I remember when I was in infant school, my mum was part of the parents’ volunteer group who ran the Infants Library. It was my mum who first drew my attention to the Children’s Book Council Awards for Australian writers and illustrators. In the make-shift library (doubling as our bag and raincoat locker room! Horror.), she would line the Short Listed books up with their beautiful stickers announcing their award and we would all pour over them during the following months and have a bit of a private vote on which one should win; a personal referendum if you like. When the announcements were made in August, we would see who picked the winner and then we would make the agonizing decision; would I buy the copy of the book that won or the book I thought should have won? It was a wonderful way of engaging us in books and I continue this tradition, resulting in a gorgeous collection of picture books which I have shared with children that I have babysat, nieces, nephews, my own children, the audience when I give book talks, and with my book group. It was probably this love and respect for picture books that earned me a winning entry in a children’s book award from a local bookshop when I was in high school and various children’s book projects I decided to focus on and design at university.
It was in 1945 in Sydney that a number of American librarians got together with the idea of celebrating Australian children’s books. It was just after WWII at a time when children’s books were few and Australian authors and illustrators were virtually unknown. That was the beginning of The Children’s Book Council of Australia and it became a national not-for-profit organization in 1958. The aims of the CBCA are to celebrate and encourage Australian authors and illustrators and to enhance children’s literacy skills. The CBCA now has eight branches and members of CBCA support the industry, authors and illustrators, attend meetings and receive discounts on publications and events.
In 1946 the first CBCA Book Award was given. These awards are now the most influential children’s book awards in Australia. Up to 476 entries are received each year for the five categories (Early Childhood, OIder Readers, Younger Readers, Eve Pownall Award for Information Books and Picture Book). The Notables List (or the long list) was announced in April this year, the Short List is announced in May and then the announcement of Winner and Honour books is in August each year. Judging these book awards would be my kind of heaven. The Short List is guaranteed to be republished and publishers buy stickers to put on reprints of their winning book. Prizes for winning and honour books in each category total $10,000. The prizes are privately-funded by the CBCA Awards Foundation which was set up in 1996 by the now-Deputy Chairman of the CBCA National Board. In 2016 the CBCA celebrates 70 years of the Children’s Book of the Year Awards.
Another prestigious role of the winner of the Picture Book category is to design the graphics of the Book Week merchandise for the second year after. So the 2016 Book Week merchandise is designed by the 2014 winner, Shaun Tan and the 2017 merchandise will be designed by the 2015 winner, Freya Blackwood. Goody.
The Nan Chauncy Award is awarded every two years for services to Australian children’s literature. It is named after the award-winning Tasmanian author and the recipient is presented in a beautiful box made of Tasmanian timbers. There is also the CBCA Distinguished Services for a person who has served the CBCA, the Lady Cutler Award (Lady Cutler being the Patron of CBCA NSW branch) for services to children’s books in NSW and the one-off Lifetime Achievement Award will be given by the Governor General this year.
Highlights so far for the CBCA for the Deputy Chairman of the CBCA National Board are the world-class conferences held every two years which are a ‘roaring success. They are fabulous showcases of everyone’s talent in Australia; both for the superstars and the newcomers. It’s diverse’. The 12th National Conference held in Sydney in 2016 included speakers Jeannie Baker, Graeme Base, Libby Gleeson, Claire Saxby and Carole Wilkinson. Guest speaker for the dinner was radio personality James Valentine and there was a silent auction of original artworks by illustrators Pamela Allen, the late Kim Gamble and Stephen Michael King.
So much to look forward to from the world of children’s books and the CBCA are ready to celebrate it all. Look out for the CBCA Awards on 19th August, 2016. Have you picked your winner from the Short List yet?