Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Storylines Betty Gilderdale Award ceremony

Monday 21st November at Turnbull House, Wellington

This award honours Betty Gilderdale, a lifelong advocate and supporter of children’s literature, and is for outstanding long-term service to the genre of books for children and young adults. Previous winners have included Dorothy Butler, Elsie Locke, Graham Beattie, Ray Richards, Dame Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira and Dr Glyn Strange. The recipients for 2011are John and Ruth McIntyre, owners of The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie, Wellington.

The award ceremony featured a wide range of family and friends, writers, reviewers, booksellers, publishers and enthusiasts for children’s books. Maureen Crisp, Convenor of the WCBA (Wellington Children’s Book Association), read out congratulatory messages from others who were unable to be there, including Barbara and Chris Else, Sheila Sinclair (from The Children’s Bookshop in Christchurch), Lincoln Gould (CEO Booksellers), Kate De Goldi, Mandy Hager, Johanna Knox – and Betty Gilderdale herself.

As part of the award presentation, the recipient delivers a speech, known as the Spring Lecture. John and Ruth gave their speech together, describing how they had started out in business 20 years ago, so green that they had to phone the publishers to ask what the margin on books was, so inexperienced that (as they later heard) the local reps were betting on how long they would last, and so hardworking that their children “only realised the working week wasn’t 50 hours when they got jobs of their own.”  

John said they were astonished to win the award, having had “absolutely no idea” that they had been nominated for it – “and we usually pride ourselves on knowing what’s going on!” He and Ruth paid tribute to their family, their staff, school librarians and those from the National Library, and their colleagues in other indie bookshops around the country who sponsor events, support local authors and provide an intellectual and cultural hub in the community. 

They also mentioned their loyal customers, who made a point of buying each new Harry Potter volume from them despite cost cutting from the major chains, and continue to show their support in the face of competition from offshore websites.

John’s description of their role as “just retailers” (“all we’ve ever aimed for is to be considered good booksellers – or maybe really good booksellers) was countered by Libby Limbrick of the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust, who praised them as “booksellers with passion and heart.”

John and Ruth McIntyre’s speech will be published in the Storylines year book. For more information about Storylines and the Betty Gilderdale award, go to

- Philippa Werry

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