The Story Behind Our 2017 Children's Book Week artwork

Freya Blackwood made history in 2015 when three of her books won top honours in the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards. It was the first time an illustrator had been awarded Book of the Year in three separate categories, an outstanding achievement for someone who didn’t originally set out to create children’s books.

Accolades aside, Blackwood was nervous about creating this year’s theme poster for CBCA Children’s Book Week, a project she described as ‘an amazing and nerve-wracking privilege’.

‘I never dared imagine that one day I might be an illustrator, let alone an illustrator asked to create the poster artwork for Children’s Book Week. Book Week was the most memorable event of the school year,’ said Blackwood.

As daughter of a painter and architect, Blackwood spent many hours of her childhood in Orange, NSW drawing and producing her own books. Following high school, she studied Visual Communications at the University of Technology Sydney and worked for several years in the film industry in special effects. It was during production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that Blackwood’s love of drawing was reignited.

The Kate Greenaway Medal winner (2010) has brought this year’s theme, Escape to Everywhere, to life through a joyous and dream-like scene rendered in soft watercolours. It depicts children of different ages travelling by horseback, bicycle and even a pig to join a whale, a mermaid and a flock of fish in the sky. 

‘The slogan, Escape To Everywhere, immediately made me think of the fantastical. But I feel comfortable illustrating fairly everyday subjects. So after consideration, I decided I'd like to take my love of drawing people doing everyday things and show them escaping their ordinary lives to a parallel place of wonder,’ she said.

A slogan has accompanied CBCA Children’s Book Week since 1945, a theme around which displays, activities and parades have centered. Some previous slogans have included Sail Away with Books (1987); Carnival of Books (1994); 2001: A Book Odyssey (2001); Books Light Up Our World (2015).

Blackwood’s inspiration for her scene came from a childhood memory of yearning for flight.

‘I spent a serious amount of time as a child running down hills flapping my arms, certain I'd be able to fly. Flying is something every child wants to be able to do at some stage,’ Blackwood said.  

‘The children in the illustration are of different ages and have different interests, but collectively they make their way from left to right and UP, in a strong uplifting movement, into the sky to hang out with a whale. This is completely possible in our imaginations.’  

Every year for over seven decades the CBCA has united children and literature through Children’s Book Week. Officially held in August during the week following the announcement of the Book of the Year Awards, CBCA Children’s Book Week sees libraries, schools, children, authors and illustrators celebrate Australian children’s books and the joy of reading.

From 1987 the CBCA commissioned a Picture Book of the Year winner each year to create artwork inspired by a particular theme for posters and other promotional material and merchandise. The list of illustrators who have lent their creative talents to a Book Week theme poster features many of Australia’s most celebrated children’s book creators including: Shaun Tan, Bob Graham, Alison Lester, Julie Vivas and Graeme Base.

Blackwood’s artwork has been used to create promotional material such as posters, badges, stickers, bookmarks and bunting. Teachers, librarians and booksellers will use these in their CBCA Children’s Book Week displays and celebrations. The sale of this merchandise funds CBCA events and activities.

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