|Nicki Greenberg: the book is not aimed at 'a particular age, it's aimed at a general readership'. Photo: Wayne Taylor|
The Children's Book Council of Australia today names Melbourne artist Nicki Greenberg's hardback graphic novel Hamlet as joint Picture Book of the Year.
Greenberg's Hamlet has the whimsical design of a children's storybook. The characters are drawn as inkblots with Dr Seuss-like creature faces. The narrative, of the Danish prince Hamlet exploring human nature as he avenges his father's murder, has an on-stage style backdrop of colourful, hand-drawn watch cogs, gardens, moonscapes and graveyards.
The text is William Shakespeare's, but Greenberg has added wordless side-scenes faithful to Hamlet themes in which the ''actors'' who play the characters go backstage.
The cartoon actor playing Hamlet is depicted having sex with the actor playing Ophelia, and later beds the actor playing his mother, Queen Gertrude.
Greenberg, a lawyer and mother of two, said it is a full ''staging'' of the play and and it wasn't dumbed down or meant to be a school primer. ''It's really for a general audience or teens, definitely not for young children,'' she said.
She is comfortable it's won this particular Children's Book Council award because it is for ''Picture Book'', and not ''Children's Picture Book'' of the Year.
But while it could now be sold with the Children's Book Council label, Greenberg said parents needed to check it out first. ''To say, because it's got the award sticker on it, does that mean you have no responsibility for it and you buy it for a three-year-old? That's just ridiculous.''
The other winner is Sydney author Jeannie Baker's wordless, collage-style book Mirror, the stories of two boys and their parents in Morocco and Sydney. Children's Book Council president Julie Wells said picture books were increasingly being written more for late teens and adults than the younger Very Hungry Caterpillar audience. The Council had created the 'Book of the Year: Early Childhood' category to include young children's picture books.
Wells had not realised Greenberg's book had sex scenes, but said a panel of eight librarians had ''judged this as suitable for the award''.
Wells said the awards' entry guidelines described picture books as: ''Intended for an audience ranging from birth to 18 years (some books may be for mature readers).''
from: Sunday Morning Herald