Book Week is fast approaching – as advertisements spruiking dress-ups remind us. Book Week also means the CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Book of the Year Awards, the most prestigious awards in Australian children’s publishing. This year’s winners will be announced on Friday 21st August, the day before Book Week, a week long celebration of children’s books, literacy and publishing, from August 22-28.
This year, CBCA celebrates its 70th anniversary with the theme “Books light up our World”. Here’s a run down of the different award categories and some titles to watch out for.
Book of the Year (Early Childhood)
The Early Childhood category was first awarded in 2001, to differentiate these works from ones judged under the general Picture Book of the Year category, that may contain more mature, challenging subject matter. The need for two separate awards in picture storybooks reflect a growth and diversification of this format away from the idea that “picture books are only for young children”. In fact, a picture is still worth a thousand words, and the combination of text and graphics offers a multi-layered, powerful approach to storytelling.
This year’s shortlist is dominated by established authors and illustrators, many of whom are past winners.
To further your reading experience, many of these titles come with teaching notes available from the publisher’s websites.
A House of her Own by Jenny Hughes and Jonathan Bentley
Audrey is bigger than she was yesterday, so now she needs a bigger house – a house of her own. Luckily, Dad is there to help her build a wonderful house at the top of a tree, with a bathtub for snorkelling, a blue bed for hiding secrets under – everything that a girl could want. However, when it’s time to turn in, Audrey is not so sure that being big is such a good idea afterall…
Jenny Hughes and Jonathan Bentley have created a delightful heroine and an endearing story. The story, told almost entirely through dialogue, builds a vivid picture of a loving father-daughter relationship (with a single-parent subtext), and captures the essence of an almost-big girl who wants independence but who also longs for security.
Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King
Stephen Michael King is a prolific and versatile author/illustrator who has three works shortlisted for this year’s CBCA awards – two in the Early Childhood category, and The Duck and the Darklings competing for the Picture Book of the Year. In Scary Night, he illustrates the story of first-time author Lesley Gibbes.
Once upon a scary night, a hare, a cat and a pig set out on a journey. They must keep going, even though there are lots of dangers lurking! The story unfolds into a happy surprise as the friends finally reach their destination. The use of repetition and sound effects in the text ramps up the pace and fills it with tension; it is perfect for a dramatic read-aloud. The cute-but-spooky illustrations – I especially love the wide-eyed apprehension in the friends’ faces – will bring delicious shivers to the audience.
Go to Sleep, Jessie! by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood
Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood are both multiple award-winners with formidable track-records at the CBCA awards. This year, two of their collaborations – Go to Sleep, Jessie! and The Cleo Stories – are shortlisted for the Early Childhood and the Younger Readers awards, respectively. Moreover, Freya Blackwood has also been shortlisted for the Picture Book of the Year Award, as illustrator for My Two Blankets.
Baby Jessie screams every night at bedtime. Mum, Dad and Jessie’s big sister try all sorts of tricks to help Jessie sleep but the peace and quiet never lasts. The big sister (narrator) grows increasingly frustrated and looks set to snap… fortunately an endearing twist gives the story a gentle, happy ending.
Go to Sleep, Jessie! is a charming, tender story reminiscent of the award-winning The Runaway Hug, that will resonate with many parents (and older siblings!). Once again Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood show their great skill in illuminating the drama of everyday life. The use of some comic strip-style layouts add visual flow to the illustrations that help to propel the action.
Other shortlisted titles are:
Snail and Turtle are Friends by Stephen Michael King
A very simple, gentle and cute story about Snail and Turtle, friends who love to spend time together even though they are different. The humour and cheerfulness is guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone’s face. This is the second of three works by Stephen Michael King in this year’s awards.
Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey
Pig the Pug is greedy and selfish in every way. When Pig refuses to share his toys, it starts a chain of events that leads to a nasty end for Pig! The rollicking rhymes and Aaron Blabey’s distinctive drawings will have children following the story with gleeful giggles. A sequel, Pig the Fibber, is just released and already a bestseller.
Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach by Alison Lester
Noni the Pony is friendly and funny. In this new adventure, Noni and her farmyard friends have lots of adventures on a fun day at the beach. It has the same musical rhymes and adorable illustrations of its predecessor and is a joyful story for even the youngest children.