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Walter McVitty

The Lu Rees Archives of Australian Children’s literature is a collection of children’s books and manuscripts whose stated purpose is to ‘provide resources for the study and research of Australian authors and illustrators, including both the literature and the historical and cultural context in which it was created’. Officially owned by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and housed in the University of Canberra’s library, the collection of about fourteen thousand items provides a ‘particularly rich and comprehensive overview of Australian children’s literature, its creation and publishing endeavour’. Lu Rees, a foundation member of CBCA, started the collection with her own substantial holdings, and the collection encourages donations. Walter McVitty has made a gift of more than 3000 books and the entire archive of his publishing company, Walter McVitty Books, which existed from 1985 to 1997. In order to aid future researchers who might find the vast array of material in that archive bewildering, McVitty wrote explanatory notes of about twenty thousand words. He has expanded these into this book, which Lothian (the company that bought his imprint) has published.

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Australian children’s literature has its own established heavies, writers whose work is well enough known both here and abroad, frequently in translation, and whose names would be well up in the Public Lending Right cheque lists. Some are so much in demand these days, that the time taken in preparing and giving speeches at conferences of librarians and others leaves them little time for the actual business of writing. However, they continue to dominate; each new work from them is eagerly awaited, read, reviewed and avidly discussed, if not by children then certainly by the growing adult following.

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