CBCA 2014 Books of the Year – Winners and runners-up

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators of the books below. To their editors and publishers and also the CBCA judges.

The CBCA winning books for 2014 voted on by the judges, were announced this afternoon. The judges have a difficult job and I know that a lot of deliberation and discassion has gone on. The CBCA awards are given to works that are the benchmarks for quality in Australian children’s literature. The books that made to this short list are being read and enjoyed by the boys. I wrote a post about the older readers shortlist with links for follow-up earlier in the year.  As is usually the case the books chosen this year were quite varied in their styles and subject matter.

The 2014 CBCA Book of the Year awards have been given to the authors and illustrators in the following five categories from older readers to early childhood

Older readers

Winner: Wildlife by Fiona WoodShortlist

Honour Books

  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
  • The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn


Younger readers

City of Orphans - A very unusual pursuit -smlWinner: City of Orphans: A very unusual pursuit by Catherine Jinks. Catherine has an interesting page about the title, there are teaching notes and, from the Allen and Unwin site, there are Reviews by teachers (PDF) also.

Honour Books

 Early Childhood

Winner: The Swap by Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner.  Teacher notes here 

Honour Books:

 Picture book

Rules Of Summer-smlWinner: Rule of Summer by Shaun Tan. I am so pleased that another wonderful book by the brilliant author Shaun Tan won this section. There are some great resources  – my post with links including to videos, a teachers’ guide here and a podcast on The art of Shaun Tan.

Honour Books

 Eve Pownell Award for Information Books

Winner: Jeremy by Christopher Faille

Honour Books


CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers Shortlist 2014

The CBCA short lists came out a few weeks ago and I am always interested to see what the judges have put on the short list. The interesting thing this year is the number of books by younger writers on the list. What a good thing for the Australian YA sector to have debut novels making it to the list.

As usual we did not have the full complement of listed books on our shelves but below is the list, with reviews, of the ones from the older readers list that we do have in our library.

OLDER READERS: (suitable for more mature readers able to cope with challenging themes and controversial characters)

Castagna, Felicity  The Incredible Here and Now (Giramondo Publishing)

  • The way the story is told is interesting. The chapters are like a series of anecdotes/stories from the life of the  main character, Michael.  Set in the suburb of Parramatta, 15-year-old Michael narrates what he thinks, sees and understands the year he turns 15. His world alters more than he expects when he and his beloved brother Dom are involved in a car accident. Dom dies but the story does not dwell on grief. It is about Michael and his growth, from a child to a young man. He is resilient and pragmatic character who has to deal with a lot of things including his grief over the death of his brother and the family turmoil it brings. The world Michael inhabits is described vividly, the characters that are part of that world, his family and friends, are realistic. The reader can relate to their foibles and care about what happens to them in the novel. The writing style is simple and the language suits the character. The chapters short and the events documented are easy to relate to. This a story that most teenage boys could identify with and read with themselves in mind.
  • Website with teaching resources here and reading notes here.  
  • An interview with the author here

Keil, Melissa  Life in Outer Space (Hardie Grant Egmont)

  • Sam Kinnison is happy to be classed as a “geek”. He is an “A” who loves horror movies, the World of Warcraft and all his friends are “nerds”. He is comfortable in his world and knows where he is going, although he is tormented by the jocks at school, his friends are always there for him. Then Camilla Carter arrives at his school. Camilla is more than “cool’. She can be part of whatever group she likes. Sam thinks he can ignore her but her arrival changes everything. People start behaving out of character and Camilla decides that Sam will be part of her life.
  • A debut novel that is funny although there are some sad or difficult moments for Sam. It is a good coming-of-age story that teenagers can identify with.
  • Other reviews: here and an interview with Melissa Keil here

Kostakis, Will The First Third  (Penguin Group)

  • Only the second novel from the author this is both a funny and sad book about families and adolescence. The main character is 17 year old  Billy Tsiolkas and he is part of a Greek-Australian family.  He is the middle son, in a single-parent family and loves his idiosyncratic grandmother, Yiayia. She is a great character in the story and to roughly quote Yiayia’s outlook on life from the novel “Life is made of 3 parts: at first you are embarrassed by your family; in the second part you make your own family and thirdly you embarrass the family you’ve made.”  Yiayia becomes ill and so she gives Billy her list of things to do, her bucket-list. It is a short list of three things but they basically they amount to Billy getting his family, which has drifted apart, back together again. This is a big task and Billy has to deal with all sorts of situations as he tries to follow Yiayia’s instructions. There are many situations and characters that readers would identify with as they read this realistic portrayal of adolescent life in Australia today. I like they way Billy’s character described the Melbourne’s laneways, when he and his friend “Sticks” make a flying visit, to an address supplied by Yiayia.
  • Reviews from Insideadog  
  • Publisher’s website with teaching notes here.
  • Melina Marchetta interviews Will Kostakis here.

Near, Allyse Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Random House) Not in our library and so I have yet to read this novel

Wood, Fiona Wildlife (Pan Macmillan) Not in our library and so I have yet to read this novel.

  • Teacher’s notes here

Zorn, Claire The Sky so heavy (UQP)

  • Apocalyptic novel set at the beginning of a nuclear winter. There were elements that reminded me of books I read when at school or starting out in libraries, titles such as Z for Zachariah, Brother in the Land and Children of the Dust come to mind. It is not a simple copy of these stories however and the Australian setting along with many current issues underpin the story. Ideas explored here include the heavy reliance of the modern world on electricity and a lack of understanding about living with the natural world and the treatment of refugees, in this case due to an environmental disaster. Many other elements are there as well, survival, starvation, mental strength, bullying and racism.
    It begins like any other day for Fin, a fairly normal Australian teenager. He is living in a small town in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. where everything and everyone is familiar. It it all goes downhill from here. Nuclear missiles detonated after a conflict between two unnamed countries on the other side of the world spell disaster for everyone in Australia. Plunged into a nuclear winter Fin and his younger brother, Max, separated from their parents, have to survive. They are alone with food and water becoming more scarce and cold and darkness setting in. The normal way of behaving changes as people become sick and desperate for food, medicine and fuel. There is nothing coming out from the authorities and any hope of some sort of rescue fades. Suspicion, paranoia and rancour become more and more evident throughout the once friendly neighbourhood. Fin and Max decide to head to Sydney, with some friends, to try find their mother.  The journey to Sydney really brings home the enormity and finality of what has happened to Fin. The realisation that things will never go back to “before” hits home. He and Max are refugees in their own country on the wrong side of the barrier. As the story progresses Fin has many increasingly difficult choices to make and each one has consequences. He is not perfect and his character reacts in very understandable ways. This is a survival adventure story that appealed to a number of our boys. It is a good addition to the apocalyptic story genre.
  • Teacher notes are available here
  • Author interview here

It is interesting to compare the list to the INKY awards (Australian books chosen by young readers) Gold Inky Award long list (Australian books):

  • Zac and Mia by AJ Betts
  • All This Could End by Steph Bowe
  • Steal My Sunshine by Emily Gale
  • The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
  • The First Third by Will Kostakis
  • Every Breath by Ellie Marney
  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
  • Run by Tim Sinclair
  • The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

CBCA 2013 Books of the Year: Winners and runners-up

After several months of speculation the CBCA award winners for 2013 have been announced. The CBCA awards are given to works that are the benchmarks for quality in Australian children’s literature. Even making the short list guarantees that there will be attention given to these works.  In two posts about the 2013 shortlists ( older readers and younger readers) I wrote about these books and offered links to follow up each of them. The books chosen this year were quite varied in their styles and subject matter.

The winners and honour books have a gold medallion put onto the covers and they will be bought by schools for their libraries and their use in classes, public libraries and parents (and relatives) of young people.

The 2013 CBCA Book of the Year awards have been given to the authors and illustrators in the following five categories from older readers to early childhood.



Winner: Sea Hearts  by Margo Lanagan 

Honour books: 


The_children_of_the_kingWinner: Children of the King    by Sonya Hartnett

Honour books: 


Winner: The Terrible Suitcase  by Emma Allen & Freya Blackwood (Illus)  Teacher’s notes have been written for this book

Honour books: 

  • With Nan by Tania Cox  and Karen Blair
  • Too Many Elephants in This House by Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner


Winner: The Coat  by Ron Brooks (illus) and Julie Hunt. Also available: Teacher Notes and Teacher reviews 

Honour books:

  • Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon
  • Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester


Winner: Tom the Outback Mailman by Kristin Weidenbach and Timothy Ide. Also available: Teacher Notes 

Honour books:

  • Lyrebird! A True Story  by Jackie Kerin and Peter Gouldthrope
  • Topsy Turvy World: How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers by Kirsty Murray

CBCA Young readers shortlist 2013 – with links

The discussions have just begun about the 2013 CBCA Book of the Year shortlisted books.

Here is my post about the shortlisted books for the younger readers. We have 3 of the 6 in our secondary school library. It is interesting to see that Pennies for Hitler was on both the Older and Younger Readers lists but made it to the Younger Readers’ shortlist. Of the three books we have in our library, two are about young people surviving the Holocaust and the third is about refugees as well. The runaway winner in our library is After by Morris Gleitzman. His books are very popular but the series of books about the plight of Felix has captured the imaginations of many of our boys.

2013 Younger Readers Shortlist

  • French, Jackie Pennies for Hitler (Angus & Robertson, HarperCollins)
    • This is  a companion novel to Hitler’s Daughter but is not a sequel. The two books easily work as stand alone stories but each offer different perspectives on WWII. In Pennies for Hitler, set in 1939 Germany it is dangerous for anyone to have any Jewish ancestry. Life for 11-year old Georg is good, offering a lot of promise under the Führer. Everything changes when Georg’s father, an English university professor, is killed by a group of pro-Nazi students. His crime is that he is suspected to have a Jewish heritage. Georg’s German mother, fearing for her son’s safety, arranges for him to be smuggled into England. After an uncomfortable and frightening journey Georg reaches England and stays with his father’s sister, his Aunt Miriam. Her wartime work means that Georg spends a lot of time alone. He spends his time listening to the radio, reading newspapers and trying to improve his English accent. When the London bombing becomes too prolific Aunt Miriam, like many others at that time, decides to send Georg to safety in Australia. He is put into foster care and is taken by a kindly elderly couple living in country NSW. When things go wrong here as well Georg has an important decision to make.  This is a well written book with  a lot of historical accuracy. It is about war, and peace, and seeing things from different perspectives, developing empathy for others and tolerance.
    • Read a review from ReadPlus,  one from SMH and another from Children’s Books Daily. There are also teachers’ notes in PDF form from HarperCollins.
  • French, Simon Other Brother (Walker Books Australia) Not in our library
  • Gleitzman, Morris After (Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia))
    • I enjoy reading Morris Gleitzman’s books. His stories for young people involve many important human foibles and experiences but he maintains such a good balance and is never too intellectual or patronising to his readers. The third book in the series, Now, portrayed Felix as a grown man. In this novel Morris Gleitzman returns to the 1945 and the Gabriek’s farm where Felix is hiding in a whole after the brutal death of Zelda. He is not there for long. Soon Felix is facing some of his greatest challenges as the war draws to a close. The invading Nazis become an even greater danger and then he encounters the Polish partisans who appear to be just as dangerous to him as the Germans. Although he still has maintained some of his natural naivety he is determined to survive.  Felix is now a teenager and has developed skills that make him useful.  He has some medical skills the partisans can use, and as in the earlier books he still has compassion for others and a courage that wins him friends. Some of the final chapters are very sad especially when, as the war in Europe coming to an end, Felix goes looking for his parents in the death camps. What he finds is terrible.

      Morris Gleitzman also doesn’t shy away from the grey areas of war. Most people are not simply good or evil or clever or stupid. He does however explain what happened during this time very honestly and realistically. The violence, the damage and anger are all portrayed on the pages but throughout the story there is also courage, compassion and hope. It was a fitting way to finish the story of Felix.

    • You can read a review from ReadPlus or a student review from the Penguin blog.
  • Hartnett, Sonya Children of the King (Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia))
    • Sonya Hartnett is a consummate writer, whose stories often leave me feeling uncomfortable, but are always well told. In this book she combines stories from two eras. The first is set in wartime Britain, the second stems from the time of Richard III and the mystery of the missing “Princes in the Tower”. Two children, Cecily and Jeremy, are sent away from the London bombings to live in the country, with their mother and Uncle Peregrine. Whilst there Cecily and another evacuee, May discover two little boys hiding in a nearby derelict castle. Who they are and why are they there? The characters of all the children are well written and they all have interesting and different parts to play in the story. The themes of class, growth/emotional development are woven into the story that is not simply a wartime story nor a ghost story nor just a mystery story or a coming-of-age story. Sonya Hartnett has woven many strands into her latest book.
    • You can read the transcript of a Q&A about this book on the interviews page on Sonya Hartnett’s site.
    • Read a review from ReadAlert (SLV) and another from ReadPlus
  • Herrick, Steven Pookie Aleera is Not my Boyfriend (University of Queensland Press) Not in our library.
    • The latest verse novel from Steven Herrick.
    • Read a review on the AussieReviews site and another by Joy Lawn for The Australian
    • Download the teachers’ notes PDF from the publishers site.
  • Millard, Glenda & illustrated by Stephen Michael King The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk (HarperCollins)
    • Not in our library. Part of the Kingdom of Silk series: #6.
    • You can read more about the book here from the Children’s Books Daily.
    • Download the teachers’ notes PDF from the publishers site.

CBCA shortlist 2013 and the older readers list links

Congratulations to everyone who was connected to the short list this year, writers, publishers and of course the judges. The judges have such a difficult job to whittle down the long list to the short list. As always, there will be discussion with my colleagues about what was left out and their personal favourites. We have many of the titles on this years shortlist but a few did not make it to our shelves as we try to cater for our clientele and not break our budget. This year we had only one of the picture books,  A Day to Remember by  Mark Wilson and text by Jackie French, and none of the Eve Pownell shortlisted books.

Older Readers Short List 2013 (These books are for mature readers)

  • Grant, Neil The Ink Bridge (Allen & Unwin)
    • Neil Grant has written a YA novel that tackles the very divisive political issue of asylum seekers whilst still delivering a story with enough action and suspense for our boys to enjoy the tale without losing poignancy
    • Teacher reviews  here and teaching notes also available from Allen & Unwin site.
  • Lanagan, Margo Sea Hearts (Allen & Unwin)
    • This is the one book in this part of the list I have not read and we do not have in our library.
    • Reading groups guide, notes for teachers PDF and reviews by teachers PDF are also available from Allen and Unwin site.. Interestingly it is called The Brides of Rollrock Island for the US market
  • MacLeod, Doug The Shiny Guys (Penguin Group)
    • An engrossing and affecting story on another serious subject, depression. Colin is a 15-year-old boy who, after a very traumatic event, is hospitalised. He exists in a world where fantasy and reality merge in his mind. Some of the other patients offer him friendship and are part of the lighter aspects in the story. Although not a comedic novel there are many touches of dark humour.
    • You can read more about this book on the Goodreads reviews page, the ReadAlert (SLV) site and a page on The Wheeler Center also discusses the novel.
  • Touchell, Dianne Creepy & Maud (Fremantle Press) I have yet to read this and it must now be on my to-read list.
    • Teaching notes PDF is available and there are quite a few reviews on Goodreads
  • Wakefield, Vikki Friday Brown (Text Publishing)
    • This story has many fascinating characters and very tangled relationships. Having lost her mother, seventeen-year-old Friday goes on the run and falls in with a band of street children who are led by an unpredictable but charismatic young woman called Arden. She running to escape her memories but throughout the book, Friday remains haunted by the ghost of her recently dead mother, and also the  family curse; a history of drowning.  Things don’t go well and Friday is lost, alone and afraid.
    • Teaching notes PDF is available. There is also an article you can read on the Readings site where Vikki Wakefield talks about the process of writing Friday Brown.
  • Zail, Suzy The Wrong Boy (Black Dog Books, Walker Books Australia)
    • Suzy Zail is an Australian-born author and daughter of a Holocaust survivor. She writes this her first fictional story in the first person. Hanna Mendel, is a 15-year-old girl living with her older sister Erika and her parents in the Debrecen Jewish ghetto in Hungary.  She is a good student and talented pianist who has always behaved appropriately. Her world changes when the Nazis arrive to announce that the ghetto is closing and the family will be “resettled”. After a long train journey in a cattle car they end up in the camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. There are examples of many survival strategies throughout the story and it quickly becomes evident that there are no longer any simple solutions or simple judgements in Hanna’s life. The characters are flawed and changeable, not simply good or evil but often a mixture of both. There is also a romance that blossoms between Hanna and the camp Captain’s son, Karl.  He does not seem to be like his Father and sees more to Hana than her Jewish heritage. Her mother and sister do not fare well but this is the story of Hanna. She may be a naïve teenager  but she is determined to survive. The end of the book leaves an opening for a further story.
    • Classroom Ideas PDF is available from the publishers sites and there are Reviews on the Insideadog site and Goodreads

Younger Readers Short List 2013 (Intended for independent younger readers.)

  • French, Jackie Pennies for Hitler (Angus & Robertson, HarperCollins)
  • French, Simon Other Brother (Walker Books Australia)
  • Gleitzman, Morris After (Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia))
  • Hartnett, Sonya Children of the King (Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia))
  • Herrick, Steven Pookie Aleera is Not my Boyfriend (University of Queensland Press
  • Millard, Glenda & Stephen Michael King The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk (HarperCollins)

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