A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks wins CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers

Much celebrations, as Catherine Jinks has picked up the younger reader award with A Very Unusual Pursuit and we also received couple of honour awards at the 2014 CBCA Awards!

On a beautiful sunny winter’s day in Melbourne we were there for the exciting Victorian announcement of the CBCA Awards winners for 2014, in the State Library of Victoria’s Cowen Gallery Blue Rotunda. Also, our SB was attending the big formal OFFICIAL announcement in Canberra, with Laklak Burarrwanga and the rest of the Welcome to My Country team too, so see below for how that went.

Shortlisted Titles
Some of the shortlisted titles

To begin, our own Ellie Marney (author of Every Breath and Every Word) spoke beautifully, as did some very impressive students from Ballarat High School’s clearly very passionate book group, whose reviews on various shortlisted titles were a delight.


Then it was time for Ellie to announce the winners! And we were THRILLED that Catherine Jinks’ City of Orphans: A Very Unsual Pursuit WON the Younger Reader category, with Barry Jonsberg’s My Life as an Alphabet an honour book, while Welcome to My Country was chosen as an honour book in the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books.

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS, Catherine, Barry and Laklak and the WTMC team!

Anna Burkey of SLV and Ellie Marney
Anna Burkey of SLV and Ellie Marney

All the Melbourne kids’ book scene movers and shakers were there, and we celebrated with delicious scones, jam and cream.

Oh, and did we mention that the Cowen Gallery currently features the Once Upon a Time exhibition, of Scholastic Dromkeen Children’s Literature Collection of picture book art…?

What a day. Winners. Scones. Blinky Bill! The Magic Pudding! The Tiger Who Came to Tea! Possum Magic! Wombat stew! Old Tom, keeping some very fine company indeed, as usual… And don’t even get us started on the fairies. You’ll have to go there and see those for yourself – it’s on until 31st August.

Meanwhile in Canberra…

Some of the Welcome to my Country authors with their Honour Award
Some of the Welcome to my Country authors with their Honour Award


Today’s CBCA awards ceremony in Canberra was a wordfest of marathon proportions, but it was fun.  We had speeches. If my count is right we had fifteen speeches: three welcomes, a guest speaker item, eight acceptance speeches, two miscellaneous and some ‘concluding remarks’.

We had two book readings as well, very expertly done by a high school student. For the second one, he chose L for Laughter from Barry Jonsberg’s My Life as an Alphabet. The shortest speech – about 25 words – was by Cathy Jinks; the most memorable was Shaun Tan’s pre-recorded video talk, which was generous, inclusive and wryly humorous in equal measure.

Allen & Unwin shone in the Younger Readers, to the point where local rep Deb needed a backpack to house all the awards she was collecting for absent authors; and of course our Cathy Jinks’ A Very Unusual Pursuit won that section, yay Cathy!

We also figured in the Eve Pownall, with two shortlistings, one an Honour Book, and if there had been an award for biggest mob of authors we would have won that, with a contingent of six from Arnhem Land and three from New South Wales with various family attached!

After all those speeches, including heartfelt thanks to the CBC stalwarts who run the awards scheme, there were book signings and nourishment and, yes, more words. Did we talk! I found myself talking to a chap from the Commonwealth Bank (about indigenous banking), and that’s a first.

The CBCA’s theme was reading to communicate and communication, in words and pictures, was alive and well today.

Find all the judges comments below, for the prize winners and a number of honourable mentions too.


WINNER – City of Orphans: A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks

A Very Unusual PursuitCatherine Jinks has created a well-constructed historical adventure that combines with fantasy to capture the atmosphere of Victorian England. This is the first book in The City of Orphans series with a storyline that is original and satisfies the reader on a number of levels. The setting in underground London is dark and menacing and full of fascinating and believable Dickensian characters that draw the reader into their often dark and risky world. Birdie, a ten year-old waif, is a feisty and courageous character with a beautiful voice and a ferocious loyalty to the shady characters around her. The visual imagery is extraordinary in its detail and historical authenticity. The writing is very accessible to the intended age group and the inclusion of a glossary of nineteenth century jargon is beneficial for the readers.


Honour Book – My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsburg

My Life As An AlphabetCandice is an unforgettable and endearing character. She is unusual, funny, engaging, warm,
guileless and perhaps autistic. Her aim is to bring happiness to everyone in her life including her parents who are recovering from the death of her baby sister Sky. Her friend Douglas Benson, ‘from another dimension’ is also very unhappy and of a similar nature. Her innocent attempts are hilarious and heart warming. Each chapter starts with a letter of the alphabet signifying an event in Candice’s life. The story is also told through intermittent letters written to her American pen pal Denille. The alphabetic form is novel and makes the disjointed events cohesive. The reader is engaged emotionally form the beginning. It is a beautifully written text with realistic dialogue, conversational letter writing and poignant diary entries.

Other judges comments in this category also highlighted a number of our books:

With 152 entries, the Younger Readers category once again had the largest number of submissions this year. The broad range of the category (covering beginning independent readers through to upper primary children) made deliberations challenging, with a dearth of quality fiction for newly independent readers.

Fantasy and other speculative genres presented a strong showing this year, with some truly outstanding stories set in fantastical worlds. Although mainly at the upper end of the readership, strong examples in a variety of sub-genres including steampunk and slipstream, stood alongside more traditional works, with books such as Song for a Scarlet Runner, A Very Unusual Pursuit and Ice Breaker providing engaging and intriguing reading.

Another favourable progression was seeing protagonists of difference becoming more common, and it was exciting to see this explored as natural rather than unusual, such as in My Life As an Alphabet.

The influence of Australian Curriculum topics could be seen in several titles. Historical stories and books focusing on other cultures featured strongly, such as Through My Eyes: Shahana.


Honour Book: Welcome to my Country by Laklak Burarrwanga et al

Welcome to My CountryThe history and culture of the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land are captured in this detailed book. Laklak Burrawanga, along with eight other family members tell of their spiritual beliefs and understanding of the environment. Yolngu languages are used throughout, with the English translations incorporated in the text. This approach emphasises the importance of the Yolngu language and of their culture. The depiction of animals in the illustrations highlights the importance that these creatures have in the culture of the Yolngu people. There is a variety of media used including indigenous artworks which tie in with the corresponding chapters and their themes. This book presents complex and insightful information from a unique perspective.

Early Childhood

A number of our books were also highlighted by judges in the Early Childhood category of books, written for young children who are at pre-reading or the early stages of reading.

Judges of this year’s books observed the production qualities closely and were impressed overall with the standard and variety. Many books were graced with interesting cover treatments which included padding, embossing, debossing, silver highlighted print and beckoning pictures. Other outstanding covers were… Esther’s Rainbow.

In many books the font chosen enhanced the text by being well placed and varied. There were many creative uses of text to augment the meaning. Books that demonstrated this were … Scarlett and the Scratchy Moon.

Animals featured strongly in the entries this year including Johanna Bell’s playful repetitive dogs in Too Many Cheeky Dogs.

 Full judges comments and the full list of winners can be found on the CBCA website.

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