The Readings Children’s Book Prize 2016 shortlist

We’re delighted to announce the six books shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize 2016.

The Readings Children’s Book Prize recognises and celebrates Australian books that children love to read, and raises the profile of debut and on-the-rise Australian children’s book authors.

The Prize judges are a panel of Readings children’s book specialists: Angela Crocombe, Athina Clarke, Alexa Dretzke, Isobel Moore, and Holly Harper. They will be joined by a special guest judge, children’s book author Sally Rippin, to decide the winner.

The six shortlisted titles this year are…


The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

From the first moment, when a suited wolf accosts you with a pointed paw and a ‘Hey You!’, you know that you are in for a hilarious ride, whatever age reader you may be. Mr Wolf, one of the original bad guys from fairytale legend, is tired of being typecast and wants to change his image. He brings in a few friends – Mr Shark, Mr Snake and Mr Piranha, all the way from Bolivia – to start the Good Guys Club. But not everyone is convinced. This is a perfectly pitched story of baddies trying to do good, even though it goes against every instinct they have.

The Bad Guys is ideal for encouraging early and struggling readers – short chapters, lots of hilarious illustrations, cartoon-style panels, lashings of humour and occasional fart jokes. Readers aged 5 and up will love it! – Angela Crocombe


Samurai vs Ninja: The Battle for the Golden Egg by Nick Falk and Tony Flowers

Learning to read can be a hard task for 6 and ups – give them something boring and you’re in danger of losing their attention for good. That’s why Nick Falk and Tony Flowers’ Samurai vs Ninja: The Battle for the Golden Egg is on our shortlist: with its high action and off-the-wall humour, it’s the just the right antidote to boredom.

In ancient Japan the ninja and the samurai aren’t exactly getting along. When a contest is announced to see who has the superior skills, both sides vow to try their hardest to win the prize of the famed Golden Egg. But after the ninja steal the Golden Egg, the samurai set their sights on revenge. This book is bound to have kids in hysterics, and as an added bonus it will teach them some facts about ancient Japan. – Holly Harper


Run, Pip, Run by J.C. Jones

Plucky ten-year-old Pip has a resourcefulness borne out of challenging circumstances. Cranky old Sully is the only family Pip’s ever known. And family is what you make of the people you have. Never is this truer for Pip than when Sully is hospitalised. Unwilling to fall into a system she’s fearful of, Pip chooses to fend for herself. Few of us will ever experience a life like Pip’s but I defy anyone not to connect with her. She’s one of the most unforgettable protagonists I’ve ever encountered. She’s courageous, quick-witted, imaginative and tenacious.

Run, Pip, Run is an exceptionally moving and tender story with a wonderfully wry humour: a slice of life with a voice that’s true. Pip’s search for friendship, family and a place to call home will move your heart just as it moved mine. Highly recommended for ages 9 and up. – Athina Clarke


88 Lime Street by Denise Kirby

When the Brewster family sees their new home for the first time they are mildly horrified at its dilapidated exterior. However, a tantalizing aura of mystery seems to beckon Ellen and her three siblings. It’s as if the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries have collided. When Ellen becomes aware that one of the towers appears inaccessible and the overgrown garden harbours a curious grave and a baffling fountain, the lure has been cast for the reader as well as Ellen.

As the hostile neighbourhood children embark on a bullying campaign, teasing Ellen about living in a haunted house, she finds herself socially isolated and becomes preoccupied with the secret tower. Increasingly, she also begins to feel dislocated from her family and as her determination to gain access to the tower grows, the reader begins to wonder about the state of her mind.

Her persistence finally pays off and what she finds, as parts of the puzzle fall into place, is a bending of time, where the past and the present merge in a beguiling and magical way. This is a common trope in children’s literature where dislocated children enter into other eras and realms and we are reminded of Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In 88 Lime Street the juxtaposition of the modern day with past eras is thought provoking, for example, the internet and cyber bullying have no context for children born over 100 years ago! This is a captivating and compelling read with a strong and sympathetic main character, but it is really the intriguing, creepy house that is the chief protagonist. For ages 8–12. – Alexa Dretzke


The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears and Dinalie Dabarera

Mr Hooper has an ice-cream truck that looks like a full moon and together with his unusual cat (who has a distinctive heart-shaped face and a chameleon tail) he dispenses ice-creams to suit every customer’s mood. Mr Hooper and his cat specialise in helping people who are sad, and they look for heart shapes in the world, which fill their lives with joy and wonder. But one day the cat realises that the heart of the world is sick and sad. So, the cat and Mr Hooper take their ice-cream truck on a trip to find the heart of the world and rescue it.

This is a beautiful parable about kindness that will appeal to children and families who enjoy fairytales and fantasy stories. Award-winning author Gillian Mears has created a magical story and the utterly gorgeous illustrations by Dinalie Dabarera make this book extra beautiful. Suitable for readers aged 7 and up, or for parents and younger children to read together, it is a delight. – Angela Crocombe


Mister Cassowary by Samantha Wheeler

After Flynn’s grandad passes away, he and his dad make the trek to the family banana farm so they prepare it for sale. But in the clean-up, Flynn discovers two small, orphaned cassowary chicks. Flynn wants to take care of them, but every time he questions his dad about them he gets nothing but an angry response. Flynn thinks there’s something else going on, so he enlists the help of his new friend Abby to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Samantha Wheeler’s previous book Smooch & Rose made our 2014 Readings Children’s Book Prize shortlist, so it’s no surprise she’s back again. Wheeler has a knack for writing endearing characters and plots that weave in environmental themes that readers 8 and up will love. – Holly Harper

The winner of The Readings Children’s Book Prize will be announced in June 2016. Find out more about the Readings Children’s Book Prize here.

If you’d like to buy all six books at once, the entire shortlist is available here at a special price.

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The Cat with the Coloured Tail

The Cat with the Coloured Tail

Gillian Mears, Dinalie Dabarera

$16.99Buy now

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