Every August children and books come together through the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week.  During this time schools and public libraries spend one glorious week celebrating books, Australian authors and illustrators and the joy and benefits of reading.

Classroom teachers, teacher librarians, public librarians, educators, and book shop owners create eye catching displays, run competitions and community events and focus on sharing the importance of reading.  You will often see Book Week parades with children dressed as their favourite book character and parent’s country-wide either revelling in innovative costume creation or tearing their hair out!

In 2022, Children’s Book Week runs from 20 – 26 August and the theme is “Dreaming with Eyes Open” and the CBCA Book of the Year Awards are central to the celebration.

Artwork: Jasmine Seymour

The annual Children’s Book Council of Australia  Book of the Year Awards aim to promote quality Australian literature, supporting national authors and illustrators of children’s books, and are divided into 6 categories.  

Book of the Year: Older Readers is fiction aimed at high school students and often contains challenging, social or political themes and parental guidance is recommended with these titles.  

Book of the Year: Younger Readers is aimed at readers in middle to upper primary school and these titles may also contain more mature themes requiring a higher reading and comprehension level.

 Book of the Year: Early Childhood is probably the most fun category aimed at children aged from 0 – 6 years of age who are being read to or at early stages of reading to themselves.  

Three shortlisted titles in this category in 2022 include:

When The Waterhole Dries Up by Kaye Baillie and Max Hamilton is about a little boy who lives in the outback and manages to find fun in the everyday routine of bath time, even though the waterhole has dried up.  Throw in a cast of cheeky animals, repetitive text, warm earthy illustrations and this picture book is instantly engaging for young readers, a lot of fun and great to read aloud.

What Do You Call Your Grandma? is a heart-warming picture book that celebrates the wonder of Grandmas all over the world.  In each beautifully illustrated double page spread young readers will be drawn to the simple rhyming text and adore peeking into the homes of grandmas from Iceland to New Zealand, exploring the scenery outside scenery, styles of dress, items kept in the home and the way we spend our family time. 

Celebrating cultural diversity, individuality, family and love, this inclusive picture book is a sweet title to share with young children and generate thoughtful discussion.

A beautifully written and highly relatable book about overcoming fears Jetty Jumping is set in an Australian beach town in summer.   The joy of children jumping into the water contrasts with Milla’s hesitation as she sits apart, afraid to participate in their fun but desperately wanting to join them.  Young readers will love the plot twist that allows the main character to finally overcome her fear.   

Picture Book of the Year entries often surprise and challenge the everyday reader as the assumption is that picture books are for young children and content is light, easy reading with colourful pictures.  On the contrary, this category is aimed at an audience aged from 0 to 18 years and some are very definitely for mature readers.

As you would expect from a Greenaway Medallist and seven-time CBCA winner, wordless picture book The Boy and the Elephant by Freya Blackwood is stunning. 

The story centres on a lonely young boy who lives in a bustling city.  His place of refuge is a spare block next to his apartment.  When the block is sold and developers arrive, the boy is sad to lose his only friend. While there is ultimately a hopeful ending and a message of resilience, the story is quite sombre.

Wordless books let the reader add their own interpretation to the story and can be enjoyed independently by pre-readers and newly independent readers.  Although children of all ages would enjoy this story The Boy and the Elephant’s subtlety and melancholy is best suited to older children and adults. 

The Inheritance by Armin Greder is a challenging and unsettling picture book which looks at the connection between capitalism and the state of our planet within the setting of a wealthy family.  Many older readers will be engaged with and energised by the haunting nature of the wordless pages that tell a chilling tale that doesn’t give in to a ‘happy ending’ temptation.   

This picture book is definitely not bedtime story material but better suited to senior school English or Art class discussions.   

Blue Flower by Sonya Hartnet and Gabriel Evans is a much lighter and prettier book but still explores important themes in a child’s life and will generate a lot of thought and discussion.  

A young child describes her concerns about going to school and how hard she finds asking the teacher for help, how she feels shy about making friends, not being funny or a fast runner. But through her love of art, a conversation with her mother and her observations about nature she comes to see that being different might not be a bad thing after all.

This character and situation will resonate with many young readers and the overall message is inspiring.

Eve Pownall Award entries have the prime intention of documenting factual material with a focus on imaginative presentation, interpretation, and variation of style.  These titles are usually housed in the Junior Non-Fiction collection and suitable for children through to adults.

Book of Curious Birds by Jennifer Cossins presents the lifecycles, behaviours and the conservation status of a range of unique birds using beautiful illustrations and a variety of different fonts and colours to present sections of information.  The contents page and glossary are useful and this book will appeal to children who take a greater interest in the world around them and most appropriate for children aged 8 or above.

Heroes, Rebels and Innovators: Inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from History is a beautiful book that tells the stories of seven Aboriginal heroes and heroines from the eighteenth century through to the twentieth century.  Each character’s story is presented once through dramatic, poetic text, then it is told again through more direct, historical text.  Each of the historical figures is presented as a stylish semi-abstract portrait which is more an artwork than an illustration.      

This book is a contrast to histories of Australia that do not reflect the complexity of historical interactions between Indigenous peoples and European settlers.  Such stories will hopefully inspire pride and interest in history among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers.

Award for New Illustrator is a relatively recent category to the CBCA Awards and aims to recognise and encourage new talent in the field of Australian children’s book illustration.  An interesting example in the 2022 shortlist is For Love by Cristina Neri. 

Set on the volcanic island of Salina, Sicily, this book describes a world filled with bees, caper bushes, peaches and prickly pears. Beautifully illustrated in a unique style using etching techniques and a limited colour palette, For Love will attract and retain the attention of young and adult readers and encourage us to experience the full power of love, in all its beautiful and sometimes painful forms. 

We hope that 2022 Children’s Book Week celebrations will succeed in bringing quality Australian literature and illustrations into the hearts, minds and imaginations of children and grownups everywhere!

For more information about Children’s Book Week and the CBCA Shortlisted titles for 2022 – CLICK HERE

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