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CBCA Shortlist

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, April 16, 2014



The shortlist of the Australian Children's Book of the Year Awards has just been announced. Have a look at the full list here. Reviews are all by our kids staff specialists.

Book of the Year: Older Readers (Some of these books are for mature readers)

Felicity Castagna
The Incredible Here and Now
  pb 9781922146366  $19.95
Description: Coming of age novel. Michael’s older brother dies at the beginning of the summer he turns 15, but this is a tale of wonder, not tragedy. It is about the suburb where he lives in Western Sydney, where those who don’t know any better drive through the neighbourhood with their car doors locked, while those who live there flourish in the mix of cultures. It’s about his community and surroundings, his unsettled family life, romance, and friends who gather in the McDonald’s parking lot at night. (mature 14 – 17 years)

Melissa Keil
Life in Outer Space
 pb 9781742973951  $18.95
Description: YA romantic comedy about a movie geek and the dream girl he refuses to fall in love with. (15-17/18 years)

Will Kostakis
The First Third
 pb 9780143568179  $18.00
Description: Contemporary Greek family and their relationships in modern Australia. Life is made up of three parts: in the first third, you're embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you've made. That's how 16 year old Billy's grandmother explains it, anyway. She's given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it's his job to glue their family back together. No pressure or anything. Fixing his family's not going to be easy and Billy's not ready for change. But as he soon discovers, the first third has to end some time. And then what? It's a Greek tragedy waiting to happen. (13/14+ years)

Allyse Near
Fairytales for Wilde Girls 
pb 9781742758510  $19.99
Description: Fantasy/magic realism. Deliciously dark bubblegum-gothic fairytale. A balance of whimsy and horror in a twisted fairytale that is gounded in a realistic modern day. Think Neil Gaiman, the Grimm brothers, Angela Carter. (14/15-18 years)

Fiona Wood
Wildlife pb 9781742612317
Description: Boarding for a term in the wilderness, 16 year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula. As she confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild. Lou, from Wood’s previous novel Six Impossible Things (which Mandy enjoyed) is also in this novel. (mature 15-17 years)

Claire Zorn
The Sky So Heavy  
pb 9780702249761  $19.95
Description: A story of disaster and survival; of human nature in a time of darkness and desperation. Set in the Blue Mountains and then Sydney. For 17 year old Fin, it's just like any other day - racing for the school bus, bluffing his way through class, and trying to remain cool in front of the most sophisticated girl in his universe, Lucy. Only it's not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated. In the wake of a catastrophic nuclear event between unnamed countries, Australia is plunged into a nuclear winter with devastating repercussions. (mature 15-18 years)

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Anna Branford & Sarah Davis (illus)

Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend Book 5  hardback 9781921977565  $19.95
Description: Violet Mackerel has moved into her new house and she doesn’t have any friends nearby. Rose lives next door and has a pink and white bedroom and a doll’s house, and Violet thinks she could be a possible friend). Black and white pencil illustrations throughout. (6-9 year olds)
Other books in this charming and popular series, $19.95 each:
Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot: Book 1 hardback 9781921529177 
Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery: Book 2 hardback 9781921529184  Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat: Book 3 hardback  9781921529191 
Violet Mackerel's Personal Space: Book 4 hardback  9781921529207 
Violet Mackerel's Pocket Protest: Book 6 hardback  9781921977572 
Violet Mackerel's Helpful Suggestion: Book 7 hardback  9781922244369  (due to be published 1st June 2014)

Julie Hunt
Song for a Scarlet Runner 
pb 9781743313589  $15.99
Description: A story about friendship and finding your way in the world. The young heroine is forced to make a dangerous journey. She experiences hardship and betrayal but, with courage, luck and the help of her friends, she finds her way to freedom. (9/10-13 years)

Catherine Jinks
A Very Unusual Pursuit: Book 1 City of Orphans Trilogy
 pb 9781743313060  $14.99
Description: A clever fantasy adventure with feisty characters, set in Victorian era London, a time where science clashes with superstition and monsters lurk in chimneys. (10-13 years)               Also in this series:  A Very Peculiar Plague: Book 2 pb 9781743313053 $14.99,A Very Singular Guild: Book 3 pb 9781743313091 $14.99                                                                                  

Barry Jonsberg 

My Life As an Alphabet pb 9781743310977  $14.99

Description: Candice Phee wants to bring light and laughter to those around her, and somehow she succeeds despite the bizarre mix-ups and the confusion she effortlessly creates. An uplifting comedy-drama. (11-13 years)

Dianne Wolfer & Brian Simmonds (illus)
Light Horse Boy
  hardback 9781922089137   $26.99
Narrative non-fiction. This picture book for older readers is an accessible story of Australia’s Light Horse Brigade. Drawing on primary sources such as photos and correspondence, Wolfer depicts both the horrors and the lighter side of WWI faced by our exceptional Walers and their riders. Presented in a journal format, the story follows two young friends, Jim and Charlie, who, like thousands of others, misrepresented their age so they could join the ‘great adventure’. Alternating with more personal entries like (censored) letters home and diary entries are narrative passages, lent a superb immediacy by the charcoal photo-realistic illustrations. This provides an authentic glimpse into the tragedy of war and prompts well-deserved respect for the people and animals involved.   (9-14 year olds) LB

Book of the Year: Early Childhood (Picture Books

Janeen Brian & Ann James (illus)

I’m A Dirty Dinosaur hardback 9780670076154  $19.99
Description: A simple, rhyming picture book about a naughty little dinosaur who loves to get dirty. A cheeky character, catchy words and a muddy mess! Bright illustrations and rounded corners make this perfect for the very young. (2-4 year olds)

Mem Fox & Emma Quay (illus)
Baby Bedtime
 hardback 9780670075195  $24.99
This is a simple book with a lyrical text perfect for reading aloud at bedtime, with only one line on each page. ‘I could eat your little ears. I could nibble on your nose. I could munch your little fingers. I could gobble up your toes.’ The pencil and acrylic illustrations are of a mother and baby elephant, and the interesting textured backgrounds of lace, woven baskets, handkerchiefs, etc, add to the charm of the book. (0-3 year olds) MC

Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood (illus)
Banjo and Ruby Red
  hardback 9781921541087  $24.95
Banjo is an old farm dog and he’s really good at rounding up the chooks. Except for Ruby Red. She refuses to jump to it when he barks, and sits haughtily on top of the woodheap, staring at the sky, until he has to come and round her up especially. Their relationship is a little prickly, until Ruby Red falls ill and Banjo takes her to his kennel and tenderly nurses her back to health. A touching story with excellent, expressive illustrations from this talented team. (3-6 year olds) MC

Alison Lester
Kissed By the Moon 
hardback 9780670076758  $19.99
A new book from Alison Lester, Australia’s inaugural Children’s Laureate (jointly with Boori Pryor), is always a treat. In Kissed by the Moon, her gentle watercolour illustrations accompany text that is both a lullaby to a new baby and a wish for baby to experience the best of our beautiful world: ‘May you grow sleepy at sunset, sing to the stars, and drift into dreams. And may you, my baby, be kissed by the moon.’ Winner 2014 Indie Book Awards, Children’s category. (0-4 years) MC

Jan Ormerod & Andrew Joyner (illus)
The Swap 
 hardback 9781921541414  $24.95
Caroline Crocodile is very, very, VERY jealous of her baby brother. Mama Crocodile thinks he’s gorgeous, but to Caroline he’s no fun at all – he’s smelly, he dribbles and he takes up all the room on Mama’s lap. After swapping him at the Baby Shop for a panda (fussy eater), an elephant (too squirty) and twin baby tigers (too tiring), Caroline decides that her baby brother is just right after all. And look, he has a shiny new tooth! A fun story about sibling rivalry, and there’s a lot going on in the busy illustrations. (3-5 years old)  MC

Dianne Wolfer & Karen Blair (illus)
Granny Grommet and Me
 hardback 9781921720161  $27.95
This little girl is afraid of the sea – there are strange things under the waves! At the beach, her granny and the other Granny Grommets hit the surf. They duck and dive, twist and turn, and zoom through the waves, followed by a relaxing soak in their favourite rock pool and then a bit of snorkelling. With a lot of gentle encouragement the Grannys finally get the little girl to join them, opening her eyes to all the wonderfully strange things under the waves. The illustrations really capture the little girl’s tentative progress, and it’s great to see such a positive representation of grandmothers. There are tips on snorkelling in Granny Grommet’s Beach Tips at the end of the book. (5-8 years old)  MC

Picture Book of the Year (These picture books may be for mature readers)

Margaret Wild & Freya Blackwood (illus)

The Treasure Box hardback 9780670073658  $24.99
‘When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.’ As war rages, a young boy and his father are among many to flee their city, taking only a suitcase with a few possessions, and a metal box containing the only surviving book. Father says it is a book about their people and is more precious then silver, gold and gems. His father doesn’t survive the harsh journey, and when the boy can no longer carry the metal box he buries it in the frozen earth under a linden tree by a cottage at the edge of a village. Growing up in a strange new country as a war orphan, the boy often thinks of his father and the precious book. Years pass, the boy becomes a man and finally returns home, journeying to the cottage by the linden tree. He shares his story with a young girl playing in the garden there and together they dig up the book. In his city there is a new library and he puts the book back on the shelf where it can be found and read, and loved. This is a gentle, sad book with a positive message about the importance of memory and the passing on of knowledge. The lovely illustrations are quite muted, brightening towards the end of the story when the boy returns home, and are partly made up of collages of printed words on strips and bits of paper. The words are in Italian, Hungarian, Norwegian, and there is a note on the title page saying they are taken from foreign editions of The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett and Once and Then by Morris Gleitzman. Fascinating. (7-10 year olds) MC

Nick Bland
King Pig
 hardback 9781742834955  $24.99
King Pig just couldn’t understand why his subjects, the sheep, didn’t adore him. He could make them do whatever he wanted, whenever he pleased, but he could not make them like him. Thinking it might help if he looked fancier, he makes the sheep work through the night knitting him a new wardrobe, which he parades on a catwalk the next morning. Shorn and shivering in the cold rain, the sheep are unimpressed. King Pig is at his wits end. When the littlest sheep suggests he might try being nice, King Pig comes up with a way to show the sheep how truly sorry he is for his selfish behaviour. A great message about treating others with respect. The excellent illustrations are worthy of close examination as they are full of hilarious little details. (5-7 or 8 years old) MC

Bob Graham
Silver Buttons
 hardback 9781406342246  $27.95
The story takes place over just one minute. At 9.59 on a Thursday morning Jodie is putting the finishing touches to her drawing of a rather dashing duck; her pen is poised and she’s just about to add the third silver button to his black leather boots. At that moment her little brother Jonathan pushes himself to his feet, sways, and takes his first step. Time slows and the pictures zoom out over the following pages. We see Jonathan’s mum sitting in the kitchen playing a tune on her tin whistle; outside, a pigeon nests, a feather floats, an ambulance shrieks by and a shoelace is tied; over in the park children sail boats in the fountain while Sophie and her granddad have made a house of leaves, and out in the bay a tanker heads off to China. So much is happening, everywhere, in that same minute! Then we come full circle back to Jonathan who pitches forward onto his little pink knees as Jodie yells out to mum that he’s just taken his first step. As the clock strikes 10 mum scoops Jonathan up into a big hug and we are drawn into the personal joy of this momentous occasion. Bob Graham’s picture books seem so simple but there’s always so much more to be discovered and talked about in the details of his wonderful drawings. (4-7 years)  MC

Danny Parker & Matt Ottley (illus)
hardback 9781921894206  $24.95
Description: Toby wears a parachute all the time. It is the first thing he puts on in the morning and it gives him the courage to deal with all kinds of tricky situations. Then one day Toby discovers that someone else’s problems can be greater than your own. A powerful story about a fearful child finding his independence. (3-6 year olds)

Doug MacLeod & Craig Smith (illus)
The Windy Farm
 hardback 9781921504419  $24.99
Description: Why would anyone want to live on a farm where the winds are so fierce that even the pigs are blown away? Fortunately, Mum is a clever inventor and can think of one very good reason. This funny picture book has a very pertinent message about wind power and environmental sustainability. (5-8 year olds)

Shaun Tan
Rules of Summer 
hardback 9780734410672  $24.99
‘This is what I learned last summer’ whispers one boy to another. On every page there is a rule, such as: Never leave a red sock on the clothesline; Never leave the back door open overnight; Never step on a snail; Always know the way home; and finally, Never miss the last day of summer. That’s it. Just what will happen if you break these rules? The accompanying illustrations throw up some possible consequences, and humour and playfulness rub shoulders with menace, the surreal scenarios darkening as the book progresses. Typically of Shaun Tan’s work, this is a challenging book and the emotional landscape is broad and deep, exploring the relationship between two brothers. It seems that ‘the rules are those seemingly arbitrary ones that younger siblings have to face when older siblings come up with them’. There is a lot of scope for discussion about the metaphorical meaning of the illustrations. (8 year olds to adults)  MC

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Chris Faille & Danny Snell (illus)

Jeremy hardback 9781921504402  $24.99
Narrative non-fiction. When a baby kookaburra falls from a nest high up in the palm tree, he is brought inside by the family cat. He is so young that his eyes are still closed and he has no feathers, and a little girl and her family keep him warm in a box with a hot water bottle, feeding him special food every four hours. He grows very quickly and we track his progress over the next six weeks as his feathers grow and he learns to fly, until he becomes strong and confident enough to join the other kookaburras in the big gum tree in the backyard. On the endpapers you’ll find lots of fascinating facts about kookaburras. (6-8 or 9 year olds)  MC

Peter Gouldthorpe
Ice, Wind, Rock: Douglas Mawson in the Antarctic 
hardback 9780734411556  $28.99
Description: The book focuses on the multi-pronged Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14, and particularly the ill-fated journey of the Far Eastern Party which Mawson led. Full of drama and misfortune in such an extreme climate and unforgiving landscape, history shows that Mawson was very lucky to have survived. The narrative is accompanied by full-page illustrations painted in a realistic style. (8-10 or 11 year olds)

Mark Greenwood & Terry Denton (illus)
 hardback 9781742375700  $29.99
This is a very important picture book telling the remarkable story of the Aboriginal warrior Jandamarra who led his people against the station owners and police who were encroaching further and further on the land of the Bunuba people in the rugged Kimberley region of north-west Australia.   In the late 1890s, Jandamarra worked for some time for white settlers and also the Police but then as more and more of his people were captured and held in chains, he turned and led his people in a guerrilla-like resistance against the intruders. His ability to disappear into the many caves and crevices of the country round Windjana Gorge became legendary and even when wounded he managed to escape numerous times, leading to the belief that he had magical powers. When he was killed he was only 24. Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton have worked closely with the Elders of the Bunuba people in telling this story. We are very used to seeing Terry Denton’s distinctive illustrations used for comic effect and so it is fascinating to see how effectively his illustrations tell this tragic story of Jandamara’s life and give us a vivid picture of the rugged Kimberley country.  It is very pleasing that this story about a legendary Indigenous hero, so well known in the Kimberley and in Western Australia, will now be known by children and adults throughout Australia. (7 – 12 years).  KS

Paul Ham (editor)
Yoko’s Diary: The Life of A Young Girl in Hiroshima During WW2
hardback 9780733331176  $24.99
Description: In April 1945, Yoko Moriwaki started high school in Hiroshima. Within months Yoko’s city would become the target for the first atomic bomb ever used as a weapon. Yoko’s diary provides an account of that time, showing the hopes, beliefs and daily life of a young girl in wartime Japan. There are additions by her relatives and fellow students, and an introduction by award-winning author Paul Ham. A touching account of the consequences of the first nuclear bombing of a city. (10-13 year olds)

Rae Murdie & Chris Nixon (illus)
Meet Captain Cook
 hardback 9780857980175  $24.99, pb 9780857980182  $16.99
This is a simple, straightforward introduction in picture book format to the story of how Captain Cook discovered the east coast of Australia.  It contains brief details about Cook’s early life and how he was chosen to captain a ship to travel to Tahiti so that he could chart the transit of Venus across the sun.  He was also given a sealed letter from the King, to be opened only when the first part of the mission was complete.  In the letter were instructions to sail south in search of new lands to be claimed for the King of England.  Cook did find land to the west of New Zealand and called it New South Wales.   There are descriptions of the new plants and animals discovered by Joseph Banks and of the calamitous near sinking of the ship on the Great Barrier Reef.   Striking illustrations show the ship and mountainous seas and also sea creatures.  At the end of the book, a detailed timeline of Cook’s life and all of his voyages is very helpful.   There is also a map of his voyage to Australia on the end pages.  This will be a useful addition for the Library as there are very few books about Captain Cook and his all-important voyage at this grade 3 to 4 age level. Australian. (7 – 9 years)  KS

Laklak Burarrwanga & Family
Welcome To My Country 
pb 9781743313961  $18.99
This is the story of Laklak Burarrwanga and her family and also of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land.  It describes Laklak’s life and how her people moved back to their Country at Bawaka, a beautiful beach in Arnhem Land.  The book is divided into sections describing the seasons, how they change and what food can be collected or hunted at that time.  The story of Laklak’s life is told intermittently with this factual information about the land.  Also interspersed throughout the book are traditional stories.  All of these relate and combine to give us a much greater understanding.  The story of Laklak’s life has a very personal touch and it reads as though she is chatting to us.  However there is also a huge amount of information about kinship (which is always very complicated), bush foods and natural farming.   It is not easy to remember as many of the words are also translated into the Yolngu language.  The many photographs, a detailed map, Yolngu word list, summary of the seasons and an Index are all helpful.  This is a detailed, lovely book.  It contains many stories and will be an invaluable guide for anyone wanting to have a greater understanding of the Yolngu way of life and their attachment to their Country.  Teachers could use the book as a very valuable reference and also could read aloud some of the traditional stories. (14 years up). KS

Crichton Award for New Illustrators

Claire Saxby & Graham Byrne (illus)

Big Red Kangaroo (Nature Storybooks series) hardback 9781921720420 $27.95
Narrative non-fiction. We meet Red and his family of kangaroos, called a mob; there are a few adult females, some with a joey (baby) in their pouch, and some young kangaroos of different ages. Kangaroos are marsupials with the family name of macropod, which means big foot. It is dusk and we follow their activities through to dawn, as kangaroos are most active at night, resting during the heat of the day. The mob follows Red in search of food and water, sniffing the air and listening out for dingoes, one of their few natural predators. It is Red’s job to keep the mob safe, and sometimes he must fight a younger adult male who wants to challenge him for the job. If he loses, his mob will follow a new leader, giving them the best chance of survival in a harsh environment. The story is accompanied by information in a different text style, and the charcoal illustrations are excellent. (5-8 year olds) MC

Andrew Cranna
The Great Blood Bank Robbery: Book 1 The Bloodhound Boys (graphic novel) 
pb 9781922179302  $19.95
Deep under the earth’s crust, in the world of the undead, someone has robbed the Skull River City Blood bank where Rocky Werewolf’s dad is head of security. It’s up to Rocky, Vampire Vince and Snake to solve the mystery and restore the city’s vital blood supply. They must venture deeper down under the earth to the realm of the wicked Mosquito King, bribing the monster gatekeeper of the Black Forest with a smelly old ham sandwich, battling flesh-eating vines and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Imprisoned by the King’s evil mutant insectivore drone army, they manage to escape thanks to some nifty techniques learned in Monster Transformation Class and Biting 101. Not only do they sabotage the King’s creation of an evil Frankenstein army and find the stolen blood, but they also free Vince’s long-lost dad and the former Duke of the mountain kingdom. An action-packed graphic novel with black and white illustrations. (6-9 year olds)  MC

Ben Sanders
I’ve An Uncle Ivan 
hardback 9780500500361  $24.95
Description: Meet the talented Sandini family. Each member is hitching a ride to an undisclosed destination, each using a different mode of transportation. The story is told in rhyming text with bright, retro illustrations that contain lots of clues about the family and their destination. (3-5 year olds)

Danielle Wheeldon & David Snowdon (illus)
The Nerdy Birdy
 hardback (** isbn & price to be confirmed)
Description: An anti-bullying picture book self-published by two young people in Bendigo, Victoria, assisted by crowd-funding to raise the money to publish. The message is that we are all strong in our own ways, with different talents. (5-8 year olds)

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