Category Archives: Children’s Book Council of Australia winners/shortlisted

The Flywheel by Erin Gough

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flywheelcoverThe Flywheel by Erin Gough, paperback novel, 306 pages, published by Hardie Grant Egmont in 2015.

Del’s life is complicated. After her mother left, Del encouraged her heart-broken father to travel overseas and take time for himself. While he is away, Del is running her father’s café, The Flywheel. She was supposed to just be helping out the manager, but he got deported, and now she’s on her own, trying desperately to keep things going, and she just can’t tell her dad. She also wants to avoid going back to school, where she is supposed to be in year eleven. She’s been copping it for being gay, with the ‘popular’ girls leading the charge with claims of stalking and voyeurism. And she’s got her friend Charlie to worry about; and her crush on Rosa, a girl that dances Flamenco at the Tapas Bar across the road.

A poignant and compelling story of a girl trying to find her place in the world, The Flywheel is about friendship, love, loss, and making the best of any situation. Beautifully written from the stand-point of Delilah, the gay 17 year old protagonist, I found this book to be incredibly hard to put down. I would have finished it in one sitting, but I really needed to sleep!

With excellent description, I could be sitting in The Flywheel now, sipping a triple chocolate milkshake, eating a HAT sandwich and watching the uni students play poker. Or chatting with one of the sunburnt backpackers. Or watching Rosa dance gracefully around the floor at Charada, her red skirt flying. It all felt very true to life. Even the awful bullying that Del faced at school sounded similar to things hurled about in my own school days. I hate that any child should have to endure torture like that, and I wouldn’t have minded seeing Ella (or Georgina) catch a football with her face!

Del is an amazing girl. She is smart, funny, kind, brave, loyal… the list really could go on. I liked her very much. Her life might be in the toilet, but she never really gives up. Determined and independent, she is confident in her sexuality, but expects too much of others. As the story progressed, Del came to know a lot more about herself, and how to live the life she wanted. Charlie also developed quite a lot through the book. He is kind of crazy, yet loveable. He added spice to the story with some of his antics, and his fickleness in love. He is a very good friend to Del. The supporting characters were also well described and easy to picture. I especially liked Misch; she made me laugh.

The Flywheel is a delicious look at contemporary Australian teenage life. It does contains some swearing and sexual references and it is most suitable for middle and upper high school students, through to adults.

The Flywheel is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.

 

Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts by Lesley Gibbes

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FizztryoutscoverFizz and the Police Dog Tryouts by Lesley Gibbes and illustrated by Stephen Michael King, paperback chapter book, 68 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2016.

Fizz is a doggie ball of fluffy white fur. He would make an excellent show dog, or lap dog, or companion dog, but all he really wants to be is a police dog! He isn’t big or scary or mean like some of the other dogs trying out to be the next police dog, but Fizz does have a lot of heart. He is fast and brave and clever, but will it be enough to become a police dog?

What a fantastic chapter book! It is perfect for newly independent readers, and will appeal to a large range of children. My first grader is enthralled! She took Fizz off to read in bed, with the edict that she could read one chapter. When I went to check on her, she admitted that she might have read “just a bit more than that, cos it is super good, mummy!”. We will definitely be getting more Fizz books!

After reading many many books about magical creatures, fairies and secret magical lands with my girls (their choice), I am ecstatic to find a book suitable for young readers that isn’t focused on magic, and isn’t marketed just to girls. Sure the dogs talk and the humans understand them, but that isn’t the main theme of the story. Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts is about believing in oneself and working towards your goals with everything you’ve got. I enjoyed the story almost as much as my daughter.

While the story is fun and amusing, the characters are also interesting. Fizz is an highly lovable character with lots of spark. I liked Benny too, but Amadeus was very very mean! What a scary dog. I am very glad I didn’t have to go up against Amadeus, Fizz is much braver than me.

There are black and white illustrations throughout the book, capturing some of the most important moments of the story. Having the pictures interspersed throughout the text is a great way to prevent early readers from becoming overwhelmed by too many words on each page. I liked the illustrations in Fizz. In particular Fizz and Amadeus were just as I imagined them to be.

Suitable for preschool and lower primary school children, Fizz may also suit older reluctant readers. Fizz’s adventures continue in the next book, Fizz and the Dog Academy Rescue.

Ollie and the Wind by Ronojoy Ghosh

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olliewindcoverOllie and the Wind by Ronojoy Ghosh, hardback picture book, published by Random House Australia in 2015.

The wind blows away Ollie’s hat, and then his scarf. He chases the wind in the hopes of finding his things, but then he realises that the wind wants to play. He just has to find the right toy to share with the wind.

I really like the cover of Ollie and the Wind, I’ve always thought it would be neat to fly on the wind with an umbrella!

This is a sweet story of friendship and sharing. Ollie seems a bit lonely. There aren’t many people around for him to play with, so he spends a lot of time on his own. The ideas he has for catching the wind are a bit funny, especially the butterfly net.

The illustrations are a little different, but lovely. I like how Ollie is drawn; he’s quite cute with a spray of freckles across his nose. The night sky scene with the moon and stars is stunning, and easily my favourite picture in the whole book.

Ollie and the Wind is a nice book for sharing with toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school students.

 

* Ollie and the Wind is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Early Childhood Book category.

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Run, Pip, Run by J. C. Jones

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runpipcoverRun, Pip, Run by J. C. Jones, paperback novel, 193 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2015.

On Pip’s tenth birthday her pseudo-grandfather, Sully, has a stroke and is taken to hospital by ambulance. As Pip has no other family, the police insist that they find her a place to stay while Sully is recovering. Pip is determined not to go to the ‘welfare’ people, so she gives them the slip and sets out on a big adventure that includes disguises, hiding, a psychic cat, a scruffy dog and a friendly but persistent cop on her tail.

A wonderful tale of courage, loyalty and adventure. I really got into this story, and ended up reading it all in one day. The plot moved along quickly, and I found myself completely immersed in Pip’s plight.

I loved the Australian idioms and slang scattered through the story, and Pip’s explanation of them. We use these terms in everyday speech, but they are not often translated into our literature. It made me feel very connected to the story.

I thought Pip was a particularly realistic character. She had been brought up by a grandfather figure with little money and was exposed to gambling and drinking at a young age. It seemed unusual to me that a ten year old would be studying the racing form, but it makes sense with Pip’s background. She may have been savvy with the horses, but she was typically ten in other ways! Misunderstanding the type of rehab that Sully would need, and not wanting to get her teacher in trouble, as well as managing to pick up a stray dog! She was also indignant when the papers reported her as being only nine, which made me smile. She was resourceful and full of determination, a very strong character. Matilda was also a good character. She could have easily given Pip up when she discovered her living in an empty house in her street, but she kept Pip’s secret and helped her, like a good friend should.

Matilda’s cat was an interesting addition to the cast. She helped Pip when she needed it the most, but otherwise remained rather aloof in typical cat fashion. Her psychic abilities were quite useful to Pip. I wouldn’t mind a cat like this, especially if she could help me locate my lost keys, phone, glasses, book…

Run, Pip, Run is suitable for middle primary through to lower high school students. It is a fantastic and enjoyable story, great for a range of young readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

* Run, Pip, Run is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Younger Readers category.

 

 

The Protected by Claire Zorn

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protectedcoverThe Protected by Claire Zorn, paperback novel, 254 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2014.

Life for Hannah is far from normal. It’s only been a year since her sister died, her father was crippled and her mother disappeared into herself. Life was crap for Hannah even before Katie died. She was being severely bullied by the kids at school, harassed, assaulted, cyber-bullied. Having a dead sister has stopped the bullying, but her wounds will take a long time to heal. Her life is screwed up as she paddles the deep waters of grief and guilt and pain. Though her days are dark, some hope seeps into her life when new boy, Josh, takes an interest in her, and she begins to build a rapport with the school counsellor.

I loved Claire Zorn’s previous book, The Sky So Heavy, but I love The Protected even more. It was a heart-rending tale of loss and survival, of guilt and hope. Tears may have been spilt whilst reading… but there were hopeful smiles too. The plot was compelling and very realistic. I read it quickly and thought about it for quite a while after I’d finished.

After the accident, Hannah’s parents were broken. Her father was physically crippled from his injuries, and her mother fell into her grief and forgot to keep living. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of losing a child, but they still had Hannah, and she needed them more than ever. They failed her. I can’t help thinking that Katie was their mother’s favourite, and because she couldn’t move forward, she almost lost both her daughters. What incredibly engulfing pain she must have been in to let Hannah down like this. I feel sad just thinking about it. This was a realistic insight into what the loss of a child can do to the family unit.

Hannah got under my skin, she kept me awake at night, she made me feel her pain, her guilt, her grief, her burden, her loneliness. And then from the depths she made me feel hope. I felt compassion for Hannah, but I also liked her. She was quiet and studious, but she was also full of strength. She was rather distrustful of Josh at first, but I liked the way that he persisted in getting to know her for her, irrespective of what the other kids thought.

I didn’t really like Katie. She seemed superficial, egotistical and selfish, but she probably would have grown past that had she survived her teenage years. Her relationship with Hannah might have had a chance to improve beyond high school, but during their teen years, Katie was pretty mean to Hannah. She was more concerned with her image than with how her sister was coping with school, with the fact that she had no friends, with the intense bullying. How does a sister watch that and not try to help? Hannah always lived in her sister’s shadow, and even in death Katie lingered over her.

The Protected is an incredible book that should be read by all Australian high school students. I thoroughly recommend it. I am excited to see what Claire Zorn produces next!

* The Protected was the winner of the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.

The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood

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cleo1coverThe Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Freya Blackwood, hardback chapter book, 57 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2014.

Cleo is an average six year old living with her parents, having fun with her friends and learning about her world. In the first story, several of her friends have pretty new necklaces, and she wants one too. In the second story, it is her mum’s birthday, and Cleo wants to get her a really great present.

This is the first book in The Cleo Stories series. It contains two fun short stories, and is illustrated throughout. The illustrations are very distinctive and just lovely. They feel soft and gentle, and complement the story well. The stories are simple yet engaging, which is brilliant for young readers.

Cleo is a sweet little girl. I like her imagination and her sense of style. I love that she often wears animal ear head bands, as it reminds me of my own little girl. I enjoyed reading about her everyday adventures, and so did my first grader. We already have the next Cleo book to read!

The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present is suitable for preschool and lower primary school children. It is good for early independent readers, but is also lovely to share.

 

*The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present was the winner of the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Young Readers category.

My Dog Bigsy by Alison Lester

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mydogbigsycoverMy Dog Bigsy by Alison Lester, hardback picture book, published by Penguin Group in 2015.

Bigsy is an energetic dog that gets up early and runs about the farm visiting all of the animals and making a lot of noise.

My Dog Bigsy is one of my favourite Alison Lester books. It is a delightful and noisy romp about the farm. Bigsy disturbs the cockatoos, Squawk!, chases the sheep, Baa! and says hello to the cat, Flip! Flap! What a loud way to start the day! This is a great story to introduce and have fun with the sounds of different words. My toddlers particularly like it when Bigsy slurps his water and crunches his breakfast.

The illustrations on every page are simple, bold and cute. I like that the background grass and bedspread appear to have been made using some fabric. Bigsy is a pretty cute dog, though Patchy Pig and her piglets are my favourite with their mud splattered tummies.

My Dog Bigsy is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. It is best read out loud to make the most of all the sounds that can be heard on the farm.

 

* My Dog Bigsy is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Early Childhood Book category.

 

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James Foley

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deadbunnycoverMy Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and illustrated by James Foley, hardback picture book, published by Walker Books Australia Pty Ltd in 2015.

Brad the Bunny might be dead, but he doesn’t want to leave! A dark zombie picture book, what’s not to love!?

Fun rhyming text complements the wonderful illustrations in My Dead Bunny. The pictures are mostly black and white with green and pink highlights. This works perfectly for the type of story it is. The little worm that pokes out of Brad’s head is orange and so smiley! I liked this touch. In fact, I just really liked Brad. He is adorably freaky, with scary pink eyes pointing off in different directions… just, I don’t want him to wander into my bedroom at night! My favourite picture is where Brad meets his death, it’s so detailed.

The story itself made me laugh. I love the ending. It is the perfect solution! A couple of the rhymes aren’t quite rhymes, but the story still flows. The text is clear and easy to read.

I really enjoy zombie and monster stories and movies, and that has rubbed off on my kids. They have liked films like ‘Frankenweenie’, ‘Paranorman’, and ‘Hotel Transylvania’. So I went ahead and read My Dead Bunny to my preschooler and first grader. They both loved it. My first grader read it again to herself straight away.

Suitable for primary school children, just keep in mind that some kids may be frightened by the zombie bunny. My Dead Bunny is fantastic to share aloud. Try it by torchlight on a dark and stormy night!

 

* My Dead Bunny is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Picture Book category.

 

CBCA Shortlist for 2016

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The Children’s Book Council of Australia announced their Book of the Year shortlist for 2016 on Friday. I get so excited waiting for this every year!

Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators of these wonderful books!

I am looking forward to reading as many as I can. Unfortunately there never seems enough time to get through all of them.

 

In the early childhood category;

  • Piranha’s Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey
  • The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood
  • My Dog Bigsy by Alison Lester
  • Mr Huff by Anna Walker
  • Perfect by Danny Parker and illustrated by Freya Blackwood
  • Ollie and the Wind by Ghosh Ronojoy

 

In the picture book category;

  • My Dead Bunny by James Foley with text by Sigi Cohen

 

In the younger readers category;

  • The Cleo Stories: A Friend and a Pet by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Freya Blackwood

 

In the older readers category;

 

Information books;

 

I am quite keen to read The Flywheel, it sounds interesting. I’m also looking forward to sharing the early childhood and picture books with my kids, they are always worth a read. We already love The Cow Tripped Over the Moon and Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas, so now I am excited to discover the others.

Which of these books have you read? Which ones do you think will be Book of the Year?

 

The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood

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IMG_6057The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2015.

Everyone knows the rhyme ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, it has been a popular nursery rhyme for many years. The cow in the rhyme gets to jump over the moon, which is quite an impressive feat, and must have taken a lot of practice to perfect. In The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, the cow is on her training journey to make it over the moon. There are many attempts with trips, mis-jumps and wrong turns, but surely she must get it right in the end?

I had never considered the effort the cow must have put in to be able to jump over the moon, but I’m so glad that this author did. This book is hilarious! All my kids love it, and I love reading it to them. When the dog laughs so hard that he pukes, I thought my kids might do the same! The cow getting stuck in a sand dune was pretty funny.

The lyrical text just rolls off the tongue, and is complemented by humourous illustrations on every page. The cow even gets to wear sweatpants and a sweatband for her training! The text is clear and simple, making it easy for young readers to read on their own.

The Cow Tripped Over the Moon is a fantastic book for reading aloud. Though suitable for children from toddlers through primary school, it is especially good for preschoolers and lower primary school children. My kindergartner likes reading this one independently too.

 

* The Cow Tripped Over the Moon is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Early Childhood category.