A book co-written by Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman has been long-listed in the inaugural Diversity in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand (DANZ) Children’s Book Award.
In partnership with the Australian School Library Association and the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa, a committee experienced in children’s literature launched the new book award for 2024 to recognise and reward diversity by homegrown talent.
To remove and reduce barriers to marginalised people, the nomination process was made as simple as possible with no entry fee.
This award brings Australia and New Zealand in line with the UK and US who have been successfully running awards such as The Diverse Book Awards, Jhalak Prize, Little Rebels, and The Walter Awards for many years.
Book nominations for DANZ Children’s Book Award closed in September 2023 and were open to traditional and self-published creators of works of fiction released in Australia and/or New Zealand.
Both creators and publishers were invited to nominate picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels released in either 2022 or 2023.
Voted for by judges aged between six and 16, long-listed titles were announced on 17 January and will be promoted in a digital and print brochure distributed to schools, bookstores, and libraries across the two countries later this year.
A shortlist will be announced on 14 February.
One winner in each category will be announced at a special event taking place at the Somerset StoryFest on the Gold Coast in March, attended by the 2024-2025 Australian Children’s Laureate, and will win $1,000 (AUD) and further promotion.
“DANZ is more than an award; it’s a valuable resource,” DANZ founder and children’s author Ms Kate Foster said.
“A list like this, curated by both adults and children, will support teachers, librarians, booksellers and more, and help put the best representation into the hands of young readers everywhere.”
In recent academic studies which extensively researched children’s fiction in Australia and New Zealand, results show an overwhelming lack of diverse representation – a contrast to the high percentage of the population not being white, Australian- or New Zealand-born, abled, middle-class, or heterosexual.
Many books published over the past ten years that do feature diverse characters and settings are often filled with harmful representation portraying inaccurate and insensitive stereotypes and tropes, according to the DANZ committee.
“The publishing landscape is slowly taking notice and making changes, though there is a long way still to go,” the committee said.
“This award, therefore, draws attention to positive, ground-breaking, inclusive diversity in children’s literature and will bring wider awareness to the wonderful books which offer mirrors, windows, and sliding doors, and organically build empathy, understanding, and encouragement to children from all walks of life.”
Visit www.thedanzchildrensbookaward.com to learn more and review the longlist.