Sparkling reads: The 2021 Children’s Book of the Year Winners

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards, celebrating writers who give our children stories that connect them to their communities.

Finding a great book doesn’t have to be like looking for a diamond in the rough. The Children’s Book of the Year Awards, celebrating its 75th year – or diamond  anniversary – has selected the best of the best.

‘You might say this 75th birthday is a diamond jubilee of sorts, and I am reminded of the brilliance and lustre of a diamond when I think how a carefully constructed story can light up the mind of a child,’ says  Wendy Rapee, chair of the Children’s Book Council of Australia.

With themes of ecology, social change and the world around us – many with a touch of humour – this year’s winning authors have explored contemporary topics that capture the imagination and transport the reader to another world.

The awards were announced to coincide with the start of Book Week, which runs from 21-27 August. This year’s theme is ‘Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds’, with schools and early learning centres across Australia celebrating throughout the week.

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

Book of the Year: Older Readers

The End of the World is Bigger than Love, by Davina Bell, Text Publishing.

‘This book is magical realism at its finest — a story that is utterly unique and beautifully executed, filled with ethereal imagery and descriptive language.’

Metal Fish, Falling Snow, by Cath Moore, Text Publishing.
Where We Begin, by Christie Nieman, Pan Macmillian Australia.

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Aster’s Good, Right Things, by Kate Gordon, Riveted Press.

‘Aster’s ‘good, right things’ are sacrifices she makes in the service of others, as an atonement for her mother’s departure which Aster blames on herself. A brilliant portrayal of mental health.

The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst, by Jaclyn Moriarty illustrated by Kelly Canby, Allen & Unwin.
Worse Things, by Sally Murphy illustrated by Sarah Davis, Walker Books Australia.

Book of the Year: Early Childhood

No! Never!, by Libby Hathorn & Lisa Hathorn-Jarman illustrated by Mel Pearce, Hachette Australia.

‘The emotions of the protagonist are ‘loud and clear,’ as are the expressions of her parents and other characters. The underlying tongue-in-cheek sense of humour will delight both adult and child readers.’

Anemone is not the Enemy, by Anna McGregor, Scribble Kids’ Books.
We Love You, Magoo, by Briony Stewart, Penguin Random House Australia.

Picture Book of the Year

How to Make a Bird, illustrated by Matt Ottley, text by Meg McKinlay, Walker Books Australia.

‘…take chances and breathe life into new ideas — perhaps the house so high is a reference to the child living with her head in the clouds, perhaps it is simply the place she goes to explore her ideas.’

Not cute., by Philip Bunting, Scholastic Australia.
Your Birthday Was the BEST!, illustrated by Felicita Sala, text by Maggie Hutchings, Affirm Press.

The Eve Pownall Award

Dry to Dry: The Seasons of Kakadu, by Pamela Freeman, illustrated by Liz Anelli, Walker Books Australia.

‘The language used transports readers to Kakadu and keeps them engaged through the change in font, size and direction of text, making the words to jump out at the reader.’

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dangerous Animals, by Sami Bayly, Hachette Australia.
Strangers on Country, by David Hartley & Kirsty Murray, illustrated by Dub Leffler, National Library of Australia.

Award for New Illustrator

This Small Blue Dot, by Zeno Sworder, Thames and Hudson Australia.

‘…array of mixed-media images on each page to illustrate his often-abstract concepts about life, ecology and sustainability.’

Find out more

Visit the Children’s Book Council of Australia for more details. You can also watch the video of the awards presentation below.

The awards coincide with Book Week, 21-27 August 2021, with the theme Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.

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