David Elliot with the prize-winning book Snark. Photo supplied.Ashburton-born author/illustrator David Elliot has used his imaginative prowess to secure first prize at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
At an awards ceremony held in Wellington on Monday night, Elliot nabbed both the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award and the Russell Clark Award for Illustration.
His genre-bending book Snark: Being a true history of the expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock . . . and its tragic aftermath won the hearts of judges with its “clear wit” and “universal appeal to all ages”.
Elliot said the success came as a pleasant surprise, especially given that Snark is a “different kind of book”, with appeal to “certain kinds of kids”.
“It doesn’t really fit into a box,” he said.
“The publisher and I didn’t know how it would go … but we were patient and made the best book we could.”
He said he was pleased and very surprised for Snark to have won among a “strong field of wonderful children’s books”.
This year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults featured 32 finalists of varying styles and topics.
Elliot’s 220-page tale is described as a tumultuous romp through worlds, and is based around two 19th Century Lewis Carol poems – the Hunting of the Snark and Jabberwocky.
It also features illustrations and additional text by Elliot – the outcome of four years’ work and a research expedition to Oxford where the original poems were based.
Elliot said he was very grateful to Creative New Zealand for providing a grant for his research and to Otago University Press through which the book was published.
Whilst awarding him $15,000 in prize money, judges declared that Elliot’s efforts were an “outstanding contribution to children’s literature in this country.”
“The award is much deserved recognition for his captivating compositions,” said Hon Maggie Barry, Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage.
“David Elliot’s twist on Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poems is unique, and offers everything the reader could want – mystery, adventure and intrigue,” judging panel convenor Pam Jones said.
Elliot said he would advise anyone interested in children’s writing to keep up their passion, and remember that success doesn’t happen overnight.
“Take your imagination seriously,” he said.
“We’ve all got an imagination but we don’t always treasure it … Keep a notebook, turn your ideas into words, or if you’re illustration inclined, pictures. Keep up your enthusiasm.”
The Ashburton Art Gallery, who are custodians to Elliot’s collection of drawings, were also thrilled to hear the news of Elliot’s success.
An exhibition of Elliot’s drawings will be on display at the gallery from September 16, and planning is under way for a Snark exhibition next year.
David will also be in Ashburton for a talk on September 25, but for now it’s back to chipping away on his two upcoming books.
Snark is available at all good booksellers and online at www.otago.ac.nz/press/books/otago626607.html
By Katie Todd © The Ashburton Guardian - 17 August 2017