(1936-2012) New Zealand writer, especially prolific in her earlier career for younger children, beginning with The Dragon of an Ordinary Family (1969 US); there have been at least 30 more, including several collections: A Lion in the Meadow (coll 1969 US; exp vt A Lion in the Meadow and Five Other Favourites 1976 UK), Leaf Magic (coll 1976 UK), The Great Chewing-Gum Rescue and Other Stories (coll 1982 UK), The Downhill Crocodile Whizz and Other Stories (coll 1986 UK), Mahy Magic (coll 1986 UK; vt The Boy who Bounced and Other Magic Tales 1988) and a compilation, The Girl with the Green Ear: Stories About Magic in Nature (coll 1992 US). Her short work is sometimes reminiscent of Joan Aiken. Fantasies for younger children include The Man whose Mother Was a Pirate (1972 UK) and The Boy who Was Followed Home (1977), the followers being an increasing number of hippopotamuses.
MM is of greatest fantasy interest for her YA novels, usually centring on large families under stress. In The Haunting (1982 UK) a young boy is haunted by his Wizard uncle, who seems to have selected him as successor; but in fact the new wizard turns out to be a girl. It won a Carnegie Medal, as did The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance (1984 UK), in which another family is disrupted by the coming into power of a member of the younger generation; in this case, a young woman becomes a Witch through encounters with a young male witch to whom she is attracted, and saves her brother from an evil witch who is sucking his lifeforce. In The Tricksters (1986) a family is threatened by what seem the Ghosts of previous owners of their summer home. In Dangerous Spaces (1991 UK) two adolescent girls are drawn into a supernatural world.
MM's subject matter is relatively limited, but the swift fluent vivacity of her style, and the engrossing accuracy of her portraits of adolescents, makes her remarkable. [JC]
other works: The Catalogue of the Universe (1985 UK), associational, about Tycho Brahe (1546-1601); Aliens in the Family (1986), sf; The Greatest Show Off Earth (1994 UK), sf.
Margaret May Mahy