CBCA Book Week 2020 – Shortlist Books & New Dates

Book Week 2020, which normally runs in August, will be held between Saturday 17 October and Friday 23 October 2020. The theme for 2020 is ‘Curious Creatures, Wild Minds’.

Child Reading Book Unsplash

You can get started reading the books from the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year 2020 shortlist. Lady AB (9yo), Baby 2.0 (7yo) and I have read a lot of these titles and the nominations are well-deserved.

As you’d know, it’s currently a very challenging business, arts and community environment. Please continue to celebrate excellent Australian children’s literature by supporting authors and booksellers and buying more books, especially from your local independent bookshops!

The Book Week shortlist makes an easy, curated shopping list for all levels of readers.

CBCA also provides Book Week resources for parents and teachers, including colouring-in sheets, DIY bookmarks and craft ideas.

Also if you’re struggling with Book Week costume ideas check out the range from CostumeBox. You’ll need to get organised early as you won’t be able to do a last-minute emergency dash to Kmart this year!



Book of the Year 2020 Shortlist: Picture Book

These picture books are suitable for ages 0-18 years – some of these books may be for mature readers. We read Hello Lighthouse just before our stay at the Cape Otway Lighthouse cottages and Tilly is a sweet favourite from the winning partnership of Melbourne-based Anna Walker and Jane Godwin.

Hello Lighthouse

This exquisite picture book by Australian-born New York-based illustrator Sophie Blackall was the winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal 2019.

On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams, sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. As the seasons pass and the waves rise and fall, outside, the wind blows; inside, the lighthouse keeper writes, and the rhythms of his life unfold. But change is on the horizon…

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson


Melbourne-based author Jane Godwin and illustrator Anna Walker have collaborated on many books and their latest title is Tilly.

Tilly’s found the perfect hiding place to keep her special treasures. No one knows about it, not even her big brothers and sister, who know everything. But one day, something happens that Tilly could never have imagined…

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson


A heartwarming picture book from award-winning author-illustrator Caroline Magerl about two unlikely loners who forge a forever friendship.

Nop is a scruffy kind of bear. He sits on a dusty armchair in Oddmint’s Dumporeum surrounded by the beaders, knitters, patchers and stitchers who are much too busy to talk to him. So he watches the litter tumble until, armed with a new bow tie, he has an idea that will change his life forever.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

I Need a Parrot

A quirky word book teaching kids about the difference between ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’.

Does the young boy really ‘need’ a parrot, particularly given that a wild bird that needs wide-open spaces?

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson


A sweet picture book about a three-legged dog by award-winning author and illustrator Stephen Michael King.

One, two, three . . . Every day was a hop and a skip for Three. He was happy to walk from here to there, wherever his nose led, or wherever his legs took him . . . all the way to new friends.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

A young World War I French soldier’s unauthorised visit home has dire consequences in a haunting story reimagined in miniature tableaux. Its publication coincided with the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

This moving and sparely narrated story is based on true events and contains miniature reenactments based on photographs.  Notes from the creators explore the innovative process and their personal connection to the story.

The Good Son won the 1st Prize at the Prix Sorcières 2019, France’s most prestigious award for children’s books. Given its content and the battlefields pictured I recommend this book for children 10+ years.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Book of the Year 2020 Shortlist: Early Childhood

These books are appropriate in style and content for kids aged 0-6 years who are pre-reading or in the early stages of reading.

One Runaway Rabbit

A picture book about a curious pet rabbit who accidentally escapes the safety of her backyard, and then must survive in the wilds of suburbia at night.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Bat vs Poss

This rollicking rhyming book by Alexa Moses and illustrated by Anil Tortop is all about sharing and making friends.

Meek lives with her three sisters, a gaggle of birds, lizards and other creatures next to a tumbledown terrace house. Everyone shares the space, and life is pretty sweet until the day a rude and messy fruit bat named Squabbles moves in – and demands everyone else move OUT. Will Meek be able to get rid of Squabbles, or is there a way for everyone to get along?

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

When Billy Was a Dog

Do your kids hassle you for a pet? Billy wants a dog. He really really really wants one.

Billy’s parents aren’t so sure. So one morning, Billy takes matters into his own paws. When Billy Was a Dog is a gloriously funny, warm and true story from the creators of Puddle Hunters.

Buy from Amazon | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

We’re Stuck!

When Turtle races into the lift of Building 24, there is a nod and a blink and a step to the side. A grunt and a sigh and a lean to the right.

But what happens when the lift stops moving? Crocodile has a meeting to get to. And Giraffe has a doctors appointment. And Turtle really, really needs to get to the shop.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

My Friend Fred

T’s family has a longstanding relationship with having dachshunds as pets, so this book particularly resonated with our kids. Particularly as the author shares our last name, Watts!

This delightful picture book is about a friendship between an exuberant but loveable dachshund and his more retiring, tidy housemate.

Buy from Amazon | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Goodbye House, Hello House

Has your family moved house before? It can be a really stressful and confusing time for kids.

Goodbye House, Hello House is a joyful story about moving house and embracing change. It comes from a much-loved, award-winning team of Margaret Wild and Ann James.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia 

Book of the Year 2020 Shortlist: Younger Readers

These books are appropriate in style and content for kids age 7-12 years in middle and upper primary years. My personal favourite is The Secrets of Magnolia Moon – a beautiful, sweet and relatable story about a 9 year girl Magnolia Moon that I read to Lady AB when she was sick in bed. Lady AB says that The Glimme ‘is excellent’ and contains fantastical illustrations by Marc McBride and she also enjoyed The Little Wave.

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon

This gorgeous book by CBCA award-winning picture book author Edwina Wyatt and illustrated by Katherine Quinn tells the tale of 9-year-old Magnolia Moon.

Each chapter in this novel captures Magnolia’s year of being nine and ends on Chapter Almost 10, reveals a secret that Magnolia is keeping. But the novel also chronicles a year of change for Magnolia. From her best friend moving to the birth of her little brother Finnegan, Magnolia navigates every challenge and secret that comes her way with the kind of authenticity and innocence that comes from being nine years wise.

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon has also been shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize 2020.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

The Glimme

Lady AB most enjoys reading fantasy novels and The Glimme delivers on its promise in spades by veteran author Emily Rodda with illustrations by Marc McBride.

Lone Annie sees dragons in your futureShe sees giants. She sees fire and water. She sees death. Finn’s life in the village of Wichant is hard. Only his drawings of the wild coastline, with its dragon-shaped clouds and headlands that look like giants, make him happy. Then the strange housekeeper from a mysterious clifftop mansion sees his talent and buys him for a handful of gold and then reveals to him seven extraordinary paintings. Finn thinks the paintings must be pure fantasy-such amazing scenes and creatures can’t be real! He’s wrong. Soon he is going to slip through the veil between worlds and plunge into the wonders and perils of The Glimme.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

The Little Wave

A moving and heartwarming verse novel about friendship, new experiences and staying true to yourself.

The Little Wave Pip Harry
The Little Wave Pip Harry

When a Manly school sets out to bring a country class to the city for a beach visit, three very different kids find each other…and themselves.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

The Thing About Oliver

This book tackles autism from the perspective of twelve-year-old Tilly who dreams of becoming a marine scientist, but she doesn’t even own a swimsuit. She lives in a drought- stricken town with her mum and younger brother Oliver, who is autistic.

Oliver’s meltdowns are making life unbearable.

He needs so many different kinds of therapy that there’s never any time-or money-left over for swimming lessons. Tilly knows Oliver’s needs have to come first, but it’s hard feeling invisible all the time.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

The Dog Runner

From the author of the multi-award-winning and bestselling How to Bee comes an intense and thrilling new adventure.

Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape?

The Dog Runner has also been shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize 2020.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Catch a Falling Star

This coming-of-age story by multiple-award-winner Meg McKinlay is about loss and grief, dealing with change and fighting to hold on to what you can, while letting go of what you can’t.

It’s 1979 and the sky is falling. Skylab, that is. Somewhere high above Frankie Avery, one of the world’s first space stations is tumbling to Earth. And rushing back with it are old memories. Things twelve-year-old Frankie thought she’d forgotten. Things her mum won’t talk about, and which her little brother Newt never knew. Only … did he? Does he? Because as Skylab circles closer, Newt starts acting strangely. And while the world watches the sky, Frankie keeps her own eyes on Newt. Because if anyone’s going to keep him safe, it’s her. It always has been. But maybe this is something bigger than splinters and spiders and sleepwalking. Maybe a space station isn’t the only thing heading straight for calamity.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Book of the Year 2020 Shortlist: Older Readers

These books are appropriate in style and content for teenagers age 13-18 years who are in high school. The themes and language are suitable only for mature readers – for instance, there’s liberal use of curse words.

This Is How We Change the Ending

I’m not usually one to pick up a YA novel but I am currently reading ‘This is How We Change the Ending‘ by Vikki Wakefield because it was longlisted for the 2020 Stella Prize.

It has a little bit of the same feel as Boy Swallows Universe in that the protagonist is a teenager living in a dysfunctional family environment in a place with few opportunities. You just hope that Nate – who’s clever, caring and a wordsmith – will find a way out, despite the odds.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson


The Boy Who Steals Houses

Can two broken boys find their perfect home? By turns heartbreaking and heartwarming, this is a gorgeously told, powerful story.

Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson


How It Feels to Float

First-time author Helena Fox’s YA novel How It Feels to Float was the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Award Prize for Writing for Young Adults 2020. It has also been shortlisted for numerous other literary awards around the country.

Biz knows how to float. She has her people, posse, her mum and the twins. She has Grace. And she has her dad, who tells her about the little kid she was, and who shouldn’t be here but is. So Biz doesn’t tell anyone anything. Not about her dark, runaway thoughts, not about kissing Grace or noticing Jasper, the new boy. And she doesn’t tell anyone about her dad. Because her dad died when she was seven. And Biz knows how to float, right there on the surface – normal okay regular fine.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Ghost Bird

Stacey and Laney are twins – mirror images of each other – and yet they’re as different as the sun and moon. Stacey works hard at school, determined to get out of their small town. Laney skips school and sneaks out of the house to meet her boyfriend. But when Laney disappears one night, Stacey can’t believe she’s just run off without telling her.

As the days pass and Laney doesn’t return, Stacey starts dreaming of her twin. The dreams are dark and terrifying, difficult to understand and hard to shake, but at least they tell Stacey one key thing – Laney is alive. It’s hard for Stacey to know what’s real and what’s imagined and even harder to know who to trust. All she knows for sure is that Laney needs her help.

Stacey is the only one who can find her sister. Will she find her in time?

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

When the Ground is Hard

This book is a stunning and heartrending mystery set in a Swaziland boarding school about two girls of different castes who bond over a shared copy of Jane Eyre.

When a boy goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must work together to solve the mystery, in the process learning the true meaning of friendship.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Four Dead Queens

Four Queens. A divided nation. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.

An enthralling fast-paced YA debut mystery story where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Book of the Year 2020 Shortlist: Non-Fiction Book

The Eve Pownall Award is awarded to books providing factual content. We are currently obsessed with The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals, a beautifully designed and bound large-format book which documents some truly horrific-looking animals. That sea lamprey is the stuff of nightmares!

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals

With more than sixty ugly animals to explore, this compendium of the unusual celebrates the beauty in ‘ugliness’.

The breathtaking scientific illustrations by Sami Bayly feature unusual animals as well as scientific facts about each of them, from the naked mole rat to the goblin shark, sphinx cat and blobfish. Watch this short clip of Sami Bayly talking about her first book.

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals was the winner of the Children’s Indie Book Awards 2020.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Searching for Cicadas

This lovely story about a child and their grandfather searching for cicadas is part of the award-winning narrative nonfiction Nature Storybooks series. It’s filled with fun and interesting facts about cicadas – perfect for nature lovers and budding wildlife scientists.

This heartwarming nonfiction picture book is written by award-winning author Lesley Gibbes and gorgeously illustrated by Judy Watson.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia 

A Hollow is a Home

To you and me, a tree hollow is just a hole, cavity or tunnel in a tree or branch. But to an animal, that hollow may be a bedroom, hiding place, nursery or shelter.

A Hollow is a Home takes you inside the amazing world of tree hollows to discover more than 340 species of incredible Australian animals that call hollows home. With colour photos of glorious gliders, darting dunnarts, minute microbats and many more, this book is full of fun facts about animals that use tree hollows as places for resting, nesting or hiding.

There are also tips on how you can spot hollows yourself, help to protect the environment and encourage habitat for hollow-dependent animals. Teachers’ notes available here.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia 

Wilam: A Birrarung Story

This book is an interesting perspective on the Yarra River that will be particularly relevant for Melbourne families.

Yarra Riverkeeper Andrew Kelly joins award-winning picture book duo Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy to tell the Indigenous and geographical story of Melbourne’s Yarra River, from its source to its mouth; from its pre-history to the present day.

Wilam: A Birrarung Story is one day on a vital, flourishing river. As ngua rises, Bunjil soars over mountain ash, flying higher and higher as the wind warms. Below, Birrarung begins its long winding path down to palem warreen. Wilam – home.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Young Dark Emu: A Truer History

Bruce Pascoe’s award-winning book Dark Emu is republished for a younger audience as Young Dark Emu: A Truer History.

Using the accounts of early European explorers, colonists and farmers, Bruce Pascoe compellingly argues for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. Young Dark Emu: A Truer History asks young readers to consider a different version of Australia’s history pre-European colonisation. Watch Bruce Pascoe discuss the book.

Young Dark Emu: A Truer History was shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards 2020.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia

Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery

Throughout the first century or so of Australian settlement by Europeans, the pages of colonial newspapers were haunted by reports of a bewildering phenomenon: the mysterious yahoo or hairy man.

Luminous images accompanied by newspaper extracts dating back to the early 1800s and words by Ngiyampaa Elder Peter Williams explore the ongoing mystery of yahoo encounters.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Book of the Year 2020 Shortlist: New Illustrator

This annual award recognises the work of an emerging Australian children’s book illustrator.

Louie and Snippy Save the Sea

A thought-provoking and timely meditation on the need to care for our oceans from iconic Australian designer and creative, Collette Dinnigan and illustrator Grant Cowan.

Cowan’s work has previously featured in many exhibitions and he is renowned for his unique hand-painted fashion illustrations.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson


Jess McGeachin is the author and illustrator of Fly, a story of determination no matter the odds, and love in the face of loss.

Jess McGeachin is a writer/illustrator/designer based in Melbourne. Drawing on a love of natural history (and a day job at Melbourne Museum) Jess hopes that his stories inspire the reader to explore both real and imaginary places and meet the characters that live in them.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Cooee Mittigar: A Story on Darug Songlines

Cooee Mittigar, meaning Come Here Friend, is an invitation to yana (walk), on Darug Country.  In this stunning picture book, Darug creators Jasmine Seymour and Leanne Mulgo Watson tell a story on Darug Songlines, introducing children and adults-alike to Darug Nura (Country) and language.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Baby Business

The book tells the story of the baby smoking ceremony that welcomes baby to country.

The smoke is a blessing ― it will protect the baby and remind them that they belong. This beautiful ritual is recounted in a way young children will completely relate to.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Baby Business Jasmine Seymour
Baby Business Jasmine Seymour

Little Bird’s Day

A simple, universal story of a day in the life of Little Bird as she sings the world alive, flies with Cloud, travels with Wind, nestles with Moon and dreams of flying among the stars. Sally Morgan’s beautiful words and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s sensitive artwork combine to make this a beautiful, distinctive publication with global appeal.

Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr is a Yolŋu man from the Ganalbingu clan and is known for his paintings of Ganalbingu song lines as well as his mother’s Wägilak clan stories. Johnny lives in the remote East Arnhem Land community of Gapuwiyak, where he is Chair of the Gapuwiyak Arts and Cultural Centre. He also won the Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award 2017.

Buy from Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia 

Little Bird's Day
Little Bird’s Day


Paperboy is a journey through the salient moments of a young boy’s life – the fears, the trials, the tragedies and the small triumphs – with each moment contemplated in terms of paper.

Paperboy is written by Danny Parker, whose poetic prose for young readers has won him prestigious awards, while Bethany Macdonald’s robust expressionist collages both embody and illustrate the themes of this poignant story.

Buy from Amazon | Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

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CBCA Book Of The Year
CBCA Book Of The Year 2020 – PIN this picture to save this post!

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About Joyce Watts

Joyce Watts is a former intellectual property, IT and media lawyer turned serial entrepreneur.

As well as being the founder of TOT: HOT OR NOT she helps businesses with their SEO, email marketing & social media as BrightSmart.com.au; she owns an online bike store CycleStyle.com.au and develops and produces creative experiences for families via WheelieGoodFun.com. She used to publish another popular lifestyle and food blog called MEL: HOT OR NOT The decisive guide to Melbourne.

She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband, two children and seven bikes.

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