Posts Tagged ‘sonya hartnett’

Interview with Sonya Hartnett in the Australian

August 19, 2014
Photo: Stefan Tell

Photo: Stefan Tell

Australian author and 2008 ALMA laureate Sonya Harnett is in the limelight now with a new novel for adults, The Golden Boys, (Penguin), “an urban gothic tale”. The Australian’s Literary Editor Stephen Romei met her to talk about the new book, and the result of the interview was published last week. First part the interview here:

‘CHILDREN live in a very animal world, one that’s constantly on the verge of war,’’ says Sonya Hartnett. “You look at childhood and think, how do any of us survive that sort of shit? They are constantly on the edge of peril, particularly from each other. They attack each other mercilessly and I find that so…’’ She pauses to locate the right word. “Endearin­g.’’

In that single word choice, we have the enigma of Sonya Hartnett. She’s an award-winning writer for children and young adults who has no offspring of her own and doesn’t come across as particularly fond of kids, or people in general for that matter. Her YA and adult novels are spot-on in their empathetic depiction of the mind-clouding confusion, embarrassment and latent violence of childhood, yet she says she remembers little of her own childhood and nothing at all of her school years.

She creates vulnerable, volatile characters — 14-year-old Plum in the Miles Franklin-shortlisted Butterfly (2009), to take a recent example — and is a bit surprised when readers take them to heart and are upset by their (fictional) fates. “They do. In a way you think is very insane.’’

She published her first novel at 15 and in the three decades since has written acclaimed books for readers of all ages but says she’d much rather be a “flip woman”, buying, renovating and selling houses, an enterprise for which she has discovered a passion and a talent.

She laments, only half-jokingly, that she has not won enough literary awards, then skewers the newish Stella Prize for Australian women’s literature, adding: “If this means I’ll never win their prize, so be it.’’

She laughs a lot throughout our interview in an outer Melbourne pub — on a couple of occasions literally rolling over on the couch with mirth — but later, on playing back the tape, I real­ise her words are full of existential angst. “I feel we live in a world where nothing matters any more,’’ she says at one point.

Hartnett loves animal similes. In her new novel, Golden Boys, which will be published later this month, there’s a wonderful scene early on when two 10-year-old boys, one fragile, one resilient, meet for the first time: “It’s like a jack russell being introduced to a budgerigar: in ­theory they could be friends, but in practice sooner or later there will be bright feathers on the floor.’’ Elsewhere in the novel children are likened to birds, fish, possums and giraffes, and adults to tigers, lions, wolves, sharks, monsters.

“I’ve always been aware of the fact that humans are animals,’’ she says, “and it puzzles me why we don’t rejoice more in that, why in this day and age we still quietly don’t like the idea that we are just animals. There is a beautiful logic in the way an animal operates.’’

It’s only logical, therefore, to wonder what sort of animal Hartnett might be. A Cheshire cat, perhaps, grinning and grinning and expounding an uneasy philosophy. But when the question is put, she doesn’t have an easy answer. “I am not sure what animal I would associate myself with … something stubborn and solitary, squat and easily annoyed. A badger?’’

HARNETT, 46, is the eldest of six children (four girls, two boys). Her mother was a mater­nity nurse and her father had a series of jobs, including as a proofreader with Melbourne newspapers. The family grew up in Mont Albert, in Melbourne’s east, and unlike her adult experience, they stayed put. Indeed, her mother still lives in the home in which Hartnett grew up. ‘‘Well, she still lives in it in the sense she lives on the same block of land, but they knocked down the house and built a new one,’’ she says.

“I actually found that a hard thing to forgive, that she knocked down our family home, and I don’t know that I ever will really resolve myself to that situation. Often when I think about going to see Mum I still visualise that house.’’

Read full article here


New book award for Sonya Hartnett

August 19, 2013
Sonya Hartnett at the National Library of Australia. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Sonya Hartnett at the National Library of Australia. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Three children have been sent to live in the countryside, safe from the war in London. When they find two boys hiding in a castle, the past and future come together to make an extraordinary adventure.

That´s the story of Children of the King (2012) by Sonya Hartnett, which last Friday was announced as winner of the Younger Readers Book of the Year 2013 by the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA).

Sonya Hartnett received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2008, with the following jury citation:

Sonya Hartnett is one of the major forces for renewal in modern young adult fiction. With psychological depth and a concealed yet palpable anger, she depicts the circumstances of young people without avoiding the darker sides of life. She does so with linguistic virtuosity and a brilliant narrative technique; her works are a source of strength.

Sonya has received numerous awards, and among these the CBCA’s Book of the Year for The Silver Donkey (2005) and The Midnight Zoo (2011). She comments last week’s announcement in the Brisbane News:

“When you get a book like The Children of the King you can feel it’s good from the start. The good ones feel as if they’re already written and you’re just transcribing them.”

Cover of Children of the King.

Cover of The Children of the King.

Reading guides for inspiration

March 15, 2013
Illustration: Lennart Eng

Illustration: Lennart Eng

Isn´t it beautiful, the cover of the new ALMA publication containing reading guides of books by our previous recipients. The illustration is made by Lennart Eng, illustrator, graphic designer, tutor and member of the ALMA jury.

The reading guides are written by members of the jury, with extensive knowledge about children’s and young adult literature. They are a good way of learning more about the recipient’s works, containing questions worth considering after the reading:

There are different kinds for friendship – one is the kind between and adult/old person and a child/young person. How does such a friendship differ from one between people of the same age? (My Friend the Painter by Lygia Bojunga)

Before Leslie leaves the house, she hangs up her gun above the fireplace, what could that mean? (Lénfant racine by Kitty Crowther)

Is The Devil Latch (Sonya Hartnett) a Gothic novel? Why/why not?

What role does The Book of Everything (Guus Kuijer) play? Why does the author have Thomas write in it at various times?

The guides will be distributed at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna (March 25-28), so why not visit our stand C5 in Hall 30 to get a copy!

”Why don´t we give literature a sporting chance?”

February 6, 2013

In today’s edition of the Australian newspaper The Age author Norman Jorgensen is worried about how very little books and literature are valued in his country:

“Politicians constantly complain that children’s literacy levels are down, and getting worse, but the creators of children’s literature don’t seem to be particularly valued by those who allocate government funds. When we hear of a billion dollars being spent on a brand new literature centre instead of a second sports stadium I may take the politicians’ complaints a bit more seriously.”

His words are not unchallenged, as often happens when sports and culture are put together. Read this interesting article here.

Photo: The Age

Photo: The Age

Why not read a really good book?

December 21, 2012

We suspect that many of you blog readers might have some lazy vacation days in front of you now. Why not read a really good book? Here are some suggestions from the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Mats Berggren. Photo: Stefan Tell.

Mats Berggren

Mats Berggren, member of the jury:

I´ll put your letters under the mattress – A correspondence 1971 – 2002 (our transl.) by Astrid Lindgren and Sara Schwardt (Salikon 2012). The best book I´ve read this fall. I was expecting some Astrid Lindgren curiosities, but this is something much more. Sara’s drama, which emerges through the letters, is captivating, I read the entire book at one sitting to find out how it went. She writes well, she is after all only 12 years old when the book begins. There is a directness in the teenage heart that makes me think of Barbro Lindgren’s books. Astrid is very skilled at being personal enough to get Sara to open herself. A the same time you get clues about Astrid herself – she complains about how hard it is to write, it took an entire spring to finish the last two chapters of the Brothers Lionheart.

Elina Druker. Photo: Stefan Tell.

Elina Druker


Elina Druker, member of the jury:

I´d like to recommend Kitty Crowther’s Le Petit Homme et Dieu (Pastel 2010,The Little Man and God , our transl., not yet published in English), a picture book about a little man who meets a strange creature in the forest, a creature that turns out to be God. The book, which is skillfully translated by Lennart Hellsing, is a fun but also staggering story that raises news thoughts and questions, and is perfect for both younger and older readers.

Helen Sigeland.

Helen Sigeland

Helen Sigeland, Director:

The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Australia 2012) is set in World War II England. Two children, Cecily and Jeremy, are sent to live in the country to escape the bombing in London. The two siblings and ten-year-old May soon find mysterious ruins and learn about a terrible legend involving two missing children relating to Richard III. This is a wonderful thrilling novel about power and effect of war for (young) adults. Read it!

Annika Edlund.

Annika Edlund

Annika Edlund, member of the jury:

I can recommend the book Florian Knol by Guus Kuijer (Querido 2006). Florian is an ordinary boy with an unusually large and red hair. A small sparrow sits on his head and Florian names the sparrow Nico. Katya from his school, who is a grade above him, explains that she is in love with him, and that makes Florian’s tummy tickle. At the same time he’s thinking about whether he´s really ready for love, or if he is mature enough to take care of an old person…
… because in the neighboring house old Mrs Raaphorst lives, and she has forgot her key. That´s in itself not that serious, but Florian is perplexed as she talks about a fork when she apparently means a key. There is something very confusing about this. Together with Katya, he decides to help the old lady, whom they call granny.

The book of Florian Knol is a wonderful story about understanding, forgetfulness and love, written by this year’s award recipient, Guus Kuijer. The book was published in 2006 in Dutch, and this year in Swedish. I was delighted and had such a good feeling in my whole body while reading this book. It´s a philosophical and loving book for everyone.

(All images above are taken by photographer Stefan Tell.)

World premiere for Surrender soon

August 20, 2012

Photo: Riksteatern

On October 3rd its premiere for 2008 ALMA recipient Sonya Hartnett’s Surrender (2005) at Riksteatern. The book has never been adapted for stage earlier. The dramaturgist Ninna Tersman discovered Hartnett’s works while working in New Zealand, reading lots of Australian youth literature. It was the strong psychological descriptions in Surrender that made her want to adapt the book for stage: I like that the story opens up in several levels, there’s a magic dimension while it is a horror story and a thriller at the same time, Tersman says in an interview for news agency TT Spektra.

The award winning Surrender tells the story of young Gabriel:
As life slips away, Gabriel looks back over his brief twenty years that have been clouded by frustration and humiliation. A small town and distant parents ensure that he is never allowed to forget the horrific mistake he made as a child. He has only two friends – his dog Surrender, and the unruly wild boy Finnigan, with whom he made a boyhood pact. When a series of arson attacks grips the town, Gabriel realises how unpredictable and dangerous Finnigan is. Events begin to spiral out of control, and it becomes clear that only the most extreme of measures will rid Gabriel of Finnigan for good.

In the same article, Ninna Tersman emphazises Hartnett’s ability to write about difficult subjects for young people:
In this age you go through so much. It´s so hard to go to high school, I think everyone can remember that, the emotions are so strong. She portrays the lives of young people nuanced, without feeling corrected.

New Sonya Hartnett website

July 30, 2012

Check out Sonya Hartnett’s new website on which contains not only information about this brilliant author and her works, but also interviews with Sonya as well as teacher’s notes for several of her books!

Sonya Hartnett was presented with the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Children have a right to culture, say laureates

February 21, 2012

“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play,” according to Philip Pullman, 2005 recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA). Pullman is one of the 11 laureates featured in an exhibition marking ALMA’s 10th anniversary, to be staged at the world’s biggest book fair for children’s and young adult literature in Bologna, Italy.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) is 10 years old this year. For a decade now, the award has promoted interest in children’s and young adult literature around the world. The anniversary celebrations start at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, from 19 to 22 March, where a number of ALMA laureates will take part in various seminars.

“This will be the first time so many award recipients have all been present in the one place,” says Helen Sigeland, director of ALMA. “We’re looking forward to plenty of stimulating dialogue between our laureates and the public. Our exhibition and commemorative booklet will focus on promoting interest in children’s and young adult literature in an international context.”

Australian author Sonya Hartnett is one of the laureates visiting Bologna to mark the award’s 10th anniversary. She will be discussing the importance of children having access to good books with fellow author and laureate Katherine Paterson.

“A quality book for young people should leave them a different and slightly better person than the one they were when they began reading the book,” says Hartnett.

The laureates taking part in the Bologna event are Kitty Crowther, illustrator (Belgium, 2010), the Tamer Institute for Community Education, promotor of reading (Palestinian territories, 2009), Sonya Hartnett, author (Australia, 2008), Banco del Libro, promotor of reading (Venezuela, 2007), Katherine Paterson, author (USA, 2006), Ryôji Arai, illustrator (Japan, 2005) and Lygia Bojunga, author (Brazil, 2004).

The programme for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair will be available shortly on the Fair’s website.

The recipient or recipients of the 2012 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award will be announced to coincide with the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The announcement will be made on Tuesday 20 March, at 1 pm, at Astrid Lindgren’s Näs in Vimmerby, Sweden. It will be broadcast via a live link to Bologna and online at

New awards for Tan and Hartnett

August 24, 2011

Shaun Tan and Sonya Hartnett, both recipients of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and living in Melbourne, Australia (!), have received prominent awards recently.

Last Saturday, August 20th, Shaun Tan (this year’s ALMA recipient) was announced as winner of the Hugo Award 2011 in the category Best Professional Artist. The Hugo Awards are science fiction’s most prestigious award, and have been presented annually since 1955. The announcement was made in Nevada, USA.

And yesterday, August 23rd, Sonya Hartnett (ALMA recipient of 2008) was announced as winner of the 2011 Book of the Year from The Children’s Book Council of Australia. Sonya won in the category Older Readers Book of the Year, for her book The Midnight Zoo (Penguin Group, 2010).

Thursday’s Child in paperback

July 20, 2011

Congratulations all Sonya Hartnett fans in Sweden! The book Torsdagsbarn (Thursday’s Child) written by the 2008 ALMA recipient Sonya Hartnett, have been released in paperback in Sweden by Atrium Publishing House. The book is about the odd and poor family Flutes struggle to survive during the 1930s Depression, and is considered to be Sonya Hartnett’s international breakthrough.

Atrium also publish a Thursday’s Child reading guide (in Swedish), available here. Earlier, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award have published reading guides (also in Swedish) for Sonya Hartnett’s books Jag är djävulen (The Devil Latch) and Pojken i soffan (The Ghost’s Child), available here.