inside the cbca 2023 shortlist


The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Shortlisted Books for 2023 has been announced.

Follow the links to those books I have already reviewed, or interviewed the author or illustrator, on the blog. I will add to this list until the winners are announced in August.

Also see the 2023 NOTABLE BOOKS at Paperbarkwords

Congratulations to those creators who have been shortlisted. Sincere commiserations to those who have created great books but have missed out on these awards.


Runt by Craig Silvey (Allen & Unwin) Author interview

Evie and Rhino by Neridah McMullin, ill. Astred Hicks (Walker Books Australia) Author interview

August & Jones by Pip Harry (Hachette Australia) Guest author post

Xavier in the Meantime by Kate Gordon (Riveted Press) Author interview in Magpies magazine May 2022 (extract below); author interview about Whalesong ; guest author post about Indigo in the Storm (companion novel to Aster’s Good, Right Things and Xavier in the Meantime) on the way.

The Way of Dog by Zana Fraillon, ill. Sean Buckingham (University of Queensland Press)

The Raven’s Song by Zana Fraillon & Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)

Additional reviews or material about books on this list to feature soon


Our Dreaming ill. Dub Leffler, text. Kirli Saunders (Scholastic Australia) Book review

Frank’s Red Hat by Sean E Avery (Walker Books Australia) Book review coming soon

Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment by Levi Pinfold (Walker Books Australia) Book review on the way

Dirt by Sea ill. Tom Jellett, text Michael Wagner (Penguin Random House Australia)

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall (Hachette Australia) My review and suggested classroom ideas about a previous picture book by Sophie, Hello Lighthouse.

My Strange Shrinking Parents by Zeno Sworder (Thames & Hudson Australia)

Additional reviews or material about books on this list to feature soon


Jigsaw: A Puzzle in the Post by Bob Graham (Walker Books Australia) Book review on the way. In the meantime, my review of Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham (and how to use this book with children).

Snap! by Anna Walker (Scribble Kids’ Books) Author/illustrator interview.

Bev and Kev by Katrina Germein, ill. Mandy Foot (Little Book Press)

Lionel and Me by Corinne Fenton, ill. Tracie Grimwood (New Frontier Publishing)

Where the Lyrebird Lives by Vikki Conley, ill. Max Hamilton (Windy Hollow Books) Author/illustrator interview. Also read my interview with Max Hamilton & Kay Baillie about When the Waterhole Dries Up .

Market Day by Carrie Gallasch, ill. Hannah Sommerville (Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing) Book review coming soon.

Additional reviews or material about books on this list to feature soon


What We All Saw by Mike Lucas (Penguin Random House Australia) Author interview coming soon.

The Greatest Thing by Sarah Winifred Searle (Allen & Unwin)

The Other Side of Tomorrow by Hayley Lawrence (Scholastic Australia)

Ask No Questions by Eva Collins (Puncher & Wattman)

Completely Normal (and Other Lies) by Biffy James (Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing)

Neverlanders by Tom Taylor, ill. Jon Sommariva (Penguin Random House Australia)

Additional reviews or material about books on this list to feature soon


A is for Australian Reefs by Frané Lessac (Walker Books Australia) Author/illustrator review

Amazing Animal Journeys by Jennifer Cossins (Hachette Australia) Previous interview with Jennifer Cossins

Come Together: Things Every Aussie Kid Should Know about the First Peoples by Isaiah Firebrace, ill. Jaelyn Biumaiwai (Hardie Grant Publishing) Book review coming soon.

DEEP: Delve into Hidden Worlds by Jess McGeachin (Welbeck Publishing)

Opal and Dart by Vianne Brain, ill. Clare Bradley (Forty South Publishing)

Wild Australian Life by Leonard Cronin, ill. Chris Nixon (Allen & Unwin)

Additional reviews or material about books on this list to feature soon


2023 Shortlist at the CBCA website

Thank you to the publishers who have kindly sent me review copies and to the authors and illustrators who have responded so generously by answering interview questions and writing about their books.



Xavier in the Meantime by Kate Gordon (Riveted Press)

Joy Lawn interviews Kate Gordon about her books for children (extract from interview in Magpies magazine, May 2022)

Tiny Moments of Joy” with Kate Gordon

Even though there is sadness. It’s not all sadness, and the sadness there is doesn’t feel like it’s without hope. That’s the things about being a kid, in books at least. There’s still hope. There’s always hope. (Aster’s Good, Right Things)

How incredible and profound is children’s literature. As Kate Gordon shows in her books, it can shake us upside down, put us in the shoes of others and open our hearts.

Kate Gordon’s Aster’s Good, Right Things (Riveted Press) won the CBCA Book of the Year: Younger Readers in 2021. It is an exceptional novel: a beautifully written and sensitive portrayal of childhood anxiety. This, and its sequel Xavier in the Meantime,are reminiscent of Glenda Millard’s Kingdom of Silk series where lyrical writing and sensory imagery create wistfulness, melancholy and pain alongside beauty, hope, light and tiny moments of joy. Both authors address serious concerns in the lives of children, with Kate’s books having a more sorrowful core.

Kate also writes for young adults (Girl Running, Boy Falling is a standout) and younger children (Juno Jones) but in this interview we will focus on her books for older children: her books about Aster and Xavier (Riveted Press/Yellow Brick Books) and her Direleafe Hall series (University of Queensland Press)  

Your novels Aster’s Good, Right Things and Xavier in the Meantime show deep understanding, concern and care for those with anxiety and depression. Why have you written about child characters with these illnesses and how have you crystallised something of these conditions into stories?

As a child growing up with intense anxiety and, at times, severe depression, I never felt comfortable expressing what I was going through, because it didn’t feel “normal”. Nobody I knew, none of my friends or family, seemed to feel like I did. I was incredibly isolated, especially in primary school, because I seemed to think differently – and definitely behaved differently – from the other kids around me. Now I’ve been diagnosed as autistic, I have some answers for why this was but, at the time, I felt like a “freak”. None of the adults in my life thought there was anything to worry about, because I excelled academically and in extra-curricular activities, and the prevailing wisdom around autism and mental illness in the eighties and nineties would have said that being autistic and academically gifted did not go hand in hand. None of the books I read or movies I watched spoke to me. I never saw myself reflected in the media. Now, it’s a passion and privilege of mine to write books for kids like I was, so they know they’re not alone and they’re just as “normal” as anyone else.

How do you balance sadness and pain with moments of joy in these two books?

I mean, that’s life, isn’t it? Joy and pain and so intrinsically linked, it would be impossible to feel one without the other. When I’m writing, I’m just trying to write life and so often in life happiness and heartbreak can coexist in a single moment. The same should be true for literature or else it doesn’t feel real.

Other material to come soon

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