Wednesday, 1 April 2009

CBCA - My Girls are Kicking...


The Children's Book Council Awards shortlisted and notable lists were announced yesterday. These awards are the big kahuna in Australia in terms of all categories in children's literature.

Book of the Year: Older Readers Shortlist - 2009
CORNISH, D. M. - Monster Blood Tattoo Book Two: Lamplighter (Omnibus Books/Scholastic)
EATON, Anthony - Into White Silence (Woolshed Press / Random House)
FRENCH, Jackie - A Rose for the Anzac Boys (HarperCollins)
MARCHETTA, Melina - Finnikin of the Rock (Viking / Penguin)
MOLONEY, James - Kill the Possum
TAN, Shaun - Tales from Outer Suburbia (Allen & Unwin)

Book of the Year: Younger Readers Shortlist - 2009
BATESON, Catherine - The Wish Pony (Woolshed Press / Random House)
FUSSELL, Sandy - Polar Boy (Walker Books)
GLEITZMAN, Morris - Then (Viking / Penguin)
HARRIS, Christine Illus: JAMES, Ann - Audrey of the Outback (Little Hare Books)
MILLARD, GlendaIllus: KING, Stephen Michael - Perry Angel's Suitcase (ABC Books)
RODDA, Emily - The Wizard of Rondo (Omnibus Books)

I have had three of the nominated and notable authors on my site as blogging phenoms! Melina Marchetta's up for Finnikin of the Rock. She is continuing her history of being short listed in these awards. YAY MM!

Sandy Fussell, who you might remember from the Author Spotlight about her series, Samurai Kids, was shortlisted in the Younger Readers category. To which I say, congrats Sandy, you deserve it, mon ami!

Lastly, my friend Mo Johnson. She that shares her name with another prolific YA author, hence the 'Mo' - although there should be room for two Maureen Johnsons, shouldn't there? Mo was deemed 'notable' in the Older Reader's category for her debut novel, Boofheads. Boofheads has been the Aussie novel that has really grasped most of your attention here on PSnark so obviously the CBCA judging panel is somewhat in accord with us (she should be on the main list). Take a bow, Mrs J!

And now for some of my gripes:
I have felt, as a person in daily contact with the core audience (aka kids), that the awards have been a little wobbly in the last few years. Kids, more often than not, like the winner the least. (I am saying this from my experience in country and city schools.) While this may not be much of a factor in the novels that I have just listed, this is very much the case with the Picture Books.

I also think it's problematic that a core group of 4-6 judges decide the shortlist and winners for all categories:

  • Older Readers
  • Younger Reader
  • Early Childhood
  • Picture Books
  • Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
This just doesn't make sense at all. Or it it just me?

I read a lot of YA novels...a lot... but I don't pretend to know anything near to everything about them. I just don't recognise many of the books on the lists. I don't mean that the winner should be popular, although recognition would be nice, but there has to be a better way. It also means that I should be reading more...but I don't know how that is humanly possible.

It makes much more sense that five groups of 4-6 judges read everything produced for a specific category and decide. I am sitting here, typing away and I really have no right to complain.


I haven't joined the CBCA.

I don't know the people on the judging panel. They are from all states in Australia, which is great. But do they represent all age brackets? Do they represent the scope of Australian readers?

I just know that teachers, in staff rooms, have been complaining furiously over the Picture Book choices the last few years as the selections aren't in touch with the core audience. My point is - these awards are about books for kids - how many of them are actually liked by kids. Metaphors and social issues are great but if they fly over the heads of the core audience, are they really fitting the criteria of being the book of the year for writers of kid-centric work?

My sincerest congratulations to the ladies that are kicking butt on these lists. I love your work and am very glad they have been recognised. Crossing my fingers for a win.


judi said...

Glad you are joining CBCA Adele. The judging issue is being debated as we speak with a number of proposals on the table including your suggestion of a core group for each category. At present there is a judge from each state and territory (8 in all) who judge all categories except the Pownall which has its own judging panel. The terminology 'Picture Book' is problematic as we saw last year. Many people still think they are for little kids but the Early Childhood category takes care of that age group and the PBoTY can cross all ages. There are plenty of children's choice awards to take care of the popularity issue, but the CBCA awards are for something that shows literary merit beyond popularity. I'm told there is much furious debate at the judges meetings to decide which of more than 400 submitted titles should make the final cut. Somebody will always be disappointed including, I suspect, some of the judges who don't get a particular favourite over the line. It's a tough gig I think. James Roy is very disappointed today if you look at his blog

Adele said...

Judi, thank you for replying so quickly. I understand that popularity isn't considered important but I think there needs to be a bridge between literary merit and reader enjoyment. I think you are dead on about the label of Picture Books.

You are completely right about there always being someone disappointed and that judges will debate furiously over their picks. It is easy for me to question decisions from where I type. I haven't had to defend my picks to a group of others. But I think discussion would be more thorough if there were a panel devoted to one category.

However I read many Australian novels in a reviewing capacity so I am not completely without a sphere of reference. I work with teens so I know what they like, what they read and what they don't respond to.

In the end, literary merit is good but literary merit and kid/teen appeal is better!

H said...

It sounds like the judges are awarding literary merit above how much kids love them. And shouldn't it have something to do with popularity? How much kids are talking about the books?

judi said...

This debate occurred in the US late last year before the announcement of the 2008 Newbery Medal (won by Gaiman's wonderful Graveyard Book - both popular AND literary, as it happens). The same arguments are relevant here, I feel.
First, Anita Silvey in favour of popularity:

next, Erica Perl - go, Newbery!

Just change the names and the arguments pertain with the CBCA awards as arguably the most influential in this country. Of course the books should resonate with kids, but sometimes a book that has literary merit needs to be introduced, perhaps by their inclusion on such a list, then savoured. They might not necessarily be picked up off the shelf at first sight for many reasons. That's why I love literature circles a a way of really sharing the nuances of a good book. But, hey, I could be wrong and maybe Captain Underpants rules.

Purple Butterflies said...

Isn't just always the way that the "winners" of prestige awards always seem to be the stuff most people like the least. I say do people's awards like they do in movies and let the kids vote for what they like.

DW Golden
Soar with Fairies in a new young adult novel: Purple Butterflies

Anonymous said...

Sure it would be nice to make these lists on a regular basis and win a prize here and there (especially for financial reasons) but if you, as I said to a mate recently, relied on these lists to validate your creative existence you would have chucked it in years ago. Us sensitive types could easily spend our days wallowing around in self pity and never get anywhere.

judi said...

Probably need to clarify that I am speaking personally. I happen to be an ordinary member of CBCA but have not held any executive role and would certainly never dream of speaking on behalf of the organisation.

Misrule said...

I'd point out that nobody ever seriously suggested Dan Brown ought to win the Pulitzer. There are children's choice awards in every state in the country, How can we seriously hope to continue to argue for children's/youth literature be treated with respect by the "literati" if we secretly don't think they even deserve recognition for literary quality from within our own community?

Adele said...

Thanks to all those that have taken the time to add their two cents worth. I am not sure that I was all that clear in expressing my concerns over the CBCA. But I do want to say that it comes from a place of love. I can clearly remember seeing MM's Looking for Alibrandi with it's lovely gold seal, borrowing it from the Burra Community School library and having the world open up for me. The CBCA have brought many good books to my attention throughout school and beyond.

The picture book snafu is clearly me being oblivious to the intended audience of these texts. But I can say that I am one of many. I maintain that my comments on Picture Books apply to Early Childhood books too. I am no Mem Fox but I am an entertaining reader for young children, some of shortlisted EC books have died a silent death on the year one stage. If a terrible faux Scottish accent (my apologies to Mo Johnson) cannot brighten your supposedly humorous text then you should be worried.

In terms of literary merit being a priority, I completely agree. But I would argue that merit seems to be reserved for books about males. I had an author mention that they thought it was amazing that with so many strong female YA authors, that it's incredible that only a handful of female protagonist works have won (two being Melina Marchetta). This astounds me. I feel very strongly that Simmone Howell has being given a huge disservice this year. Everything Beautiful was an amazing book but presented a female protagonist that was clearly too challenging for the panel. This might be too pointed of me but this book didn't even make the notables list which is plain ridiculous. I am sure there are others but this is the book I immediately looked for on the list and sighed heartily over once I realised its omission.

I don't endorse the idea of the awards becoming a popularity award. I do think that the range of books (awarded with a shortlist or notables merit) would be more diverse and more applicable to today's youth, should the judging panel have (at least) one member closer to the age of the intended audience. If there were separate panels for specific categories, the reading list would be more manageable for a greater variety of potential judges.

Judy had presented her CBCA issues much more eloquently than I ever could (and with more knowledge) over at Misrule.

Mags said...

I've been following the CBCA debate with much interest. The issues are common to many awards for children and we've tackled related issues here as part of Ireland's Bisto Book of the Year Awards.

There are a couple of things that reccently have certainly helped and I'd thought I'd share them-

Of the eight judges, one is a teenager. Selected because they have relevant skills and interests not just to be a token young person.

Authors and illustrators are always included on panel. Their insights are fantastic and in many cases they are previous recipients of the awards.

This year, we included a judge from outside Ireland which also helped broaden the expertise.

The associated 'shadowing' programme allows us to provide materials that help young readers get involved and spreads the message of the awards.

We instigated a full review last year with consultation with all the stakeholders to inform changes and it has proved invaluable.

lili said...

(this comment is also posted at Misrule)

I'm constantly amazed by the lack of books about girls on the shortlist.

There is one book with a female protagonist in the shortlist of six. And four female-protagonist books in the 16 Notables.

The four books you mentioned as being left off - Everything Beautiful, Mahtab's Story, The Push and My Candlelight Novel - all share one thing: a strong female protagonist.

It seems very strange that an award judged predominantly by women seems to be so intent on excluding stories about girls' lives.

Anonymous said...