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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Australian Book Industry Awards

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 16, 2008


I usually like the Australian Book Industry Awards: as I understand it, they’re the only ones voted on by all the industry participants i.e. publishers, authors, illustrators etc, rather than an expert panel. So it’s especially pleasing to see that they voted for a ‘literary’ book as book of the year, and I’d be happy to re-read Geraldine Brooks People of the Book again with my online bookgroup ANZ LitLovers.  I thought it was terrific, especially after seeing the Medieval Imagination Exhibition at the State Library.

However I’m not so keen on Li Cunxin’s children’s version of Mao’s Last Dancer, The Peasant Prince.  It seems to me that many publishers have put novels for children in the too-hard basket and are putting forward these ‘picture books for older children’ as a substitute – but they’re one hit wonders.  We read them to the kids, we have a really beaut discussion about them (if we’re lucky), and then they sink into oblivion.  The following week the kids can’t remember a thing about them, and they never borrow them, no matter how artfully I display them, and not even if they’re tagged for the Premier’s Reading Challenge.  Publishers these days also put out lots of easy ‘chapter books’ with B/W pictures on half the page and ‘relevant’ i.e. everyday plots, utterly forgettable, and they then top up their children’s list with smut lit about bums and farts.  The children’s book market is in danger of being dumbed down, IMO, and don’t get me started about dreary books like The Island, on the CBCA shortlist for heavens sake, and destined to make children fearful and despairing about the inhumanity of man!

A proper children’s novel, with a strong narrative, a captivating plot and some memorable characters has children sighing and wishing for more at the end, and still talking about the book twelve months later – and maybe for the rest of their lives.  Black Dog Books publish Carole Wilkinson who has written the wonderful Ramose series about an Egyptian prince on the run from his murderous stepmother, and an even more inspiring series beginning with Dragonkeeper. I have already raved in my reviews about The Name of this Book is Secret; Nim’s Island is another wonderful book from Allen & Unwin, and I’m just about to review another beaut one from them, The Detachable Boy.   I’m also very fond of the Lily Quench series from Penguin, but it’s a very old book that I’m about to read to my year 4s this week, Pippi Longstocking, still with the Vegemite stain on the front cover from when I read it over breakfast more years ago than I care to reveal…

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