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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Reading The CBCA Shortlist

I now have most - not all - of the Older and Younger Readers books for this year in my library and I've decided to make my way through them and comment as I go.

I've already read and commented on Soon by Morris Gleitzman and Cloudwish by Fiona Wood.

I'm nearly finished reading Sue Lawson's piece of historical fiction set in a small NSW town in 1965, Freedom Ride. It is, of course, about the Australian Freedom Ride led by Charles Perkins, who makes a brief appearance in the novel.

The hero is a white boy, Robbie, who lives with his father and his grandmother. He is not very happy in this life, which includes a school bully, an unpleasant grandmother and a father who goes to the RSL every Friday night and has some secrets her has never shared with Robbie.

And, of course, there's the small-town racism and ignorance and a local policeman who isn't interested in looking after the rights of the local indigenous people, even when one is killed, let alone when they're bashed up.

When Barry Gregory, a young man who has been in London, returns to his hometown to help his mother run the caravan park, things improve for Robbie, who takes a job with him and learns about the outside world and the fact that racism isn't nearly as bad in London as in his town.

I'm enjoying the 1960s references, including to OZ Magazine, which Barry reads.

It does take most of the book to actually get around to the Freedom Riders arriving in Walgaree, Robbie's home, though they're mentioned earlier - and abused by Robbie's father and grandmother.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what else is available on this year's shortlist. There are some good books so far.

Anyone else reading them?


Lexa Cain said...

I'm not sure what the CBCA is, but I assume they're a literary group that gives awards to the "best" books of the year. I'm more of a genre reader and rarely look at the books that win awards (or are bestsellers). But I think it would be different if I were responsible for choosing books for a kids library. You have to try to make the best decisions for them, not your own personal enjoyment. Good luck with the list!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Children's Book Council of Australia. I think there are similar awards elsewhere. The judges are usually librarians or booksellers. I've interviewed a couple on this blog but I still don't know exactly what their criteria are. There are some years when I think they get it exactly right and others when I think they are just choosing stuff that they like as adults. And you see some of the same names on the list year after year.

It's a big award, though. Schools buy the shortlisted books and parents think, "Well, it's an award winner, I'll buy it for my child." And there's prize money, of course. But I remember one judge saying to me of a book of mine, "Oh, it's entertaining, well written and the kids will love it, but those aren't among our criteria."