awmonline: children's book awards     The CBCA has been criticised by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen, former Manager of the Centre for Youth Literature with the State Library of Victoria, for issues ranging from amateurism to award categories.
The structure of the CBCA is shared around the Australian states, but that doesn’t necessarily undermine their professionalism – some (à la Shirky) would argue the benefits of a decentralised, distributed network.
While some of the criticisms seem nitpicky, others have a direct impact on emerging Australian authors: just ask those of our members who write wonderful children’s stories that are published overseas, but not in Australia – as imports they cannot be considered for a CBCA Award.
American literature for children has recently come under fire for being too dark and complex for kids. A similar issue was raised in Australia when the CBCA Picture Book of the Year, Matt Ottley’s picture book Requiem for a Beast (aimed at the teen market), was placed among titles for early readers at libraries. It generated pots of publicity, and caused a few parents consternation, but ultimately allowed for the recognition of excellence in a genre (illustrated YA books) that would be difficult to fit into any other awards competition.
If Australia is to continue the efforts of the CBCA to foster reader development, then we must accept a broader understanding of the range of content required to meet the needs and interests of all our younger readers, from beginner to YA.
I’m putting it out there to our children’s authors – has the CBCA helped you? What are the issues you face as a writer? What categories of books do we need to recognise for young readers?

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