Matilda Woods wins the Readings Children’s Book Prize 2020

We are thrilled to share that the winner of this year’s Readings Children’s Book Prize is The Girl, The Cat & the Navigator by Matilda Woods! This thrilling high-seas tale will enchant readers of ages 7–12 years.

Eleven-year-old Oona longs for adventures, but as a girl in Nordor – a town where houses are built from wood that comes from shipwrecks and sway as though still at sea – she must stay demurely at home while the men (including her sneering sea captain father) go out and hunt whales. Luckily, Oona is smart, daring and determined. She sets off to discover the legend, danger and mythical creatures of the icy north for herself.

Reminiscent of a classic folktale, this versatile and beautifully packaged book features vivid illustrations from artist Anuska Allepuz. Woods is a gorgeous storyteller and her book will be eagerly devoured by independent readers, as well as being a perfect choice for a family read-aloud.

The Girl, The Cat & the Navigator was chosen by a panel of Readings children’s book specialists – Athina Clarke (Readings Malvern), Daniella Robertson (Readings Malvern), Fiona Hardy (Readings Doncaster), and me (Readings St Kilda) – along with our 2020 guest judge, author Nova Weetman.

We were unanimous in our love for this book. Woods has crafted a timeless fairytale that pays tribute to bravery, kindness, and the power of making your own family. The judges particularly praised Woods’s unique imagination, her skilful use of language, and her awe-inspiring world-building. Weetman says: ‘Woods’s voice is refreshing and exciting; the world that this book inhabits is adventurous and bold.’ Like all the best magical fables, Oona’s story has an immensely satisfying and comforting conclusion.

Among the judges, there was a very real and powerful sense that The Girl, The Cat & the Navigator is a classic in the making; many shared moments from the narrative that had stayed with them since first reading it. And as Weetman puts it: ‘A book that promotes magic and kindness and strength and bravery is something to be celebrated at the moment.’

In response to the announcement, Woods said: ‘It’s such an unexpected honour to be selected as this year’s winner for the Readings Children’s Book Prize. I had so much fun writing The Girl, The Cat & the Navigator and I hope a lot of children have fun reading it!’

This is the second time Woods has been shortlisted for this prize. Her first book, The Boy, the Bird & the Coffin Maker, was shortlisted in 2018, and we are pleased to offer both titles in one specially priced pack for $26.95 (was $29.98). A third book from Woods, Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things, has also been released this year.

Congratulations again to the five authors who were shortlisted alongside Woods: Remy Lai (Pie in the Sky), Bren MacDibble (The Dog Runner), Helen Milroy (Wombat, Mudlark & Other Stories), Renée Treml (Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery), and Edwina Wyatt (The Secrets of Magnolia Moon).

This is the seventh year of the Readings Children’s Book Prize, which was established in 2014 to celebrate books that children and families will love, and to raise the profile of exciting emerging Australian authors. Weetman praised this year’s exceptional shortlist as a fabulous showcase of the rich offerings of local children’s publishing, and said of the prize: ‘The Readings Children’s Book Prize is a game-changer for authors and their books. It translates to sales and it widely promotes Australian children’s literature.’


Due to the impact upon Readings of the ongoing global health crisis, we are unable to offer prize money for any of our three prizes in 2020. We do hope these prizes will still guide readers towards wonderful emerging voices.

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The Girl, the Cat & the Navigator

The Girl, the Cat & the Navigator

Matilda Woods

$14.99Buy now

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