Looking for a New Book? The 2021 CBI Children’s Book of the Year Shortlist is Out!

Jill Holtz

March 10, 2021

cbi children's book of the year awards

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The finalists for this year’s Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) Book of the Year Awards have been announced. With books for all ages included, here are the 8 books on the KPMG CBI Children’s Book of the Year shortlist for the 2021 awards.

Don’t miss the chance to have your say! We’re looking for parents to get involved and give their feedback on all aspects of family life. Find out more here.

The eight books on the KPMG CBI Children’s Book of the Year shortlist range from picture books to teen fiction, covering all ages and reading abilities.

The shortlist includes five books published by independent Irish publishers, a picture book in Irish, a collection of folk tales rooted in the oral tradition of the Traveller community, and two historical novels. There is a spread of books for all ages of readers, from picture book up to young adult novels.

The KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards recognise excellence in writing and illustration in Irish or English and are open to books by authors and illustrators who were born in Ireland, are permanently resident in Ireland or are citizens of Ireland and which were published between 1st January and 31st December each year.

Children’s Books Ireland, which administers the awards, will work closely with ‘Junior Juries’ – groups of children and young people who will read and judge the shortlisted titles. The Juries’ scores decide the winner of the Junior Juries Award, giving children a real way to participate in the awards and make their voices heard.

Five other awards will also be made – The Book of the Year Award, The Honour Awards for Fiction and Illustration, the Judges’ Special Award, and the Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book, named in honour of the revered Irish children’s author Eilís Dillon, whose birth centenary was on March 7th of this year.

The winners will be announced at an online ceremony on 25th May 2021 by book-loving broadcaster Rick O’Shea, as part of International Literature Festival Dublin.

You May Also Enjoy 2020 CBI Children’s Book of the Year

The KPMG CBI Children’s Book of the Year Shortlist

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Hope Against Hope by Sheena Wilkinson

hope against hopePublished by Little Island Books

Hope Against Hope is a remarkable historical novel and the funny, moving story of Polly, who runs away to Helen’s Hope hostel in Belfast and lives in a cross-community feminist space of tolerance and inclusion.

Set in 1921, when Ireland is at war with Britain and a border is introduced on the island of Ireland, this is an original and expertly written exploration of an aspect of Irish history largely ignored in children’s literature. Wilkinson’s skilful prose captures the sense of the unknown as characters face prejudice and violence while struggling to remain hopeful for their future on a divided island.

Míp by Máire Zepf and Paddy Donnelly

MipPublished by Futa Fata

When scientists send their hardworking robot Míp on a mission to Mars, they’ve great hope that she’ll make significant discoveries; ach ní raibh eachtrán le feiceáil in áit ar bith. Or so it seems to Míp – but not to the reader.

This humorous and dynamic picturebook is an excellent example of counterpoint at its best, with words and pictures telling different stories. Zepf and Donnelly show respect for child readers in this playful and accessible narrative where younger readers know a lot more than the clever scientists.

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Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan and Karen Vaughan

Savage Her ReplyPublished by Little Island Books

Many of us may be familiar with the story of Lir’s children, transformed into swans and forced to travel from lake to lake for hundreds of years, but what of their stepmother’s version of events?

Savage Her Reply is a fantastic re-versioning of the myth from Aífe’s perspective, offering an insight into her mistreatment at the hands of Lir and her reasons for seeking revenge. Written in wonderfully lyrical prose, this is a tense and haunting tale that explores heartache, loss and forgiveness, while giving voice to a woman silenced for generations.

The Boldness of Betty by Anna Carey

The Boldness of BettyPublished by The O’Brien Press

Set in Dublin in 1913, The Boldness of Betty is the tale of young Betty Rafferty who leaves school to work in a cake shop, only to end up on the picket line as the whole the city goes on strike. This is an extremely well-researched book that really brings the period and the city to life.

Carey’s brilliant characterisation of Betty has the reader rooting for her throughout. This narrative of social solidarity fittingly resonates with debates in contemporary Irish culture and reveals the hope and potential that accompanies positive action. 

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

The Falling in Love MontagePublished by Andersen Press

Everything is about to change for Saoirse: her mother is ill, her father intends to remarry and she has one summer left before she heads off to university. When she meets Ruby and they embark on what Saoirse hopes will be a short-term and light-hearted romance, things don’t go according to plan.

In The Falling in Love Montage, Smyth is unafraid to engage with darker themes and writes a brilliantly witty, clever and funny coming-of-age narrative centred on a young protagonist with a clear and distinctive voice.


The Haunted Lake by P.J. Lynch

The Haunted LakePublished by Walker Books

Jacob and his father, Reuben, are the only people brave enough to fish on the mysterious lake created when a dam was built and a town flooded. On land, Jacob falls for a young girl named Ellen, but something keeps drawing him to the lake late into the evening.

The Haunted Lake is tale of love, loss and perseverance told by Lynch through words and masterful illustrations, bringing the reader on a ghostly journey from the world of the living to the eerie depths of the town that lies beneath.


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The Monsters of Rookhaven by Pádraig Kenny and Edward Bettison

The Monsters of RookhavenPublished by Macmillan Children’s Books

Mirabelle is a monster who lives with her family (also monsters) in Rookhaven, a mansion protected from the outside world. That is, until two humans – Jem and Tom – stumble into her life.

In The Monsters of Rookhaven, Kenny’s gripping narrative, and the wonderfully eerie illustrations by Bettison, draws upon established gothic and horror motifs in providing readers with an utterly original adventure. Full of darkness and light as well as brilliantly realised characters, this is a page-turner that explores ideas of acceptance, tolerance and true friendship.

Why the Moon Travels by Oein DeBhairduin and Leanne McDonagh

Why the Moon TravelsPublished by Skein Press

The 20 stories in this extraordinary collection come from the Irish Traveller community, the Mincéirí, the Pavee. Collected by DeBhairduin and retold with passion and lyricism, these are tales of giants, foxes and owls, of friendship, love and hunger, of famine, heartache and loss.

In these stories, this world and the otherworld are intertwined, the personal is often used to explore the universal, and storytelling becomes a means of making sense of our surroundings. Why The Moon Travels is a beautifully written and ground-breaking book, celebrating and sharing a rich tradition that may be unfamiliar to many readers.


You May Also Enjoy 100 Of the Best Ever Bedtime Stories for Kids Recommended by Parents

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and illustrators!

Which of the titles on the CBI Children’s Book of the Year shortlist would your child most enjoy? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

CBI Children's Book of the Year 2021 shortlist

Like this? Share it with your network!

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Published On: March 10th, 2021 / Categories: Entertainment / Last Updated: March 21st, 2021 / Tags: /

About the Author: Jill Holtz

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls

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