Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Clayton's CBC

I went to the CBC Clayton's award last night. It's always a good night - a qurky, oddly Australian idea of an award's night. Mike Shuttleworth was provocative and entertaining. I didn't agree with all he said (although I agreed with his comments about The Black Dress being a fine read) but It did make me sit up and listen. I think one of our problems in children's books is that we like to sit around agree with each other too much. One of his points was his disappointment that the older readers section wasn't a YA section. The various premier's award are either de facto or de jure pretty much YA awards so YA books actually get pretty good "award" coverage. It's the chapter book area, the post-picture book and pre-YA section as well as poor old non-fiction that dip out in terms of critical recognition. We've come along way from Redmond Barry refusing to let fiction into his library. Non-fiction didn't get guernsay at the Claytons, and it's all crammed into one section in the awards. While on the topic of the awards I'd also like to see more encouragement to new writers and illustrators - good on the Victoria CBC for having the Crichton Award. I'm just disappointed it doesn't have as a high a profile as the other awards. Maybe it should be the one we really celebrate. Maybe one for new writers as well? All in all, though, the CBC does a fabulous job of promoting children's books.

1 comment:

Mike Shuttleworth said...

Andrew,

I'm not disappointed that the CBC's Older Reader's isn't a YA section. I did feel it was worth pointing out that is isn't a YA section, however.

I was trying to point out the situation of having an award for readers aged 12--18. Really, in terms of the audience that's meaningless. Maybe I've begun to feel like a teenager who has reached a certain age and no longer wish to hang out with the little kids.

I thought that rather than assume we were all in agreement on what the award is and what it stands for we ought to examine the terms of the discussion. As you say in you post, we love to be in agreement...

What are we being asked to judge?

Perhaps because I spend my of my time with my head in the YA world, it did surprise me to see that it isn't about YA. Ultimately I feel that the CBC award asks too much and delivers too little for readers in this age group. Anyway, what I think of this question is irrelevant.

The real question is, does the CBC see a problem here?

Perhaps if CBC judges didn't judge across all categories they might be better advocates for the various kinds of books that ultimately win awards. And I would definitely include non-fiction in that. Like YA, it's an area of great innovation and importance, yet fails to get any sustained recognition or discussion. Non-fiction is perhaps the most fertile area to do so. Ironically, celebrating the appeal of well written and packaged nf might help to support reading as the key tool of learning. (And not merely as the servant of 'literacy' and all that suggests.)

One only needs to look at the American Library Association's approach to awards to see how a more devolved, specialist approach can produce challenging, exciting outcomes.

Hope that doesn't sound rant-ish, but I guess that is a summary of what I learned in doing the Claytons and a personal view.
Cheers!