Book of the Year 2019

In August the CBCA will announce the winner and honour books for their six categories. Of course, my favourite category is older reader and I have read all six books that have been nominated for this category. I have written reviews for four of the six books and here are my final two reviews. I am not really fussed, which two books win ‘honour’ books. My favourite book and my pick for the winner is Lenny’s Book of Everything.

In Changing Gear, we are introduced to Merrick, who six months ago lost his grandfather. One day his grandad was there and then he’s not. Merrick had a special bond with his grandfather – they were friends and Merrick’s grandfather was always there to help him navigate life. Without his grandfather, Merrick feels lost and ‘like a passenger in  his own skin.’ Merrick decides he needs to get out of his own head and he needs to escape from his life. He takes his bike and a couple of hundred dollars in cash and heads off. He leaves behind his phone and any connection to his life. Along the way, Merrick’s bike breaks down. It is during this time that he meets up with Victor, a man who spends his life walking the Australian roads. Victor is a man of few words and a man who doesn’t suffer fools. Victor and Merrick walk the roads together and as they walk, they talk.

I thought I would like this book more than I did, but it just didn’t resonate with me. I did like that Merrick was a relatively normal kid – he has friends, he’s not a complete loser and he seems to be doing reasonably well at school. Life throws him a curveball when he loses his grandfather and he feels off-kilter. He’s in his last year of high school and he’s not quite sure what he’s doing with his life. Maybe this book will resonate more for young men in their final years of school.

One aspect of the book that I enjoyed was Gardner’s writing of Australia. His descriptions of the Australian landscape is breathtaking. He captures the absurd beauty of this country exceptionally well. Changing Gear moves at a slower pace to match the walking speed of Merrick and Victor – this wasn’t particularly to my liking, but I understood that Gardner wants us, the reader, to slow down and unpack Merrick and Victor’s lives – and our own. Changing Gear by Scot Gardner is a solid read and has a lot to offer many readers, but I wasn’t one of them.

Between Us is a beautiful book. It weaves together three narrative voices flawlessly. I was quite moved by this book. I do believe that if you want to change people’s perceptions, then you have to show them, rather than being didactic. It is evident that Atkin has done extensive research for this book and her understanding of the issues that she writes about is clear. Between Us is a book that all Australians should read because it allows the readers to step inside someone’s else’s shoes.

The story revolves around Jono, Ana and Kenny. Jono is depressed. His mother and sister have moved away and he’s suffered quite a lot of sadness in his young life. He lives with his Vietnamese father who works at the Detention centre and the relationship the two share is not an easy one. Ana is an asylum seeker from Iran; she lives in a detention centre but is allowed to attend one of the local high schools. Jono and Ana meet and they connect.

Between Us gives readers an insight into multi-generational immigration and how everyone’s immigrant story is different. Jono’s father’s story is different from Ana’s and even his sister’s, Minh. They are all immigrants, but they look at Australia differently because of their experiences.

This is a story that will resonate with you long after you finish reading. A book that is truthful and credible but at the same time is delightful, gentle and captivating.


Small Spaces

The Art of Taxidermy

The Bogan Mondrian



It was with great anticipation and excitement that I set off for the CBCA (Children Book Council of Australia) shortlist announcement. On this occasion, I took my dad and my boyfriend. I wanted the people closest to me to understand what I had been doing for the last two years as a judge and for them to gain an understanding of how prestigious these awards are to Australian authors and illustrators.  We arrived at Brisbane City Hall and made our way to Ithaca Auditorium where the shortlist presentation was being held.

The ceremony started with a welcome address from National Board Chair Margot Hillel OAM who was to MC the event. Firstly, Margo introduced us to CBCA QLD Branch Patron His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland. The Governor proceeded to tell us that he was married to a teacher-librarian, so I liked him instantly. It was evident from his speech that he genuinely supports and appreciates Australian literature, particularly children literature.

The best part of the day was to hear from previous shortlist nominees, Michael Gerard Bauer, Lucia Masciullo and Christine Bongers who spoke about what being a shortlist nominee meant to them personally and professionally.

First up to speak was Michael who talked about what it means to be an author who is acknowledged by the CBCA awards. Michael’s first book, The Running Man was the 2015 Book of the Year for Older Readers. His FIRST novel! Micheal said that being acknowledged by the CBCA gives writers and illustrators a boost in three fundamental ways: self-belief, publicity and income.

Illustrator, Lucia Masciullo spoke about how when she was shortlisted for Come Down, Cat! with Sonya Hartnett in 2012 she had no idea what a big deal it was to be shortlisted. Lucia, who previously lived in Italy, told the audience how Italy doesn’t have awards for children books. Luckily for her, her publisher was quite aware of what being shortlisted meant for Lucia and her career. Lucia went on to say that as she was only starting out as a children book illustrator, being shortlisted enabled her to showcase her art to Australia and this made her happy, excited and proud.

Lastly, we heard from Christine Bongers who spoke about her 2011 shortlisted book for Younger  Readers, Henry Hoey Hobson. Christine’s story is extraordinary! The wonderfully quirky, delightful and funny Henry Hoey Hobson almost disappeared into obscurity, but thanks to the CBCA shortlist was given a new lease on life. She says it is ‘truly the gift that keeps on giving.’

Next, we were treated to a series of short films from six schools across Queensland. The students were exploring the CBCA Book Week theme, Find Your Treasure. The students’ treasure contained the much anticipated shortlist nominees.

Finally, the magic hour had descended upon Ithaca Auditorium, and the shortlists for 2018 were to be announced. What I loved the most about the announcing of the shortlists was the nervousness of the presenters. They knew how life changing this was for the authors and illustrators and they were trembling with excitement.

First up was the older reader category (MY category). Though, I knew which books were going to be announced I was eager to hear the list.  AND there was MY list up on the screen. What a thrill! I would also like to thank the other two fantastic judges that I worked beside this year to create this list, Katharine England (SA) and Joy Lawn (NSW). It is a great list, and I am delighted with it, and I will write more about this list at a later date.


Entries in this category may be fiction, drama or poetry and should be appropriate in style and content for readers in their secondary years of schooling. Ages 13-18 years (NB: These books are for mature readers)

We then went on to hear the other shortlists, all of which were wonderful!


Entries in this category may be fiction, drama or poetry and should be appropriate in style and content for readers from the middle to upper primary years. Ages 8-12 years.



Entries in this category may be fiction, drama or poetry and should be appropriate in style and content for children who are at pre-reading or early stages of reading. Ages 0-7 years


Entries in this category should be outstanding books of the Picture Book genre 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. Ages 0-18 years (NB. Some of these books may be for mature readers).


Entries in this category should be books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style. Ages 0-18 years

What a wonderful day! I enjoyed the ceremony immensely and give kudos to the Queensland CBCA branch for putting on such a professional but utterly enjoyable day. There have been many highlights for me in being a judge for the CBCA but today was really quite special.

Before the announcement…excitement building!

With my shortlist…Yay!



Tin Heart – Shivaun Plozza


During a trip to Maleny recently we stopped at the local bookshop, and I bought a copy of Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza. My expectations for this book were high. I was a huge fan of Frankie. I remember reading it in my role as CBCA judge, and I immediately knew within a few pages that it was going to be a short-listed book. I was nervous about reading Tin Heart and can only imagine how Shivaun Plozza felt about writing and publishing ‘the difficult second book’. I was not to be disappointed, Tin Heart like Frankie is gritty, funny and moving.

One of the reasons that I loved Frankie so much was because she was a character that you both enjoyed and disliked. At times it was confusing to like Frankie because of her attitude and the choices she made, but deep down you knew that she didn’t mean to hurt anyone and there was no malice in her. Marlowe in Tin Heart is very similar to Frankie in this regard, but in every other way, they are different. When I talked to boys about the character of Frankie, I would say that she was the type of girl you should want to date or be best friends with and I also think Marlowe would make a great girlfriend/best-friend.

In her second novel, Tin Heart (Penguin), Shivaun Plozza tells the story of seventeen-year-old Marlowe who undergoes an organ transplant. Marlowe Jensen was The Dying Girl, and now she has a second chance at life, but Marlowe is finding it hard to move on with her new life when she now has someone else’s heart beating in her chest. She feels an overwhelming need to know more about her donor and so sets off on a quest to find her donor’s family, disregarding their request for no contact. Of course, Marlowe’s determination to get to know her donor and his family creates emotional chaos and sets in motion a chain of events that will impact on everyone around her.

Despite these strong themes, Tin Heart remains light-hearted and funny. It is gorgeously written and has a cast of engaging characters that will delight and charm you. There is Pip, Marlowe’s younger brother who likes dressing up in costumes but with a twist – gingham pinafore, red wig, combat boots and tiger-face paint (Jungle Anne of Green Gables, of course). Her mum, the vegan warrior who has just opened her dream vegan-organic-wellness store (Blissfully Aware) and who lives her life as vegan/mother warrior. Oh, and of course Blissfully Aware just happens to be next door to Bert’s quality butcher. Then there is Zan, the Chinese-Australian girl who is ‘the coolest of cool’. And Leo, the butcher’s son who Marlowe finds endearing and exasperating. Plozza has a gift for writing flawed but adorable characters that stay with you long after you finish the book.

Frankie was the novel that introduced us to Shivaun Plozza, and as readers, we quickly realise what immense talent she was, and Tin Heart only reinforces this and makes us understand that Plozza is a captivating voice in YA fiction and will continue to find a place in our hearts with her gorgeous books.

Tin Heart2 Continue reading Tin Heart – Shivaun Plozza