Australia’s outstanding young adult novels have been recognised with the recent announcement of the 2012 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year and Honour Books.
I spoke to Michelle Prawer, Victorian judge of the 2012 CBCA Awards, about the judges’ take on the older readers’ shortlist. Here’s what she had to say:
Winner: The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner
“It was like peeling an onion. The story becomes clear as you get to the core… It’s a well crafted book in terms of the piecing together of the puzzle pieces… It’s particularly gripping; it’s a mystery that holds up until all the elements are revealed and unfolded. It deals with difficult subjects such as death and dementia really sensitively and in a way thats not heavy handed.”
Honour Book: A Straight Line to My Heart by Bill Condon
“It’s a very well crafted piece of writing… It had beautifully evocative scenes. It’s very poetic and lyrical… It was a very nice reflection on how family doesn’t have to be two parents and two children. All the relationships were positively portrayed.”
Honour Book: When We Were Two by Robert Newton
“This made everybody cry… It was all of the friendships and relationships that really made that book particularly powerful. Of course there were other instances, but for me, it’s the poignant ending that’s particularly powerful.”
‘The judges particularly liked the humour and the Hamlet theme that goes throughout the text. There are so many references woven in. And the fact that there are different types of masculinity — you’ve got your gay guy, you’ve got your macho fellow, you’ve got your computer nerd, you’ve got your guy obsessed with girls. So it was an attempt, we thought, to broaden your view of masculinity. Boys don’t have to be Type A, so that was what was liked and commented on… And it’s laugh out loud… the humour is delightful… It really does have that nostalgia, where you look back and think, ‘Oh yes I remember this, last formal, last sports day’, so that’s why we liked that.”
“We liked this particularly because of the crafting of the language. There are some bits in here where the description is so vivid. You’re on the edge of your chair… You feel like you’re there. You’re holding your breath. This book is particularly successful because of its ability to create a whirlpool with language.”
“I have read this at least three times. It’s so clever. First of all, intertextuality! There are lots of intertextual references that are the backdrop for the book. If you don’t know them you can still read it but it’s richer if you do… She [Dubosarsky] evokes the period of time very cleverly… There are so many literary references: poems, bible stories. In terms of crafting a book, it’s a winner.” Michelle also praised the end covers, which were photos of Australian newspaper articles from the year 1967.
The winners of the CBCA Book Awards were announced for the start of Book Week, from August 18–24 2012.