Newlands Primary School Visit for the Children’s Book Council of Australia

Today I had the honour of visiting Newlands Primary School which was organised by the CBCA Victorian Branch.

It was a trip down memory lane for me as the school was quite close to the one I attended as a child and not far from where I lived in the house my father built, many years ago. The students were amazed when I told them I used to watch the cows wandering about in the paddock next door while my fingers and toes gripped firmly to the paling fence. Hard to believe now when there isn’t a block of land to spare and there hasn’t been for a very long time.

My first group was of 80 Preps to Year 2’s who listened intently while I told them about how I came to write Little Dog and the Christmas Wish and now Little Dog and the Summer Holiday and all the things that happened along the way. The teachers had a bag of questions ready for me and it was such fun, dipping my hand into the red bag and choosing random questions.

Then came around 50 Year 3/4’s who were eager to hear all I could tell them about My Friend Tertius and about its characters, Tertius the gibbon and Arthur Cooper and their daring adventures during World War II. I told them how the book took 10 years and many times I almost gave up because I couldn’t find vital pieces of information I needed.

Finally came the Year 5/6’s, only 30, so I was able to answer lots of questions (all excellent) and because they had previously read My Friend Tertius and had their questions ready, we even had time for me to read them Queenie, which I hadn’t done for a while.

Thank you CBC Victoria for allowing me to visit and for organising the day. Below is a short summary of what the CBCA is involved in, courtesy of CBCA Victoria and read out by me today:

The Children’s Book Council of Australia is run by volunteers, people like the mums, dads and carers at your school who help out.  These people hope to “engage the community with literature for young Australians”.  That is to say, they want you to love books!  Want you to love reading, to love writing and to love drawing – all the parts that make up a book.

CBCA was established way back in 1945 in Sydney, when Australian children’s books were few and Australian authors and illustrators were virtually unknown.  Imagine being your grandparents when they were children.  There were hardly any books about Australian animals, the Australian bush or our beautiful beaches (no Possum Magic or Magic Beach).  Christmas stories were full of snow and mittens, not sunshine and bathers like here, in the southern hemisphere.

So, a year later in 1946, these volunteers established the Annual Book Awards which are now the most influential and highly respected in Australia.

The Book of Year Awards can be divided into five categories

  • Older Readers (13-18yo)
  • Younger Readers (8-12yo)
  • Early Childhood (Preschool & beginning readers)
  • Picture Book of the Years (any age)
  • Eve Pownall Award for Information Books (0-18yo)

Plus the Crichton Award for first time illustrators.

The judging process begins with Publishers sending in entries to whichever category they feel their author’s book might win.

All the books are read by the CBCA Judges – this year there are three Judges for each category.

Once the books are read and the Judges have discussed and judged each book with one another, they make a long list of the best – this is called The Notable Books.  This list is also celebrated as for an author, having your book deemed to be a Notable is a big deal.

From the Notable List, the Judges need to select a Short List.  These Shortlisted books are the ones that a winner will be chosen from.

However, it is often very hard to choose a Winner, so the Judges also nominate Honour Books from the Short List.  That means the Judges think these books are really good too, but there can only be one Winner.

The Winners are announced on the Friday before the start of Children’s Book Week at a special event where many authors and illustrators, and their publishers are invited to attend.

After all these events to do with the Book of the Year, each year CBCA brings together children and books for Children’s Book Week to celebrate Australian authors and illustrators.

Thanks to the generosity of The R E Ross Trust, CBCA Vic is able to coordinate an “Authors in Schools” program, which bring me here today.


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