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Patricia Wrightson, Australian children's author, dies at 88

CANBERRA, Australia - Patricia Wrightson, the internationally acclaimed Australian children's author who attracted praise - and then criticism - for entwining Aboriginal mythology into her writing, has died at age 88.

In 1986, Wrightson was awarded the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Medal - the highest accolade for a writer of children's fiction - given by the Swiss-based International Board on Books for Young People for an author's body of work.

She died of natural causes March 15 in northern New South Wales state several days after being hospitalized, her son Peter Wrightson said yesterday.

Federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett described Wrightson as a talented and prolific writer who would continue to inspire new generations of readers.

Maurice Saxby, author of "History of Australian Children's Literature," described Wrightson and Ivan Southall, who died in 2008, as the pioneers of modern Australian children's literature.

"Her contribution was immense," he said.

Saxby and publisher Mark Macleod said Wrightson's use of Aboriginal mythology and folklore in her fantasy stories became more prone in recent decades to be branded exploitation and misappropriation of Aboriginal culture.

Peter Wrightson said his mother was always careful to avoid legends that were regarded by Aborigines as sacred or secret.

"Things have changed now, but at the time, a lot of Aboriginal leaders were saying keep doing it because she treated Aboriginal culture with respect," he said.

- AP

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