The case of disappearing reviews of children’s books

The case of disappearing reviews of children’s books
By Dr Belle Alderman AM
Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc

There’s been a lot of talk recently on social media about the lack of reviews and publicity for Australian children’s literature. There will never be enough publicity to cover the vast Australian talent and the large number of books published. Then, what about the not-so-recent books in libraries and bookshops? Who is talking about these and ensuring they are known about, available in libraries and bought from bookshops? How will children know about and experience these books?

Australia does have children’s book review sources:

Consider the groundswell of free blogs in the field of Australian children’s literature. We can choose those that are knowledgeable and useful for our purposes. Below are just a few of these bloggers around Australia.

Ethel Turner’s family

Australian authors and illustrators often, but not always, have websites featuring news, reviews and other items about their work. Publishers feature information about the creators they publish and may include links to related material. There is a wealth of material waiting to be discovered.

Then there’s our Centre. Over the last four years, we have created free databases/resources featuring over 1,200 Australian children’s and YA books on these topics

  • Cultural Diversity
  • Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Peoples
  • Verse Novels, and
  • Picture Books for Older Readers

These are available from our Centre’s website. The databases include annotations, subjects (tags), Australian curriculum links and usually, online teaching resources. So while we may wish for more coverage (especially newspapers, print and online) to promote books for young people, other sources about Australian children’s literature exist. We can share and promote the best of these among ourselves.

But back to knowing about books of the recent and most distant past that remain relevant.  What happens to these reviews and commentary? Some can be found in Trove. There is a place where these live on in paper form. Lu Rees, who initially formed our Centre, now known as the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc, started ‘clipping’ articles and reviews in newspapers and elsewhere in the 1950s. She dropped these into ‘research files’ to reveal a range of views about Australian children’s authors and illustrators. Lu was a bookseller and there fell passionately in love with Australian children’s books. By 1980 she had created, with others’ help, 50 such files.

Storing 580+ research files

Now there are 577 research files. These are not static. The Centre has avid ‘clippers’ across Australia who collect information in newspapers and magazines plus items such as flyers, bookmarks, programs, ephemera and other promos of kids’ books. Our clippers send them to us. Our Adelaide clipper has gone ‘virtual’, sending us e-forms of promotion. Pam Quick explains her process here. These are transformed into paper form then filed in the Centre’s research files listed on our website. We collect 30 different categories of material. Each item collected is labelled with one of these 30 descriptors such as ‘Reviews’, ‘Article by author/illustrator,’ ‘Biographical note’, ‘Teaching Resources’ and so on. We collect material about ‘emerging’ creators too. These fill two bulging eight drawers of two filing cabinets, labelled ‘Pending’. There material is collected and one day may become an ‘established’ file hanging alongside our established files.

Alison Lester & her file

We wanted to let you know that material created about Australian children’s authors and illustrators is valued, collected and has a home with us. These form a collective, strong voice about Australian children’s literature from the past, the present and continuing into the future. We also collect illustrators’ artworks, authors’ papers and manuscripts, some related organisations’ papers, but that’s another story.


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