I am thrilled that my book Just a Dog has made the shortlist for 2011 Children’s Book Council of Australia Award in the Younger Readers category. It’s a real honour to be on a list with the following wonderful books and equally wonderful writers and illustrators.
Bauer, Michael Gerard Just a Dog Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia
Bongers, Christine Henry Hoey Hobson Woolshed Press, Random House Australia
Branford, Anna; Ill. Sarah Davis Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot Walker Books Aust
Carmody, Isobelle The Red Wind Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
McKinlay, Meg; Ill. Leila Rudge Duck for a Day Walker Books Australia
Murphy, Sally; Ill. Rhian Nest James Toppling Walker Books Australia
It’s obvious to me that the CBCA Judges will be faced with a terribly difficult task in selecting a winner, so I thought I’d just put forward a few suggestions and a couple of observations that might help make the task a little easier.
Now I know what some of the more cynical amongst you will be thinking about now. ‘I bet he’s going to try to influence the judges to somehow choose his own book.’
Well, shame on you! Just because a number of the Judges are disgraced ex-members of FIFA means nothing! They are all totally incorruptible and beyond reproach. (I know this because Chris Bongers told me all her cheques have been returned uncashed and my offers of romantic candle lit dinners for two have been met with howls of laughter.)
So anyway in the spirit of ‘no strings attached’ goodwill, I offer the CBCA Judges the following advice:
1. To avoid the terrible accusation of gender bias, it would make perfect sense to just give the award without fear or favour to the only male on the shortlist – whomever that may be.
2. Of course you also don’t want to leave yourself open to claims of being ageist either so perhaps you could just go for the most mature amongst the nominees. (Isn’t it delightful to see so many gorgeous young women being nominated this year!)
3. We all know that during the Second World War Australian citizens with German ancestry or even just those with German sounding names (eg Beckenbauer; Bauerhoff; Bauerhaus) were often badly treated and unfairly discriminated against. Isn’t it time we started to redress this injustice? I say ‘Ya!’
4. There have long been rumours that the CBCA is over-run with ‘cat people’ and is therefore anti-dog. Ridiculous you say? Well ask yourself this – When was the last time a book about a dog won a CBCA prize? Never! Has the CBCA ever made an official statement supporting the role of dogs in literature? No, they have been suspiciously silent on the whole issue! All just coincidence? I think not!
5. Finally, I think what we all want from a CBCA winner is someone non-controversial. I mean, we don’t want to announce the winner with great fanfare and then have a Miss Universe style scandal on our hands do we?
Now I don’t for a minute intend to cast nasturtiums on the good names of my fellow nominees, however ….
CHRIS BONGERS: Look I know Chris. We’re good friends and neighbours. I love her dearly. She even launched my book Just a Dog for me here in Brisbane. Her own nominated book Henry Hoey Hobson is fantastic … but … it does have that slight undertone of vampire-ishness and questionable creatures of the night.
Do we really want our kids caught up in the Dark Arts? Now I’m not for a minute suggesting that Chris Bongers is the female version of Voldemort or anything like that … but have you ever heard her speak out against him? I don’t know about you, but I find this all passing strange ….
ISOBELLE CARMODY: I’ve had the thrill and honour of meeting Isobelle a few times. She is a wonderful writer and absolutely lovely … and yet … she seems to spend a lot of her time holed up in Prague. I’m sure it’s all perfectly innocent. But do the words ‘Tax Evasion’ mean anything to you?
SALLY MURPHY: Sal is another great writer and also a facebook buddy of mine (along with Chris and Isobelle). She is a beautiful person and certainly beyond the ugly tentacles of scandal … except … I have a terrible suspicion she cheats at Scrabble!
“Surely not!” I hear you scream. Yes, I’m afraid so. I have seen evidence of this very thing myself. Many times on facebook I’ve stared horrified as she makes up words that couldn’t possibly be legitimate just so she can win. Do we really want to give a CBCA award to someone who plays fast and loose with the very building blocks of our language? (That’s called a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is one where the expected response is implied or understood. But just in case you have any doubts at all, the answer here is, “NO!!!!”)
MEG McKINLAY: I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Meg but from what I read she’s had an interesting and varied background. For example: On the long and winding path to becoming a children’s writer, Meg has worked in a variety of jobs including swim instructor, tour guide, translator and teacher.
Nothing wrong with that I hear you say … only … how come she can’t hold down a steady job for long? Now I’m definitely not implying that Meg might be unstable or unreliable and therefore shouldn’t be trusted with the country’s most prestigious literary award. That would be for others to judge – psychiatrists and mental health experts spring to mind. I’m keeping right out of it. (But seriously, that is a lot of chopping and changing of occupations. And did she move on of her own free will or was she pushed? I guess we’ll never know.)
ANNA BRANFORD: I haven’t met Anna either so obviously I am in no position at all to make comments on her suitability or otherwise as a CBCA winner … however … there were a couple of things that caught my eye when I read her biographical details. Things such as: Anna Branford was born in the Isle of Man and spent her early childhood in Sudan and Papua New Guinea before moving to Australia.
Makes you wonder why she had to move around so much doesn’t it. I mean, what were you running from Anna? Then it goes on to add: Anna is a doll maker and a sociology lecturer at Victoria University. Doll maker? Sociology Lecturer? Given her globe-trotting exploits, does any of that really seem plausible to you? International Arms Dealer I’m guessing!
Anyway that’s about all I have to say about the awards. I’m more than happy to leave the decision in the very capable hands of our wise and perceptive CBCA JUDGES.
Although I think we’d all agree that a unanimous vote for a mature aged, dog-loving, male-type-person of German ancestry, who has led a boring and therefore saint-like and blameless life, would be a breath of fresh air!
ps And if any CBCA Judges happen to be reading this. Remember that fine food, candle light, wine, a hot tub and me are just a phonecall away …