Griffith University Children’s Book Award shortlist

Somewhere Else cover

Somewhere Else

Author: Gus Gordon

Penguin House

About the book

From award-winning author and illustrator Gus Gordon comes this irresistible story about a duck called George, the possibility of adventure, and taking risks to realise what you value most. George has no interest in exploring the world. He’s far too busy at home baking fine pastries. Or so he tells everyone when they invite him along on their wonderful adventures. But when his friend Pascal digs a little deeper, the real reason George won’t leave home is finally revealed . . .

About the author

Gus Gordon is an internationally award-winning illustrator/author. Wendy was a 2010 CBCA Notable Book. Herman and Rosie (2013’s Read for Australia book) and Somewhere Else (2017 CBCA Notable Book) have both have been internationally acclaimed. The Last Peach will be published in April 2018 in Australia and the US.

Judges' Comments

George, unlike every other bird, does not fly away each winter. Instead he prefers to stay home and bake. His friends try several times to persuade him to change his mind without success. When the reason for George’s refusal to go somewhere else is revealed his well-meaning but inept friend Pascal helps him find an unusual and satisfying solution. This gentle tale about individuality is a multi-layered lesson in friendship, ingenuity, kindness and cooking. It is told with Gordon’s signature humour and understatement. Using his well-regarded collage techniques he interweaves many meanings and images in carefully designed pages that engage the reader. He gives time and significance to important moments in the story using white space, colour and vignettes for emphasis. The muted colour scheme, the vintage collage items and the French setting combine to create a story with lasting and universal appeal.

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A Different Dog cover

A Different Dog

Author: Paul Jennings

Allen & Unwin

About the book

The forest is dense and dark. And the trail full of unexpected perils. The dog can't move. The boy can't talk. And you won't know why. Or where you are going. You will put this story down not wanting the journey to end. But it's from Paul Jennings so watch out for the ambush. One of the best. From one of the best.

About the author

Paul Jennings has written over one hundred stories and has won every Australian children's choice book award. Since the publication of Unreal! in 1985, readers all around the world have loved his books. The top-rating TV series Round the Twist and Driven Crazy were based on a selection of his enormously popular short-story collections such as Unseen! In 1995 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to children's literature and he was awarded the prestigious Dromkeen Medal in 2001.

Judges' Comments

There have been many stories about boys and dogs,but A Different Dog is a very different book by the much loved, multi award winning author, Paul Jennings. This slim volume tells the tale of a lonely, silent child, known only as ‘the boy’ and of the pivotal impact on his life of two dogs, Deefer and Chase. The boy lives with his mother in abject poverty and silence, after a tragic event left him unable to speak. Suitable for middle to upper primary age children, the novel is both an unusual, fast moving adventure and a thoughtful exploration of love and loss, sacrifice and strength, tenacity and hope. Paul Jennings’ simple direct writing is powerful and is perfectly highlighted by Geoff Kelly’s distinctive illustrations which open each chapter. A truly moving experience.

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How to Bee cover

How to Bee

Author: Bren MacDibble

Allen & Unwine

About the book

Peony lives with her sister and grandfather on a fruit farm outside the city. In a world where real bees are extinct, the quickest, bravest kids climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand. All Peony really wants is to be a bee. Life on the farm is a scrabble, but there is enough to eat and a place to sleep, and there is love. Then Peony's mother arrives to take her away from everything she has ever known, and all Peony's grit and quick thinking might not be enough to keep her safe. How To Bee is a beautiful and fierce novel for younger readers, and the voice of Peony will stay with you long after you read the last page.

About the author

Bren MacDibble was raised on farms all over New Zealand, so is an expert about being a kid on the land. She now lives in Melbourne with her family and a cheeky dog, works with gifted children, and teaches writing at TAFE.

Judges' Comments

How to Bee is a timely and prescient dystopia set in a future without bees. Children on farms work as ‘bees’, manually pollinating plants. Nine-year-old Peony aspires to being a ‘bee’ but is kidnapped by her Ma and taken to the city to work for a rich family. Peony’s skills and fortitude enable her to make her own way home and also help rich girl Esmerelda overcome her fears. The tale is cyclic, reflecting the seasonal shape of rural life. Sensory descriptions from the natural world, such as ‘his face puckered like a burr on a tree trunk’, are grafted into the text. The issue of domestic violence is a relevant but menacing element of the narrative, placing this novel at the older end of our children’s category.

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Dragonfly Song cover

Dragonfly Song

Author: Wendy Orr

Allen & Unwin

About the book

The firstborn daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly. Now every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned - but for Aissa it is the only escape. Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast - but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature. A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.

About the author

Wendy Orr was born in Edmonton, Canada, but grew up in various places across Canada, France and the USA. She started writing for children after a career as an occupational therapist. She's the author of many award-winning books, including Nim's Island, Nim at Sea, Raven's Mountain and Peeling the Onion.

Judges' Comments

This historical fantasy set in the richly imagined world of the Minoan Bronze Age is about Aissa, a child who suffers cruelty, abandonment and loss. She becomes mute but perseveres and survives, adapting and changing to find success as a bull dancer, but her real quest is to find her voice and accept her true nature and heritage. An outstanding feature of this novel is the lyrical prose and free verse that is both spare and compelling, making the title Dragonfly Song particularly apt. As Aissa morphs from a drudge with no name to bull dancer then priestess, complex themes of religion, loss, survival and courage are explored to underpin the major refrain, the significance of Aissa’s identity. Rich in imagery and emotional range, populated with complex characters and full of exciting incidents, this novel succeeds brilliantly in bringing a remote world vividly to life for contemporary young readers.

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The Grand, Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler cover

The Grand, Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler

Author: Lisa Shanahan

Allen & Unwin

About the book

Henry Hoobler is a reluctant adventurer who is worried about his summer holiday camping at the beach: bugs, spiders, snakes, stingers, blue-ringed octopi or sharks. Worst of all, his family and friends are pushing him to ride his new silver bike - without training wheels. But when Henry meets Cassie, he discovers that courage is there to be found when you have a friend who is straight-up and true. A joyous, heart-warming story from the much-loved author of My Big Birkett.

About the author

Lisa Shanahan is an award-winning writer of picture books and fiction for young people. Her first novel for teenagers, My Big Birkett was published to critical acclaim both in Australia, where it was short-listed for the CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers, and in the United States. Her picture book Bear and Chook by the Sea, illustrated by Emma Quay, was the CBCA Book of the Year for Early Childhood in 2010. Her most recent picture book Big Pet Day, illustrated by Gus Gordon, was the Speech Pathology Book of the Year for Ages 5-8 in 2015. She loves moon-gazing, making up words, mango sorbet, mock orange blossom, black cockatoos, shouts of unexpected laughter, the weight of a scruffy dog resting on her knee and hot cups of tea. She lives in Sydney, close to the river of her childhood, with her husband and their three sons.

Judges' Comments

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler is structured as a quintessential Australian beach camping holiday but the exceptional storytelling soars to welcome the reader into both the setting and young Henry Hoobler’s rites of passage. We are given a heart-warming insight into introspective Henry. He is a genius at noticing things, surprising his fellow campers with his success in board and card games. He is also ‘Mr Worst-Case Scenario’, dreading the bugs, stingers and sharks off the beach but, most of all, dreading learning to ride his new silver bike. The bike is a symbol of fear, but its significance changes as Henry discovers courage and freedom. Courage can be found when friends are ‘straight-up and true’, embodied by free-spirit Cassie. This tale reminds us that everyone is different and everyone has gifts. Some, like Henry, prefer to learn quietly but even extroverts can be fearful. The writing is literary and metaphorical, encompassing a vast emotional range whilst being utterly engaging for children. It is rare to encounter a novel for mid-primary children characterised by such perception and cadence.

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