CBCA 2021 Book of the Year Awards Shortlist – Find the best reads for your kids

Many moons ago, as a new immigrant to Australia and then as a new mother I found myself somewhat lost in the sea of published children’s literature and illustrated books (not all of it good as shown here). While browsing the bookstores I began noticing silver and gold stickers of CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) on some of the books I was drawn to in the children’s book sections. It didn’t take long to realise that those particular books never disappointed, be they CBCA notable books, shortlisted or the winners of the CBCA Book of the Year Award. A decade later I still rely on CBCA shortlists when choosing my teenage child’s next best read.

CBCA 2021 Book of the Year Awards Shortlist - Find the best reads for your kids CBCA Book of the Year Award News cbca award stickers
CBCA Award Stickers

CBCA celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Since 1946, this organisation has been tirelessly promoting quality Australian children’s literature, authors and illustrators and regulating one of this country’s most prestigious book awards. These annual awards recognise the writing and illustrating excellence in children’s books published in the preceding year across 6 categories.

36 books all up (6 in each of the 6 categories) are cherry-picked each year by the CBCA judges. All judges are experts in the field of children’s literature and publishing and read hundreds of the books entered into the awards. The process takes many months and culminates in a literary celebration of CBCA Book Week themed “Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds”, which brings children and books together across Australia.

During Book Week, schools engage students in talks with authors and illustrators, organise book fares and the traditional Book Week parades where children get to dress up as their favourite book characters. Some kids get involved in Kids Book of the Year Award judging process. CBCA Book Week usually ends with the announcement of one winner and 2 notable books from each of the Book Of the Year Award categories shown below.

Enjoy browsing the CBCA 2021 Book of the Year Award Shortlist below. You can read more about each shortlist book on CBCA website. I am sure you’d find something great for children of any ages.

2021 CBCA Shortlist

Picture Book of the Year

Books in this category are for readers of all ages. The Award recognises excellence in books in which the author and illustrator achieve artistic and literary unity or in wordless picture books where the story, theme or concept is unified through illustrations.

  • Freya Blackwood, The Unwilling Twin, HarperCollins Publishers
  • Philip Bunting, Not Cute, Scholastic Australia,
  • Gabriel Evans, Norton and the Bear, Berbay Publishing
  • Bob Graham, Ellie’s Dragon, Walker Books Australia
  • Matt Ottley (text by Meg McKinlay), How to Make a Bird, Walker Books Australia
  • Felicita Sala (text by Maggie Hutchings), Your Birthday Was the Best!, Affirm Press

Early Childhood

Books in this category are for pre-reading stages or for early readers (typically of ages 0-6 years). Books include fiction or poetry.

  • Sarah Allen, Busy Beaks, Affirm Press
  • Bernadette Green (illus. by Anna Zobel), Who’s Your Real Mum?, Scribble Kids’ Books
  • Libby Hathorn & Lisa Hathorn-Jarman (illus. by Mel Pearce), No! Never!, Hachette Australia
  • Anna McGregor, Anemone is not the Enemy, Scribble Kids’ Books
  • Heidi McKinnon, There’s No Such Thing, Allen & Unwin
  • Briony Stewart, We Love You, Magoo Penguin Random House Australia

Older Readers

Books in this category may be fiction, drama or poetry and should be appropriate in style and content for readers aged 13-18 years (secondary or high school students). Some may deal with particularly challenging themes (like violence or suicide) with parental guidance recommended (read more about each shortlist book on CBCA website).

Drama or poetry, ages 13-18 years

  • Davina Bell, The End of the World is Bigger than Love, Text Publishing  
  • Zana Fraillon, The Lost Soul, Atlas Hachette Australia
  • Jane Godwin, When Rain Turns to Snow, Hachette Australia
  • Cath Moore, Metal Fish, Falling Snow Text Publishing
  • Christie Nieman, Where We Begin, Pan Macmillan Australia
  • Anna Whateley, Peta Lyre’s, Rating Normal Allen & Unwin

Younger Readers

Books in this category may be fiction, drama or poetry and should be appropriate in style and content for readers aged 6-12 years (primary or upper primary students). Some may contain mature themes with parental guidance recommended (read more about each shortlist book on CBCA website).

  • Kate Gordon, Aster’s Good, Right Things Riveted Press
  • Jaclyn Moriarty (illus. by Kelly Canby), The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst, Allen & Unwin
  • Sally Murphy (illus. by Sarah Davis), Worse Things, Walker Books Australia
  • Katrina Nannestad, We Are Wolves, HarperCollins Publishers
  • Kirli Saunders (illus. by Dub Leffler), Bindi, Magabala Books
  • Sue Whiting, The Book of Chance, Walker Books Australia

Eve Pownall Award 

Books in this category are for all ages with a prime intention of documenting factual material with imaginative presentation, interpretation and style. This award was first presented in 1988 at which time it was financed by Eve Pownall’s family. From 1993 it has been awarded by CBCA.

  • Sami Bayly, The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals, Hachette Australia
  • Maree Coote Azaria: A True History, Melbournestyle Books
  • Pamela Freeman (illus. by Liz Anelli), Dry to Dry: The Seasons of Kakadu, Walker Books Australia
  • David Hartley & Kirsty Murray (illus. by Dub Leffler), Strangers on Country, National Library of Australia
  • Gina M Newton (illus. by Rachel Tribout), Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish, CSIRO Publishing
  • Carole Wilkinson (illus. by Prue Pittock), Matthew Flinders – Adventures on Leaky Ships, Wild Dog Books

Award for New Illustrator

Books in this category are for all ages and award a new illustrator’s excellence, recognising and encouraging new talent in the field of Australian children’s book illustration.

  • Sofya Karmazina, Ribbit Rabbit Robot, Scholastic Australia
  • Mel Pearce, No! Never!, Hachette Australia
  • Dave Petzold, Seven Seas of Fleas, Starfish Bay Publishing
  • Shirley Purdie, Shirley Purdie: My Story, Ngaginybe Jarragbe Magabala Books
  • Zeno Sworder, This Small Blue Dot, Thames & Hudson Australia
  • Robin Tatlow-Lord, Go Away, Worry Monster!, EK Books

Be sure to share and save this post or check back later whenever you are thinking of what book to put into your child’s hands next. You can also check out past winners below:

CBCA Past Winners

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2 years ago

We have very simar book awards every year too, as probably do most countries, if I bought every book that looks good, I would go certifiably insane! So my “trick” is to read them from the library, as libraries usually buy books which won awards…

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