Australia punches well above its weight when it comes to children’s literature – so it is particularly fitting that we devote an entire week to celebrating this each year. This year’s CBCA Book Week theme is “Escape to Everywhere”, which perfectly describes what great writing means to me: whether it takes you to a fantasy land within your mind, or offers a glimpse of life elsewhere on Earth – a great book stretches your imagination and broadens your horizons. Drumroll please for this year’s winners…
One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn
Claire Zorn is a YA force to be reckoned with – all three of her novels are award-winners, including two CBCA Book of the Year awards (The Protected won in 2015). One Would Think the Deep is about Sam, whose mum dies suddenly, shockingly, in his arms. Having no options, he moves to the coast to live with his estranged aunt and cousins. In this new environment, he struggles to process his grief, shock and anger – but also finds some solace in the surf. One Would Think the Deep is almost painful to read, but Claire Zorn’s complex characterisation and raw, visceral portrayal of grief draws you in and doesn’t let go.
Book of the Year: Younger Readers
Rockhopping by Trace Balla
Trace Balla is another rising star, with both Rockhopping and its prequel, Rivertime, winning major awards. Having travelled down the Glenelg river together in Rivertime, Uncle Egg has finally agreed to take Clancy hiking to the Glenelg’s source in Gariwerd (the Grampians). During their five days in the wilderness, they see lots of flora and fauna, meet other hikers, have some scary moments – and Clancy grows up a little. Trace Balla shows her love of nature through her incredibly detailed illustrations; she also conveys some beautiful messages about slowing down, living in the moment and respecting indigenous culture.
Book of the Year: Early Childhood
Go Home, Cheeky Animals! by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley
Inspired by life in Tennant Creek, Go Home, Cheeky Animals! is a great book for reading aloud (loudly!), with lots of opportunities for audience participation. There are too many cheeky dogs in Canteen Creek, but when the weather changes and more cheeky animals arrive, chaos begins! The lively rhythm of the text and child-like illustrations combine to present a hilarious and riotous scenario that will appeal to both school-aged and younger children.
Picture Book of the Year
Home in the Rain by Bob Graham
“Delightful” and “heartwarming” are no exaggeration when it comes to Bob Graham’s books – he is an expert at showing the humour and joy in the minutiae of life. Home in the Rain starts with a little red car stuck in traffic – Francie, her mum and her baby sister (warmly tucked inside Mummy’s tum) face a long drive on a rain-sodden day. From such an ordinary premise, Bob Graham has crafted a tender story that makes your heart glow. Home in the Rain is his eighth CBCA win – and a compelling example of why Bob Graham is one of our most beloved and awarded authors.
Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks by Gina M. Newton
Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks showcases more than 120 animals from 55 National Parks around Australia – from our national icons, through birds, to fish and insects. The book is divided into seven sections, each exploring a different habitat; thus offering additional insights into geography and ecology. Gina M. Newton and NLA Publishing have done a terrific job in making a wealth of information accessible rather than overwhelming, using a range of colour coding, charts, maps and photos. Perfect for browsing as well as for reference.
The Crichton Award for New Illustrators
The Patchwork Bike by Van T. Rudd (text by Maxine Beneba Clarke)
A streetwise gang of children build a patchwork bike using what they can find – branches for handlebars, a flour sack for a flag. This exuberant story highlights the joy of making your own fun using creativity and imagination. The setting is hugely different from suburban Australia, emphasising how play is universally valued by kids, whatever their circumstances. The street-art style of Van T Rudd perfectly matches the rhythmic text of slam-poet Maxine Beneba Clarke.