Winners of the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards to be announced Monday 8 November

by |November 2, 2010

In July Arts Minister Peter Garrett announced the 29 great Australian titles on the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlists.

The 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award winners in the Fiction, Non-Fiction, Young Adult Fiction and Children’s Fiction categories will be announced on Monday 8 November in Melbourne.

2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

Fiction shortlist:

Summertime By J.M. Coetzee

The book

A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on the years from 1972 to1977 when Coetzee, in his thirties, is sharing a run-down cottage in the suburbs of Cape Town with his widowed father. This, the biographer senses, is the period when he was finding his feet as a writer.

Having never met Coetzee, he embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to him – a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him, former friends and colleagues. From their testimony emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual with little talent for opening himself to others. Within the family he is regarded as an outsider, someone who tried to flee the tribe and has now returned, chastened. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, and rumours that he writes poetry evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often very funny, Summertime shows us a great writer as he limbers up for his task.

The author

J.M. Coetzee’s work includes Dusklands, In the Heart of the Country and Waiting for the Barbarians, which was awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the CNA Prize, Life and Times of Michael K, which won the Booker Prize and the Prix Etranger Femina, Foe, Age of Iron, which won the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award, The Master of Petersburg, which won the Irish Times International Fiction Award and the memoirs Boyhood and Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life. His novel, Disgrace, won the Booker Prize, making him the first author to have won this prestigious prize twice. His more recent novels include Elizabeth Costello, Diary of a Bad Year and Slow Man.

Judges’ comments

In a performance at once melancholy, wry and splendid, J.M. Coetzee concludes his fictionalised trilogy of memoirs with Summertime. In it, the author becomes the shifty and yet disarming object of interrogation not only by his older self, but by a THE AUTHORgrapher who is full of misunderstanding and good intentions. The book has the divided air of serene accomplishment on the one hand and of despairing self-examination – and obituary – on the other. It questions the worth, the origins and the cost of the enterprise of fiction and of all hazardous attempts at a self-reliant life.

The Book of Emmett Deborah Forster

The Book of Emmett Deborah Forster

The book

The story of the Brown family will wrench at your heart and make you hug those you love ever tighter.

Emmett Brown is as dark as Heathcliff, and as unpredictable. Sometimes he’s an inspiration, but not often. He’s a man of booze and obsessions: one of them is his ‘System’, an attempt to bend the laws of probability. But when the lottery numbers and horses fail him, so do love and reason, and he becomes an ogre to his wife and children.

For the innocents – Louisa, Rob, Peter, Daniel and Jessie – the bonds formed hiding in hedges at the end of the street, waiting for the maelstroms to pass, are complex and unbreakable. Over the years, the consequences of Emmett’s rages shape both their spirits and psyches, but as he lies dying they discover that love – however imperfect – is the best defence against pain.

The Book of Emmett is a novel about hope and love and surviving.

The author

Deborah Foster grew up in Footscray, Melbourne. She worked as a staff and freelance journalist for many years and was a This Life columnist on The Age and The Sunday Age.

Deborah Foster is married to Alan Kohler and they have three children. The Book of Emmett is her first novel.

Judges’ comments

Beginning with a fractious funeral ceremony on a hellishly hot day in Melbourne’s west, The Book of Emmett – the first novel by Deborah Forster – patiently and painfully traces the lives to this point of an ordinary family. The father, Emmett Brown, is by turns cruel, capricious and charming. Forster analyses the physical and psychological damage that this combination of qualities causes Emmett’s wife and children, as well as the bonds that they are compelled to form with each other. The novel’s prose is elegiac. Its scenes of domestic life are jaggedly vivid. Forster has created an insightful anatomy of suburban Australia.

The Lakewoman Alan Gould

The Lakewoman Alan Gould

The book

An Australian soldier in British service parachutes into the roaring embattled skies of the night before DDay, and lands in a vast lake of flooded fields. His encounter with a mysterious woman who seems to rule that water world deflects him from the war and from all the promise his life had seemed to hold. This is a strange and compelling novel.
—Les Murray

The author

Alan Gould was born in London in 1949 of English-Icelandic parents and lived on armed forces camps in various locations around the world before coming to Australia in 1966. He has written poetry, fiction and literary journalism, publishing eighteen books: six fiction titles, eleven poetry titles and one collection of essays. Alan served as a member of the Literature Board of the Australia Council. He has also held several fellowships from the Australia Council, been a writer in residence at many prestigious institutions and the guest at a number of Australian and international writers festivals.

Judges’ comments

The poet and novelist Alan Gould has written the finest and most poignant work of his career with The Lakewoman. The novel is subtitled ‘a romance’, which prepares us for the strange encounters, the sudden perils, the near miraculous transformations and redemptions that it offers to the reader. Here is a portrait of male decency and duty direly beset, but also of resilience. Its counterpart is to be found in the woman of the title, who moves subtly, honourably, self-protectively between different realms. Gould’s experiment is bold, but it is confidently and affectingly sustained from hectic beginning to peaceful end.

Dog Boy Eva Hornung

Dog Boy Eva Hornung

The book

In a deserted Moscow apartment building four-year-old Romochka waits for Uncle to come home. Outside the snow is falling, but after a few days hunger drives Romochka outside, his mother’s voice ringing in his ears. Don’t talk to strangers. Overlooked by passers-by, he follows a street dog to her lair in a deserted basement at the edge of the city. There he joins four puppies suckling at their mother’s teats.

And so begins Romochka’s life as a dog.

The author

Eva Hornung is an award-winning writer of literary fiction and criticism. Her many awards include The Australian/Vogel Literary Award, the Nita May Dobbie Award, the Asher Literary Award, and the Steele Rudd Literary Award. She has been shortlisted for many, many more including The Age Book of the Year, NSW Premier’s Literary Award, Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction, the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Eva lives in Adelaide.

Judges’ comments

To the ancient folkloric and literary traditions of children lost, then raised and nurtured in the animal world, Eva Hornung brings her own compassionate and contemporary outrage at the treatment of refugees and outcasts. Dog Boy is a testing but triumphant feat of the imagination. Hornung challenges us to believe that an abandoned child in a decaying city in deep winter can sympathetically enter the small, embattled but protective society of a dog pack. The resonances of the novel are bleak and unsettling, but the resolution is both shocking and apt, the experiment and the manner of its telling have a compelling assurance.

Ransom David Malouf

Ransom David Malouf

The book

With learning worn lightly and in his own lyrical language, David Malouf revisits Homer’s Iliad. Focusing on the unbreakable bonds between men – Priam and Hector, Patroclus and Achilles, Priam and the cart-driver hired to retrieve Hector’s body. Pride, grief, brutality, love and neighbourliness are explored.

The author

David Malouf is the author of short story collections The Complete Stories, winner of the Australia Asia Literary Award, Dream Stuff and Every Move You Make. His acclaimed novels include The Great World (winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ and Miles Franklin Prizes) and Remembering Babylon (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award). His most recent work Ransom was shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year Award and the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award. He also writes poetry, drama and libretti for operas.

Born and brought up in Brisbane, he now lives in Sydney.

Judges’ comments

David Malouf’s Ransom enters another distant realm – that of Homer’s epic poem and foundation text of our culture, the Iliad. In the novel Malouf treats particularly a key, poignant and puzzling episode near the poem’s conclusion, when the Trojan king, Priam, seeking to recover the body of his dead son, Hector, ventures into the camp of his prime Greek enemy, Achilles. An old tale is both made unfamiliar, yet brought closer to us in Malouf’s plangent, terse but unhurried narrative. Rejoicing as always at the plenitude of stories within his span, Malouf has shown again his powers of creative renewal, of the fresh departures that his art has so long made.

Lovesong Alex Miller

Lovesong Alex Miller

The book

Strangers did not, as a rule, find their way to Chez Dom, a small, rundown Tunisian cafe on Paris’ distant fringes. Run by the widow Houria and her young niece, Sabiha, the cafe offers a home away from home for the North African immigrant workers working at the great abattoirs of Vaugiraud, who, like them, had grown used to the smell of blood in the air. But when one day a lost Australian tourist, John Patterner, seeks shelter in the cafe from a sudden Parisian rainstorm, the quiet simplicities of their lives are changed forever.

John is like no-one Sabiha has met before – his calm grey eyes promise her a future she was not yet even aware she wanted. Theirs becomes a contented but unlikely marriage – a marriage of two cultures lived in a third – and yet because they are essentially foreigners to each other, their love story sets in train an irrevocable course of tragic events.

Resonant of the bestselling Conditions of Faith, Alex Miller’s keenly awaited new novel tells the deeply moving story of their lives together, and of how each came undone by desire.

The author

Alex Miller is one of Australia’s best loved writers. He is twice winner of the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award, first in 1993 for The Ancestor Game, and again in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country. Conditions of Faith, his fifth novel, was published in 2000 and won the Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the 2001 NSW Premiers Literary Awards. It was also nominated for the Dublin IMPAC International Literature Award, shortlisted for the Colin Roderick Award in 2000, The Age Book of the Year Award and the Miles Franklin Award in 2001. He is also an overall winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for The Ancestor Game in 1993. Miller’s seventh novel, Prochownik’s Dream, was published in 2005. Landscape of Farewell, published in 2008, was shortlisted for the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal and the Miles Franklin Award and won the Annual Foreign Novels 21st Century Award from the People’s Literature Publishing House in China. Also in 2008, Alex Miller was awarded the Manning Clark Cultural Award for an outstanding contribution to the quality of Australian cultural life. In 2009, Alex Miller was named as a finalist for the prestigious Melbourne Prize for Literature and his most recent novel, Lovesong, was published in November 2009.

Judges’ comments

In its core element, but not its whole fabric, Alex Miller’s latest novel, Lovesong, is the moving account of a mother’s longing for a child. Instinct with memories of his earlier novel, Conditions of Faith, and again organised around the agonising choices that confront the characters of both, here the story moves from the dramas within a small Tunisian café in Paris and the apparently more spacious, but still tight and troubled world of suburban Australia. Miller has never been so willing to take risks, nor so successful in seeing them through to conclusions that are unexpected, morally complex and artistically satisfying.

As the Earth Turns Silver Alison Wong

As the Earth Turns Silver Alison Wong

The book

It is 1905 and brothers Yung and Shun eke out a living as green grocers near Wellington’s bustling Chinatown. The pair work to support their families back in China, but know they must adapt if they are to survive and prosper in their adopted home.
Nearby, Katherine McKechnie struggles to raise her rebellious son and daughter following the death of her husband Donald. A strident right-wing newspaperman, Donald terrorised his family, though was idolised by his son.
Chancing upon Yung’s grocery store one day, Katherine is touched by his unexpected generosity. In time, a clandestine relationship develops between the immigrant and the widow, a relationship Katherine’s son Robbie cannot abide.
As World War I rolls on, and young men are swept up on a tide of macho patriotism, Robbie takes his family’s honour into his own hands. In doing so, he places his mother at the heart of a tragedy that will affect everyone and everything she holds dear.
Powerful, moving and unforgettable, As the Earth Turns Silver announces the arrival of a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

The author

Alison Wong was born and raised in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, after her great grandparents on both sides migrated from China’s Guangdong province in the late 19th century. She studied mathematics, and later creative writing, at Victoria University of Wellington, spent several years in China, and worked in Information Technology.

In 1996 she held a Reader’s Digest-New Zealand Society of Authors Fellowship at the Stout Research Centre, and in 2002, the Robert Burns Fellowship at Otago University. Her poetry collection, Cup, was shortlisted for the Best First Book for Poetry at the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards and her poetry was selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2006 and 2007. In 2009 she won the Janet Frame Award for Fiction. Her first novel, As the Earth Turns Silver, is shortlisted for the 2010 New Zealand PostBook Awards.

Alison lives with her husband and son in Geelong where she is working on her next novel and collection of poetry set in New Zealand and Australia.

Judges’ comments

Alison Wong’s haunting first novel, As the Earth Turns Silver, draws on her Chinese family history in its account of New Zealand in the early years of last century. Richly layered, the book tells of independent women of conviction, of love sustained despite cultural and racial barriers (and without cliché), of the anger and malice that sinews the lives of some men. At the same time as a past era is surely and densely evoked, Wong treats astutely the perennial problems of prejudice and parochialism.

Non-Fiction shortlist:

The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent Michael Cathcart

The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent Michael Cathcart

The book

The ways Australians live and think have been shaped by water – or rather by the lack of it. The Water Dreamers tells the story of the settlement of Australia and how our culture has been shaped by the scarcity of water and by the need to fill the imagined silence of the continent with the sounds of civilisation. It’s the story of who we are today as much as a history of how the country grew.

The Water Dreamers is an illuminating look at the ways people have imagined and interpreted Australia while struggling to understand this continent and striving to conquer its obstacles. It’s an important work of environmental and cultural history with an unmistakable sense of how, today, we are part of that continuing story.

The author

Michael Cathcart was born in Melbourne in the year television came to Australia. He teaches Australian history at the University of Melbourne and works for the ABC. He has presented several programs for Radio National including Arts Today, Bush Telegraph and the Radio National Quiz. For ABC TV he has presented the history magazine show Rewind, and the documentary series Rogue Nation. His most recent appearance was in the documentary The Reincarnations of William Buckley.

Judges’ comments

Michael Cathcart’s superb cultural history, The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent, demonstrates howwater – whether in its abundance or deficiency – came to be deeply embedded in the Australian settlers’ psyche. Through a lively cast of characters, with myriad agendas, Cathcart’s sympathetic yet critical eye records their disappointments, fears and achievements as they struggle to come to terms with a strange and often unremitting landscape. The “Water Dreamers” were driven by Western concepts of progress challenged to “civilise” the landscape and shut out the silence. As such they failed to heed the warnings of poor land use, from the degradation of the Tank Stream in the 19th century, to the contamination of rivers by salt and blue-green algae in the 20th. Aboriginal communities had practiced centuries-old water and land management techniques but their knowledge was rarely recognised, as they were gradually dispossessed of their lands. In concluding his history, Cathcart urges reconciliation, ‘Between settlers and the indigenous peoples. And between settlers and the land itself’ – a reconciliation recognising the complexities of the Australian landscape and the need for a strong stewardship of the land.

Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness Will Elliott

Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness Will Elliott

The book

In 2006 Will Elliott’s first novel, The Pilo Family Circus, was published. It won five literary awards and great acclaim, both nationally and internationally. What nobody knew was that the young author of that work of terrifying fantasy had recently recovered from a psychotic episode and had been diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Strange Places takes us on a journey through psychosis and out the other side, documenting the delusions, the drugs and the insights that recovery brings. A beautifully written memoir of a harrowing – and enlightening – time, from one of Australia’s best young writers.

The author

Will Elliott was born in Brisbane, Australia where he has lived all his life. At age 19 he dropped out of law school after developing schizophrenia. He spent the following years living below the poverty line writing fiction. In the inaugural ABC Fiction Award, his manuscript, The Pilo Family Circus, beat more than 900 entries and was subsequently published in Australia, the UK, the US, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. His work in progress, a fantasy called The Pendulum Trilogy, is being published by HarperCollins in Australia and Quercus in the UK.

Judges’ comments

Will Elliott’s deftly written memoir, Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness, revisits the intense world of psychosis and schizophrenia, accelerated by his drug abuse, which consumed his late teens and early twenties. With wry humour and a raw edginess, Elliott takes us on his strange roller coaster ride. At first this is an exhilarating world, in which barrages of coded signals and his paranoid interpretations convince Elliott that he is invincible. But eventually, as he reluctantly accepts medical assistance, the tempo of his life moves into slow-motion: time stretches inexorably as slovenliness and sleep – even at one point, suicide – appear the only options. And all the while, around the edges, we are aware of his caring, long-suffering family and friends. In reaching out to help Elliott, they too are continually living a nightmare. Elliott’s story, told without self-pity, illustrates just how much havoc conditions such as psychosis, can wreak. We are challenged to recognise that this condition, so frequently shrouded in ignorance, has in fact many dimensions – social, economic and political. For Elliott, the combination of working with medical assistance, and, incalculably, having the prolonged, sustained support of others, was key to his journey back to a sense of normality. Not the least important, however, was Elliott’s grit and his ability to write his way back. That he achieved this with distinction is clearly demonstrated in this memoir.

The Colony: The History of Early Sydney Grace Karskens

The Colony: The History of Early Sydney Grace Karskens

The book

The Colony is the story of the marvellously contrary, endlessly energetic early years of Sydney. It is an intimate account of the transformation of a campsite in a beautiful cove to the town that later became Australia’s largest and best-known city.

From the sparkling beaches to the foothills of the Blue Mountains, Grace Karskens skilfully reveals how landscape shaped the lives of the original Aboriginal inhabitants and newcomers alike. She traces the ways in which relationships between the colonial authorities and ordinary men and women broke with old patterns, and the ways that settler and Aboriginal histories became entwined. She uncovers the ties between the burgeoning township and its rural hinterland expanding along the river systems of the Cumberland Plain.

This is a landmark account of the birthplace of modern Australia, and a fascinating and richly textured narrative of people and place.

The author

Grace Karskens teaches Australian history at the University of New South Wales. Her groundbreaking book The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney won the 1998 NSW Premier’s Award for Local and Regional History and established the author as a leading historian of colonial Australia. As Project Historian for the world-renowned Cumberland-Gloucester Streets Archaeological Project (1994-1999) she combined history and archaeology to explore the lost world of the Rocks neighbourhoods in her book Inside the Rocks. She has also written local histories and is a regular contributor to journals on topics ranging from convicts to museums to grave-robbers.

Judges’ comments

The Colony is a marvellous story grounded in the landscape – from pre-history to successive transformations of the colony from campsites to towns, from garden plots to huge land-holdings. Tracing and exploring the sense of place is the backbone of Karskens’ narrative. Always present in Karskens’ story is the Indigenous population, a dynamic, pervasive presence, a presence with victories as well as defeats, of shapers as well as of the dispossessed. Karskens’ scholarship is rich in the exploration of what she lovingly calls ‘the city of words’ – the work of fellow historians, archaeologists, geologists, museologists, and art and architectural historians. Karskens’ own voice is a confident one, balanced, perceptive and startling in its simplicity and directness as she challenges received wisdom.

The Life and Death of Democracy John Keane

The Life and Death of Democracy John Keane

The book

John Keane’s The Life and Death of Democracy will inspire and shock its readers. Presenting the first grand history of democracy for well over a century, it poses along the way some tough and timely questions: can we really be sure that democracy had its origins in ancient Greece? How did democratic ideals and institutions come to have the shape they do today? Given all the recent fanfare about democracy promotion, why are many people now gripped by the feeling that a bad moon is rising over all the world’s democracies? Do they have a future or is democracy fated to disappear?

Keane confronts his readers with an entirely fresh and irreverent look at the past, present and future of democracy, explaining how and why democracy spread in modern times to Latin America, Africa and Asia. Unearthing the beginnings of institutions and ideals like government by public assembly, votes for women, the secret ballot, trial by jury and press freedom, it also tracks the changing, hotly disputed meanings of democracy and some of the extraordinary, yet long forgotten characters, that dedicated their lives to building or defending it.

In The Life and Death of Democracy, Keane reasons why he believes we are presently living in a new age of ‘monitory democracy’, why a democracy continues to be the best form of government on earth and why he believes democracies all over the word are sleepwalking their way into deep trouble.

The author

Born in southern Australia and educated at the Universities of Adelaide, Toronto and Cambridge, John Keane is Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. The Life and Death of Democracy is one of many books written by Professor Keane and the first full-scale history of democracy for over a century.

Judges’ comments

Professor John Keane’s The Life and Death of Democracy is a monumental history as well as a prescient analysis as to the future of democracy. Keane moves outside previous Anglo-Saxon perspectives to range from India to Uruguay to the Islamic world, in order to emphasise the global roots of democracy. Keane reminds us, however, that ‘democracy is not the timeless fulfilment of our political destiny’. He outlines the emergence of ‘monitory democracy’, a new form replacing representative democracy, and its impact, both good and bad, of the internet, lobbying groups, Non-Government Organisations and the media. Keane’s historical broad sweep, full of detailed knowledge and cogent insights, is expressed in a lively anecdotal prose style, making The Life and Death of Democracy essential reading for academia and the general public alike. Keane makes a strong case for a world history of democracy that is no longer conceived within the confines of national or linguistic boundaries, in order to achieve ‘a more sustainable, balanced and equitable global society’.

The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir

The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir Mark Tredinnick

The book

‘I came to the plateau in the winter of ninety-eight. A place a thousand metres in the air … a world of sandstone and eucalypt and unregenerate weather, a place just fallen from the sky …’

The Blue Plateau is a lyrical natural history of the Blue Mountains, and a memoir of one man’s attempt to belong there.

An inspired meditation on the contours of the land and its people, of time and place and family, the rhythms of nature and the rhythms of friendship, it is a book of many belongings. Here you will meet the plateau’s first people; you will meet Les and Henryk and Jim; you will walk the Kedumba and the Kanimbla in drought, fire and flood.

Evocative and deeply moving, The Blue Plateau is a poet’s story of an astonishing place and a loving portrait of home.

The author

Mark Tredinnick spent a number of years in the Blue Mountains, the inspiration for his landscape memoir, The Blue Plateau. He also wrote the best-selling writing guides The Little Red Writing Book, The Little Green Grammar Book and The Little Black Book of Business Writing. His other books include A Place on Earth (2003) and The Land’s Wild Music (2005). His awards include the Newcastle Poetry Prize, the Blake Poetry Prize and the Calibre Essay Prize. His work has appeared in Australian Book Review, Best Australian Essays, Island, Southerly, The Australian, The Bulletin, The Sydney Morning Herald, and other newspapers, journals and anthologies in Australia, the UK and the US.

Judges’ comments

Mark Tredinnick’s account of his family’s seven year residence in the Blue Mountains and his interaction with the landscape and his neighbours is a compelling work of “creative non-fiction”, told through a variety of literary forms – history, travel, biography, memoirs, poetry and prose. Tredinnick is a literary fringe dweller in the best sense of the word, as he observes the changing seasons, recalls and recreates the lives of settlers through conversations and diaries, and their struggles against hard times, droughts and bushfires. Tredinnick cleverly unpeels, through his ‘experiment in seeing and listening’, the region’s natural “sacred geography”. As pasts and presents mingle, Tredinnick’s landscape memoir achieves a graphic sense of people and place.

The Ghost at the Wedding Shirley Walker

The Ghost at the Wedding Shirley Walker

The book

Three generations, two world wars, one family.

In the year of 1914, in the canefields of northern New South Wales, the young men couldn’t wait to set off for the adventure of war. The women coped as best they could, raised the children, lived in fear of being next to receive an official telegram. They grieved their dead, and came to learn that for returned men there are worse things than death in combat. They bore more children to replace those lost in the First World War, and the sons were just the right age to go off to the second.

The Ghost at the Wedding is like no other account of war, chronicling events from both sides – the horror of the battlefields and the women who were left at home. Shirley Walker’s depictions of those battles – Gallipoli, the Western Front, the Kokoda Track – are grittily accurate, their reverberations haunting.

Written with the emotional power of a novel, here is a true story whose sorrow is redeemed by astonishing beauty and strength of spirit.

The author

After a long career as a lecturer in Australian literature at the University of New England, Shirley Walker is now an Honorary Fellow at the institution. She is a past President of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, the Founding Director of the Centre for Australian Language and Literature Studies at UNE, and the author of four books and numerous critical articles. She now lives on the far north coast of New South Wales, between the escarpment and the sea.

Judges’ comments

Shirley Walker’s family memoir evocatively traces the impact of two world wars on three generations of an Australian family through the perspective of Walker’s mother-in-law, Jessie. Walker’s almost lyrical recreation of rural life in the Clarence region of northern New South Wales precedes the horrors of the First World War, where Jessie’s brother Joe, ‘the ghost at the wedding’, is lost, and her husband to be, Eddie, returns with his face severely disfigured. The Ghost at the Wedding symbolises the women who wait rather than the men that leave. The emotional and physical scars of the war on Eddie impact on Jessie and her family for decades to come, but history repeats itself after Jessie’s children leave for the Second World War. Walker’s imaginative use of family photos, letters, diaries and Jessie’s paintings results in a superb and moving recreation of Jessie’s ‘family’s truth’, in which Jessie’s spirit ultimately assuages the sorrow and the heartbreak.

Children’s books shortlist:

Cicada Summer Kate Constable

Cicada Summer Kate Constable

The book

When Eloise’s get-rich-quick dad moves them back to his home town to turn the derelict family mansion into a convention centre, Eloise feels an immediate bond with the old house. She begins spending all her time there, ignoring her strange grandmother and avoiding the friendly boy next door. Then Eloise meets a ‘ghost girl’ who may or may not be from the house’s past, and events take a strange – and ultimately dangerous – turn. Beautifully written, poignant and gripping, this is a charming and atmospheric story of personal growth, overcoming grief and the true nature of friendship and family.

The author

Kate Constable was born in Victoria but spent much of her childhood in Papua New Guinea, without television but within reach of a library where she ‘inhaled’ stories. She studied Arts/Law at Melbourne University before working part-time for a record company while she began her life as a writer. Her novels, The Singer of All Songs, The Waterless Sea and The Tenth Power form the internationally acclaimed Chanters of Tremaris series. The Taste of Lightning is a stand-alone fantasy novel set in the same world. Always Mackenzieis a teen novel published in the Girlfriend Fiction series. Kate lives in West Preston, Victoria, with her husband and two daughters.

Judges’ comments

Kate Constable’s Cicada Summer is a time-slip fantasy written with the gentlest of touches. Eloise has gradually stopped speaking since her mother died. Her dad is a man with many schemes and leaves Eloise to stay with Mo, her grandmother, while he raises money for the redevelopment of the old family home. Eloise, who is a gifted artist, finds herself drawn to this enchanting Art Deco house. There in the garden summerhouse she meets Anna, who has the same name as Eloise’s lost mother. She paints with Anna in this secret world, while at home with Mo, she befriends the Afghani family next door. This is a beguiling treasure of a book; an old-fashioned ‘secret garden’ type of story, with fully realised characters, set in a beguiling dream landscape.

The Terrible Plop Ursula Dubosarsky Andrew Joyner

The Terrible Plop Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Andrew Joyner

The book

Here is the story
Of the Terrible PLOP,
With a bear and a rabbit
And a hop hop hop.

But what is the PLOP?
And where does it hide?
Open the book
And look inside . . .

The author

Ursula Dubosarsky is widely regarded as one of the most talented and original writers in Australia today. She is the author of many outstanding books, both for young adults and for children, and has won numerous awards for excellence including the South Australian Festival Award for Literature, the NSW, Queensland and Victorian Premier’s Awards, and the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award. Her most recent picture book is The Terrible Plop, illustrated by Andrew Joyner, which has been made into a very successful play and been published in both the UK and USA. Her collaboration at Penguin with Tohby Riddle for The Word Spy and Return of the Word Spy is already proving how prescient an author she is, with the current emphasis swinging back to teaching the basics of grammar in primary school. Ursula lives in Sydney with her family. She has recently earned a PhD in English literature at Macquarie University.

The illustrator

Andrew Joyner is an illustrator and cartoonist published nationally and internationally in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Age, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Sun-Herald, South China Morning Post, and Reader’s Digest. He has illustrated books by humorists Ross Campbell and Wendy Harmer. The Terrible Plop is his first picture book. He lives in Strathalbyn, South Australia.

Judges’ comments

In Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner’s The Terrible Plop a seemingly simple text by a masterful writer is distinguished by its lovely rhythmic poise – and paired with an engaging love of the ridiculous. The idea of an apple falling from a tree and making ‘a terrible plop’ is reminiscent of Henny Penny and her acorn. The cumulative repetition of the various animals fleeing from the sound in gorgeous abandonment is calculatedly effective, and the twist in this tale is perfectly timed. This new illustrator has created a lovely counterpoint to the text with vibrant retro illustrations employing some collage to add to their depth and texture. The denouement in the bear becoming frightened of the ‘terrible plop’ and the bunny overcoming the fear is a perfect conclusion to this clever, contemporary folk tale, which children will love.

Just Macbeth Andy Griffiths Terry Denton

Just Macbeth Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton

The book

Take one Shakespearean tragedy: Macbeth.

Add Andy, Danny and Lisa – the ‘Just’ trio, whose madcap exploits have already delighted hundreds of thousands of readers for the last ten years.

Mix them all together to create one of the most hilarious, most dramatic, moving stories of love, Whizz Fizz, witches, murder and madness.

The author

Andy Griffiths is one of Australia’s funniest writers for children. His books have sold over four million copies worldwide, have featured on the New York Times bestseller lists, and have won over 40 Australian children’s choice awards.

The illustrator

Terry Denton is one of those lucky people who can both write and illustrate. He has written more than twenty children’s books himself and collaborated on countless more with some of Australia’s most popular children’s authors.

Judges’ comments

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s Just Macbeth is based on the plot of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and is part of the hugely popular ‘Just’ series. This work extends the original concept, cleverly extrapolating on a classic work. Griffiths combines the popular with the literary in a rich manner. Denton’s co-authorship in illustrations, captions and asides is integral to the book. This is an original, inventive, brilliant work which is both a ‘laugh-aloud’ and yet a tribute to the power of the bard’s words and to the creative imagination. Denton seems to be an inexhaustible well of jokes and silliness, while Griffiths perfectly exploits the dramatic and comic potential in this wicked brew.

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris Leigh Hobbs

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris Leigh Hobbs

The book

Mr Chicken has taken up his friend Yvette’s invitation to visit Paris. As they journey together through the City of Love, Mr Chicken is overcome by the magic of all the city has to offer – and the inhabitants of this most stylish city don’t quite know what to make of him. Mr Chicken will delight children of all ages.

The author

Leigh Hobbs is an artist and author best known for his children’s book characters Old Tom and Horrible Harriet. In 2002, Horrible Harriet was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Awards, as was his book Old Tom’s Holiday in 2003. A highly successful animated TV series, based on Leigh’s Old Tom series of books has been screened in Australia and Europe.

Judges’ comments

Leigh Hobbs’ Mr Chicken Goes to Paris is an anarchic and exuberant work in which the monstrously hilarious Mr Chicken braves the sights of Paris with his personal guide and friend Yvette. This tale of an innocent abroad, written in simple yet witty text also employs Hobbs’s keen eye for Paris which he depicts with affection and trademark energy, and will draw readers into the comical world of a master of the picture book form. Parisians are agog at this curious visitor, yet neither Yvette nor Mr Chicken has a hair (or feather) out of place as they stroll, eat, gaze, climb, wander and explore. Wryly comical and steeped in literary allusions, a love of architecture, and stylistic joie de vivre, this is a work for a wide readership, by one of Australia’s most inventively original artists.

Running with the Horses Alison Lester

Running with the Horses Alison Lester

The book

Ten-year-old Nina lives with her father above the palace stables at the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. She loves watching the famous white stallions as they parade for the crowds, but her favourite horse is an ordinary mare called Zelda – an old cab horse Nina often pats on her way home from school.

When Nina’s world changes dramatically, she and her father have to flee from the city. Their journey over the mountains with Zelda and the stallions seems impossible, with danger at every turn.

The author

Alison Lester is one of Australia’s most popular and bestselling creators of children’s books. She has won many awards, including the 2005 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Award for Are We There Yet? Her most recent book is Running with the Horses, a story based on the evacuation of the world-famous Lipizzaner horses from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the Second World War.

Alison lives on a farm in the Victorian countryside. She spends part of each year travelling to schools around Australia, helping students and teachers develop their own stories.

Judges’ comments

Alison Lester’s Running with the Horses is a timeless tale of adventure, courage and friendship from one of Australia’s best loved artists. In this story ten-year-old Nina and her father the stable-master Viktor escape the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses in Vienna when the Second World War threatens them and closes the school down. They take the stallions and an old cab horse named Zelda (who is Nina’s favourite) and with Karl, her father’s friend, journey into the mountains to seek refuge with Nina’s grandparents. Zelda, despite her age, literally saves them. The artwork is a skilful collage of digital imagery, colour and black and white drawing, evoking the fragmented and uncertain world that Nina travels through and the dramatic landscapes they cross. This is a classical story, beautifully told, and its underlying message is about the bonds of family and how they give us strength and comfort.

Star Jumps Lorraine Marwood

Star Jumps Lorraine Marwood

The book

A poignant verse novel depicting the joys and heartbreaks of a farming family as they struggle to cope with the devastating effects of long-term drought. Told through the eyes of Ruby, day to day farm life involves playing in grassy paddocks with siblings, doing jobs and helping out, and witnessing birth, death and sacrifice. The family is devastated when they have to sell-off some of their herd, but in the spirit of hope it is Ruby who tries in her own small way to help the family by making miniature bales of hay.

The author

Lorraine Marwood was born and raised in rural Victoria and has lived for most of her married life on a dairy farm with her husband and their six children. Lorraine is an award-winning poet who has been widely published in literary magazines across Australia, as well as magazines in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Canada. She has also published several children’s novels and collections of poetry. Lorraine is the Australian editor of the UK literary magazine Tears in the Fence and is a writer of poetry ideas and teaching plans for The Literature Base. Lorraine was also the recipient of a May Gibbs mentorship in children’s writing.

Her titles with Walker Books Australia include Ratwhiskers and Me, published in 2008 and Star Jumps, which was shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2010, Lower Primary Category and received a Notable mention in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2010.

Judges’ comments

Lorraine Marwood’s Star Jumps is a verse novel set on a dairy farm, and is a lyrical portrait of rural life seen vividly through the eyes of Ruby, the youngest of three siblings. Star Jumps is the favourite game of Keely, Connor and Ruby, a game they play among the marshmallow weed when their work is done; and is also a metaphor for the joy of life, for the here and now. As prolonged drought threatens to take the farm and Dad has to sell many of the best stock, Ruby makes a list of the things they can do to help and comes up with mini hay bales made from the grass around the fences. Ruby tells the family’s story in a voice which offers us a child’s view of a changing world. This is a moving evocation of home and family bonds, and the rhythms of farm life, and explores the effect of drought on all of these things. Star Jumps speaks with a natural poetry and unfussy richness, offering the reader evidence of the power of individual action and of hope in a small, perfectly inscribed way.

Mannie and the Long Brave Day Martine Murray Sally Rippin

Mannie and the Long Brave Day Martine Murray, illustrated by Sally Rippin

The book

Mannie is going on an adventure. She’s taking her favourite elephant Lilliput and her doll Strawberry Luca. And she hasn’t forgotten her special box of secret things, just in case the adventure gets adventurous… A magical story that celebrates friendship, courage and the wonder of a child’s imagination.

The author

Martine Murray was born in Melbourne, and still lives there. She has studied acrobatics, dance, yoga and writing. In addition to her three Henrietta books, she has written two picture books, illustrated one, and written three novels that have sold extensively overseas.

The illustrator

Sally Rippin was born in Australia, but grew up in many other countries including England, Brunei, Hong Kong and China. She has written and illustrated many books, including the Fang Fang books. Her most recent books include Gezani and the Tricky Baboon by Valanga Khoza and The Rainbirds by David Metzenthen, which was shortlisted for the 2007 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Award.

Judges’ comments

Martine Murray and Sally Rippin’s Mannie and the Long Brave Day is warm-hearted and charming in both writing and illustration. This picture book celebrates the joy of the imagination and a child’s play as Mannie and her doll Strawberry Luca go on an extraordinary journey, helped by her special box of secret things. Martine Murray’s style of writing is so astute, with each word adding to the rhythm and the playfulness, the details rippling with quirky imagination, and Sally Rippin’s glorious illustrations making this a total joy. The journey to the picnic place and home again is classic picture book fare, and the use of rhyme is calculatedly spare and suggestive.

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children Jen Storer

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children Jen Storer

The book

Dumped in the River Charon, hunted by an accursed river creature and betrayed by the wicked Matron Pluckrose, Tensy Farlow is in mortal danger. She has no parents. Worse still, she has no guardian angel.

When she is thrown into the Home for Mislaid Children – a gloomy orphanage where ravens attack, Watchers hover over your bed, and even the angels cannot be trusted – it seems that all hope is lost.

Yet could it be that a plucky, flame-haired orphan with a mysterious past is precisely what this dark world needs?

The author

Jen Storer has written many books for kids but most of them have been about serious topics such as rainforests and bones and the history of ice cream. She has written four books for Penguin: Sing, Pepi, Sing; I Hate Sport (an Aussie Chomp written under her old nickname, Prue Storer) and Tan Callahan’s Secret Spy Files, illustrated by Caroline Magerl. Her latest book, Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children, has been shortlisted for the 2010 Aurealis Award, the 2010 Australian Publishers Association Design Awards in two categories, the 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia Younger Readers Award and the 2010 West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award children’s choice awards. Jen lives and works in Melbourne.

Judges’ comments

Jen Storer’s Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children is an original and enticingly written fantasy. In it an orphaned baby is left on the hospital steps, accidentally rescued by Albie Gribble, and nearly drowned when Albie runs into a skriker. Albie finds himself torn between the Matron Pluckrose’s desire to take the baby to her Home for Mislaid Children in order to sell the baby, and his guardian angel Ruby Jane’s protection of him. The plans of the mud woman and river creature Lythia to also steal the baby add zest to an already rich plot. The mystery at the heart of the story is why Tensy Farlow (the baby) has no guardian angel. Though set in a post-war era, the novel subtly conveys the essence of that time and the austerity measures in place without making it seem historical, for this work is timeless. ‘Babies,’ she growled, ‘they always gets under your skin.’ The language is spare, lyrical and rhythmical, the cast of characters is an absolute delight, and the production of the book, from jacket to interior design, adds to the enormous pleasure.

Harry and Hopper Margaret Wild Freya Blackwood

Harry and Hopper Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

The book

Harry and his dog Hopper have done everything together, ever since Hopper was a jumpy little puppy. But one day the unthinkable happens. When Harry comes home from school, Hopper isn’t there to greet him. Hopper will never be there again, but Harry is not ready to let him go. This story tenderly demonstrates the shock of grief and the sustaining power of love.

The author

Margaret Wild is one of Australia’s most prolific and courageous authors, unafraid to tackle difficult subjects, such as death, old age and social deprivation with both sensitivity and openness. Her heart-warming, moving picture books have been acclaimed both in Australia and overseas. In addition to writing over 70 books for children, she has worked as a journalist and as a children’s book editor. Her books have won numerous awards in Australia and in the U.S. She’s won the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Picture Book of the Year Award three times, for The Very Best of Friends, Jenny Angel and Fox. Other CBC short-listed and commended books by Margaret include: Let the Celebrations Begin!, There’s a Sea in My Bedroom, Mr Nick’s Knitting, Woolvs in the Sitee, Lucy Goosey, A Bit of Company and Chatterbox. She lives in Sydney and she enjoys reading, listening to music and frequenting cafes.

The illustrator

Born in 1975, Freya Blackwood grew up in Orange, NSW. The daughter of a painter and an architect, she was encouraged to draw from a young age. She produced many illustrated books when at school but after completing a degree in Design (Visual Communications) at the University of Technology Sydney she became interested in filmmaking. She worked for several years in the special effects industry in Sydney and in Wellington, New Zealand, before eventually returning to illustration.

Freya’s characters are warm and believable. Most of her books to date have dealt with difficult subjects in a perceptive and sensitive manner. Some have been published in many countries and have received several awards. Her books include Two Summers, Amy & Louis, Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House, Harry and Hopper, Her Mother’s Face and Ivy Loves to Give.

Freya lives in Orange with her daughter Ivy.

Judges’ comments

Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood’s Harry and Hopper is a perfectly nuanced story about death and letting go which is accompanied by gloriously muted illustrations. Wild is an author who challenges her readers and illustrator Blackwood has responded with sensitivity and warmth. The varied illustrative format in this work makes brilliant use of perspective and space. The story also depicts a father’s loving care for his son in a subtle way. Harry’s gradual acceptance of his dog Hopper’s death is conveyed in the poetic description of the dog’s shadow: ‘As wispy as winter fog, as cold as winter air.’ The idea of seasonal changes, and of life as a series of emotional changes, is also suggested. In the final frame the boy’s acceptance of death is symbolised in an aerial view of his home and neighbouring yards, in which dad is fixing the mower, and Harry is attending to Hopper’s grave. This hopeful view depicts life and death in one comforting image, in which life goes on.

Young adult fiction shortlist:

Stolen Lucy Christopher

Stolen Lucy Christopher

The book

Told in a moving letter to her captor, sixteen-year-old Gemma relives her kidnapping from Bangkok airport while on holiday. Taken by Ty, her troubled young stalker, to the wild and desolate Australian outback she reflects on a landscape from which there is no escape. A story of survival, passion and darkness, Gemma reveals how she had to deal with the nightmare, or die trying to fight it. Sensitive, powerful and beautifully written.

The author

Lucy Christopher wrote her debut novel Stolen as part of her PhD studying the use of wilderness in children’s books. In between writing and travelling, Lucy works as a tutor at Bath Spa University and contributes to the children’s magazine Birdlife. She lives in Gwent, Wales.

Judges’ comments

Stolen is a chilling work which masterfully explores theblurred boundaries between good and evil; flawed and rescued personalities; and the human capacity for love which can be found even in the direst of circumstances. Written as a second person narration addressed by 16-year-old Gemma, a kidnap victim, to her kidnapper Ty, the voice in which this is written is immediate and visceral. The rhythm of the prose keeps the reader in the moment, while the absence of chapters enhances the sense that this is a harrowing adventure you are sharing with the kidnap victim. Drugged and whisked away from Bangkok airport Gemma finds herself in a closed room in a remote part of the Australian outback. Set in the Great Sandy Desert, the location is important, for this is a novel about place, and being attuned to the land as much as it’s a thriller. Stolen is a gripping novel that disturbs and allows the reader insights into the psychology of a disturbed but desperate man and a young woman’s revelations about her traumatic experience.

The Winds of Heaven Judith Clarke

The Winds of Heaven Judith Clarke

The book

When Fan was little she dreamed of magical countries in the far away blue hills. As she grew up she dreamed of love, and the boys came after her one by one by one.

Clementine thought her cousin Fan’s house in the country had a special smell: of sun and dust and kerosene and the wild honey they ate for breakfast on their toast. But then there were the feelings: the anger that smelled like iron and the disappointment that smelled like mud.

Fan was strong and beautiful and Clementine thought she’d always be like that. But Fan was seeking something, and neither she nor Clementine knew exactly what.

With sharp poetic prose, insight and compassion, Judith Clarke tells a moving and beautiful story as she traces the lives of two young women, separated by circumstance, but linked forever by blood and friendship.

The author

Judith Clarke was born in Sydney and educated at the University of New South Wales and the Australian National University in Canberra. She has worked as a teacher and librarian, and in adult education in Victoria and New South Wales.

A major force in young adult fiction both in Australia and internationally, Judith Clarke’s novels include the multi-award-winning Wolf on the Fold, as well as Friend of my Heart, Night Train, Starry Nights, One Whole and Perfect Day, and the very popular and funny ‘Al Capsella’ series. She is unsurpassed in her ability to convey complex emotional states with acute understanding and compassion.

Judges’ comments

The Winds of Heaven, which is set mainly in the late 1950s, traces the relationship between two very different cousins, showing how a life may easily be turned by circumstance and incident. Clementine is a clever student and a worrier whose parents shelter her in a safe home and in their aspirations for her. Fan is Clementine’s gorgeously alive cousin in the country, but her home life with Aunt Rene is unhappy. Both Clementine and Fan are deftly drawn. Fan’s friendship with a local Aboriginal storyteller infuses her innate love for narrative, and provides her with some Wiradjuri words which ‘sing’ of her passion for the landscape, and her dreams for the future. But her dreams are shattered when, as a teenager, Fan falls pregnant and marries: a life course which has tragic consequences. This is a powerful and harrowing tale of a life gone wrong. Clementine harbours her love for her cousin fifty years later and is still imagining being reunited with her. Clarke weaves together a richly layered account of many things including depression and regret. The atmospheres and personalities Clarke poetically defines in The Winds of Heaven are haunting, the times richly evoked, and the plot beautifully developed to an optimistic, redemptive resolution where hope emerges from tragedy.

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God Bill Condon

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God Bill Condon

The book

I have this annoying problem that gives me a lot of trouble: a conscience.

Neil Bridges attends a Catholic boys’ school in which teachers rule with iron fists and thick leather straps. Some crumble under the pressure but Neil toughs it out, just as his Vietnam-bound older brother has done before him. He has to be a man, after all. But at sixteen, how can he be sure of himself when he’s not sure of anything else?

He loses a friend and finds another, falls in love and unwittingly treads a path that leads to revenge and possibly murder.

The author

Bill Condon’s young adult novels, Dogs (2001) and No Worries (2005) were Honour Books in the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards. No Worries was also shortlisted for the Ethel Turner Prize in the 2005 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Daredevils made the long-list in the inaugural Inky Awards, Australia’s first teenage choice awards. Give Me Truth is Bill’s most recent young adult novel for Woolshed Press. Before devoting himself to novels, Bill had a long and successful career as a writer of short stories, plays and poetry for young people. His work encompasses many genres and he has close to one hundred titles to his credit. He lives on the south coast of New South Wales with his wife, the well known children’s author Di (Dianne) Bates.

Judges’ comments

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God is a poignant, funny and deeply insightful rite of passage novel. Set in 1967, the author makes it seem contemporary, skilfully employing a nuanced first-person narration. Neil Bridges attends a Catholic boys’ school where classmate Ray (Zom) is accused by a Brother of stealing a wallet and is expelled after a fight with his accuser. Neil knows who stole the wallet, but refuses to tell. Ray’s father is so ashamed that Ray is cut off from his family – save for his older sister Sylvana. Neil falls in love with Sylvana, but, implicated in Ray’s disgrace, his loyalties and motives are deeply conflicted. The pain of first love, and the morality attached to individual life choices, is evoked with real empathy. Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God also portrays the strength of ordinary families and the love even between warring brothers. There’s a poignant hint too, of more loss ahead, in Neil’s brother Kevin’s conscription for the Vietnam War. Condon declines to indulge in historical revisionism, while the economical prose attains a rhythm that is almost poetry. The short, chiselled chapters ensure that not a word is wasted. Condon is a writer of considerable craft who eschews the flamboyant in search of deeper truths.

The Museum of Mary Child Cassandra Golds

The Museum of Mary Child Cassandra Golds

The book

Heloise lives with her godmother in an isolated cottage. Next door is a sinister museum dedicated to the memory of Mary Child. Visitors enter it with a smile and depart with fear in their eyes. One day, Heloise finds a doll under the floorboards. Against her godmother’s wishes, she keeps it. And that’s when the delicate truce between Heloise and her godmother begins to unravel.
Heloise runs away. She journeys far, but one day she must return to uncover the secret at the heart of her being.

The author

Cassandra Golds was born in Sydney and grew up reading Hans Christian Andersen, C.S. Lewis and Nicholas Stuart Gray over and over again – and writing her own stories as soon as she could hold a pen. Her first book, Michael and the Secret War, was accepted for publication when she was nineteen years old, and she has been writing a monthly cartoon serial, illustrated by Stephen Axelsen, for the New South Wales School Magazine for so many years now that she has gotten quite good at it. She sings for a hobby, has owned a map of Narnia since she was ten, and would like to be an actor if she wasn’t a writer – but only if she could be in a production of Hair or Godspell. Cassandra’s works include Clair-de-Lune, The Mostly True Story of Matthew and Trim and The Museum of Mary Child.

Judges’ comments

The Museum of Mary Child is a strangely haunting gothic fantasy. It’s a dramatically told story-within-a-story about Heloise, a girl whose origins are hidden from her and whose challenge is to find the truth about her godmother, her mother and herself. Sebastian is a young man in prison and, to maintain his sanity, he begins to tell a story. The fable-like tale of Heloise begins with her life with her godmother – caretaker of the Museum of Mary Child. Heloise has been warned never ‘to waste time’ and has never seen a doll until she finds one under the floorboards. When her godmother discovers her secret, she reveals the horrible contents of the museum – a nightmare from which Heloise flees. Happily, she falls in with the Orphaned Choir from whom she learns to defy the hard-learned instinct to deny herself love. She then meets Sebastian, and discovers what love really means. Cassandra Golds’ liquid prose transcends reality and transports the reader to another place and lyrical way of thinking. Told with a distinctly literary voice, echoing the fairytales of Oscar Wilde and Hans Christian Andersen, its dark undercurrents suggest that a wide audience will find this engrossing and challenging.

Swerve Phillip Gwynne

Swerve Phillip Gwynne

The book

One of the country’s finest young cellists, 16 year-old Hugh Twycross has a very bright future. A future that has been mapped out by his parents, his teachers, by everybody, it seems, except Hugh Twycross.

Hugh has a secret, though: he loves cars and he loves car racing. When his newly discovered grandfather, Poppy, asks him to go on a road trip to Uluru in his 1969 Holden HT Monaro, Hugh decides, for once in his life, to do the unexpected.

As they embark on a journey into the vast and fierce landscape of the Australian interior, Hugh discovers that Poppy has a secret that will unravel both their lives and take them in a direction they never expected.

The author

Phillip Gwynne lives in Leura, NSW with his wife and three children. His first novel Deadly Unna? was the literary hit of 1998, and has now sold over 180,000 copies. It was made into the feature film Australian Rules for which Phillip won an Australian Film Institute award. The sequel, Nukkin Ya, was published to great acclaim in 2000. Hehas also written The Worst Team Ever, Born to Bake, and A Chook Called Harry in the ‘Aussie Bites’ series, and Jetty Rats. Phillip’s adult detective thriller The Build Up, is being made into a 13-part TV series on SBS. Swerve is his latest novel.

Judges’ comments

Swerve is an exuberant road novel and comic caper about a miscreant old man and his North Shore-raised classically trained musician grandson. Hugh, a gifted cellist, is about to sit his audition to study at the conservatorium when (much to his parents’ disgust), he embarks on a road trip with his newly discovered Poppy, an aging hippy and former druggie, in his 1969 HT Holden GTS 350 V8 Monaro. The boy’s driving lesson – stretched over several thousand kilometres – is also a lesson in life as the pair meet crooks, crazies, conmen and kindness on the road to Uluru. On the road, lots of things go wrong. They encounter a knife-wielding hitchhiker, Brazilian backpackers, a bush poet, and later a girl called Bella whom Hugh likes but discovers isn’t as trustworthy as she might be. Gwynne has the ability to canvas tough issues with wry humour and to reveal aspects of Australia which are real and often confronting. Gwynne’s blend of influences (young adult rites-of-passage, comic crime fiction and the Australian tall story) is seamless. Swerve is a wild ride of a book about journeying on the road of life to find out who you really are.

Jarvis 24 David Metzenthen

Jarvis 24 David Metzenthen

The book

So far, Marc E. Jarvis has lost a white football boot, a school tie and a best friend.

But there’s more in store for him when he completes work experience at a local car yard – where his world is truly rocked, shocked and shaken.

Then Marc meets Electra.

And nothing will ever be the same again.

A story of true friends, crazed coaches, shooting stars, and loves lost and found.

The author

David Metzenthen was born and lives in Melbourne with his wife and two children. He worked as a builder’s labourer and advertising copywriter before finding success as a writer of books for children and young adults. He has lived and travelled overseas, but regards Australia and its citizens as a major source of inspiration for his work.

David is one of Australia’s top writers for young people. He has received many awards for excellence, including the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award and Victorian, Queensland and New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards. David’s works include The Boys of Blood and Bone, Black Water, Stony Heart Country and Jarvis 24.

Judges’ comments

Jarvis 24 is a funny and affecting novel which celebrates the essential goodness of teenagers, and their ability to act with insight and compassion. Marc Jarvis is an easy going 15-year-old living in a leafy Melbourne suburb. Outwardly laid back, underneath he is full of questions and doubts. Marc worries about losing things: school bags, football boots – and people. For he is also haunted by the death of a girl, Amelia Anderson. He wonders about the big questions – what is the meaning of his life, and where will it take him? But Marc is so easy going that with work experience looming, he figures a used-car yard is as good a place as any. Here he meets the people who will open his eyes to what his life could be. He meets Electra, a young, seriously gifted runner who has moved to Melbourne on a scholarship, with her talents carrying the weight of expectation. Marc falls hilariously and hopelessly in love with Electra, and his life will never be the same. While Jarvis 24 might appear to be a tale of boys and sport, this witty, tender novel constantly wrong-foots the reader, bringing surprising elements to a tidy suburban world. Jarvis 24 explores the quest ‘to be your true self’ with sharp, funny dialogue and poignant character dynamics, a racy plot and genuine humour. Metzenthen has shown again what a marvellous writer he is.

Beatle Meets Destiny Gabrielle Williams

Beatle Meets Destiny Gabrielle Williams

The book

Imagine your name is John Lennon, only everyone calls you Beatle.

And then you meet your dream girl and her name is Destiny McCartney.

But what if you’re already with the perfect girl?

A novel about change, chance and everybody doing the wrong thing.

The author

Gabrielle Williams has a background as an advertising copywriter. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and two teenage children. Beatle Meets Destiny is her first novel for young adults.

Judges’ comments

Beatle Meets Destiny is a witty, suburban, romantic comedy. Beatle (aka John Lennon) is both a twin and a teenage stroke survivor, and Gabrielle Williams ‘hooks’ the reader of Beatle’s story with her snappy dialogue and tale of unlikely coincidences. Beatle already has a girlfriend named Cilla, but when he falls for Destiny McCartney things get complicated. In that sense, this book has something of the French farce about it, as twin brother and sister (Beatle and Winsome), born 45 days apart and in different years, meet their romantic ‘others’ in a series of encounters and tangled chance connections. And when he finds out that his twin Winsome is seeing her teacher Frank who just happens to be one of Destiny’s brothers, things start going really awry. Beatle’s mother believes in the stars and reads people’s horoscopes. Destiny is writing a star column for her sister Grace’s newspaper. They’re all trying to get through Year 12 unscathed. Beatle Meets Destiny references numerous well-known Melbourne locations, and this localism is part of the novel’s charm. It is a polished entertainment; a beautifully nuanced tale with gorgeous characters; and a delicious confection of chance, superstition, and misunderstandings.

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About the Contributor

John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.

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