Phasmid to Rebels: the 2016 CBCA Eve Pownall Information Books

Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect by Rohan Cleave & Coral Tulloch (CSIRO Publishing) Phasmid

Phasmid is the first children’s book published by CSIRO, and they are very excited about its CBCA shortlisting. The Lord Howe Island stick insect was thought to be extinct, eaten by rats, but just enough survived on Balls Pyramid, a rocky outcrop. The tale of the stick insect, including its successful breeding in captivity, is told from its own imagined point of view. Lord Howe Island is one of the most glorious places in the world and it is great to see it showcased in this thoughtful book.

The White Mouse: The Story of Nancy Wake by Peter Gouldthorpe (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia) White Mouse

This colourful historical fiction tells the story of Australian female spy, Nancy Wake, who was a pivotal part of the French Resistance in WW2. Her story is told in present tense, rather than the usual past tense for history. Information is recorded on pages torn from a notebook and the illustrations are a combination of full-page spreads and panels. Gouldthorpe uses the illustrative technique of hatching throughout.

The Amazing True Story of how Babies are Made by Fiona Katauskas (ABC Books, HarperCollins) Babies

Katauskas is a political cartoonist for major Australian newspapers. This book includes diversity in race and sexual orientation. It addresses childhood, puberty, intercourse (not under a blanket as many of these type of books have done in the past), fertilisation, multiple births, IVF, sperm and egg donation, the growing baby in the uterus and birth.

The cartoon style is engaging and adds to the humour, which includes egg jokes such as ‘eggspedition’ and ‘eggciting’.

The author’s credo is: ‘Human bodies do all sorts of amazing things, but making little humans is one of the most amazing things of all.’

Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony by Stephanie Owen Reeder (NLA Publishing) lennie

It’s incredible what children could (or can) do! In the 1930s during the Great Depression nine-year old Lennie rode his pony alone to Sydney for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The trip was 1000km; he was away for four months and faced bushfire and flood. Indomitable! The digitally coloured photographs look impressive.

Ancestry: Stories of Multicultural Anzacs by Robyn Siers (Department of Veteran Affairs)

The introduction is a useful summary of the contents of this informative book. Like Ruth Starke and Robert Hannaford’s My Gallipoli, Ancestry stands out from other books about the Anzacs because of its multicultural focus.

A particularly interesting chapter is about Aboriginal Frank Fisher who lived on the Barambah settlement, north west of Brisbane. As we also learn in Sue Lawson’s novel Freedom Ride, authorities on these settlements controlled the finances, work and even marriages of the Aboriginal residents. Frank was treated as an equal for the first time in WW1 but this didn’t last and he was discriminated against on his return. Even his pay was controlled. His son Frank Junior became a Qld rugby legend but wasn’t allowed to play in England under the 1897 ‘Aboriginal Protection and Restrictions of the sale of Opium Act’. Frank Junior’s granddaughter is Cathy Freeman. Rebels

We are the Rebels by Clare Wright (Text Publishing)

This YA text set on the Ballarat goldfields in the 1850s is adapted from The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, which won the Stella Prize. The original book took ten years to research. Wright has changed the historical record by re-writing history to show the female, Aboriginal, youth and Chinese (the under-represented) versions.

Awarded Children’s Information Books

EmuThis year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Eve Pownall Award for Information Books forms an impressive list. Four of the six titles focus on an aspect of Australian history.

Emu (one of the ‘Nature Storybooks’ series from Walker Books) is natural history, however, and upholds the quality of last year’s Crichton and Queensland Literary awarded Big Red Kangaroo. It is written by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne and combines literary and factual texts in an engaging package for young readers.

Coming of Age

The other title that isn’t historical is for the opposite end of the age spectrum – mature secondary, although chapters could be used for younger readers in high school. Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia is edited by Amra Pajalic & Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin) and a number of its contributors have appeared on ABC TV’s Q&A. The contributors write about their experiences growing up as a Muslim. An important feature is the diversity within Muslim groups, also based on the country the writers or their parents are from.

Randa Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big in This?) writes about body image; Hazem El Masri, former rugby league star,  among other things, explains a core difference between Islam and Christianity – Muslims don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, died on the cross or was raised from death; Hazem’s wife changed some of her school’s culture by lobbying for the opportunity for Muslims to pray; and former Miss World Australia, Sabrina Houssami, laments that white Australian girls wouldn’t be her friend.

Tea and SugarTea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen (National Library of Australia) is a sumptuous volume, and is also a notable CBCA picture book this year. Robert Ingpen is the only Australian illustrator to have won the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Medal. All of his books are stunning. This one showcases the train that serviced the settlements along the Nullabor Plains from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. Aboriginal and Afghan people helped build and maintain the 1050 km of rail. The book starts as an appealing literary narrative about young Kathleen who is waiting for the first Thursday in December when Father Christmas travels with gifts. This story is followed by information in non-fiction form.Mary's Australia

 

Mary Mackillop was a girl when Victoria became a state and she was twelve during the Eureka Stockade. Pamela Freeman juxtaposes Mary’s life and time caring for the poor and educating children with the years when Australia became a nation in Mary’s Australia: How Mary Mackillop Changed Australia (Black Dog Books, Walker Books).

Audacity

 

Audacity: Stories of Heroic Australians in Wartime by Carlie Walker and illustrated by Brett Hatherly, is another excellent publication from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The title comes from a stained-glass window at the Australian War Memorial. Each chapter features a person, including women, and the war they were involved in and also highlights their outstanding attributes, such as courage or leadership.

 

The A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land by Simon Barnard (Text Publishing) is coffee-table size and is set between 1803 and 1853. The research and illustrative processes are intricate and include cut-away pictures of buildings. This book is full of fascinating and gory facts which will intrigue older readers. A-Z

Cracker 2015 CBCA Short List

ProtectedThis year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia short list is a cracker.

Older Readers

I’ve reviewed most of the Older Reader titles for the Weekend Australian, which means that I think they’re excellent. It’s a superlative list this year. Incidentally, most of these authors are relatively or brand-new published YA writers; and are women, representing the high number of YA Australian female authors published in recent times. The future of Australian YA looks exciting.

I reviewed Christine Bongers’s Intruder with Tristan Bancks’s, Two BleakboyWolves (Younger Readers) here last year. Great to see these Queensland/far north NSW authors acclaimed in the CBCA awards.

Younger Readers

Two Wolves is shortlisted in the Younger Readers category, along with a mixture of other first-time shortlisted authors, including Tamsin Janu for Figgy in the World, as well as names we expect to see such as Steven Herrick, Libby Gleeson and Bill Condon; Bill here with a novel for younger children, The Simple Things, instead of his usual YA. Judith Rossell won the Indies award for her gothic, Withering-by-Sea (see my review) and is deservedly shortlisted by CBCA.

Picture Books

The picture books form a strong list and include some newcomers such as Trace Balla with Rivertime and Michael Camilleri, with his outstanding illustrations for David Metzenthen’s Gallipoli book, One Minute’s Silence.One Minute's Silence

Freya Blackwood is shortlisted three times – here for illustrating Irena Kobald’s powerful Two Blankets. Stephen Michael King is also shortlisted three times, with Glenda Millard’s The Duck and the Darklings in this category.

 

Early Childhood

Stephen Michael King is shortlisted twice in the Early Childhood category; for the simple yet stunning Snail and Turtle are Friends and Lesley Gibbes’s Scary Night. Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood appear together twice, here with Go to Sleep, Jessie! and in The Cleo Stories, shortlisted in Younger Readers.

The Eve Pownall Information Books are another strong bunch, with my personal favourites Emu by Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne (we shortlisted Emu’s stable mate, Kangaroo, in the Qld Literary Awards), A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land by Simon Barnard and Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and the brilliant Robert Ingpen. Tea and Sugar

It wouldn’t be a CBCA short list without evergreen favourites, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, Fire; Margaret Wild, The Stone Lion; Alison Lester, Noni the Pony goes to the Beach; and Aaron Blabey, Pig the Pug.

It’s always disappointing for those excellent titles that miss out but many of these have been nominated as Notables. These lists are worth looking at.

Older Readers

Younger Readers (it’s devastating to see what missed out being shortlisted in this category)

Picture Books

Early Childhood

Eve Pownall Information Books

Congratulations, not only to the shortlisted authors and illustrators, but the judges and the CBCA for enabling these outstanding books to be widely acclaimed.