Ever since I was a little girl I was aware of the round stickers that occasionally popped up on Australian book covers. I didn’t know what they said or exactly what they meant, but I knew one thing: whether the sticker was silver, bronze or blue, the book was going to be good. As I got taller and older I learnt about the Children’s Book Council of Australia, the organisation behind the stickers, and that each year they ran awards to select the best Australian children’s books published.
Over a lifetime these stickers have informed much of my reading. As a wee one I was much more likely to pick up a book if it had one on the cover. As a teenager so many of the books I treasured were awarded (Gary Crew’s Angel’s Gate, Isobelle Carmody’s The Gathering and Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi). As an aspiring author / illustrator, my reading list came directly from the award notable list (although I had often read most of them already). Then, as I became part of the writing community, each year I’d barrack for my friend’s book and my favourite picks.
This year the awards meant something different. I had my first children’s book ‘out there’. I was determined not to think about the awards, but a friend mentioned when the short-lists were announced and I suddenly found myself thinking (and stressing) about them a whole lot. It was kind of awful. Steven Herrick wrote a beautifully humble and honest post about how writers try to pretend that awards don’t matter – that we don’t mind whether we’re selected or not. I even tried to trick myself into thinking this, with lots of very sensible self-talk about the fact that it was only ‘my first book’ and that ‘so many amazing books are published each year’ blah blah etc, but it didn’t really work. I still harboured a deep secret hope.
Tuesday was the fateful day, and after all that stressing I still feel incredibly humbled and overawed with the news. Squish Rabbit was selected as part of the short-list for the 2012 Crichton Award, which aims to encourage new talent in the field of children’s illustration. It was also selected as a Notable Book in the Early Childhood Category of the Book of the Year Awards, which I’m thrilled about.
The Australian writing community is such a supportive one, and there was an outpouring of lovely congratulations and kind words – thank you. So many amazing books made this year’s lists, including those by some of my favourite people: Michael Gerard Bauer, Lucia Masciullo, Peter Carnavas, James Foley, Prue Mason, Sally Rippin and Wendy Orr. So proud to count these incredible writers and illustrators as friends.
The day’s celebrations included champagne, party poppers, a movie, a decadent Thai feast and a little pack of fun:
- The Shin’s latest album: Their music makes me happy (and is part of the soundtrack for my latest novel)
- Obi-Wan: A funny gift from my poet to remind me that Jedi like patience can bring rewards (for Star Wars nerds that would like to inform me that this is not actually Obi-Wan, I say to you that I had already named him thusly when I discovered this, and besides I like this name better)
- My Neighbour Totoro: Possibly one of Miyazaki’s greatest films, which is quietly magical and so full of beauty, and one I have been meaning to get forever