Margaret Mahy

In a nation rich with creativity, few individuals have been as inspirational and successful as our most acclaimed children’s writer, Margaret Mahy ONZ. Her vast body of literary work is unmatched in New Zealand, and internationally she is considered one of the greatest writers for children and young people of her generation.

Issue information

Children around the world have grown up with the humour, fantasy and adventure of Margaret Mahy’s work since her first picture books were published in 1969. A true storyteller, Margaret Mahy had a magical way with words. She worked as a librarian for ten years before becoming a full-time writer, and her enticing stories have been consistently published for over 30 years in more than 15 languages.

Margaret Mahy (1936 – 2012) is the only author ever to have been appointed an Ordinary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (1993), and she won many of the world’s major prizes for children’s writers. In 2006 she won the highest international award for children’s literature – the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, and is the only New Zealander to have done so. In New Zealand she was awarded the Esther Glen Medal and the New Zealand Post Book of the Year Award multiple times.

The five stamps in this issue celebrate five of Margaret Mahy’s popular books, and are a charming tribute to her life and work.

70c - A Lion in the Meadow

A little boy tells his mother repeatedly that there is a "big, roaring, yellow, whiskery lion in the meadow!". His mother doesn't believe him, but pretends there is a dragon that will grow large and vanquish the lion. When the ‘made up’ lion rushes inside and a fire-breathing dragon is revealed outside, the mother is chastened and the little boy reproves her. This simple story - Margaret's first picture book - also powerfully suggests that imagination is just as important as reality, something that Margaret fervently believed.

$1.40 - A Summery Saturday Morning 

Margaret used a real incident – two dogs running from the geese they had just been chasing – to make this story rhyme. The simple verses were perfectly matched by illustrations from Margaret’s fellow Banks Peninsula resident, Selina Young. The sun-bleached hillsides of Lyttelton’s crater rim and the pale blue skies of a Canterbury summer morning were the first depictions in a Mahy picture book of a distinctive New Zealand landscape.

$1.90 - The Word Witch

This magical collection brought together an abundance of Margaret’s verses, written throughout her life. Alongside the pyrotechnical word play of 'Bubble Trouble' and 'Down the Back of the Chair' are quiet lyric poems, celebrations of nature’s small wonders, comic dramas, and moments of philosophic reflection.


$2.40 - The Great White Man-Eating Shark

The Great White Man-Eating Shark tells the hilarious story of Norvin the actor, who is plain and shark-like. Resentful of the other swimmers who obstruct his desire to "shoot through the water like a silver arrow", Norvin fashions a dorsal fin and creates merry havoc in the ocean. Our very human faults – envy, selfishness, revenge - are captured with playful language and wry sympathy.

$2.90 - The Changeover

This ‘supernatural romance’ details Laura Chant’s passage from childhood to young adult, from ordinary human to 20th century witch. In Margaret’s hands this suburban fairy story became a thrilling exploration of family relationships, a young girl’s erotic development, and the age-old battle between good and evil. The Changeover’s unique blend of magic and humour, suspense and philosophy won Margaret her second Carnegie Medal in 1984.

The first day covers and miniature sheet feature further illustrations from three of the books celebrated on the stamps - A Lion in the Meadow, The Great White Man-Eating Shark and The Word Witch. They are a beautiful accompaniment to the stamp issue and a lasting memento of Margaret Mahy’s work.

Celebrate Margaret’s marvellous stories

Kate De Goldi is an acclaimed New Zealand short story writer and author of young adult fiction and children’s books, and was a friend to Margaret Mahy. In the presentation pack she gives her unique perspective on Margaret Mahy’s life and passion for literature. 

Inside this unique four-panel presentation pack you’ll find a range of collectables including the full set of stamps, the first day cover and the miniature sheet, as well as a bibliography of Margaret Mahy’s published works. The pack is a must-have for anyone who grew up with Margaret Mahy’s stories, and is sure to please fans around the world.


New Zealand Post wishes to acknowledge the following for their assistance and guidance in bringing together this special stamp issue: Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy's family

Jenny Williams - A Lion in the Meadow
Selina Young - A Summery Saturday Morning
David Elliot - The Word Witch
Jonathan Allen - The Great White Man-Eating Shark
Bruce Hogarth - The Changeover

Orion Publishing Group (specifically Frances Wollen)
Hamish Hamilton

Sallyanne Sweeney - Watson Little (Margaret's agent)
Eoin Young (Selina Young's father)
Storylines Children's Literature Charitable Trust
Christchurch City Libraries 

Kate De Goldi - Presentation pack copy
Tessa Duder and HarperCollins - Margaret Mahy selected bibliography (drawn from Margaret Mahy: A Writer's Life (2012 edition)

Technical information


Date of issue: 13 March 2013
Number of stamps: Five gummed stamps
Stamps, miniature sheet, first day covers and presentation pack designed by: Tim Garman MSCD, Silver-i Design Associates, New Zealand
Denominations: 70c, $1.40, $1.90, $2.40 and $2.90
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print Ltd by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 40mm x 30mm (horizontal)
Paper type: 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 25
Perforation gauge: 13.25 x 13
Period of sale: Unless stocks are exhausted earlier, these stamps will remain on sale until 12 March 2014