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‘National treasures’ celebrated at CBCA conference

The 2014 CBCA National Conference was held in Canberra from 16-18 May under the theme ‘National Treasures’.

Sharon Hayes, resource centre manager at Marian College in Melbourne, reports:

This year’s CBCA conference hosted several local authors and illustrators who could be called ‘national treasures’, including Anthony Hill, author of Soldier Boy (Penguin), and Jackie French, Australian Children’s Laureate and author of over 130 books.

The opening reception was held at the National Library of Australia where The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly by Pixie O’Harris, retold by Bronwyn Davies and illustrated with Pixie O’Harris images (NLA), was launched. For many it was then on to the Canberra Museum and Gallery for a preview of the Bob Graham retrospective.

The opening session of the conference featured Barry Jonsberg and Michael Gerard Bauer discussing their work with Scholastic publisher Dyan Blacklock. In another session entitled ‘Motherhood and Mayhem’, Tania McCartney, Tracey Hawkins, Stephanie Owen Reeder and Irma Gold talked about combining motherhood and writing, observing that motherhood has provided them with rich fodder for their books.

One of the highlights on Saturday was a session called ‘Picture Book Partnerships’ presented by Margaret Hamilton, which explored the partnerships of Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood, Julie Vivas and Margaret Wild, and Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King. It was interesting to hear Millard talk of putting words on paper and ‘exposing your heart’, while King spoke about getting rid of words and letting pictures tell the story.

Bronwyn Bancroft, a descendent of the Djanbun clan of the Bundjalung nation, spoke of her 30-year career as an artist and illustrator of picture books, including her family story Remembering Lionsville (A&U). This was followed by a keynote address by Anthony Hill entitled ‘Bullet-proof! A Century of War, ANZAC and Children’s books’. Hill discussed the shift from writing about war as ‘a great adventure’ to today’s books that try to capture both the bravery of the soldiers and the horror and suffering of war.

Dinner at the Australian War Memorial included a passionate address about the power of stories from French and a monologue performance of Morris Gleitzman’s newly released book Loyal Creatures (Viking), which explores the role of the Australian Light Horse.

Sunday was another busy day of inspiration and treasures. Publishers Erica Wagner, Margrete Lamond, Laura Harris, Rochelle Manners and Dyan Blacklock had a wide-ranging discussion about what a national treasure is and who gets to decide.  

Other highlights were Nadia Wheatley’s address ‘From My Place to Australians All’, which looked at why we should explore the past with younger readers, and the best ways to do so; and Andy Griffiths’ closing address, which explored the question ‘Is humour really necessary in children’s books?’ Griffiths reminded us not to be too serious all the time and had the whole room laughing as the conference closed.

The next CBCA Conference will be held in Sydney in 2016.

 

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