Best books for kids: Book of the Year winners

The Book of the Year awards from the Children's Book Council of Australia have been announced, exploring themes that will resonate with young readers in a year of big challenges.

Thought-provoking and uplifting stories that allow young people to take on life’s challenges are reflected in the Book of the Year awards, says the Children’s Book Council of Australia.

‘Lockdowns and school closures have given many children and young people more time to read in 2020,’ said the council’s national chair, Emeritus Professor Margot Hillel.

‘Whether they are seeking solace and reassurance, or simply the escape of a gripping plot, well-told Australian stories are there for them.’

Here are the winners in the six categories, with comments from the Children’s Book Council:

Book of the Year, Younger Readers: The Little Wave by Pip Harry

‘…expertly told in verse, (the book) revolves around three primary school children from the beach and outback. The support they find in each other delivers an emotional stability which helps them transcend grief, poverty and bullying.’

The Little Wave, by Pip Harry, University of Queensland Press.


The Glimme, by Emily Rodda (author) and Mark McBride (illustrator), Scholastic

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon, by Edwina Wyatt (author) and Katherine Quinn (illustrator), Walker Books

Book of the Year, Older Readers: This is How We Change the Ending, by Vikki Wakefield

‘This is a gritty story about a suburb in decline where the main character, Nate, learns to hide his intellect and emotions. His love for his younger brothers, stepmother, and even his abusive father, is a driving force that enables the powerless to become powerful.’ 

This is How We Change the Ending, by Vikki Wakefield, Text Publishing


The Boy Who Steals Houses, by C.G. Drews, Hachette Australia

Ghost Bird, by Lisa Fuller, Queensland University Press

Book of the Year, Early Childhood: My Friend Fred, by Frances Watts and illustrated by A. Yi

‘Animals often feature strongly in the early childhood category, and in this book they demonstrate just how different good friends can be. The CBCA judges said My Friend Fred is full of energy and movement and comes to a very satisfying surprise ending.’

My Friend Fred, written by Frances Watts and illustrated by A. Yi, Allen & Unwin


When Billy Was a Dog, by Kirsty Murray (author) and Karen Blair (illustrator), Allen & Unwin

Goodbye House, Hello House, by Margaret Wild (author) and Ann James (illustrator),  Allen & Unwin

Picture Book of the Year: I NEED a Parrot, by Chris McKimmie

‘… with very few words and deceptively simple drawings, this book gives readers lots to ponder and discuss about our desire to keep and cage pets.’

I NEED a Parrot, by Chris McKimmie, Ford St Publishing


Nop, by Caroline Magerl, Walker Books Australia

Three, by Stephen Michael King, Scholastic Australia

The Eve Pownall Award: Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, by Bruce Pascoe

‘This beautifully produced book presents a powerful argument debunking the notion of Terra Nullius which positioned Indigenous Australians as nomadic hunter gatherers. This younger readers’ version of Dark Emu is an engaging discussion, accessible to primary school and young adult readers.

Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, by Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books


The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals, by Sami Bayly, Hachette Australia

Wilam: A Birrarung Story,  by Andrew Kelly and Aunty Joy Murphy, and Lisa Kennedy (illustrator), Walker Books

Award for New Illustrator: Baby Business, by Jasmine Seymour

The book ‘tells the story of a smoking ceremony performed to welcome a baby to Country. The judges were particularly struck by Seymour’s depiction of smoke and her use of line, texture and colour to represent culture.’

Baby Business, by Jasmine Seymour, Magabala Books

Find out more

Visit the Children’s Book Council of Australia for more details and a video of the awards presentation.

The awards coincide with Book Week, 17-23 October 2020, with the theme Curious Creatures, Wild Minds

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