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Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Children's book author Margaret Mahy still had plans for one or two books when she died, her daughter Penny Mahy says.
One of New Zealand's most beloved writers, Mahy died in Christchurch yesterday after being diagnosed with cancer in April. She was 76.
Penny and her sister Bridget, were at their mother's side when she died at the Nurse Maude Hospice in St Albans just after 3pm.
"It was very special," Penny Mahy said.
"We’re all in shock. Despite the fact we’ve known it was inevitable, it’s still a shock when it actually happens. We’re trying to group together as a family.
"We’re hoping we’ll take a lot of comfort in that."
Mahy was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour in her jaw in April and was admitted to the hospice ten days ago.
‘‘She was peaceful in the end,’’ her daughter said.
Penny Mahy, said her mother’s passing was a "double whammy", after the author’s younger brother Frank died unexpectedly on Saturday.
She had "one or two [books] in the pipeline" when she died.
"She just had such an enormous output.
"Even in her last few months when she was suffering and in a bit of pain she would say 'oh, that could be an idea for a story'. Even in her last weeks she still had an eye for a story. It was so much part of her and central to who she was."
The family received copies of one of Mahy’s final works, The Man from the Land of Fandango, last week.
Penny Mahy described her mother as "quite eccentric".
"She was a weirdo at school. She used to have a lot of fantasies.
"I think it did sort of mark her as being a bit special."
Award-winning author and literary professor Bill Manhire said the literary community would mourn Mahy’s passing for some time.
‘‘I think she was loved at the same level that Sir Edmund Hillary was. She’s right up there as one of the great icons of New Zealand.’’
Her imagination set her apart from her peers, both at home and overseas, Manhire said.
Mahy was a bigger name internationally than many people realised and would not look out of place on the same pedestal as famous authors Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame, he said.
‘‘I think people will mourn Margaret’s death but at the same time they will celebrate her work. So she’s not going to die at all really, she’ll live forever.’
Fellow author Steve Evans said his friend "had a great feeling for people".
"She was outside the box.
"I knew her back when she was working at Canterbury Public Library.
‘‘She was just wonderful with children. She had this gift. She would read them stories and later she would put on this crazy wig.
Literary blogger Graham Beattie called her one of New Zealand's greatest-ever writers.
"I put her up there with Katherine Mansfield," he said.
Mahy wrote more than 200 books and poems and won many prestigious children’s book awards, including the Carnegie Medal, and was the only New Zealander to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Award.
Last year she won the New Zealand Post Children's Book of the Year award for The Moon & Farmer McPhee with Dunedin illustrator David Elliot.
Mahy was made a member of the Order of New Zealand - the highest of the country’s honours and open to only 20 living people at one time - in 1993.
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