The Children’s Book Council (CBC) of Australia shortlist (http://cbca.org.au/ShortList.htm ) has been announced for 2010 and once again it does not reflect the quality kids’ books that are published in Australia. The are some fantastic children’s books being written and published in Australia at the moment and rather than showcasing this talent the CBC has released a shortlist aimed more at adults showing off their degrees than getting kids reading good books.
I am not saying the books on the shortlist aren’t good kids’ books, far from it. There are at least two books in each category that are brilliant children’s books and worthy of recognition. My problem is that the overall list ignores some great books and that this award has a track record of ignoring books and authors deemed ‘popular’. Why if a book is well-written and bought and read by thousands of children is it not award worthy? I would have thought a book like that should definitely win an award. What is the point of a well-written children’s book if it bores its audience? Morris Gleitzman used to be perennially ignored by this award. In the last few years his books have started being recognized on the shortlist. Sadly he seems to have slipped back into the ‘too popular’ category as GRACE didn’t even make the notables list this year.
It was very interesting to see the notables list this year (http://cbca.org.au/Notables10.htm ) to see which books came close to the shortlist and also to confirm which books were completely and utterly ignored. Although I am confused about Scott Westerfeld’s LEVIATHAN being considered for the award. It’s a great book but Scott is an American citizen. I know he is married to an Australian and spends 6 months a year here, but he is NOT an Australian author. Other notables I would have loved to see shortlisted were BEATLE MEETS DESTINY, THE REMARKABLE SECRET OF AURELIE BONHOFFEN, CICADA SUMMER and AUDREY’S BIG SECRET.
Still there were some great books that didn’t even make the notable list. Two of my favourite Australian picture books of last year; DUCK by Janet Holmes illus. Jonathan Bently and WANTED: THE PERFECT PET by Fiona Robertson; were left of the list. Our senior children’s bookseller at Pages & Pages was disappointed JASPER MCFLEA WILL NOT EAT HIS TEA or PRINCESS AND THE PACKET OF FROZEN PEAS were not there either.
As with novels I have already mentioned GRACE but we were all disappointed Richard Newsome’s THE BILLIONAIRE’S CURSE wasn’t on the shortlist. Is this because Text Publishing has started a competing prize? Sonya Hartnett’s BUTTERFLY wasn’t there but I suspect that was because Penguin classified it as adult fiction. We also thought SURF ACHE by Gerry Bobsein and DON’T BREATHE A WORD by Marianne Musgrove should have been recognized.
There is politics in every award but I have a fundamental problem with a children’s book award that completely ignores what children want to read.