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The Children’s Book Council of Australia is a voluntary-run, non-profit organisation which turned 70 in 2015! The CBCA runs a national conference bi-annually and lots of events throughout the year. They are dedicated to promoting books and authors and illustrators. But a major role is to run the Book of the Year Award in 5 categories of children’s book each year. Their mission is “to engage the community with literature for young Australians” and their vision is “to be the premier voice on literature for young Australians and to inform, promote critical debate, foster creative responses and engage with and encourage Australian authors and illustrators to produce quality literature”. Noble goals, but they actually deliver on their promises.

The CBCA’s Book of the Year Award is for the authors and illustrators of the best books published that year, in each of five categories, plus a special award for new illustrators.

  • The Early Childhood category (that’s where most picture books belong!)
  • The Younger Readers category
  • The Older Readers category
  • The Picture Book category
  • The Eve Pownall Award (for information books or non-fiction)
  • The Crichton Award (for new talent in illustration)

Most people are confused by the Early Childhood Book of the Year Award vs the Picture Book of the Year Award, thinking that the submissions are all conventional picture books…but that’s not quite true. The Early Childhood books are what most people consider picture books and are suitable for children of about 0-7 years. But the Picture Book of the Year Award is given to a book which is of high literary merit, but can be for any age level.

And other terms relating to the fiction categories are confusing too…

Younger Readers refers to those children who are moving from reading picture books to reading full novels. So this category may be regarded as containing books which are suitable for about 7-12 years. But the diversity here is enormous, even wider than that found in picture books. I see this as falling into three levels within this age range —

  • The younger end — the newly-independent readers — and this is where “chapter books” belong and chapter books are often highly illustrated. Examples are —
    • The Cleo Stories series by Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood (Allen & Unwin)
    • The series written by Sally Morgan, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Craig Smith (Illustrator), the best of which is GOING BUSH WITH GRANDPA (Scholastic Australia)
    • Ark in the Park by Wendy Orr and Kerry Millard
  • The middle — usually illustrated fiction of about 15,000-40,000 words with slightly fewer illustrations than in a chapter book. They may also contain different text types. Examples are —
    • The Stuff Happens series by various authors (Penguin Australia)
    • The Violet Mackerel series by Anna Branford & Sarah Davis (Walker Books Australia)
  • The upper end — fiction, often challenging. Examples are —
    • The City of Orphans trilogy by Catherine Jinks
    • The Mapmaker Chronicles by A.L. Tait
    • The Ratcatcher’s Daughter by Pamela Rushby
    • The Adventures of Stunt Boy and the Amazing Wonder Dog Blindfold by Lollie Barr

And Older Readers simply means YA fiction — that’s Young Adult fiction.

Haven’t the awards come a long way? The CBCA is 70 years old this year, and when the awards were first given, the women got a camellia and the men got a handshake. But today, thanks to the tireless work of the Awards Foundation, the authors and illustrators get real money.

But the Awards give national recognition and instant promotion for the book and its creators and often a shortlisting can mean an instant reprint for that book too.

Congratulations to the CBCA for turning 70 years old!



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