ACCEPTANCE SPEECH : Johanna Bell – Winner of Book of the Year, Early Childhood 2017

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Johanna Bell (author) and Dion Beasley (illustrator) won the Book of the Year, Early Childhood Award 2017 for Go Home, Cheeky Animals!.  The Award was presented at Government House, Hobart on Friday 18 August.  This is the acceptance speech Johanna gave on the day….

Thank you! What a thrill! Go Home Cheeky Animals! took three years to make and almost didn’t happen so it’s a surprise and a delight to be standing here. I had hoped to be up here with Dion Beasley, the remarkable young artist who illustrated our book, but Tennant Creek is an awfully long way from Hobart and Dion doesn’t like the cold so instead, we thought we’d take you to Tennant Creek for a bit. There was a quick window into the life and art of Dion Beasley broadcast on Lateline last year (click to view).

Picture books are a collaborative art form and our book is no exception. It took the skills and dedication of a team of wonderful people. Thank you to our editors at Allen & Unwin, Sarah Brenan and Erica Wagner, who didn’t shy away from working with an unconventional and unpublished picture book team. Thanks to the wonderfully inspiring Joie Boulter, Dion’s carer and interpreter who is the glue that binds this book (and us!) together. None of this would have happened without her generosity and compassion. Thanks also to Ruth Gruener, whose graphic design skills transformed both the text and the illustrations into the mischievous romp you see today. And to Dion’s good friend Policeman Dan who helped communicate some of the nuances in the manuscript by emptying his wheelie bins out onto his front lawn! And lastly to all the people who have read and shared our books, both Too Many Cheeky Dogs and Go Home Cheeky Animals! It thrills us to know that the book is making its way out from Tennant Creek to cities and towns around Australia.

And this award also marks a historic moment in the story of the CBCA. It’s the first time that a hearing writer and a deaf illustrator have won a Book of the Year Award.

Johanna Bell

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