While Melbourne may be the City of Literature, it is in also very much the City of Children’s Literature. Ours is the only city in the world which boasts two winners (Sonya Hartnett and Shaun Tan) of the Astrid Lindgren Award – the world’s most lucrative and prestigious literary prize awarded to a creator for a body of work. In addition to this, popular authors and illustrators all of whom have made a splash at home and abroad – such as former Australian children’s Laureates Alison Lester and Boori Monty Prior together with Bob Graham, Andy Griffith, Paul Jennings, John Marsden, Judy Horacek, Sally Rippin, Graeme Base, Ann James, Leigh Hobbs, Terry Denton, Sofie Laguna and Morris Gleitzman – call Melbourne home.
There are numerous independent children’s publishers based in this city, as well as organisations that support the thriving children’s literature community. The Australian Children’s Literature Alliance runs the Australian Children’s Laureate program – Australia’s national ambassador for children’s literature. The 2020–2021 Laureate is Ursula Dubosarsky. The Children’s Book Council of Australia has an active Victorian branch which also promotes books and authors through events such as its annual Clayton’s Night and Book Week.
The young adult community was energetic for the now closed Centre for Youth Literature and its outstanding Reading Matters conference, which brung together many of the Nation’s best biannually. The #LoveOzYA grassroots movement is dedicated to bringing Australia’s world-class young adult fiction to an Australian audience. Innovative ways to tell stories and share books such as Story Box Library and Bolinda Audio Books can be found in the city. Story times are found in libraries across the city, with The State Library hosting wonderful story and craft events.
Children’s books are nothing without their illustrations, and Books Illustrated has been supporting and mentoring children’s illustrators – promoting their works and exhibiting and selling original and reproduction art works for decades. Although it is found just outside the city, Dromkeen has been associated with the promotion, exhibition and cultivation of children’s illustration for some time. Commercial art galleries such as No Vacancy gallery in Collingwood exhibit the works of some of the city’s illustrators.
Tertiary institutions such as Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and Deakin University have creative writing courses to encourage writers and the Faber Academy run by Allen and Unwin together with the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Literature are encouraging new writers for this audience. 100 Story Building is a children’s creative writing centre in Footscray. The Centre uses storymaking as a tool to trigger imagination and creativity. There is an emerging culture of children’s reviewing in the city with the Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research Conference (ACLAR).
Strangely, for a state so strong on children’s literature, there is no Victorian Premier’s Award for children’s literature (although there is one for young adult fiction). To fill the void is the peer-reviewed Readings Children’s Book Prize. The Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards also support children’s and young adult literature, while the Yabba Awards and the Inky Awards are run from Melbourne and judged by young readers.
Independent children’s bookshops and bookshops with large and active children’s sections are thriving and do much to support the industry. The Little Bookroom has just celebrated its 60th year in 2020, and is joined in a passion for chilren’s books by Readings Kids, The Younger Sun and Avenue Bookstore. Squishy Minnie is a children and young-people’s bookstore in Kyneton, only 60 minutes north of Melbourne. There are a number of dedicated children’s literary festivals as well, including the Kids Book Fest ( organised by Little Book Room) and the Castlemaine Children’s Literature Festival
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