In schools all around Australia children and teachers alike enjoy the fun activities designed to celebrate books and reading during Book Week. In our school there were Guest Readers in the Library every day, Drop Everything and Read for 15-20 minutes after lunch each day (with the Year 5/6s going down to read with Kinder), a Guess-the-Teacher competition (where teachers were photographed reading a book that lights up their world), a Treasure Hunt, and the all time Dress up Day favourite and Book Parade.
Many schools will have engaged a Guest Author (or two) to come and share their books and talk about writing, although in this day and age of limited funding and declining primary school libraries this is a rarer event than it used to be (at least in the ACT where I teach).
I know I have author friends and contacts who have been very busy this week, none the less, travelling around schools and meeting with the children who love to read their books. Although exhausted by the intensive travelling and speaking, each and every one of them value this time as a great chance to meet with their audience and get to know them. It is a lot of fun... I can vouch for that, because although I still count myself as an Author-In-Waiting, I’ve had the chance to meet with groups before, and have found it exhilarating and just a little humbling.
This year I had two small gigs, and, okay, one of them was at my school, where I read a preview chapter of Trouble At Home, due to hit the shelves early next year, but my adoring fan base was very encouraging, with more than a couple declaring that they couldn’t wait to get the book and read what happens next! Always heartening.
The other was as part of a panel of local authors drawn together by the ACT branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, where I teamed up with such illuminated figures as (on my panel) Stephanie Owen Reader, Emma Coomb and Chris White, and rubbed shoulders with Tania McCartney, Pauline Deeves, the lovely Robyn Goodwin (who had the best story about having to stop on her way to herd sheep off the highway), and Irma Gould, who were on a different panel. Half way through the evening, the two panels got to swap audiences (after a sumptuous supper), and it would be difficult to say which group of young people displayed more enthusiasm – many of them budding writers themselves, eager to hear from us about our writing journeys.
A good time was had by all, although our panel got into a little bit of trouble because we were too enthusiastic as speakers and kept going over time. No complaints from the audience, though.
Of course, the highlight of Book Week (apart from the all important Parade) is finding out the winning books for the year. This must have been a difficult choice for the judges, as the shortlist (as always) was chock full of amazing books. Thank you to the Children's Book Council of Australia who do such a great job of organising this event each year.
Do go across to their webiste to look at the Book of the Year Awards 2015 recipients, but also go back through the shortlist, where you will get a feel for the high quality of children’s literature that is out there!
Many congratulations to all the writers and illustrators whose work was honoured through this year’s Awards.
The rest of us can but dream.