Colin Thiele: 1920 - 2006

The word icon is thrown around a bit too easily these days, but one person I met years ago actually lived up to the true definition of the word. Colin Thiele was responsible for one of my three favourite books as a child - February Dragon. The imagery that Thiele managed to get across on the page, via written word, did as much as anything I can recall in shaping me as an author of sorts. Thiele's books were always well written, they never spoke down to their audience and he managed to make children's books seem like adult reading.

Thiele was born in 1920 in Eudunda, South Australia and did his schooling around Eudunda and Kapunda - beautiful land and land I love to visit. From there he attended Adelaide Uni and served time with the RAAF during World War II. During his time as an author he also taught and retired from the education field in 1980. I remember meeting him in the early 1980s when he attended my school to give a speech on writing. Thankfully I was able to pass on my thoughts to him about February Dragon, and while I can't remember the content of both the speech and the albeit very brief conversation I had, I can remember that he accepted my praise with humility and grace.

How good was Thiele? Take a look at the awards he won during his life time.
W.J. Miles Poetry Prize,1944, for the manuscript of Progress to Denial
Commonwealth Jubilee Literary Competitions: 1st prize in radio play section, for Edge of Ice, and 1st prize in radio feature section, 1951
South Australian winner in World Short Story Quest, 1952
Fulbright scholar in the United States and Canada, 1959-60
Grace Levin Poetry Prize, 1961, for Man in a Landscape
Miles Franklin Award, 1962
Children's Book of the Year Award, 1962
Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowship, 1967-68
Hans Christian Andersen Award , international honours list for Blue Fin in 1972
Writers Award, 1973, for The Fire in the Stone
Children's Book of the Year Award, 1974, for The Fire in the Stone [commended]
Edgar Allan Poe Award, Best Juvenile Mystery, runner-up, 1975, for The Fire in the Stone
Visual Arts Board Award for Illustration, 1975, for Magpie Island
Children's Book of the Year Award, 1975, for Magpie Island [commended]
Netherlands Award of the Silver Pencil ,1976, for the film of Storm Boy
Companion of the Order of Australia for his services to literature and education, 1977
Austrian State Prize for Children's Books, 1977, for Magpie Island
Austrian State Prize for Children's Books, 1979, for The Hammerhead Light
Austrian State Prize for Children's Books, 1979, for the Sknuks
Advance Australia Award, 1980
Children's Book of the Year Award, 1982, for The Valley Between
German Publisher Award ,1984
Austrian State Prize, 1986, for Pinquo
Christian Blind Mission International Book of the year, 1988, for The Seed's Inheritance
Great South Australian Award - Services to the Arts, 1989
Family Award of Children's Books - New South Wales Family Therapy Association, 1989
The International Board on Books for Young People Certificate of honor, 1992, for Blue Fin
Christian Book of the year, Children's Award- Australian Christian Literature Society, 1994 , for Martin's Mountain
Christian Book of the year , Children's Award, 1995, for Gemma's Christmas Eve
YABBA Shortlist, 1996, recommendation for Jodie's Journey
New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards 1997
Wilderness Society Environment, 1997
Award for High Valley Dromkeen Medal was awarded in 1997 for his contribution to children's literature

In short, the man was better than good. Sadly Colin left us today after 85 years on the planet. He was, and will always remain, a true South Australian Icon. I'm proud to come from the same state as Colin Thiele.


Nick Hodge said…

Thanks for the reminder. I was trying to remember the name of "February Dragon"

Excellent book about the impact of bushfires.

A must read.

Danny said…
It's a very under-rated book - the scene where the family return home to find the body of their pet cat had me in tears. It's a work of art, but then the bulk of his work was.

It's sad that more people will focus on Steve Irwin - a media creation - than they will on Thiele.

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