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The Charlotte Duncan Award was established in 2009 in memory of our baby daughter, Charlotte Duncan, to raise funds for the neo-natal unit at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital. Donation to date is $1705.

 

Charlotte Duncan Award 2012
Shortlist and Winners

 

First prize

A Jar of Flowers

Jemma van de Nes

Second prize

A New Hat for Winter

Peta Biggin

Third prize

Rainbows

Maura Pierlot

Commendation

Where's Osama

Sharon Hammad

Commendation

Unexpected

Tracey Lynn Slater

 

Short listed

Colouring Outside the Lines

Jennifer Crane

 

Previous years results

Charlotte Duncan Award - 2011

Charlotte Duncan Award - 2010

Charlotte Duncan Award - 2009

 

Judges Report - 2012

First prize - A Jar of Flowers by Jemma van de Nes

'A Jar of Flowers' is a quirky, wonderfully written story about two young children, Bella and Aaron, who connect over their combined appreciation for the garden where Bella spends her time after school each day. It is beautifully written with great imagery, relatable characters and strong voices. The piece shows good control of dialogue and description and doesn't overstate the stories concerns. What is unsaid in this piece is shown through metaphor and careful description; for example, 'He wiped his hands on his jeans and sat down again.' (pg. 3). This perfectly captures his reaction to seeing the lizard and his embarrassment at thinking it was a snake. His actions tell us how he is feeling. Equally, the 'decoy' which serves as a survival technique for the lizards is a way for Bella to indicate that she sees through Aaron's 'bluff' about being 'always in fights ...' (pg. 5) and to act as a springboard for them to talk about it. This use of understatement indicates the characters voices and personalities as well as their concerns, which go beyond the scene itself.

The dialogue is witty, believable and well executed. It acts as an extension of the characters and indicates their fears, their likes, their dislikes and what matters to them, for example 'People will think that you ... you know, that you like Aaron Rogers.' (pg. 1), which clearly shows the youth of the characters as well as Jasmine's embarrassment about boys.

It is a well-written and insightful look into how young people connect and help each other deal with underlying, unspoken issues.

 

Second prize - A New Hat for Winter by Peta Biggin

'A New Hat for Winter' is a heart-warming short story about the death of a young child's grandfather, and the child's determination to make sure he has a hat to keep him warm when he is buried.

The piece makes use of first person narration to keep the child's voice and thoughts in focus. This helps the reader to understand the child's actions and identify with their concerns, for example, 'That's good, I thought. He's not cold anymore.' (pg. 2). In addition to this, there are indications that there is a lot going on which the child doesn't understand. 'I climbed into the back seat and waited for him to start yelling, but he didn't.' (pg. 3). The reader can easily interpret from this that the father is concerned about his child, rather than angry with him for leaving the funeral. The emphasis the child then puts on 'He's already cold and I don't want him to be any colder' (pg. 4) further indicates the child's ignorance and makes us sympathise with both characters.

The piece also demonstrates a use of foreshadowing. On page one, the child emphasises that his grandfather's age through simile, comparing his life to the seasons. 'Poppy once told me he was in the autumn of his life.' (pg. 1). Though cliche, this saying is reinvented by the child's mimicry 'I guessed that was where the winter of his life was, waiting.' and immediately shows how the character chooses to understand and deal with death. It is also an early indication of his later concerns about his pop's temperature.

It is a beautiful and poignant story about how a child deals with death.

 

Third Prize - Rainbows by Maura Pierlot

'Rainbows' is a short story about a boy called Jack whose parents and siblings are killed in a car crash, leaving him to be brought up alongside his cousins by his aunt and uncle. It is a sad story with a strong, likeable, main character that the reader can easily sympathise with.

Use of flashbacks in the story help to highlight Jack's feelings about the event in which his parents and siblings are killed. They give the reader insight into what he misses about his family and how his memories of them are useful to help him deal with his loss, for example, 'Mum said when people die their spirits lived on as angels, and they would stick like magnets to the people they loved', which explains the comment 'Whenever I feel sad, I like to think that my family is looking down on me.' (pg. 5). Jack applies his mother's coping mechanism to the situation of her death as well.

These memories are eased into without seeming disjointed or jarring. The text smoothly transitions from 'Like the other day, our class had an excursion for water conservation, and we went down to the wetlands near the river' to 'My family used to go bird watching there. Dad's really good binoculars would dangle around his neck ...' (pg. 3). This shows an economy of words used to convey meaning but not overstate too much, yet also a well thought out plot device which helps us move seamlessly into each memory and then out again 'They smiled and waved at me, and then Joel Mussman started laughing and said, 'Hey, why are you waving at the birds, do you know them?' (pg. 4). Not only is the reader shown Jack's memory of bird watching with his family, but a construction of that memory in Jack's imagination, within another memory. This shows depth to Jack's well-developed character.

'Rainbows' is a thoughtful and well structured glimpse into the life of a child before and after the loss of his family, which is both heartening and bittersweet to read.

 

Commended - Where's Osama by Sharon Hammad

'Where's Osama?' is a story about a young girl, Sophie, and her reluctant acceptance of the newcomer at school, Osama. It deals well with themes of racism, bullying and fitting in, indicating both sides of the story and reassessing the character's values.

The piece builds up a disconcerting tone through blunt statements about Sophie's father and unsettled responses from her. This indicates to the reader that although the newcomer at school is different, Sophie's perceptions are not entirely based on this. Rather, they are based on the opinions she has previously discussed with her father and clearly mark her out as a character who questions things for example, we see Sophie attempt to agree with her father's explanation that 'boat people jump the queue' 'like the Year 6 boys in the canteen line?', but she also contradicts him 'What about the backyard? There's lots of space.' (pg. 1) and it is this challenge of perceptions that helps to indicate Sophie's character. She projects what her father has told her onto Osama, but does not copy the bullies who 'knock his lunchbox onto the ground' (pg. 1). This discord is a plot device, which challenges the reader to reassess the values of the characters, and shows that Sophie is mostly concerned with her father's opinions, not with the bullies.

The story also uses description well to indicate something deeper happening than just the surface action, 'For a while, Dad is quiet.' The reader is shown, rather than told that Sophie's father is really thinking about what Sophie has told him and reviewing his assumptions. A little later it is clear he has changed his mind, 'So Dad talks. He talks and talks. He says things I've never hear him say before.' (pg. 4). This gives the piece a depth in that while having consistent voices, the characters are able to change.

 

Commended - Unexpected by Tracey Lynn Slater

'Unexpected' is a sweet story about a young boy, Luke, dealing with the arrival of his new baby sister. It is about belonging and about learning to love someone new in the family.

There is a strong sense of voice, character and at times a humorous tone. Luke's astute observations that 'a new kid in the house was going to be a disaster a biggie, like the end of the world times a hundred' and 'The most sensible thing was to pretend it wasn't happening' (pg. 1) show that he is prone to exaggeration and make the text amusing to read.

The work also makes good use of dialogue to indicate Luke's feelings. 'She's a beauty, isn't she?' said Dad. 'Um ... well, she's little,' I said. 'And ...?'' (pg. 2). This shows Luke's reluctance toward the baby, but also his sincere attempt to appease his parents. It makes him an endearing character to read about and engages the reader with what is a heart-warming story.

 

Shortlisted - Colouring Outside the Lines by Jennifer Crane

'Colouring Outside the Lines' is a story about a teenage girl, Ebony, struggling to break out of her identity. It is a well-formed piece of writing which deals with her crisis in a believable and descriptive manner.

The piece makes good use of devices such as repetition to describe the different personas Ebony identifies with 'everyone's friend they talk to about their problems at school Ebony? ...The straight 'A' Ebony? ...the Ebony everyone expects.' (pg. 1) which strongly build her voice as well as the tone of the piece. Her frustration is well conveyed through both this and the dialogue between her and her mother, 'I don't care. Anything. Stop asking me.' (pg.1).

There is also some really nice imagery, such as the 'delicate twisting, twining vines and leaves and flowers, symmetrical and mirroring each other, climbing up the paper' which contrast with her sudden perspective that 'In an instant, it [the drawing] is ruined.' (pg. 3) in the same way that her dialogue contrasts with her image as 'the Ebony with the smile and jokes that makes everyone feel better' (pg. 1). This kind of writing reinforces the subject matter and makes for an enjoyable and in the end, satisfying read, especially as the story reaches its resolution.

 

Paul Collins
Judge, Charlotte Duncan Award 2012