Recently, national treasure Morris Gleitzman was announced as the new Australian Children’s Laureate. The Laureate’s role is to “promote the importance of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians” and we think Morris is more than up to the task.
This announcement reminded the Better Reading Kids staff of the wonderful and moving acceptance speech Morris gave in 2016 when awarded the CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers for Soon and thought it the perfect time to share it with you once again. Enjoy!
Words || Morris Gleitzman
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Girls and Boys.
Twelve years ago I had a bout of shingles, a painful condition of the nervous system brought on by stress. My doctor said she wasn’t surprised when she heard what I was up to.
I told her I’d just started writing a story that I was a little nervous about. The idea was a simple one. To explore the best that our species is capable of, and the worst, side by side.
My doctor, when she heard this story was for children, gave me a look. I saw in her eyes she thought I’d be back to see her quite often in the months ahead. Mostly to get medication for disappointment as I discovered that my story of a friendship between a ten-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl set against the terrible events of the Holocaust was too scary to be published.
Not too scary for children. Too scary for the adults that children depend on to get books into their hands.
She’s a good doctor, but she was wrong.
My first thanks today go to all the adults who proved her wrong. To the adults who share my belief that inside every child is a fiercely loving human heart capable of grieving over the worst that we sometimes do, and of choosing the best. And who hunger for stories that give them the chance to do that.soon
To my publisher, Laura Harris, my editor Heather Curdie, and the team at Penguin Random House, thank you. To all the teachers, librarians, booksellers and parents, thank you. And to young readers who have taken Felix and Zelda into their hearts, and inspired that first story to grow into a trilogy, then four books, and with Soon, five, thank you.
Your hearts are why I write, and why I’ve decided to ultimately make Felix’s story a trilogy of seven books.
And so to the judges and organisers of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Your support for Felix’s journey has been greatly appreciated since the first book, Once, was published ten years ago. This recognition for Soon feels like a very special culmination.
Through writing these books I’ve come to understand more about why we need stories. To help us find ways not to turn away from human pain, and as a result to be better at loving.
Australia truly is a story country. Always has been, always will be. Unless some foolish people in Canberra succeed in destroying our stories. Then we’ll all be in pain.
Today, though, I’m feeling hopeful. Thanks to your generosity, Children’s Book Council, I’m feeling only pleasure, in my heart and throughout my entire nervous system.
Morris Gleitzman grew up in England and came to Australia when he was sixteen. After university he worked for ten years as a screenwriter. Then he had a wonderful experience. He wrote a novel for young people. Now, after 39 books, he’s one of Australia’s most popular children’s authors.