Big Ideas for Small Readers: Kids’ Book of the Year winners

Contemporary social issues are explored by many winners of the Children's Book Council of Australia 2019 Book of the Year Awards.

Asylum seekers, reconciliation, and the alienation of working for big corporations are among the contemporary social issues explored by authors in this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia 2019 Book of the Year Awards.

‘Literature plays a critical role in giving children and young adults an opportunity to explore and understand issues in an age-appropriate way,’ said the council’s National Chair, Professor Margot Hillel, OAM, announcing the awards.

‘The authors recognised in this year’s awards handle these themes unapologetically but with compassion and sensitivity through vibrant characters, compelling storylines and in the case of picture books, stunning illustrations in a range of artistic media and styles.’

The awards were announced to coincide with Book Week, which finishes today. This year’s theme was ‘Reading is My Secret Power’, celebrated by schools across Australia.

Here are the winners of the 2019 awards:

Book of the Year: Older Readers


Between Us, by Clare Atkins, Black Inc. Books. The novel tells the story of two teenagers, separated by the barbed-wire fence of a detention centre. Anahita is an Iranian asylum seeker, only allowed out to attend the local school. That’s where she meets Jono, who lives with his Vietnamese single father, Kenny, who works as a guard at the centre.

Honour Books

Small Spaces, by Sarah Epstein, Walker Books Australia.

Lenny’s Book of Everything, by Karen Foxlee, Allen and Unwin.

Book of the Year: Younger Readers


His Name Was Walter, by Emily Rodda, HarperCollins Publishers.  This is a story within a story by one of Australia’s acclaimed children’s authors. Four kids and a teacher find a handwritten book, with vivid illustrations, hidden in an old house. The book tells the haunting story of Walter, and the mysterious girl Sparrow.

Honour Books

Black Cockatoo, by Carl Merrison & Hakea Hustler, Magabala Books.

The Peacock Detectives, by Carly Nugent, Text Publishing.

Book of the Year: Early Childhood


Tricky’s Bad Day, by Alison Lester, Affirm Press. Tricky’s day is not going well. His milk spills, his pyjama buttons won’t work, and his little sister has wrecked their game. It’s the recipe for a stubborn bad mood. Dad has an idea – let’s head outside. Tricky’s bad day evaporates as he splashes in puddles and climbs trees, with Dad by his side.

Honour Books

Heads and Tails: Insects, by John Canty, Berbay Publishing.

Here Comes Stinkbug!, by Tohby Riddle, Allen & Unwin.

Picture Book of the Year


Cicada, by Shaun Tan, Hachette Australia. This latest book by the acclaimed picture book creator and Academy Award winner tells the story of the suit wearing Cicada, a data entry clerk, who has toiled away for 17 years, coping with unappreciative bosses and bullying co-workers.  Then Cicada goes to the roof of the the office building, and something extraordinary happens.

Honour Books

The Mediterranean, by Armin Greder, Allen & Unwin.

The All New Must Have Orange 430, by Michael Speechley, Penguin Random House Australia.

Eve Pownall Award – for factual books with imaginative presentation, interpretation and style


Sorry Day, by Coral Vass, illustrated by Dub Leffler, National Library of Australia. Maggie is at Parliament House in Canberra, waiting with her mother for prime minister Kevin Rudd made the public apology to the Stolen Generations. Maggie becomes separated in the crowd and is lost.

Honour Books

The Happiness Box: A Wartime Book of Hope, by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Andrew McLean, Walker Books Australia.

Make Believe: M.C Escher For Kids, by Kate Ryan, Illustrated by Cally Bennett, National Gallery of Victoria.


CBCA Award for New Illustrator

Grandma Z, by Daniel Gray-Barnett, Scribble Kids’ Books. It’s an ordinary day, in an ordinary town, and it’s also Albert’s birthday. He makes a birthday candle wish, which comes true when Grandma Z rides into town on her motorcycle, and Albert’s adventure begins.

You can find out more by visiting the Children’s Book Council of Australia website.

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