On a very wet night in 1996 I was making my way to the publishers’ dinner at Darling Harbour, Sydney. It was pouring when I reached Town Hall station, and I had no success in hailing a taxi. I was about to give up and return home, when I thought of catching the monorail, so arrived at last, wet and not too cheerful. I noticed Maurice Saxby was there, and wondered why he, renowned academic in children’s literature, was attending an industry event. I had not the slightest idea that he was to present the Pixie Award to me! It was a great thrill—although I wish I had been given warning, so as to be able to prepare a thank-you, and because I would love to have had a family member present on the night.
One salient memory of the award night is the number of reps, and former reps, who came up to talk to me after the presentation. They had many anecdotes of things we had learned together, and jokes we had shared, during their calls on The Children’s Bookshop.
It was a challenging time in my life. I had at last parted company with the bookshop, which I had founded and worked in for 25 years; and had also left my job as children’s publisher, and was now doing freelance editing projects and teaching; so felt a little unfocussed. The awarding of the Pixie, chosen by peers in the industry, for service to ‘the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books’was a wonderful confirmation of the importance of getting the best books into the hands of as many children as possible. This award reinvigorated me for the task.
Dr Robin Morrow AM
IBBY Australia Inc
The Pixie O’Harris Award
The Pixie O’Harris Award was established by the Children’s Publishing Committee of the Australian Publishers’ Association in 1994, it is awarded for “distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of Australian children’s books”. The guidelines state that “To be eligible, publishers, editors, booksellers and publicists need to have worked consistently in children’s literature, demonstrated a commitment beyond the call of duty and developed a reputation for their contribution to the industry.”
Pixie O’Harris produced a large number of picture books of her own, illustrated the work of other writers and was a friend and mentor to many authors and illustrators.
The Australian Book Industry Awards is in its 14th year. The awards recognise and pay tribute to the vibrant Australian book publishing industry and to the incredible success of our local literary culture. Australians love to buy and read books, all books, but particularly books that are published in this country, stories written by Australians that not only showcase our talent for storytelling but provide readers of all ages, and in every format, with our unique perspective on the world. Australian books account for almost 50% of all book sales in this country. No other cultural industry is supported more by Australians than the stories that our writers create and our Australian publishers and booksellers so skilfully and effectively publish and sell. And beyond our shores our stories are read, shared, reviewed, discussed and lauded right round the world.
We would like to thank our supportive sponsors for recognising the value of Australian books, authors and writing. Their contribution to this event goes a long way to promoting a strong culture of reading and towards a bright future for the Australian book publishing industry.
Shaun Tan is no stranger to awards ceremonies. He has the unique distinction of being the only author on our 2014 shortlists to have once accepted an Oscar from Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis for his work… a high point that must, by definition, make everything from that point onwards fade into insignificance by comparison.
Which is why it was especially nice of him to have said this of his 2014 ABIA nomination for RULES OF SUMMER in the Book of the Year for Younger Children (age range 0-8 years) category: “Any attention from the ABIA awards is a real privilege, and nothing beats the judgement of peers working at all fronts of the publishing industry, particularly booksellers who connect literature with readers on the ground (where would we be without them?)”.
Shaun grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, WA, becoming known in school as the ‘good drawer’, which only partly compensated for always being the shortest kid in every class. He began drawing and painting images for science fiction and horror stories in small-press magazines as a teenager, and has since become best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. Those books are THE RABBITS, THE RED TREE, TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA, the wordless THE ARRIVAL, and his latest RULES OF SUMMER. Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer and a concept artist for the films HORTON HEARS A WHO and Pixar’s WALL-E, and directed the short film THE LOST THING, for which he received the aforementioned Academy Award. Shaun also received the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for his contribution to international children’s literature in 2011.
We are honoured to have Shaun Tan – and the other extremely talented authors and artists in the running for the Book of the Year for Younger Children (age range 0-8) award – on our 2014 shortlists.