Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Worthies

The Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards are for books written with an implied readership under the age of eighteen.

The Judges assess entries primarily for literary and artistic merit, including cohesiveness in significant literary elements; language chosen carefully for its appropriateness to the theme and style of the work with proper regard to the aesthetic qualities of language; and originality in the treatment of literary elements as they apply to the form of the work.

Appeal to an implied readership under the age of eighteen is also taken into account. Judges also consider the quality of illustrations, book design, production and printing. Books written as part of a series or published in serial form will be judged as separate entities and must be able to ‘stand-alone’.

Okay that's the official stuff out of the way.

I've added the judging criteria because I sometimes worry about these kind of awards. The 'worthy' awards - whether they be CBCA awards, the Booker, Miles Franklin etc etc etc - it's always a small group of people (usually unknown to the majority of us) who decide what is a 'worthy' book.

As a bookseller and former teacher I can pick the 'worthies' a mile away.

I mean, was anyone surprised to see 'Mirror' on the picture book shortlist?
And my prediction is it will win.
And it is a fabulous book...for teachers and parents....but very few children are going to pick this book or borrow it from their school library. 'Charlie and Lola' win the popularity award every time!

I still haven't read any of the books shortlisted for last years Booker. 'Room' is the only that intrigues me in the slightest.

So why do we have these awards then?

As a bookseller I can tell you that they are a great way to sell books. Schools always want the shortlist for their library shelves and just before Book Week in August there is a run on the picture books as parents try to work out which is the easiest character to dress their child up as for their school assembly!

Same goes for the Booker shortlist...minus the dress-ups! When the winner is announced we are rushed by all the people who want to be 'worthy' too.

Even though it sounds like I''m dissing all awards and the people who follow them - I'm not. Worthy, great literature should be rewarded. Clever writing, beautiful writing, ground-breaking, challenging writing should be applauded. New writers should be encouraged, experienced writers should be lauded.
But let's not forget the writers who make us laugh and cry. The writers who tell a good yarn and keep us up til 3am with a gripping page-turner. Let's celebrate the writers who give us stories that comfort us, help us get to sleep at night and become old friends. Perhaps these writers do not need awards - their reward is the ringing 'ka-ching' of cash registers around the world!

Children's Book Council Australia website

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes when people ask me for shortlisted books or prize winners I am tempted to tell them they are probably wasting their time and should just pick something to read they will enjoy! I guess awards can be a great way to open people to new reading experiences, and there are other things about them that are great that I won't go into here... but sometimes they can be taken a bit too seriously.


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