2021 CBCA Notables

The Children’s Book Council of Australia have announced their notables list for 2021. The lists cover the best books for teens through preschoolers. The lists are basically the longlists for the CBCA Book of the Year awards. The shortlists will be announced in March with the winners announced in August. Here are the books that made the notables lists:


Before the Beginning

Before the Beginning by Anna Morgan

Catch Me If I Fall

Catch Me If I Fall by Barry Jonsberg

Deep Water

Deep Water by Sarah Epstein

The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love by Davina Bell

The F Team

The F Team by Rawah Arja

Future Girl

Future Girl by Asphyxia

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix


Loner by Georgina Young

The Lost Soul Atlas

The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon

Metal Fish, Falling Snow

Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore

Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal

Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley

Please Don't Hug Me

Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr

When It Drops

When It Drops by Alex Dyson

When Rain Turns to Snow

When Rain Turns to Snow by Jane Godwin

Where We Begin

Where We Begin by Christie Nieman


Across the Risen Sea

Across the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble

Aster's Good, Right Things

Aster’s Good, Right Things by Kate Gordon

Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief by Dee White


Bindi by Kirli Saunders, illustrated by Dub Leffler

The Book of Chance

The Book of Chance by Sue Whiting

The Fire Star

The Fire Star by A.L. Tait

The Grandest Bookshop in the World

The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor


Haywire by Claire Saxby

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon

Her Perilous Mansion

Her Perilous Mansion by Sean Williams

The January Stars

The January Stars by Kate Constable

The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle

The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle by Pamela Rushby

The Republic of Birds

The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller

The Secret Library of Hummingbird House

The Secret Library of Hummingbird House by Julianne Negri

The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby (released in U.S. in March 2021)

We Are Wolves

We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad

When This Bell Rings

When This Bell Rings by Allison Rushby

Worse Things

Worse Things by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Sarah Davis

The Year the Maps Changed

The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus by Steven Herrick


Anemone is not the Enemy

Anemone Is Not the Enemy by Anna McGregor

Australia Under the Sea 1 2 3

Australia Under the Sea 1, 2, 3 by Frané Lessac

Bear in Space

Bear in Space by Deborah Abela, illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Bin Chicken

Bin Chicken by Kate & Jol Temple, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh

Busy Beaks

Busy Beaks by Sarah Allen

Coming Home to Country

Coming Home to Country by Bronwyn Bancroft

I'll always be older than you

I’ll Always Be Older Than You by Jane Godwin, illustrated by Sara Acton

Me and My Boots

Me and My Boots by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Evie Barrow

No! Never! A Cautionary Tale

No! Never! by Libby Hathorn and Lisa Hathorn-Jarman, illustrated by Mel Pearce


Pink! by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Judith Rossell


Respect by Aunty Fay Muir & Sue Lawson, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

Ruby Red Shoes : My Wonderful Grandmother - Kate Knapp

Ruby Red Shoes: My Wonderful Grandmother by Kate Knapp

Shapes and Colours - John Canty

Shapes and Colours by John Canty


Soon by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Jedda Robaard

Ten Little Figs - Rhian Williams

Ten Little Figs by Rhiân Williams, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom

There's no such thing!

There’s No Such Thing by Heidi McKinnon

This Small Blue Dot

This Small Blue Dot by Zeno Sworder

We Love You, Magoo

We Love You, Magoo by Briony Stewart

What Do You Call Your Grandpa?

What Do You Call Your Grandpa? by Ashleigh Barton, illustrated by Martina Heiduczek

Who’s Your Real Mum?

Who’s Your Real Mum? by Bernadette Green, illustrated by Anna Zobel


Anisa's Alphabet

Anisa’s Alphabet illustrated by Hanna Sommerville, written by Mike Dumbleton

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker illustrated by Liz Anelli, written by Sue Lawson

Colin Cockroach Goes to Caloundra - Chris McKimmie

Colin Cockroach Goes to Caloundra by Chris McKimmie

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Diamonds by Armin Greder

Ellie's Dragon

Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham

The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat by Jackie French & Danny Snell

Give Me Some Space!

Give Me Some Space by Philip Bunting

Girl from the Sea

Girl from the Sea illustrated by Jane Tanner, written by Margaret Wild

Good Question: A Tale Told Backwards

Good Question: A Tale Told Backwards illustrated by Annie White, written by Sue Whiting

Hello, Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy! by Anna Walker

How to Make a Bird

How to Make a Bird illustrated by Matt Ottley, written by Meg McKinlay

I saw Pete and Pete saw me

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me illustrated by Evie Barrow, written by Maggie Hutchings


Jelly-Boy illustrated by Christopher Nielsen, written by Nicole Godwin


Littlelight by Kelly Canby

My Shadow is Pink

My Shadow Is Pink by Scott Stuart

Norton and the Bear

Norton and the Bear by Gabriel Evans

Not Cute

Not Cute by Philip Bunting

Sing Me the Summer

Sing Me the Summer by Jane Godwin & Alison Lester

Sometimes cake

Sometimes Cake illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie, written by Edwina Wyatt

The Unwilling Twin : Twins - Freya Blackwood

The Unwilling Twin by Freya Blackwood

Who am I?

Who Am I? by Philip Bunting

Who’s Your Real Mum?

Who’s Your Real Mum? by Bernadette Green, illustrated by Anna Zobel


Wolfred by Nick Bland


Wombat by Philip Bunting

Your Birthday was the BEST!

Your Birthday Was the Best! illustrated by Felicita Sala, written by Maggie Huchings

EVE POWNALL AWARD (For factual materials ages 0-18)

Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather

Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather by Stephanie Owen Reeder, illustrated by Tania McCartney

AZARIA: A True History

Azaria: A True History by Maree Coote

The Daddy Animal Book - Jennifer Cossins

The Daddy Animal Book by Jennifer Cossins

Dry to Dry: The Seasons of Kakadu

Dry to Dry: The Seasons of Kakadu by Pamela Freeman, illustrated by Liz Anelli

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish

Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish by Gina M Newton, illustrated by Rachel Tribout

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals by Sami Bayly

Kookaburra : Nature Storybooks - Claire Saxby

Kookaburra by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tannya Harricks

Little Lon - Andrew Kelly

Little Lon by Andrew Kelly, illustrated by Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

Matthew Flinders - Carole Wilkinson

Matthew Flinders – Adventures on Leaky Ships by Carole Wilkinson, illustrated by Prue Pittock

The Mummy Animal Book

The Mummy Animal Book by Jennifer Cossins

Saltie Mumma

Saltie Mumma by Sandra Kendall

Ngaginybe Jarragbe (My Story)

Shirley Purdie: My Story, Ngaginybe Jarragbe by Shirley Purdie

Strangers on Country

Strangers on Country by David Hartley & Kirsty Murray, illustrated by Dub Leffler

There's A Zoo in My Poo

There’s a Zoo in My Poo by Felice Jacka, illustrated by Rob Craw

Will the Wonderkid : Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback - Stephanie Owen Reeder

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback by Stephanie Owen Reeder

Birrarung Wilam by Aunty Joy Murphy and Andrew Kelly

Cover image for Birrarung Wilam

Birrarung Wilam by Aunty Joy Murphy and Andrew Kelly, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy (9781536209426)

Take a journey down the Yarra River near Melbourne, Australia in this Aboriginal picture book that celebrates native creatures and plants. Told using many words from the Woirurrung language, the book is a mixture of evocative language and poetic phrasing. Starting with a starry night sky, the picture book shows the path of the Birrarung as it winds along. It goes past trees where possums make their homes in hollow trees. Rain falls and the bright-blue fairy wren chases insects near his mate. Cockatoos fly past looking for pine cones and their seeds. Kangaroos gather where the river slows and platypus burrow with their babies. Ravens, pelicans, eagles, ducks and more fill the pages alongside the trees, water and river that create this unique ecosystem.

Because they use so many Woirurrung words, the book is almost a word game. The writing embraces the Aboriginal words, creating swirling and flowing lines of text that move like the river itself. Reading it aloud really lets the words sing out, evoking a place full of natural wonders. Here is the opening line to give you a taste of the style:

As ngua rises,

turning clouds over the distant city red,

Bunjil soars over mountain ash,

flying higher and higher as the wind warms.

Below, Birrarung begins its long

winding path down to palem warreen.

The illustrations done in acrylic show the various scenes along the river. They also allow readers to piece together what creatures and plants are being described in the text, finding the platypus, eagles and kangaroos. The illustrations are filled with Aboriginal art touches, the dots and patterns creating ripples of water, breezes and layers of earth.

Enchanting and full of wonders, this picture book is a resounding success. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

Cover image for Music for Tigers

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman (9781772780543)

A musician in a family of conservationists and scientists, Louisa finds herself sent away from her home in Canada for the summer to spend time in Australia with her mother’s family. In the remote Tasmanian rainforest, the family has a camp run by her Uncle Ruff. She has brought along her violin, determined to spend time practicing so that she can successfully compete, something her nerves when she plays publicly haven’t allowed her to do. A local resort owner’s son quickly becomes friends with Louisa, who is one of the first teens not to mock his autism and his quirky behaviors. Louisa also learns more about the camp, which is actually a sanctuary created by her great-grandmother to protect the Tasmanian tigers, thought to be extinct. At least one of these large dog-like marsupials may still live on Convict Rock, an island nearby. With a mining operation soon to destroy the sanctuary and the island, they have to work quickly to save this last tiger. By reading her great-grandmother’s journals, Louisa realizes she may be the key to its survival.

This book transports readers into the Tasmanian rainforest. Written with a focus that keeps its length nicely manageable, the novel doesn’t ever feel rushed. Instead it is a journey personally for Louisa through her own fears of performing to a desire to save a creature from true extinction. Her steadily building connection to the Australian wildlife and environment allows readers to explore it as well, falling just as hard as Louisa has for its unique habitat.

This is an environmentalist book that takes a different path. It doesn’t lecture at all, instead allowing immersion within a singular place to really speak to its importance, the vitality of threatened species, and the need to take action. All of the characters are well drawn and complete, filled with multiple dimensions that make them interesting to spend time with in this beautifully described natural wonder.

Amazing writing, vivid characters and lost species come together into a marvelous read. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from library copy.

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai

Cover image of Fly on the Wall

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai (9781250314116)

The author of Pie in the Sky returns with the story of a twelve-year-old who wants to prove his maturity to his helicopter family. Henry’s family monitors what he is doing all the time, packing his backpack for him, making sure he has eaten, and hovering all the time. But Henry knows he can do a lot more than they think. That’s how he came up with a very exact plan to prove his independence: he will fly from where he lives in Australia to Singapore where his father lives. He’s also running from being exposed as the author of a nasty gossip comic at his school, something he is both proud of and terrified by. He just needs his ex-best friend to follow through on the plan, or he will definitely get caught!

The entire adventure that Henry experiences is a delight to experience by his side. His sense of humor both in his gossip comics and on the page is broad and very funny. Throughout the book, he is a disciple hoping to find a shifu to teach him what to do next in his quest. When he meets a girl on the plane, he soon discovers that she might just be the shifu he is looking for, if he can keep from making her so mad that she stops talking to him.

With the text broken up with illustrations done in neon green washes and black ink, this book will appeal to readers of Wimpy Kid. The illustrations range from single illustrations to panels in series to examples from Henry’s own blog done in a completely different style.

Funny, insightful and proof that everyone worth knowing is a little strange. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt and Co.

Review: How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox (9780525554295)

Biz can float through her life, realizing that she is part of a larger universe and leaving her current troubles behind. But every time, she is drawn back to her body and back to her life. She does have great people in her life, including her mother and the twins. Plus her best friend Grace. She also has her father, who died when Biz was young, but stays with her, reminding her of his love for her. But when something happens on the beach, things start to spiral out of control. Grace loses her boyfriend over it, and they both lose their larger friend group. When Grace reacts with fury, her family moves her away. Biz’s father disappears and she stops being able to go to school, almost unable to leave her bed. When she eventually does get help via therapy, Biz doesn’t tell the entire truth, figuring out how to build bits of her life back until they tumble over once again.

This is a remarkable debut novel. Set in Australia, the book explores mental illness with a tenderness that is haunting. The beauty of the world Biz’s mind creates for her is a mix of tantalizing promises and real dangers. Even as readers know that Biz is unwell, they too will be caught up in her visions, understand her desire to keep floating, to enter the sea, to find connections. The setting of Australia is just as lovingly depicted with details of the landscape, the stunning coastline and a trip into the heart of the continent.

In Biz, readers will find a very intelligent teen who is struggling as her mental illness continues to impact her life in profound ways. Biz is warm and funny, a person first and her illness second. Her sarcasm draws people to her. After she loses most of the support structure in her life, she meets new people who love her, accepting her as she is, though she continues to search for what she has lost.

Aching and heart wrenching, this teen novel is an honest and profound look at mental illness and being human. Appropriate for ages 13-18.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Dial Books.

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlists

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards shortlists have been announced. The awards celebrate Australian writers. The winner will be announced in May. Here are the shortlists for the youth categories:


The Adventures of Sir Roderick, The Not-Very Brave Crossing

The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not-Very Brave by James O’Loghlin

Crossing by Catherine Norton

The Duck and the Darklings Figgy in the World

The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King

Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu

The First Voyage 21952818

The First Voyage by Allan Baillie

Rivertime by Trace Balla



Are You Seeing Me? The Book of Days

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

Book of Days by K.A. Barker

Cracked The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeleine, #2)

Cracked by Clare Strahan

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Razorhurst The Road to Gundagai

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

The Road to Gundagai by Jackie French

Children’s Book Council of Australia – 2015 Book of the Year Short List

The short lists for the 2015 Book of the Year have been announced by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Winners will be announced in August.


Are You Seeing Me? The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Intruder The Minnow

Intruder by Christine Bongers

The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

Nona and Me The Protected

Nona & Me by Clare Atkins

The Protected by Claire Zorn



Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain by Steven Herrick

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

Figgy in the World The Simple Things

Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu

The Simple Things by Bill Condon, illustrated by Beth Norling

Two Wolves Withering-By-Sea

Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks

Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rossell



Go to Sleep, Jessie! A House of Her Own

Go to Sleep, Jessie! by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

A House of Her Own by Jenny Hughes, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley

 Pig the Pug

Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach by Alison Lester

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

Scary Night 

Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes, illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Snail and Turtle Are Friends by Stephen Michael King



The Duck and the Darklings Fire

The Duck and the Darklings illustrated by Stephen Michael King, text by Glenda Millard

Fire illustrated by Bruce Whatley, text by Jackie French

My Two Blankets One Minute's Silence

My Two Blankets illustrated by Freya Blackwood, text by Irena Kobald

One Minute’s Silence illustrated by Michael Camilleri, text by David Metzenthen

21952818 The Stone Lion

Rivertime by Trace Balla

The Stone Lion illustrated by Ritva Voutila, text by Margaret Wild



A–Z of Convicts in Van Diemen's Land Audacity: stories of heroic Australians in wartime

A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land by Simon Barnard

Audacity: Stories of Heroic Australians in Wartime by Carlie Walker, illustrated by Brett Hatherly

Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia Emu

Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia edited by Demet Divaroren and Amra Pajalic

Emu by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne

Mary's Australia: How Mary Mackillop Changed Australia Tea and Sugar Christmas

Mary’s Australia: How Mary Mackillop Changed Australia by Pamela Freeman

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

Review: Sand Swimmers by Narelle Oliver

sand swimmers

Sand Swimmers: The Secret Life of Australia’s Desert Wilderness by Narelle Oliver

Set in the ferocious center of Australia, this book looks at one of the harshest climates in the world and the animals that not only survive there but thrive there. The “Dead Heart” of Australia can appear completely uninhabited at first, but this book has us look closer and see what the Aboriginal people have known for thousands of years. The huge salt lake has lizards, shrimp and frogs if you know where to look. The mulga scrublands have tangled timber but that is also shelter for spiders, ants, geckos, and birds. Down deep under the earth, there are even more animals sheltering. Even the oceans of rock and sand have animals living there. Explore an amazing ecosystem along with early explorers of Australia who failed to see the creatures hiding around them.

Oliver takes readers on an amazing journey through various regions of the center of Australia. Even the rocks and sand and plants themselves are wild and different from other parts of the world. Everything seems to combine to make the most uninhabitable ecosystem in the world, but that’s not true if you look deeper. Oliver takes readers deeper into the desert and readers will discover the beauty and life hidden in this desolate landscape.

Oliver’s illustrations combine line drawings of the creatures with smudged drawings of the early explorers. The combination of the crisp line drawings with the more smudged ones is very successful, giving readers a taste of both the animals themselves and the history.

A brilliant look at a fascinating habitat, this book goes far beyond the stereotypical kangaroos and koala bears of Australia. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee

categorical universe of candice phee

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg

This Australian award winner is the story of 12-year-old Candice who is completing a school project that is supposed to be a paragraph for each letter of the alphabet that reveals something about her.  But Candice can’t keep it to one paragraph, so she begins to do chapters for each letter and the words she chooses for each letter are unexpected too.  As she writes, Candice is telling the story of her family and her pet fish.  She worries about her family falling apart, since her mother is still grieving the loss of Candice’s baby sister Sky to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Her father is working on software in his spare time to prove that he can be as successful as his brother, Rich Uncle Brian, or flying his toy plane.  Either way, both parents are self-absorbed rather than paying attention to Candice.  She also doesn’t have any friends, until an unusual boy comes to school, a boy who believes that he’s traveled to another dimension and spends his time trying to get back home by falling out of a tree.  It seems to Candice that it’s up to her to fix a lot of what’s wrong, but how can she?

Jonsberg has crafted a unique character in Candice.  She may or may not be on the autism spectrum, but it is clear that she is different from the others in her grade and that they know it.  Yet Candice functions fully, just in her own way.  She loves her family, makes connections with others, and cares deeply about what is happening around her.  She just does it in her own way, one that makes sense and that shows just how smart she is. 

The book is wonderfully funny, with situations that are almost slapstick at times and others that are cleverly worked.  The scene where Candice forces herself to get on her uncle’s boat to talk about the problems between him and her father is classic nausea humor that is done to perfection.  Yet the book has plenty of depth too, with the deep depression that her mother has fallen into and even a little romance.

Strong writing keeps this complex book from tangling into knots and a strong protagonist gives it a unique and smart voice.   A great Australian import that is ideal for middle grade readers. 

Reviewed from e-galley received from Chronicle Books and Edelweiss.