Many years ago, I was chatting with a CBCA judge. This was a very long time ago, and I still don’t know if she was telling me real CBCA judging policy of the time or whether it was just that group; judges change every couple of years, though I believe you can reapply a couple of years later. This one certainly seems to have been a judge quite a lot. I’d like to think she was kidding me, but from what I remember of this lady, she wasn’t.
I had noticed that funny books never seem to win CBCA awards.(Remember what I said about Andy Griffiths and Paul Jennings?) Why was this? I asked. My friend the CBCA judge explained that it was because there was no “psychological depth” in funny books. After I’d got over the weirdness of that, I said, “But what about Hating Alison Ashley?” She replied that they couldn’t consider that because it was only available in paperback!
That novel was written by Robin Klein, who was known for her funny books. It became a film, which was filmed at my school, with Delta Goodrem in the title role(which is not the lead role). I was an extra and had a very enjoyable day, sitting in the sun with the coffee, lunch and nibbles supplied and occasionally wandering out to join a crowd of other staff and students crossing the volleyball court, for which they paid me $285... I won’t go into detail here, because I’m planning a post about the novel in Y - Y is for Erica Yurken. Erica is the point of view character, the one who hates Alison Ashley, while envying her - a delightful book!
She could also write serious and when she wrote a serious novel, Came Back To Show You I Could Fly, about the friendship between a child and a young pregnant drug addict, it did win the CBCA Award, plus others. I believe it became a film, Say A Little Prayer, but I haven’t seen it. Robin Klein’s fiction is quite often about friendships between very different people. Hating Alison Ashley. Came Back. Boss Of The Pool, a chapter book about a friendship between a teenage girl and a young boy with a disability who is scared of the water. It became a play.
Sometimes it’s about family. In one case, Halfway Across The Galaxy And Turn Left, it’s about a family from another planet! That too was filmed, as a TV series.
In case you still thought she could only write funny, People Might Hear You was set inside a cult.
She wrote quirky poems about life, the universe and everything, collected in books such as Snakes And Ladders.
Her picture book Thing was about a child who lives in a block of flats with a no pets policy, so adopts a “pet rock.” The rock turns out to be a dinosaur egg, which hatches into a stegosaurus. The family keeps having to hide Thing from the landlord and others who might want to remove him.
Unfortunately, Robin Klein suffered an aneurysm rupture some years ago. She can no longer write - but she has had quite a career. I’m giving you a link to this Wikipedia article, which has a long list of her books as well as a bio.
A mild brag: in 1983, she and I shared a Mary Grant Bruce Award for children’s short fiction. Hey, someone thought my writing was as good as hers! That was when I first knew, for sure, that I was a children’s writer.
I’ll be brief about Ambelin Kwaymullina, as I have done an interview with her here, plus reviewed her work. Ambelin Kwaymullina is an indigenous writer, who has done both YA fiction and children’s picture books. Her YA novels, the Tribe trilogy, are set in a dystopian future when, although the environmental problems of the world have all been fixed and people are treating the Earth with respect, you can be hauled away to a concentration camp for having unusual powers. A group of kids who do have various powers escape into the wilderness where they become a “tribe”. There are references to the treatment of Indigenous Australians in the past and the villain is named for a particularly nasty “Protector of Aborigines”. There are also references to Indigenous mythology. A wonderful series, highly recommended for you or your teenager!
I admire her not only for her writing, but because she has done all this with a full time day job. A full time teaching(university)day job! And does handcraft as well. And is involved with the Stella Awards...