| New Zealand News | Monday July 23 2012 22:42
Acclaimed children's writer Margaret Mahy has died.
Former bookseller and publisher Graham Beattie says Margaret Mahy has been unwell for some months and died this afternoon following a short illness
The 76-year-old children's writer was born in Whakatane in 1936, and wrote her first story at the age of seven.
Her book A Lion in the Meadow, published in 1969, launched her global career and she became a full time writer in 1980.
Margaret Mahy won numerous awards for her books, and honours for her contribution to New Zealand and children's literature.
Mr Beattie says Mahy is one of the world's most treasured authors in children's literature having won many awards including the Hans Christian Andersen award in 2006 which recognizes the world's best in children's literature.
He says the news will come as a huge sadness to New Zealand childen and adults who have enjoyed her work over the last 40 years.
New Zealand teenage fiction writer Fleur Beale, who this year won the Margaret Mahy Medal, says she was such a bubbly and bright person who loved helping people, especially children.
"She was so generous and I think that was part of the reason her health failed her because she never said no to anybody and just gave and gave and gave," she told Newstalk ZB's Kerre Woodham.
Ms Beale says Margaret Mahy got such enjoyment out of children reading and loving her books.
The Governor General has described Margaret Mahy's contribution to New Zealand as legendary.
Mahy was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in 1993.
Sir Jerry Mateparae says her stories have captured imaginations both at home, and abroad, and will continue to do that for many years to come.
The high school Margaret Mahy went to will mark her death at their assembly today. She attended Whakatane High School between 1949 to 1952.
Current principal Chris Neilson says she came back to the school in November last year, and they dedicated their library to her.
"We looked at her school record and I think she'd been a little different at school, and so she hadn't become a school prefect so we presented her with a school prefects badge, and a set of rules from the early 1950s.
"She thought that was very amusing and put her badge on and wandered around the school."
Prime Minister John Key says the author was known throughout the world.
"Margaret Mahy will be sorely missed, she's been quite a prolific and hugely successful and well known New Zealand writer. I actually gave a Margaret Mahy book to David Cameron's children when I visited him earlier in the year.
"That's the regard with which the Government, and I think New Zealanders, held her works."
Photo: Margaret Mahy at the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards 2011 (NZ Herald)