RIP Margaret Mahy

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Margaret Mahy this week. She wrote a large number of books for both children and teenagers but the one that will always stick in my mind is “The Pirate Uncle” a story I read to my son when he was around five years old. We had great problems with him sleeping or to be more accurate not sleeping. Even as a tiny baby he would wake often but by the time he was four or five he would go off to bed at a reasonable hour, play in his room and fall asleep around midnight then be wide awake and ready for action by around five o’clock. My husband liked his sleep and would become very annoyed by being woken so it was my job to keep the small boy quiet and out of trouble. We played games -quiet ones- even the sound of Duplo bricks being scrabbled through could elicit a furious father’s wrath so the games had to be with soft toys. We drew and painted pictures and I read to him. He loved books so reading to him was always a pleasure but “The Pirate Uncle” was a particular favourite. I bought the book early one summer, probably in May or June and as the weather was particularly sunny P and I used to sneak into the garden to read as the sun rose. We would take a blanket to sit on and some fruit for an early breakfast picnic and imagine ourselves far away in New Zealand having pirate adventures. We planned voyages and drew maps and, once Daddy was safely off to work, had noisy pirate picnics and climbed the rigging (ropes tied to his climbing frame) and looked out to “sea” for other ships. P’s love of reading stems from the Margaret Mahy books, once we finished “The Pirate Uncle” he asked for other books and we rapidly read through most of the selection of Margaret Mahy books in the library. Somewhere I have a lovely photo of him lying on the carpet beside a pile of books which he’d just brought home from the library already deep into the first one he’d opened. As he grew older I used the Margaret Mahy books I’d bought, at school to read to small children who needed a bit of quiet time with an adult – one little boy who found it very difficult to come into school each day found the transition between home and school easier if he knew he had a chapter to look forward to. That little boy is now a young man soon to go off to college and recently told me that he still remembers  listening to “The Great Piratical Rumbustification” and “Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles” and feeling a calming wave wash over him as he became involved in the stories until he felt ready to sit with the rest of the class and begin his day at school.