CBCA announcement looms

My students are so excited. In recent weeks, I’ve worked them into a bit of a frenzy over which books will win the gold and silver medals. Not the Beijing Olympics medals, but the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, which are announced at noon tomorrow.

Like last year, each class has been creating a column graph of their preferences. Everyone’s voting in the picture book category, plus Stage 1 is doing Early Childhood, Stage 2 information books and Stage 3 the novels. This helps them to invest a little more into the announcement of winners.

Picture Book of the Year? Even though the graphic novel, “Requiem for a beast” by Matt Ottley, is aimed at a Stage 6 (Years 11 and 12) readership, I bought a copy for myself and took it into school to expose the students to the book’s unique qualities: they were fascinated how the style changed from picture book, to chapter book, to storyboard, to almost-motion picture widescreen, to comic book, to scrapbook, and back to chapter book. Many of the students had the gut feeling that it may well win Picture Book of the Year. “Dust” and “The Peasant Prince” have also been well-received and, for a few classes, I ended up presenting these books in the same lesson and the students enjoyed their similarities and differences. “The island” is as confronting and challenging as “Dust”, and it will be interesting to see which books end up winning.

We ran out of time to do much justice to the longer novels in the Books for Younger Readers category, but an unexpected favourite (of both theirs and mine) has been “Sixth grade style queen (not!)” by Sherryl Clark. Many students picked up on its similarity in style to the work of poet Stephen Herrick, who visited our school last year for National Literacy & Numeracy Week. The senior students are keen on Emily Rodda’s work, especially since she visited a few years ago and told the students she was “happily retired” but then we discovered she’d secretly been writing “The key to Rondo”, much to the surprise of even her agent and publisher! Writing without a deadline was a special treat she’d given herself. “The Shaggy Gully Times” is also a bit of a dark horse, but I’ve had to work with the students to appreciate the cleverness of its humour and wordplay; luckily the current book rap is helping with this.

It’s always hard to pick the Books for Early Childhood category! As a teacher reading to groups of students, I think I had the most fun with “Cat” by Mike Dumbleton & Craig Smith. As the owner of two ginger cats in my life, I could relate to every page! (I actually have a photograph of Dugil sprawled over the mat where I was trying to mark papers, and an earlier shot of Meggsie stealing the heater from both my younger brother and the family dog! This will be an impossible category to pick; all six entries are so worthy.

Information book category? My prediction (from this time last year!) has always been “Parsley Rabbit’s book about books” by Frances Watts & David Legge. Oh, how i wish I’d written this book. It says everything ‘ve ever needed to say about “parts of a book”. “Parsley Rabbit” turned up in my local bookshop the week before Book Week last year, and was my special treat for each class. It’s remained a much-coveted, much-read – and much-requested – book in our school library. Most of the students are expecting this book to win. And so am I. We also have a soft spot for several others, including “The Antarctica book: life in the freezer” and “Australia’s deadly and dangerous animals”, which seem to be very accessible books for primary students.

Noon on Friday can’t come soon enough…

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