My CBCA Clayton’s Shortlist books – Australian publishing for young people is ALIVE AND WELL

What writers wouldn’t jump at the chance to get their hands on a year’s worth of new children’s books? An excuse to lie around for 2 months and read. A legitimate reason to put off doing housework and dealing with a large garden.

Of course, it didn’t end up quite like the dream – I still had to vacuum and weed. And write my own stories. Lucky our progeny has flown the nest! Starving children comes to mind.

When I was approached to be the Younger Reader judge for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Clayton’s Shortlist for 2011, I unwisely (or wisely) didn’t ask for details – like how many books and how long did I have to read them?

Short answer: Almost 95 books to be read in two months.

FREAKY! But now that it’s over (like childbirth), I have to admit it was a huge pleasure – yes, the book publishing industry for young people in Australia is ALIVE AND WELL.

Luckily I’d read 15 of the titles before I started – so I only had 85 to get through. They ranged from glorious picture books to complicated 400-page novels.

Who’s the dingbat who left the fat ones till last?

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to read one box of books before the deadline fell – books like Sophie Masson’s the Hunt for Ned Kelly and Lian Tanner’s The Keepers, part of The Museum of Thieves trilogy. 

I did finish reading The Keepers a few days ago, and absolutely adored it. My little reward for being a Claytons’ judge was to choose two books as a keepsake = The Boy and the Toy (Sonya Hartnett and Lucia Masciullo) and Lian’s The Keepers – a beautiful hard-cover version, and Lian has sent me a signed bookplate for it. I can’t wait for the next in this series, it’s a fabulous story.

One thing, I wasn’t prepared for was ending up with a long, shortlist in my final week of reading – 12 funny, heart-warming, thoughtful, clever, exciting stories – like Chris Bongers’ Henry Hoey Hobson, Angela Sunde’s Pond Magic, Pat Flynn’s The Trophy Kid, Sally Murphy’s Toppling and Lorraine Marwood’s Ute Picnic .

In the end, choosing my final 6 wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be – I could only approach the judging process as an author and a reader. It’s a bit like judging the Floor Packers Prize in the Archibald Art Prize.

It came down to the 6 stories that left their mark on my heart.

These are the ones that sent little shivers of delight up my spine as I read. Where I dreaded coming to the end of the story, but couldn’t stop reading however much I tried to slow down.

Even though some of them did not end up on the real CBCA Shortlist, they are the titles I wish I had written.

My CBCA Claytons Shortlist:

Arnie Avery by Sue Walker This heart-warming, engaging story explores the themes of ‘loss’ and ‘facing up to your fears’. And bullying. It’s told with humour and sensitivity, with plenty of action that will get boy and girl readers cheering for the protagonist right through to the final word.

Captain Stella by Ruth Starke
I love chapter books for younger readers, so I thought it only fair that one of my winners is a smaller book (it’s actually on the edge of being short – an Aussie Chomp). This is one of those perfect little stories – set in an ordinary suburb, a great plot with a cast of believable characters, including a strong female protagonist who comes up with a practical solution to benefit her community. Go Stella!

let me whisper you my story
Moya Simons
This novel grabs you from the very first page. I didn’t think it would – there’ve been many stories based around the rise of the Nazis in Europe. This one stands out in the genre – a coming-of-age story set during the terrible tragic times about a courageous girl who never loses hope. A beautifully written story that will stay in your mind and your heart.

Jaguar Warrior by Sandy Fussell
This exciting adventure novel delves into another culture, another country, another time – set in the ancient Aztec society, three engaging characters, fugitives on a quest, are running for their lives. Vividly told, this novel shows the author’s meticulous research. It gives the story authenticity with fascinating images from an unknown past without a hint of  info dumping. I hope this is the first of a series so I can keep reading them.

Where there’s Smoke by John Heffernan
My next book is a powerful story of a young boy’s survival against bullying and the ramifications of past violence and family’s upheaval and breakup. It’s a positive story with an engaging young hero. This is also a story of the Australian landscape – used in the right hands (John Heffernan), it’s a powerful character. The thrilling climax as the fiery monster approaches, is heart-thumping-ly exciting – a fast paced story that both boys and girls will love.

Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer
This exceptional book quietly and without fuss, lodged itself in my heart.  It’s not just the author’s sure touch to capture the voice of the young narrator, Corey.  It’s funny and sad, a story with heart – and an excellent book to read aloud to a class. A story has to be pretty-damned good to make me cry, then leave a sense of hope as well. Just a Dog does just that.

THE REAL SHORTLIST – yes, the authentic CBCA Shortlist is out. And yes, only my pick of Just a Dog was on it.

But, the Claytons is all about five individuals picking the books that impact on them. It’s a chance to let readers know about the many other fabulous books written by Australian storytellers.

Here are the 2011 Shortlist winners – CONGRATULATIONS TO THESE FAB AUSSIE AUTHORS!

Bauer, Michael Gerard Just a Dog Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia
Bongers, Christine Henry Hoey Hobson Woolshed Press, Random House Australia
Branford, Anna
Ill. Sarah Davis
Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot Walker Books Australia
Carmody, Isobelle The Red Wind Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
McKinlay, Meg
Ill. Leila Rudge
Duck for a Day Walker Books Australia
Murphy, Sally
Ill. Rhian Nest James
Toppling Walker Books Australia



22 thoughts on “My CBCA Clayton’s Shortlist books – Australian publishing for young people is ALIVE AND WELL

  1. Hi Sheryl….I am a wee bit jealous, that you got to read all those awesome books all alone. You are not just a great writer, a wonderful blogger, a true friend, but also an extremely lucky lady.
    Great list.


  2. Shhh, Michael now everyone will know, lol 🙂
    Seriously, it wasn’t hard – Just a Dog is a gorgeous story and I can’t forget Corey and Mr Mosely. ♥


  3. You did a great job on the night Sheryl – and not just because you picked my book. But thank you for that and for the lovely comments. (Your cheque should arrive any day now so just be patient)


  4. Hi Sheryl,
    Congrats on this fabulous blog representing the wealth of talent in kid’s writing. 85 Books !! How did you ever read them all and try to judge them? Congratulations on your inspired decisions.


  5. Brilliant post, Sheryl. And what a great service – both to readers and the authors you highlighted. I can’t imagine what a difficult task this must have been! I am in awe…

    Congratulations and well done. You handled it all with such dignity and heart. Hugs.


  6. Sally, I read Toppling going home on the bus from the city and missed my bus stop. Had to walk home. 🙂 Beautifully written book!
    I wish I could have a longer shortlist!


  7. What a huge job you had, Sheryl – and you did it well. The younger readers category seemed especially rich this year – so many book son the notables which could have easily been on the shortlist.

    I am reading The Keepers at the moment and loving it.

    Thanks for the mention.


  8. Sheryl

    Brilliantly written reviews for the books your Clayton’s Short List. Makes me want to read them all – and one was on the CBCA list. Congratulations. A great effort.

    I’m impressed but then Dad & I know how you have always loved books.

    Mum & Dad


  9. Thanks for your kind words, Sheryl. What a huge task it was for you and then to choose only six books. Your reviews are so helpful. I have Just a Dog. It has just reached the top of my ‘to read’ pile and I am excited to start it.


  10. Sheryl, a big job- I’ve just read Michael’s book- really great and love Violet Mackeral- looking forward to reading the next one in the series. We have such a rich choice of reading- lucky us.



  11. Just goes to show Sheryl how subjective reading is. Thanks for posting your list. I’ll hav to check some of them out, espcailly Just a Dog. Have to say I loved Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot.


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