The Longest Running Children’s Festival in Australia
Book Week (20th-26th August)
I remember a very special day as a year seven student. From the school library, my teacher had borrowed all six of the short-listed picture books for the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards. Their covers pinned with the gold stickers that looked like medallions, they sat on a pile on my teacher’s desk, until we sat on the carpet and he began to read.
I remember some students—already feeling the pull of high school and the toughness of being the biggest fish in the pond—thinking picture books were silly. But they were soon won over. Our teacher offered up the attraction of democracy and a vote: Which book did we think deserved to win?
Children’s Book Week is next week, when the best books of 2011 will be announced. There will be events all across the country and in thousands of schools and libraries. I managed to find a couple of these prized books at my local library today and couldn’t resist having a quick read of the latest books for Aussie kids. There are five categories in the awards. (And the picture book category can be deceptive: in the running this year is an enormous graphic interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.)
I chose Duck for a Day by Meg McKinley and Toppling by Sally Murphy, both illustrated, short novels for younger readers. In Duck for a Day, Abby and Melanie are shocked when their new teacher’s bag begins to move and quack near her desk. Mrs Melvino introduces them all to their new class pet, Max.
“Class duck … You can’t have a class duck.”
Mrs Melvino peered at Melanie over her glasses, a twinkle in her eye. “Really? Well, what would you prefer—a hippopotamus perhaps?”
A little more serious, but still using the humour that helped to win over some of the kids in my year seven class, is Toppling, a story about domino-loving John whose best friend is diagnosed with cancer. I love the pace of this book and how it even resembles dominoes on the page:
Being in a group
like ours is great.
At recess and lunch
and in class
you always have someone to sit with
I can’t remember which book won the year my friends and I voted in year seven. The shared class experience of reading and arguing over our voting choices was special enough. Head along to your library this week to see whether Duck for a Day or Toppling will go home with the gold.