Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The shortlists for the CBCA

(Children's Book Council of Australia) awards have just been announced. I have yet to read all of the books on the lists - and may not bother to thoroughly read all of them as I have glanced at two which do not appeal at all. But, the lists sent me to look at who had previously won the award. The first ever winner (in 1946) was Leslie Rees for "The story of Karrawingi the Emu". I do not own a copy of the book, although I think my brother might once have been given it. It is almost certainly not in any public library although the reference collection in the State Library would hold a copy. I doubt it would appeal to a modern child at all. The second winner was Frank Hurley for "Shackleton's Argonauts". Again there would be no copy in a public library and I doubt it would hold much, if any, appeal now. Nor would Villier's "Whalers of the Midnight Sun". "Verity of Sydney Town" (Williams - 1951) would be considered very "old-fashioned". The Australia Book (Pownall 1952) is decidedly out of date. Phipson's 1953 winner "Good Luck to the Rider" might still be read by horse-mad girls but the joint winner "Aircraft of Today and Tomorrow" would only be of interest to someone interested in the history of aircraft - even for the "tomorrow" section. "Australian Legendary Tales" (Parker 1954) and "The First Walkabout" (Tindale and Lindsay 1955) would no longer be considered acceptable. Wrightson's "The Crooked Snake" is similarly less acceptable now and Heddle's "The Boomerang Book of Legendary Tales" was another self-conscious attempt to make the award very "Australian. It was useful when there was almost no other material about the Dreaming around but it was not, even at the time, "outstanding". "Tiger in the Bush" and "Devil's Hill" (both Nan Chauncy) and Sea Menace (John Gunn) might still be read by children who find them on the bookshelves in their own homes. They are not generally available in libraries. They are, naturally, old fashioned but they are adventure stories. The following decade saw some books which might, if children were given the opportunity, still be read. I doubt Tennant's "All the proud tribesmen" would be of great interest but "Tangara" (Chauncy again) might get read. Certainly Spence's "The summer in between" a commended book from the previous year would still be read and enjoyed by girls as would another Spence book "Lillypilly Hill". Spence eventually won the medal in 1964 for "The Green Laurel", another still readable book for the keen girl reader although probably a younger reader than in the past. Brinsmead's "Pastures of the Blue Crane"(1965) and Southall's "Ash Road" (1966) would also be read by some and by more if they were widely available. Clark's "The Min-Min" (1967)has dated more than these. "To the Wild Sky" (Southall, 1968) would still be read by some too. Balderson's extraordinary "When Jays Fly to Barbmo" (1969) is probably virtually unavailable. It was considered a strange choice at the time - simply because the theme was not "Australian". I will leave it there for today but ask one question - if you grew up in Australia, how many of these books have you read? (Yes, I have read all of them.)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have read Southall - but I liked his Simon Black better - and I read a couple of Chauncy but that is all. If that is supposed to be the best of Aussie literature for kids I don't think much of it. I looked at the current shortlist - usual authors. Is the gene pool really that small?

Sheep Rustler said...

All the Chauncy, Spence, and Brinsmead. And Southall. My daughter might have read some of my copies of these. But in general I think her generation would find them very old-fashioned. On the other hand she loves Jane Austen!!

Adelaide Dupont said...

I picked up the Langeroh tales some years ago [in 2007].

I had also read Montfield and Ashley's The first sunrise so the content of the books were familiar to me.

Think Patricia Wrightson might be on the CBCA list for the 1970s and many of her books - historical and modern settings - are great. I had not heard of Crooked Snake, though.

My first memory of CBCA books as books to read and look out for would probably be in 1991.

Anonymous said...

Have read one Southall Cat! So much for me being a great reader. I thought I would do better than that. Chris

jeanfromcornwall said...

Never met the Emu, but read Shy the Platypus a lot (pub. 1946, I just checked) and remember the text as being rather tedious. But I liked the pictures, loved the Australian Aunties who sent it to me, and I wanted a platypus of my own. We had some rather nice little rivers in West Cornwall. I wasn't being unreasonable.

widdershins said...

I grew up in OZ, but none of those titles did I read. I didn't discover books until I hit high school and jumped straight into SF, where all the authors were almost exclusively male and American ... well, I'm doing my damnedest to change both of those things now.