Winner: "Primal" by Carpe Chaos (Keegan Blair, Vicki Brett, Zoe Gell, James Lumsden and Jenny Watson)
Highly Commended: "The Price of Honour" by Cogito Ergo Sum (Michael Deeks, Melissa Thrussell, Cameron Buma, Kristen Deeks, Anne-Elise Buma, Kate Devereux, Philip Jacobs and Rebecca Thrussell)
Commended: "Life Departed" by Belridge Bystanders (Wynand Gouws, Di Shen, Seth Carter, Alex Nardini, Ben Norris, Melissa Randall, Samantha Noble and Tiffany Gerovich-Cleland) and "The Gambia Case" by SWOP Literature (Latecia Boddey, Caitlin Gallacher, Jessie King, Joshua Page, Etienne Reynaud, Susan Rogers, Chris Starrett and Sarah Wise)
Winner: "About Face" by The Margaret River Writing Group (Genny Broadhurst, Molly Hall, Annie Mayo, Michael Nikulinsky, Toria Stenton and Gail Varis)
Highly Commended: "Storm Water" by Team Nanobot (Chloe Britton, Brett Coulstock, Chris Gorham, Elizabeth Powell, Eva Svanberg and Sally Thompson) and "Angels of Mazawi" by The Yart Class (Leigh Abercromby, Kerry Bastian, Joanna Capelle, Ngaire Goodwin, Marg Oakeley, Lee Perks, Beth Sawers and Lindy Stirling)
Winner: "The Music of Spheres" by Lee Battersby, Stephen Dedman, Satima Flavell, James Hansen, Dave Luckett, Ian McHugh and Carol Ryles.
This category contained some exceptional work. From the beautifully illustrated "The Fall" whose team members are to be congratulated on the experimental nature of their narrative, to the complex psychology represented in "Bill", the story of teenage orphan Tristan and his alter-ego, Bill. I fell in love with the troublemaking teenage punk witch, Tabithar, in "Powerswitch", and was equally entranced by Sandy, in "Anything's Possible", whose skills with flame juggling were superbly described.
I have awarded Commended certificates to two books in the Under 18 Category: "Life Departed" - an unusual story about a young woman who befriends a Russian refugee in the state's north west, and "The Gambia Case" a tightly structured example of the detective genre, set on an island off South Australia.
I have awarded a Highly Commended certificate to "The Price of Honour" - a carefully structured story and very well presented book by a team of 13 and 15 year old authors from Kingsway Christian College. The story follows 12yr old Estrid and her father Harald, villagers caught up in a war between the Saxons and the Vikings. The prologue scene in this book is one of the more captivating openings I have read, and the quality of the editing was exemplary.
The winning entry in the Under 18 Category is "Primal" - a captivating tale by the Carpe Chaos team, students from Applecross Senior Highschool. Well illustrated and very professionally presented, this book offered a really creative use of the set parameters and had me intrigued as to what would happen next, right the way through. The contestants were asked to employ a runner, a scientist and an ape in a zoo, using the theme of enlightenment. The opening chapter describes a horrifying dream in which a winning Olympic runner turns half-ape on the track before resuming her human form. The dream is, of course, somewhat indicative of the story to follow, in which elite athletes are willing to go to any length to increase their performance skills. Part horror, part adventure story, I enjoyed following the story events along with Neil, the main protagonist. Neil is a rather lax scientist, whose early research project is taken out of his hands by the government and pushed to limits he hadn't imagined possible. I was particularly amused by Neil's current job, which involved him looking as if he were working, but actually playing games on his computer all day. He pays for his ignorance, of course. The end of the story was a little disappointing - things were wrapped up a little too quickly and order was restored a trifle too easily, but this is the only criticism I have of a book that was generally really impressive, and an easy winner to choose.
Again the diversity of storylines and character journeys made reading the entries quite an adventure in itself. In "Revelations of a Stuck Up French Flower", a young French dancer travels to country Australia to face up to her past. In "Izzy and Sniffy: Trouble in Peppercorn Valley" a young nature-lover meets up with an 84yr old inventor who has spent years trying desperately to invent something to get rid of the possums in his home: the unlikely friendship saves a rare stretch of bush from the bulldozers. "Broken Wings" follows a ten year old and her magpie friend, Mutiny, as they discover a new belt of gold and significant indigenous site south west of Kalgoorlie. "Crooks, Courage and Custard" plunges one real and one metaphorical rat, along with a couple of stray schoolchildren into the crime genre (weaving a particularly suspenseful plot), while "dotcom" explores what can happen when teenage chat-room dating fantasies go terribly wrong.
My final decision on a winner in the Adult category was not an easy decision to make. I have awarded two Highly Commended Certificates. One of the highly commended books is "Angels of Mazawi" - the real strength here is in the presentation. Joanna Capelle's illustrations occur throughout the book and are beautifully done and the book as a whole has a very professional polish to it. The story is about a young African refugee and the friendship she forges with a medical student in Fremantle. The representation of place is extremely strong here. The other highly commended book is "Storm Water" by Team Nanobot. "Storm Water" is a beautifully written book about a girl name Jackie, with a pet praying-mantis, whose search for her lost fisherman-father ends in some unexpected revelations about her mother's death. This is a very well structured and well-paced story and the strong illustrations really helped the book to come to life.
Just in front of the two highly commended books, though, is the winner of the Adult's category: "About Face" by the Margaret River Writers' Group. This book got pretty much everything right and the team needs to be congratulated on the quality of the work they've produced within the set time frame. The team were required to write about a model, an angler and a sea bird on a beach, using the theme of compassion. The result is a moving and convincing story about friendship between young cousins, and I felt it was particularly well suited to the set age group. The book is engaging throughout and all the set-ups are paid off beautifully, so that there is a sense of satisfaction for the reader at the end. The writing style is deceptively simple and whilst illustrations are sparse, they are extremely effective. Well done to the team members of the Margaret River Writers' Group, whose characters Charlie and Helena just about jump off the page, they are so convincing. I'm sure young readers will enjoy this one as much as I did.
There were two entries in the professional category, both very inventive and both very well designed and written, as you would expect. The "Radio Vamp" team were asked to write about a dancer, a crazy guy and a vampire in a radio station, using anger as a theme. The result, "Radio Vamp", conjures up a future world in which good in uncool and bad and lazy is the only way to go. The delectably naughty Vamp, a night-time radio talk-back host, is wonderfully written by the team, and the first-person protagonist, Tom, a closet dancer (art in general is not cool in the new world), carries a convincing voice, one which young adult readers are likely to identify with. I read "Radio Vamp" first out of the two entries in this category and at the time, I doubted anything could top it.
But then I read "The Music of Spheres". Like "Radio Vamp", this book is set in the future, although in this case it is a much more distant future. This team were asked to write about an environmental scientist, a musician and a pet in a shipwreck, employing the theme of persistence. Serena is an eminent young scientist, parked alone on a distant planet where her study of a species known as skywhales occupies her fully. Along comes the musician from hell, a noisy alien that looks like a giant cricket with face full of human noses and whose music literally kills the spawning skywhales. The pet is, inventively, a pet human and the ship a spacecraft. What an adventure! I was riveted by this sometimes heartbreaking, often humorous eco-adventure/sci-fi story and I'm sure the young readers at Princess Margaret Hospital will enjoy it as well.
In general, I was really impressed with all the playful hard work this year's many contestants put into the books they created in a day. The best books were those in which a consistent authorial voice was created, and in which characters, story events and the illustrations of these all worked together to intrigue the reader, willing her to read on. The best stories got stuck into the conflict early, without providing too much unnecessary background, and moved steadily from one complication to the next, in a manner that permitted a little bit of laughter and a little bit of inventiveness (guesswork, in a sense) on the reader's part. I enjoyed the judging, and I'm sure the young readers at Princess Margaret will also enjoy the efforts everyone involved with the year's competition have made.