Hey cHEwY gum gums

You find me writing this early in the library, on my second day here at Carey Grammar. I’m spending 2 days here doing writing workshops with Grades 4 and 5. It’s a nice way to start my Book Week in Melbourne, and while I’ve been in tour mode for the last month and still feeling match-fit, I’m still in awe that I’ll be part of an army of authors and illustrators who are out there in force, visiting schools across Australia.

So why is this called Book Week in Australia? Because last Friday, the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) announced their book of the year awards in five categories. Every year, these awards swing around and while librarians enjoy poring over the shortlisted books in front of kids, I can’t help but wonder…would these books still be read by kids, if it wasn’t for these awards? Are the CBCA Book Awards still relevant?

I guess you could compare the CBCA Book Awards to the Oscars. You could balk at the Oscars nominated movies and ask yourself, who watches these movies? The Oscars and Blockbuster hits don’t normally mix (though Black Panther got a nomination last year, yay!). You can look at the CBCA Younger Reader short list and wonder if any of these books would make the Kids Choice awards (KOALA and YABBA etc).

Then will these books stand the test of time? Who can remember who won the 2014 CBCA Picture Book Award?

Well…even though I may not agree with some of the choices on the shortlist or notables list, I respect them because the CBCA Book Awards are still the award that every children’s author/illustrator wants.

Well for starters, this is the only children’s book award that generates real book sales…I mean every library in Australia will want these short listed books.

Another thing is the judges are highlighting books that may not have commercial appeal, but spin a great yarn. Really weird and out-there books have a chance to shine, in a sea of series and sequels. I haven’t read Leave Taking by Lorraine Marwood but I’m fascinated by that title. I read the blurb today and I am hooked. I’m sure other kids may be surprised when they saw it and want to do the same too. Every award out there is showcasing various books, and they all deserve the limelight.

Besides, in most cases, they normally get it right. Even if they don’t choose your favourite book to win (Lenny’s Book of Everything is STILL my current book of the year hehe), you can at least have some discussions about the winners and acknowledge that they have some merit.

I think the major thing about the CBCA Book Awards is that they gain mainstream media attention. All the major newspapers and websites covered the winners on the weekend. #BookWeek2019 is trending on the socials right now. It is so hard for children’s books to make it in the public eye, and to see the winners up there in print or on the screen is cool.

Nobody writes a book to win awards (though I recently saw a new release that is shoe-in for next year’s shortlist, we’ll see if I’m right haha), and awards will always be a bonus for authors and illustrators. So I will try my best to read the shortlisted books. I can’t wait to read Leave Taking and Clare Atkins’ Between Us. These are books that I may not have picked up if it wasn’t for these cherished awards, and I think in the end, it makes every CBCA book, from the notables to the shortlist, an absolute winner 🙂

Oh, by the way, Picture Book of the Year 2014 was Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan 🙂 Congrats on another win this year Shaun, Cicada was da bomb!


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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