09 August, 2011

Children's Book Council 2011 Younger Readers Shortlisted Books

This post will review all six shortlisted books for the Younger Readers Category of the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Awards. I also select what I think should be the winner and the two honour books. The awards will be announced on August 19, and it will be interesting to see how my judging matches those from the CBC!

The Younger Reader's Category is made up of books intended for younger independent readers. The six shortlisted books are:

Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer
Henry Hoey Hobson by Christine Bongers
Violet Mackeral's Brilliant Plot by Anna Brandford; illustrated by Sarah Davis
The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody
Duck for a Day by Meg McKinlay; Illustrated by Leila Rudge
Toppling by Sally Murphy; Illustrated by Rhian Nest James


Toppling by Sally Murphy; illustrated by Rhian Nest Jones

James likes dominoes. Not the game, he likes to build patterns and then topple them. He also has a best friend - Dominic. But one day Dominic gets ill and no one seems to know what is going to happen and so James' life begins to topple.

Toppling touched a chord in me. When I was 12, a school friend was diagnosed with an illness that would see her dead within 12 months. It's a very tough lesson to learn at that age - you are not immortal and neither are your friends. So many passages in Toppling resonated with me. Written in verse, it manages to convey the confusion and uncertainty that goes with this situation.

Usually she's all smiley and happy
but when she needs to warn
or remind
or complain
she wears her serious face.
She's wearing it now.
But it's different today.
Most times the serious face
doesn't go all the way to her eyes
so we know that
she isn't really all that cross or upset.
This time, though, the serious look
goes all the way to her eyes.
When she speaks
I start to understand why.
Class, she says
I have something to tell you.
I know that look and I know those words and reading them took me right back to sitting in the hall in a group of fellow year 6 students being told one of our classmates would not be going to high school with us. Martin captures it perfectly. Fortunately her book has a little more hope than my story. In the end you are still not sure if Dom will make it, but you know he has a chance and a lot of good friends to see him through.

 Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer

Mr Mosely is not just a dog. He is a member of the family and in this book, Corey tells his Mr Mosely stories to show how important a dog can be.

This is a great book about a dog and his role in the family. While all else changes, Mr Mosely and his devotion stays steady. He is loving, caring, protective and forgiving. Corey tells his Mr Mosely stories exactly how you would imagine a 10/11 year old boy would and as he tells them, you get an insight into the family and the important role Mr Mosely plays in holding them all together.

 The Red Wind written and illustrated by Isobelle Carmody

It starts as the normal preparation for winter for the two brothers. Zluty heads off to the Northern forest to gather honey, sap and mushrooms while Bily prepares things at home. But when a strange red mist appears in the sky and devastation follows in it's wake, the brothers have to fight just to survive.

I'm a big fan of Isobelle Carmody. I love her Obernewtyn series. This is aimed at a younger audience, yet maintains all of Carmody's quality.  This is the first of a series and while it does set the scene for the second book, it also provides the reader with a fantastic story that leaves them wanting more. I look forward to the second book.

Henry Hoey Hobson by Christine Bongers

 Henry is starting his sixth school in seven years. He doesn’t expect to fit in, but it would be nice if he wasn’t the only boy in year 7. And to make matters worse, his classmates think he’s a vampire. He himself thinks the new neighbours are vampires. But as the year progresses, Henry finds out that being different isn’t always bad, and the neighbours are definitely not what they seem.

Poor Henry. Here is a child making the best of a bad situation. Struggling along with his mother to survive in a world that is difficult and sometimes cruel. What I love about this book though, is Henry overcomes and deals with a lot, but without being unrealistic. I’ve met kids like Henry when I was teaching – kids who were doing it tough but had a wonderful resilience to them. What was ultimately rewarding about this book was Henry’s perseverance and resilience pays off and he makes friends, experiences success and discovers a family and support system he never knew he had. 

Duck for a day by Meg McKinlay; illustrated by Leila Rudge

Abby desperately wants to take home the class duck, Max. But everything has to be perfect to be allowed to take Max home. And Noah from next door wants to take Max home too. Can Abby make everything perfect enough for Max and will she be able to look after him properly?

Meg McKinlay has used Duck for a Day to illustrate how things are not always as they seem, and sometimes, the person you think would be the least amount of help to you is the most helpful after all. Best of all, the lesson of not judging a book by its cover is applied to both children and adults alike. I also think it also shows that perseverance in achieving your goals is worthwhile and does yield results.

Violet Mackeral's Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford; Illustrated by Sarah Davis

Violet Mackerel wants the little blue china bird that she sees at the market every Saturday. In order to get such a lovely, special item however, she needs more than an ordinary plan – she needs a plot, a brilliant plot.

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is a brilliant book.  The way Violet goes about raising the money for her blue china bird is charming. Personally I would love to be like Violet’s mother who obviously accepts Violet’s plots and doesn’t lose it when they involve digging up half the backyard! Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is a lovely story about what is important in life and how a bit of perseverance and creative thinking can lead to many wonderful things.