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  • Published: 2 July 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775720
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $22.00

The Memory Thief

A magical, award-winning novel about a girl who wants to escape her memories and a troll who is desperately trying to remember his, from the acclaimed author of Conrad Cooper's Last Stand and The Impossible Boy

A lonely troll and a fierce, spiky girl form an unlikely alliance in Leonie Agnew's extraordinary novel for children aged 9 years and up.

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction 2022

Seth has been trapped behind the iron bars of the public gardens for as long as he can remember. By day he’s frozen as a statue of a shepherd boy, but as soon as the sun sets he roams the park, ravenously hungry. He is a troll, and the food he seeks is human memories.

Then he meets Stella. There’s something so different about her — Seth doesn’t want her memories. He simply wants to talk to her. But there’s someone else in the garden who sees Stella as a threat...and a meal.

Captivating, spine-tingling and surprising, this is a novel that holds you spellbound. What is Stella trying to forget? What are the memories that Seth is piecing together? And will he ever escape the lonely garden and start truly living?

  • Published: 2 July 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775720
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $22.00

About the authors

Leonie Agnew

Leonie Agnew may or may not be living in South America with a poodle named Juan. She informs us that her days are spent drinking sangrias and teaching Juan how to bark in Spanish, while trading sombreros on the black market via her iPad. However, our sources have located her in Auckland, New Zealand. They claim she is an award-winning children's author, a former copywriter, and currently moonlights as a primary school teacher. It is possible she has a tendency to make things up. This is called lying, unless you write it down – then it is pleasantly referred to as being an author.

Kieran Rynhart

Kieran Rynhart is a freelance illustrator who was selected as one of Luerzers Archive Best 200 Illustrators Worldwide for 2010–2011. He creates his beautiful, distinctive and evocative images using a mixture of traditional and digital techniques, and works on a wide range of commissions from children’s picture books to commercial graphics and music videos. He is the illustrator of The New Zealand Art Activity Book by Helen Lloyd (Te Papa, 2013), If I Was a Banana by Alexandra Tylee (Gecko, 2016) and Seagull, Seagull by James K Baxter (Gecko, 2020). He lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Praise for The Memory Thief

All Stella wants is to leave her memories behind, while Seth is desperately trying to remember his. These two characters are so vividly developed that they leap off the page, and readers will find themselves empathising especially with narrator Seth, who fights against his troll instinct to devour human memories, to instead offer Stella kindness and companionship through a difficult time. Their improbable allegiance is delicately constructed and wonderfully heartwarming ... and ultimately full of hope and redemption. The language is rich yet accessible, making it perfect for middle-grade readers at all levels who like to get swept away with a story. Coupled with enchanting illustrations by Kieran Rynhart, this story is sure to be cherished by young fantasy fans.

Karys McEwen, Books + Publishing

A beautiful examination of what makes you human and the power of sharing stories.

Sarah Forster, The Sapling

From its eye-catching cover to the final conclusion, The Memory Thief is a stunning story that captures the reader early and holds them in an embrace of wonder, intrigue and imagination. The judges all agreed on the skill and writing craft of the author, sharing an extra depth and quality of language in this novel. Unique but perfectly believable at the same time, The Memory Thief steps into another world whilst still inside our own. Memories themselves are both villains and heroes as they are taken or returned. The handling of a common illness, with its thought-provoking and original twist, is deftly handled and beautifully written.

Judges, New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

It’s a text that sticks with you after reading it. ... Agnew’s The Memory Thief solidifies her position as a writer of note in New Zealand.

Chris Reed, NZ Booklovers

This book speaks of the power of memory to shape and nourish us as human beings. To build strength and empathy...The Memory Thief is a terrific mix of racing-heart as you read, cool characters, plot tension, intriguing twists and turns, brain-feeding ideas …. and it is so sweetly written. Glorious.

Paula Green, Poetry Box

A finely-wrought and adventurous tale of knowing yourself, friendship and difficult choice.

Crissi Blair, Family Times

The Memory Thief is a mysterious book, to say the least, and the cover is magical! The author’s style of writing is easy to read and emotive... there are fun parts and then such sadness too. She uses beautifully descriptive language, so it is easy to build the scenarios in your head! The beautiful sketched illustrations add to the magic of the story.

HAELYN, 13, Green Bay School, Auckland, Upstart Magazine

Once you start reading you will not want to stop.

Bob Docherty, Bob's Book Blog

This book is up there for my Book of the Year.... I absolutely adored it from go to woah, and as I read I could picture it as a Tim Burton movie - dark, atmospheric, quirky, complex and utterly brilliant. ... This is not a simple story, with simple solutions. It requires depth of thought about some serious subjects... the nature of friendship, memories, sadness, dementia, death, bullying... and not everything is tied up neatly at the end (sequel?? Yes please!!)


Leonie Agnew has done it again, giving readers an imaginative, thought-provoking novel...Brilliant NZ Children's fiction


Seth is a troll. Not the ugly, warty, smelly type of troll, but a troll that looks just like a normal boy...Stella is not only different, she’s clever too. When she offers Seth a deal, he takes it, not knowing he will learn more about himself and the world beyond the park gates, than he’s ever known. Does he have a past and can he really trust himself around his new friend? The more I read, the more intrigued I became...Memories are important to us all, even the bad ones – but you’ll have to read The Memory Thief to learn why.

What Book Next?

Awards & recognition

Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award

Awarded  •  2021  •  A Storylines Notable Book

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Winner  •  2022  •  Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

Discover more

Real Readers Review: The Memory Thief

Former British children's laureate, Chris Riddell, has said The Memory Thief is "Intriguing, exciting, everything about this story captured my imagination." But what do our Puffin Ambassadors think? Read on to find out!