Sunday, August 17, 2008

Children's Book Council Awards 2008

As I mentioned in my last post, it's Children's Book Week in Australia from 16th-22nd August. The winners and honour books were announced yesterday and are a remarkable set. This year's awards (I suspect) will be marked by controversy, mostly focussed around Matt Ottley's Book that I look at later in the post. In this post I've focussed just on the winners and will return to the full list later.

Older Readers Sonya Hartnett, The Ghost's Child

The Ghost's Child is a highly evocative and poetic story about an old lady who is visited by a young boy, the child of a ghost, and a ghostly child at the same time. The story then takes shape as Hartnett tells of the growth of the old woman from a girl to a woman and the fruitless love she has for a strange young man.
You can read a recent review in the Age here.

Younger Readers Carole Wilkinson, Dragon Moon

Dragon Moon
, is the third and final book in Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper trilogy. In the first book, Dragonkeeper, a slave girl saves the life of an ageing dragon and escapes her brutal master. Pursued by a ruthless dragon hunter, the girl and the dragon make an epic journey across China carrying a mysterious stone that must be protected.

In the sequel to Dragonkeeper, Garden of the Purple Dragon, Ping hides from her enemies in the shadow of the Tai Shan mountains where she struggles to care for Kai, the baby dragon for who she has become responsible. In Dragon Moon Ping and Kai have travelled far but find that their journey is not yet over. Danger stalks them. Ping must find Kai a safe place. But how will she do this?

Early Childhood Aaron Blabey, Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley

This is a book about friendship and relationships; Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley are the best of friends, but they are different in almost every way. Pearl likes solving mysteries and moves rather fast in the world; Charlie likes taking baths and watching his garden grow. So how can Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley be such good friends?

UPDATE: Since writing this post on the awards I have written a detailed post on Aaron Blabey and his work (here)

Picture Books Matt Ottley, Requiem for a Beast

Warning! This is a large-format hardcover illustrated book that from the cover looks like a picture book; but don’t be deceived! Requiem for a Beast is really a ‘novel’ for young adults and adults and comes with a warning about adult language and themes. Which might well lead you to ask, should it have been judged in this category of the awards. But it’s not the first book like this that is hard to classify. Take for example, The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman by Raymond Briggs, a political satire about the Falklands war.

This book will cause quite a stir. The language alone is hardly what you'd expect to find in a children's book (because it's not one anyway). This is a complex text about the stolen generation. I'll do a post on it later but you can read a review of the beginnings of the controversy

The publishers bill Ottley’s book as a graphic novel. It is a unique blend of word, illustration and even music (it has an accompanying CD) in a combination that is hard to describe in words.
The text explores different stories – a young man working on an outback station coming face to face with a rogue bull, the story of his childhood, and the stories of dispossessed Aboriginal people. This is the classic multimodal text - the postmodern novel! What is amazing is that this is all the work of one man, Matt Ottley. Matt Ottley is an author, artist and composer. He is creator of such highly acclaimed works as What Faust saw, Mrs Millie's Painting and the award winning collaboration with Nadia Wheatley, Luke's Way of Looking.

Ottley’s varied colour illustrations, use oil on canvas, oil on paper and coloured pencil include and varied use of text and image in combination. This is a remarkable work that will create lots of discussion for many varied reasons.

The book is currently out of print, but I'm sure that this won't last too long!

UPDATE: Since writing this review of the major awards I have written a detailed review of this book (here).

Eve Powell Award (Non-fiction) Frances Watts, Illustrated by David Legge, Parsley Rabbit's Book about Books

This is fast moving and entertaining book that will work for any child under 5. It is a book about books! It is centred on a clever and handsome rabbit and uses a variety of styles and formats to amuse, entertain and surprise the child as they are introduced to concepts about print and books. There are flaps to flip and questions to ask and answer. Parsley effectively introduces children to books by taking them on a journey through the world of books. You can read a review here.

The full list

You can see the full list of honour books as well as the winners on the
CBC site.

Don't forget to check out your local library to see if they have any special event planned (e.g. storytelling sessions, displays etc). If you are a parent try to do something special to mark the fact that it is Book Week.
As well, don't forget that the CBC also published a list of over 100 books judged to deserve recognition - Notable Australian Children's Books. This list of course includes the award winners. The original shortlist of books from which the winners were chosen can be found here.

Angie Schiavone has an interesting piece in today's (16-17 August 2008) Sydney Morning Herald (no online version) that discusses the challenges of classifying children's literature.


Sharon B said...

I think part of the problem with the "Picture Book of the Year Award" is that the CBCA use it as an umbrella term to cover a wide range of books that don't necessarily belong in the same category.

The term "graphic novel" has been around for quite a number of years, and works perfectly well to deliver the simple message: "this book uses pictures to tell the story, but is not a children's story book", yet, for some reason, the CBCA doesn't have a separate category for graphic novels.

Perhaps they don't think Australian authors/artists produce enough graphic novels to warrant creating a separate category, but it seems to me that a number of the short-listed "picture books" over the last few years could be more accurately described as "graphic novels" - including last year's winner, Shaun Tan's The Arrival.

It also seems to me that having the graphic novels (which tend to have a level of sophistication one would expect for works aimed at an older audience) lumped in with all of the other picture books (which actually are produced for children) is a bit unfair. It's like asking every boy in school to compete in the same race, rather than giving them the chance to compete only against their peers.

I think the CBCA needs to think about revising the catagories for next year. It could make a world of difference.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for your comment Sharon. I agree with your comment. The term "graphic novel" which I mentioned in my post on comics is one possible solution. The problem would be (as you mention) do we have enough examples to warrant an award? I guess they could simply award it when we have a good one. I'm doing a full review on 'Requiem for a Beast' which will be up by the weekend.