ve seen nothing quite like it in New Zealand children’s publishing,” says convener of judges Jeannie Skinner.

As well as winning the coveted Margaret Mahy Book of the Year prize, Aotearoa also won the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction. The judges described this category as particularly strong and the most challenging to whittle down to a shortlist of finalists.

Six other significant awards were also presented at the ceremony, held in Te Papa’s atmospheric Te Marae and attended by the country’s top children’s authors, illustrators, translators and publishers.

A book for all the unsung small heroes, I Am Jellyfish, written and illustrated by Ruth Paul, won the Picture Book Award. A humour-filled tale of small but mighty, its attention to detail impressed the judges.

In a surprising twist, the winner of both the junior and young adult fiction awards were one and the same person. Bren MacDibble’s How to Bee won the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction. The book describes a dystopian future without bees, where children perform the essential task of pollination. The judges said it was a tale to fire young readers with awareness and courage for the future.

MacDibble also claimed the Copyright Licensing Award for Young Adult Fiction with In the Dark Spaces, written under the pseudonym Cally Black. This high-concept science fiction novel was cited as “an impressive tale of world class calibre”.

A graphic novel was judged the most worthy winner of the Russell Clark Award for Illustration. Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts, written and illustrated by Craig Phillips, brings 10 fantastical stories from mythology and fairy tales to life in superb graphic style, providing “a freshness to the familiar, and delight to the previously unknown” with masterful execution.

The judges noted the strong showing of the Best First Book Award finalists this year and commended the debut authors and their publishers for tackling challenging but important issues for teen readers. The winner was My New Zealand Story: Dawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith, which although historical in setting, has a message the judges felt to be hugely relevant in today’s geopolitical climate with its debates about immigration.

The Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in te reo Māori was awarded to Tu Meke Tūī! by Malcolm Clarke, translated by Evelyn Tobin and illustrated by FLOX (aka Hayley King). The panel of judges convened by Te Rōpū Whakahau particularly praised the expertise of translator Evelyn Tobin, who they said captured the breath and spirit of the story skilfully, locating it within a Māori viewpoint.

An integral part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is the HELL Reading Challenge, which is reaching record new heights in its fifth year. The programme encourages children to read all the finalists’ titles through their schools or local library and rewards them with free pizza. So far this year, more than 260,000 pizza reading wheels have been distributed to over 600 schools and 194 libraries.

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are a unique celebration of the contribution that New Zealand’s children’s authors and illustrators make to building national identity and cultural heritage. The awards are made possible through the generosity, commitment and vision of funders and sponsors: Creative New Zealand, HELL Pizza, the Wright Family Foundation, Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd, Copyright Licensing NZ, LIANZA, Wellington City Council, Nielsen Book and Te Papa. They are administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.

The full list of winners for the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is:

Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award $7,500

Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story,Written and illustrated by Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House)

Picture Book Award $7,500

I Am Jellyfish,Written and illustrated by Ruth Paul (Penguin Random House)

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction $7500

How to Bee, by Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)

Copyright Licencing Award for Young Adult Fiction $7500

In the Dark Spaces, by Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction $7500

Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, Written and illustrated by Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House)

Russell Clark Award for Illustration $7500

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts Written and illustrated by Craig Phillips (Allen & Unwin)

Best First Book Award $2000

My New Zealand Story: Dawn Raid, by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith (Scholastic New Zealand)

Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in te reo Māori $7500

Tu Meke Tūī!, by Malcolm Clarke, translated Evelyn Tobin, illustrated by FLOX (aka Hayley King) (Mary Egan Publishing)