AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS 2017 WINNERS, HONOUR BOOKS & SHORT LIST






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

Winner


Claire Zorn, One Would Think the Deep, pb 9780702253942 Sam has always had things going on in his head that no one else understands, not even his mum. And now she’s dead, it’s worse than ever. With nothing but his skateboard and a few belongings in a garbage bag, Sam goes to live with the strangers his mum cut ties with seven years ago: Aunty Lorraine and his cousins Shane and Minty. Despite the suspicion and hostility emanating from their fibro shack, Sam reverts to his childhood habit of following Minty around and is soon surfing with Minty to cut through the static fuzz in his head. But as the days slowly meld into one another, and ghosts from the past reappear, Sam has to make the ultimate decision... will he sink, or swim? Award-winner Zorn’s latest novel is sure to garner her even more fans. (ages 14+) LB


Honour Books

Cath Crowley, Words in Deep Blue pb 9781742612386  When her brother Cal is drowned in the sea that they both loved, Rachel’s world collapses around her. She can no longer go into the sea, she failed Year 12 after being a top student, and she cut herself off from all her friends and refused to talk about Cal’s death. Her aunt wants her to go and live with her in the city where she had lived most of her life and she starts working in the second hand bookshop where she had spent so many happy hours when she was younger and where Henry still works. They were best friends once, before she went to live by the sea. However, she has told no one about Cal’s death and so her relationship with Henry and her old friends is fraught with tension and difficulties. I loved the way Cath Crowley has made the bookshop and books such a very important part of the story and the way she emphasises their importance to the characters. There are so many references to books and memorable quotes. The story is written alternately in the words of Rachel and Henry, but also through the letters of others in the Letter Library. This is a special section of the bookshop where people put letters for others in books and this takes on a very special importance. I found it so easy to become immersed in the lives of these characters. They are very likeable and we feel for them and also for the bookshop, struggling to survive. Highly recommended (13 – 18 years) KS


Zana Frallon The Bone Sparrow pb 9780734417138  Publisher’s description: Sometimes, at night, the dirt outside turns into a beautiful ocean. As red as the sun and as deep as the sky. I lie in my bed, Queeny's feet pushing up against my cheek, and listen to the waves lapping at the tent. Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. The Night Sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, and brings a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it, she relies on Subhi to unravel her own family's love songs and tragedies. Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.


Shortlist

Meg Caddy, Waer pb 9781922182210  This is a well-told absorbing fantasy. Lowell Sencha’s life is a happy one. He lives with his family tending sheep in a quiet secluded valley where the people are waer, folk who can shift shape into wolves. However the harmony is dashed when they discover a strange girl lying half dead on a riverbank. He knows that she too is able to take on the shape of a wolf, though she dreads this change. Her name is Lycaea and her arrival marks the beginning of a tale of much cruelty and bloodshed. The story of how they make a perilous journey to find a way to get help to defeat the deranged tyrant who destroyed the peace of the valley and kept Lycaea captive for many years is dramatic and has many twists. It is told in alternating chapters between the voices of Lowell and Lycaea giving very different perspectives to the story. The plot is complex and at times the story is very violent and involves torture and killing. However it is a classic struggle between good and evil and comes to a satisfyingly dramatic end. (11 – 16 years) KS

Megan Jacobson, Yellow pb 9780143573333  Kirra is a shy, self-conscious fourteen-year-old who is terribly bullied at school by a particularly vicious group of girls. She doesn’t fit in and has to deal at home with a mother who is an alcoholic since an unhappy separation from Kirra’s father. Kirra is nicknamed Yellow because of the unusual colour of her eyes. She lives in a small coastal country town and she often finds refuge at a deserted beach. Nearby she hears an abandoned phone ringing and when she answers it, she becomes involved with Boogie who claims he was murdered some twenty years earlier. As she tries to find out who murdered him, Kirra discovers more about herself, her mother and others in the town. This paranormal mystery adds greatly to the tension of the story and is surprisingly absorbing. Kirra gradually learns self-resilience and realises that she has many strengths and some close friends in the town. This is an accomplished novel for a first time author. (13 – 16 years) KS

Shivaun Plozza,  Frankie pb 9780143573166  Frankie is a difficult, fierce, cynical seventeen-year-old who has lived all her life with the deep hurt of feeling that she was abandoned by her mother when she was very young. Since that time she has lived with her aunt Vinnie above the kebab shop that her aunt runs in a tough inner city area. Vinnie is a strong flamboyant character, however Frankie is so often in trouble at school and is so angry at the world that even Vinnie loses patience at times. When fourteen-year- old Xavier appears, claiming to be Frankie’s half brother but then mysteriously disappears, Frankie is determined to find him. This is a dark gritty story dealing with petty theft and drugs. Frankie is rude, brutal at times but has a sharp tongue and can at times be very funny. Beneath this tough front, she has a vulnerable side. She is a gutsy character, flawed, but with many strengths and the story of her quest to find her brother is always absorbing. (13 – 18 years) KS

 
 

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Winner

Trace Balla, 
Rockhopping hb 9781760112349 This is another title by the very idiosyncratic author and illustrator of Rivertime. That was the story of young Clancy who went on a canoe journey along the Glenelg River with his bird watching Uncle Egg. This time they visit the Grampians or Gariwerd to find the mouth of the Glenelg River. This is a more ambitious trip but this time Clancy is very enthusiastic from the start, even though he has to practice carrying a backpack which is so heavy he can hardly lift it. The climb is very challenging as is the camping, often in the rain. But there is again so much to observe with wildlife, plants and birds. Clancy finds that he gradually overcomes his exhaustion and discovers many rewards from trekking in a very different environment. The book involves some danger as a backpack falls down a ravine and Clancy almost falls after it. As a result, Clancy and Uncle Egg are separated for most of a day but Clancy is very proud of the way he manages on his own for he has learnt a lot in the way of bush skills. He is proud of his resilience and is feeling more confident about finding his way and being independent. Trace Balla’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the bush shines through in her stories and in the detailed illustrations of native birds, plants and animals. An important and very enjoyable book. (8–12 years) KS

Honour Books

Wendy Orr,  Dragonfly Song pb 9781760290023 Wendy Orr has written a most impressive historical novel. Set in the Bronze Age, it is inspired by the well-known wall paintings of the Minoan civilisation where young bull dancers perform acrobatic feats over the backs of enormous bulls. Aissa is a young girl whose turbulent life has been full of twists and turns. She has been rejected by her mother, the Lady, because she is not perfect, and is forced for much of her life to live as an outcast. However the gods seem determined that Aissa be chosen as one of many thirteen year olds sent as tribute from surrounding islands to the Minoan King and destined to be trained as bull dancers for twelve months. Those that survive can win their freedom and free their islands from sending tribute each year to the Bull King. This is a vivid and absorbing story, written alternately in prose and lyrical free verse. The combination works very effectively and moves effortlessly from one to the other. The story takes place in a world where blood flows freely but Aissa has learnt resilience from her time as an outcast. Wendy Orr brings to life the culture and seasonal rituals of these people as well as daily life among the farmers, goat herders and healers. It is a most enjoyable historical novel with a touch of magic. (9 – 13 years) KS


Kate & Jol Temple (illus by John Foye), 
Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade pb 9781760291938 Jimmy Cook is sure he is a relative of Captain James Cook since they have the same names. When he does a history project on Captain Cook, he learns about Cook’s explorations and he insists on wearing a similar tricorn hat and he also wants to be an intrepid explorer. He keeps a log (not a diary) of his exploits which are funny and often silly. Cartoon style illustrations add to the fun. (8 – 10 years) KS

Shortlist

Robyn Bavati, Within These Walls pb 9781760152857 This is a harrowing account written in the first person by a young Jewish girl who was about ten years old when the German first occupied Warsaw during the Second World War. Miri describes the warmth and happiness of her large family, their celebrations and smell and taste of the delicious food served. However as more and more restrictions are placed on the Jews, the tensions and distress in the family increase. Finally they are forced to shift to the Warsaw ghetto and have to live in shocking overcrowded conditions with very little food and where diseases such as typhus and typhoid are rampant. Gradually Miri’s whole family die from disease or are murdered or taken away by the Nazis. By chance Miri finds her cousin and he takes her to an underground basement where Jewish resistance fighters are preparing to fight the Germans and will die rather than be taken to the death camps. The character of Miri and her family are fictional though Robyn Bavati has obviously done a lot of research for this book and many of the details of what happened are taken from true autobiographical accounts. This is a bleak, graphic account. Miri’s mother wanted her to survive so that someone from the family would live and tell the story of what had happened. I agree that this is extraordinarily important but I wonder at what age it is appropriate to give such detail of the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto during the Holocaust. (12 – 15 years) KS

Karen Foxlee, A Most Magical Girl hb 9781848125742 Annabel Grey has always been disturbed by the strange things she can see sometimes but she has no idea of her magical powers until she is sent to live with her two strange aunts. Annabel has always been brought up as a very proper young lady and so when she is told that she comes from a long line of witches she can hardly believe it. When even stranger things begin to happen and evil threatens to take over the world, Annabel and a young girl called Kitty have to work together so that Annabel can use her magical gifts to save the world from the threat of such dark magic. The story is set in Victoria times, and is full of magic, broomsticks, witches, wizards and dangerous adventure for those readers who like magic and fantasy. (9 – 12 years) KS

Bruce Pascoe, Mrs Whitlam pb 9781925360240 When Marnie is given the big beautiful Clydesdale horse called Mrs Margaret Whitlam, it is as though all her dreams have come true. However she feels very keenly that her good fortune has come about only because the girl who had owned and loved the horse has died. This is a moving, simply written story of determination and commitment as Marnie and Mrs Whitlam get to know and love each other. Marnie’s family is not at all wealthy and so Marnie has to work hard at the Pony Club to earn enough to keep the horse. The story is engaging and gives us positive insight into a strong Indigenous family, where the mother especially instills in Marnie a strong sense of independence, responsibility and love, in spite of the prejudice of some in the country town where they live. (7 – 10 years) KS


Book of the Year: Early Childhood (Picture Books)

Winner

Johanna Bell & Dion Beasley (illus), Go Home, Cheeky Animals! hb 9781760291655  It took a few readings before I really appreciated the humour in the striking naïve illustrations and in the simple but lively text of this innovative book. The illustrator lives in a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory and at the young age of 24 already has his own design clothing brand, Cheeky Dogs. Dogs are very much part of many remote community townships and in this book, they lazily watch as other feral animals take their turn in invading the town through the various seasons of the year. First there are goats, then donkeys, then horses and then when the grass dries up “a bunch of buffaloes starts eating our oval” and the cheeky dogs just look the other way. The camels are the last to come when the soaks dry up. All the animals are finally chased away when the big storms come. It is easy to see how this lively humorous picture book would have a special appeal to Indigenous children in remote communities but it would also appeal to children everywhere while giving them an insight into life with its seasons and feral animals in a remote Indigenous community. Dion Beasley’s talents are especially remarkable since he is deaf and has muscular dystrophy. Both author and illustrator are to be commended on such an unusual and appealing picture book. It would be great for reading aloud and for performance. Young children will love joining in the chorus of “Go home, cheeky animals.” (3 – 6 years) KS



Honour Books

Kylie Dunstan, Nannie Loves hb 9781921504839 Nannie lives on a farm and she loves everything about it! She loves her woolly sheep, her bouncy dog, her lazy cows, her hungry chooks and her lovely garden full of fruit trees, flowers and vegetables. And she loves grandpa, who is tall and strong and has lots of checked shirts. Most of all she loves it when her family comes to Sunday lunch and every seat at the table is filled. This warm, uncomplicated picture book is a celebration of family and nature, and the bold, colourful collage, gouache and pencil illustrations are absolutely delightful. (3-6 year olds) MC

Leila Rudge, Gary hb 9781925081695 Gary lives in a large loft with friends who are all racing pigeons. However Gary is different because he can’t fly. When they go racing he stays home and makes a scrapbook of memorabilia from his friends. This proves handy when he accidentally ends up far from home and has to make his own way home. Softly coloured illustrations including many signs and some maps make a good accompaniment for this gentle story of difference and determination. (4 - 6 years) KS


Shortlist

Cori Brooke & Megan Forward (illus), All I Want for Christmas is Rain hb 9781925059717 pb 9781925059953  Publisher’s description: An Australian Christmas is threatened when drought takes hold. A little girl has only one wish for rain. Will her wish come true?


Susannah Chambers & Mark Jackson (illus), The Snow Wombat hb 9781760113810  How many would know that wombats live in the snow in the Australian High Country? Through this simple rhyming story about a wombat making his way back to his warm burrow, we meet other creatures who also live in the snow country. It is beautifully illustrated bringing the snowy landscape and creatures to life. (3 – 5 years) KS


Kylie Howarth Chip pb 9781760409623 Publisher’s description: Chip, like most other gulls, is wild about chips. He likes fat chips, skinny chips, sandy or crunchy or soggy chips. But, most of all, he loves Joe's chips from Joe's Chip Van beside the sea. Chip, like most other gulls, can be a little intrusive on his search for chips. So, one day, Joe erects a sign near his van warning people not to feed the seagulls. Chip is devastated, so he plans a way to get back into Joe's good books, thus gaining access once more to his favourite food. Playful repetition of text will engage the reader. Subtle message of 'do not feed wildlife human food' is reinforced in the text. Gatefold adds an extra surprise element inside the story.



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

Winner

Bob Graham, Home in the Rain hb 9781406368239 There is so much that is very familiar in this latest picture book by Bob Graham. It is a gentle story about Francie and her mother who leave their grandmother’s house and make their way home in the pouring rain in a tiny car on the freeway dwarfed by huge trucks. They look so vulnerable in that tiny car. Francie draws on the misting windows the names of her father away working, her mother and herself. She would like to write the name of the new baby, not yet born but they haven’t decided on a name. However as they pull into a petrol station her mother has a sudden moment of inspiration. They will call the baby Grace. Francie can’t wait to tell Daddy. It is a lovely story so strong with the warmth and love of family. (3 – 5 years) KS


Honour Books

Lance Balchin,  
Mechanica hb 9781760401085  Publisher’s description: Welcome to future Earth. Despite repeated warnings, the environment has become polluted to such an extent that many areas of the globe have become uninhabitable, and wildlife is now extinct. From the ashes, a new style of ‘wildlife’ is created. Wildlife that will not remain harnessed by humankind. Welcome to the world of Mechanica. This beautiful picture book, created by Brisbane-based illustrator and author Lance Balchin, is an encyclopedia of Mechanica creatures with a fictional narrative.

Van T Rudd (text by Maxine Beneba Clarke), The Patchwork Bike hb 9780734416681  This is such an exuberant story of three noisy lively brothers who live in a dry desert village at the edge of the “No-Go Desert” somewhere in Africa. The boys have very little but they make their own fun and the best fun is the bike that they have made out of bits and pieces found and taken from round the village. The bike can carry all three boys at once. The strong rhythmic text describes the bike going “shicketty shake” when they ride over the sand hills and “winketty wonk” as they speed through the hills and “bumpetty bump” as they glide right through their ”mud-for-walls home,’ past their “fed-up mum”. The illustrations are equally bold and exuberant and mimic the use of recycled materials through daubs of paint, strong black outlines and corrugated cardboard. This is a great book for discussion about another culture in which these three children are adventurous and inventive as they make their own fun with so very little. (3 – 7 years) KS


Shortlist

Liz Anelli (text by Ross Watkins), One Photo hb 9780670077977 Publisher’s description: Dad came home one day with one of those old cameras, the kind that use film.
But Dad didn't take photos of the regular things people photograph ...

Told in stunning prose, with creative heart-warming illustrations, this book is a celebration of what we hold closest to our hearts.


Dee, Oliver & Tiffany Huxley, My Brother hb 9781921504853 
A book like no other, My Brother was written by the Huxley family to honour their late son, and brother, Morgan. A gentle creature has lost his brother, and he goes on a journey to find him. Wistful black and white pictures depict this journey, with wide white borders, and nearly empty pages with one line of text. The mood is quiet, searching and full of yearning, and the reader looks into the pictures, and watches the little creature’s quest. But something happens after he sleeps, and ‘the darkness is going away’. A band of colour on one page heralds pages suffused with golden, warm light, and a last illustration full of colour and happiness; and the reader becomes part of the pictures, no longer just looking into them. This is a profound book that reflects the difficulty of its subject matter, but it also transcends it, with both its sincerity and the beauty of the book itself—the illustrations and the design of the book are both extraordinary. Very highly recommended. (8-11 years) LP


Owen Swan (text by Angela May George), Out hb 9781743629000 Publisher’s description: I'm called an asylum seeker, but that's not my name. A little girl and her mother have fled their homeland, making the long and treacherous journey by boat to seek asylum. Timely, powerful and moving, Out celebrates the triumph of the human spirit in the darkest times, and the many paths people take to build a new life



Eve Pownall Award for Information Books 
(some of these books may be for mature readers)

Winner

Gina M Newton, Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks pb 9780642278883 There are many books on Australian animals but this one is out of the ordinary. It has an inviting layout and includes an extraordinary amount of information for those wanting a detailed reference. Alternatively it is an excellent book for browsing. It includes 120 creatures from 55 National Parks all over Australia. A colour-coded map at the beginning of the book shows where the Parks are located. The animals are listed under six habitats, including Tropical Rainforests, Mallee Woodlands and Arid Zones. For each animal there is a photo, a description, a map showing its distribution around Australia and in which National Parks, information on its life and other interesting information and also some Fast Facts giving vital statistics such as size and number of young. Stoplights at the top of each page also show its conservation status. It has a detailed Index, a comprehensive Glossary (unusual words underlined in the text appear in the Glossary). The book is very well presented with excellent photos and contains a wealth of information. An excellent reference. (8 years up) KS


Honour Books

Jennifer Cossins, A-Z of Endangered Animals hb 9780734417954 Striking illustrations show us the beauty of endangered animals such as the snow leopard, the red panda, the numbat and the blue whale. Each entry has a double page spread with a description of the animal, including an estimate of its population. A surprising or interesting fact concludes each entry. (8 – 10 years) KS


Lorna Hendry, The Gigantic Book of Genes pb 9781742034102  It’s not easy to write a book about genes for primary age children but this one succeeds with simple language and striking imagery, including photos and graphics. As well as the basic information about genes, DNA and chromosomes, this book gives examples of a number of genetically based tests such as rolling the tongue which will be appealing to young readers. The format is so large that the book could easily be held up by the teacher in a classroom and used for discussion with the whole class. A glossary is also included. (8 – 10 years) KS


Shortlist

Marie Coote, Spellbound: Making Pictures With the A-B-C hb 9780992491727 At the beginning of the book, two pages of notes for teachers and designers give a brief historical introduction to typographic poetry, letter art and fonts and typography and the changes that have been made possible because of the new Apple Mac technology. The book shows how available fonts can be used to create design and remarkable illustrations. Maree Coote encourages the observation of shapes of letters in everyday objects, buildings and statues seen in the city. She also shows examples of how letters can be used to create illustrations of animals and faces. It is a particular skill which students interested in design and letter art would find challenging and of interest. It would also be a very helpful reference book for the art library. (12 years up) KS


Neridah Mc Mullin & Andrew McLean (illus) Fabish, The Horse That Braved a Bushfire hb 9781925266863  This is the best kind of animal story, with a noble horse, a herd of frisky yearlings, and an awful bush fire. Fabish was a race horse who retired to a paddock above a farm in Victoria, in charge of the yearlings. When the horrific firestorm rages across the state on February 7th 2009, Fabish and the yearlings are set free to fend for themselves, unlikely ever to be seen again. What happens next is both unlikely, and wonderfully true. Told in a clear narrative style, with realistic but atmospheric illustrations, this book is as good as any told, about animal courage. (5-9 years) LP


Michael Sedunary & Bern Emmerichs (illus) William Bligh: A Stormy Story of Tempestuous Times hb 9780994289537 pb 9780994289568  Michael Sedunary has such an easy-going style in writing about historical figures. He appears to be discussing what is purported to have happened and how various people may regard these events rather than state the bare facts. It is a very engaging way of writing about history as it also invites us to see the person behind the historical figure. Coupled with the fascinating detailed ceramic illustrations of Bern Emmerichs, it makes this an exceptional work which questions some of the prejudices and helps us look at the turbulent story of William Bligh and the Mutiny of the Bounty and also at his time as Governor of New South Wales during the Rum Rebellion in a very different light. (9 – 14 years) KS


Crichton Award for New Illustrators

Winner

Van T Rudd (text by Maxine Beneba Clarke), The Patchwork Bike hb 9780734416681  This is such an exuberant story of three noisy lively brothers who live in a dry desert village at the edge of the “No-Go Desert” somewhere in Africa. The boys have very little but they make their own fun and the best fun is the bike that they have made out of bits and pieces found and taken from round the village. The bike can carry all three boys at once. The strong rhythmic text describes the bike going “shicketty shake” when they ride over the sand hills and “winketty wonk” as they speed through the hills and “bumpetty bump” as they glide right through their ”mud-for-walls home,’ past their “fed-up mum”. The illustrations are equally bold and exuberant and mimic the use of recycled materials through daubs of paint, strong black outlines and corrugated cardboard. This is a great book for discussion about another culture in which these three children are adventurous and inventive as they make their own fun with so very little. (3 – 7 years) KS


Shortlist

Lance Balchin, Mechanica hb 9781760401085  Publisher’s description: Welcome to future Earth. Despite repeated warnings, the environment has become polluted to such an extent that many areas of the globe have become uninhabitable, and wildlife is now extinct. From the ashes, a new style of ‘wildlife’ is created. Wildlife that will not remain harnessed by humankind. Welcome to the world of Mechanica. This beautiful picture book, created by Brisbane-based illustrator and author Lance Balchin, is an encyclopedia of Mechanica creatures with a fictional narrative.


Megan Forward,  
A Patch From Scratch hb 9780670078295  Jesse describes with delight how her city family started a veggie patch in their own suburban backyard so that they could eat their own freshly grown vegetables. She describes in detail how they get chickens first and build the chook house and then they build the vegetable patch, set up a compost bin and plant their vegetables. There are lots of discussions about how to plant and what to plant and how long various veggies take to grow and what to do when other creatures like bugs and possums also want to eat them. The beautiful soft water colour illustrations are engaging and show the children’s delight as they plant, harvest and eat the food they have grown. The back pages include a simple diagram showing the sustainable cycle in their garden and some recipes. This picture book is a good introduction to sustainable ecology for young readers. (4 – 8 years) KS


Lisa Kennedy (text by Aunty Joy Murphy) 
Welcome to Country hb 9781922244871  This is the only picture book that I know of that is a welcome to country. Aunty Joy Murphy is the Senior Aboriginal Elder of the Wurundjeri People of Melbourne and surrounds. Text and illustrations show the beauty of the land with its winding river, its trees and the starry skies. The welcome acknowledges the ancestors and their work in caring for the land and only taking what could then be given back. It pays respect to the culture, the land and the people and this is brought to life through Lisa Kennedy’s evocative and beautiful acrylic illustrations. This title is also available as a Big Book which will be very helpful for use in class discussions. (4 – 10 years) KS



Michael McMahon, 
Melbourne Word by Word hb 9781760126674  Only one or two words on the page, in no particular order, pared back contemporary illustrations, a retro palette, and coloured fore edge all contribute to the cool sophistication of this picture book about Melbourne. Despite the minimalist feel, and almost geometric illustrations, there is a warmth and wealth of inviting detail to this book, much like the eponymous city. (4-8 years) LP



Mel Tregonning Small Things hb 9781742379791  
Publisher’s description: A stunning graphic novel from an extraordinarily talented illustrator. On the cusp of having everything slip from his grasp, a young boy has to find a way to rebuild his sense of self.
With no words, only illustrations, Small Things tells the story of a boy who feels alone with his worries, but who learns that help is always close by. A universal story, told simply and with breathtaking beauty, about dealing with sadness, anxiety, depression, heartache or loss, and finding your way in the world.