“Why should adults judge children’s books? » Australian children win prestigious literary awards | Children and teenagers

KIDs aren’t very popular when it comes to children’s book awards. Adults are the ones who judge, decide the winners and, in doing so, dictate which titles get featured in bookstores and on library shelves.

But this year, the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) has passed the reins to its target demographic. On Friday, the winners of the top CBCA Observers’ Choice awards were announced, chosen by panels of elementary and high school readers.

About 2,000 children from every state and territory — 155 groups in total — participated in judging the Observers’ Choice Awards, which used the same judging criteria as the CBCA’s Adult-Rated Book of the Year Awards. . Young readers were “blind” to the choices that adult judges had made, and vice versa; the result is two completely different sets of winners.

The children Guardian Australia spoke to believe they should make choices every year.

“These are children’s books!” Why should adults judge them? said Isla Furey, 8.

Her friend Tiana Long, also 8, agrees. “Adults can choose books that have big words or are just boring,” she says. “Adults can judge adult books, but I think kids should judge children’s books.”

With the help of a CBCA moderator, each panel of young judges debated books in five categories: older readers, young readers, early childhood, picture book and information book.

Isla and Tiana were part of a group of six girls judging in the picture book category. They are both great readers. “Time speeds up when I read,” Isla explains. “I may not be having the best day, but when I come home and read, my mind is taken elsewhere.”

Their group chose illustrator Freya Blackwood’s The Boy and The Elephant as their nominee because “the images are so pretty and detailed,” says Isla, who turns each page, pointing out the sad parts and the happy parts.

“He’s sad on the floor, sad in the bath, then so sad in bed that he can’t sleep,” Isla says. “It makes me cry but it’s also beautiful.”

“It’s not too sad though; like everything dying“, explains Tiana. “It would be horrible.”

She thinks children’s book authors should write books with smaller words and cuter pictures. “Make them funny and not boring,” she says.

“No scary photos,” adds Isla. “Zero percent scary.”

Their pick didn’t end up winning the category; the overall children’s vote for Picture Book of the Year ended up going to James Foley’s Stellarphant. Still, Isla and Tiana would love to be judges again.

“It was then fun,” Isla says. “Who wouldn’t want to be a judge?

Isla and Tiana revisit the preselected books. Photography: Isabella Moore

One of the oldest juries included Kiara, 12, Liza, 13, and Sarah, 14, from the Caringbah High School book club. They judged the category of older readers, aged 13 to 17, and chose the book Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn, a Swaziland-born Australian author.

“There were a lot of social issues like violence against women, gay rights, child poverty and racism, and finding out who you are,” says Sarah, who loves to read fantasy books and doesn’t would normally not opt ​​for some of the nominees. securities. “I was really surprised that I liked the wide range of stories. I especially liked Sugar Town Queens because the characters were older than me and I hadn’t experienced those things in my life yet. life.

Kiara normally chooses to read adventure and action: “For me, I have to read stories that have a lot more character development.” Liza loves romance novels and crime: “I read new genres and really loved making a video response to books and doing theatre.”

Children’s author Victoria Mackinlay acted as facilitator for the younger group. She says it allowed young readers to not only voice their opinions, but to see them matter. And occasional voting blockages were handled with maturity: “We blind-voted to select the winner and the group was split, so we had to re-vote with only the top two books. I was impressed by how the girls weren’t swayed by other people’s opinions. They were very loyal to their favourites.

As an author, Mackinlay says she learned something about her readers through the process. “It was a joyful experience,” she says. “I was able to transfer some of my behind-the-scenes knowledge to the girls, but I think I got more out of them. What they liked and disliked was sometimes surprising, but the humor in the stories was a big winner. It’s so important for children and a fantastic ship to deliver a serious message.

The project put “kids back into CBCA scholarships,” she says. “It’s also another opportunity for children’s book creators to be recognized and I think it will be very special for the winners to know that their book has been chosen by the children they are creating for.”

2022 Children’s Book Council of Australia Award Winners

Shadow Choice Rewards

Older readers: Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn

Young readers: Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief by Katrina Nannestad

Early childhood: Nick Bland’s Whale Walk

Image book Stellarphant by James Foley

Eve Pownall award: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature by Sami Bayly

CBCA rewards adult judges’ choices

Older readers: Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim

Young readers: A greenhouse of stars by Shirley Marr

Early childhood: Jetty Jumping by Andrea Rowe and illustrated by Hannah Sommerville

picture book: Iceberg by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft

The Eve Pownall Award: Safdar Ahmed for Still Alive, Notes from Australia’s Immigration Detention System

New Illustrator Award: Michelle Pereira for The Boy Who Tried to Shorten His Name

Colin L. Johnson