The finalists for the 30th Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) Book of the Year Awards have been announced and there are some fantastic choices! With books for all ages included, here are the 10 books on the KPMG CBI Children’s Book of the Year shortlist for this year’s award.
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The ten shortlisted books for the KPMG CBI Children’s Book of the Year range from picture books to teen fiction, covering all ages and reading abilities.
The shortlist includes four books published by independent Irish publishers, three written in Irish, three verse novels and a spread of books for all ages, including picturebooks 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 as ever be working 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 a ceremony on 19th May 2020 at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre, by book-loving broadcaster Rick O’Shea, as part of International Literature Festival Dublin.
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The KPMG CBI Children’s Book of the Year Shortlist
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All The Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
An atmospheric and powerful story tracing trauma through three generations of the same family. Alternating between the contemporary first-person narrative of Deena and the haunting story of her ancestors, it draws on dark aspects of Ireland’s history that have come to light in recent years relating to attitudes towards female sexuality and callous treatment of single mothers and their babies by the Catholic Church and wider society.
After disastrously coming out to her family, Deena embarks on a road trip with friends in a quest that leads her to find her mother, her own voice and, ultimately, freedom from the family curse. The apple motif is cleverly woven into the story, in which themes of witchcraft and healing are linked with female agency and power.
Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl and Lauren O’Hara
When an eccentric elderly lady with a mysterious past comes to stay at The Mermaid Hotel, the curious young daughter of the owners sees an opportunity for honing her skills in espionage.
An unlikely friendship develops between the pair, leading to a shared fantastical adventure.
Lauren O’Hara’s lively and characterful illustrations include wonderfully detailed double spreads and humorous vignettes that perfectly complement this intriguing tale of first impressions, friendship and the power of imagination.
Buy Madame Badobedah
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Mór Agus Muilc by John Óg Hiúdaí Neidí Ó Colla and Kim Sharkey
This is a stunning retelling in picture and text of an unusual and dark tale from oral Irish culture. The rhythmic repetition of dialogue as each new character is encountered and the beautiful curving lines in the sumptuous and evocative illustrations perfectly capture the circularity of the cumulative tale.
A hypnotic sense of movement is created as a growing cast of wonderfully named characters join the elongated Mór and the jester-like Muilc in a dance towards their doom. Stylish, quirky and admirably faithful to the oral tradition.
Buy Mór Agus Muilc
Nóinín by Máire Zepf
A compelling verse novel that depicts, with beguiling subtlety and nuance, the online grooming of a shy teenage girl, the slow build-up to a shocking crime and the aftermath from the perspective of her best friend.
The insidious nature of grooming through flattery, exploitation of teenage insecurities and isolation from friends is very convincingly portrayed.
The effects of violent crime on the family and friends of the victim are shown and questions of blame considered, but the novel ends with an empowering manifesto on the right of young girls to full life and liberty.
Rich imagery, poetic language and intertextual references to fairy tales and Irish myth lend resonance to this very modern and accessible tale of the dangers of social media. An artful and gripping narrative that will reward multiple re-readings.
The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan
A thoughtful, exquisitely gentle and heart-rending verse novel that explores with a superb lightness of touch important themes relating to anxiety, emerging sexual identity, friendship and love.
The lyrical narrative captures with great delicacy the fragile voice of an eleven-year-old girl, whose feelings for her friend both excite and confuse her, as she seeks understanding and affirmation from her mother.
The motif of water, of drowning and breathing, lends a dreamy atmosphere to this tender, courageous and ultimately uplifting story.
The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar
A charming picture book of novel design that can be read from either end and concludes in the middle. Tortoise and Hedgehog, each lonely and in need of a hug, embark on separate quests that end when they happen upon each other. Tortoise’s hard shell and Hedgehog’s prickly pins do not deter the pair from hugging in a heart-warming double spread at the centre of the book.
The texture, colours and facial expressions of the animal characters are superbly rendered, with pictures by Polly Dunbar and text by Eoin McLaughlin working in perfect tandem to engage and delight young readers.
Buy The Hug
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The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh and Ashling Lindsay
This poignant portrayal of a young girl coming to an understanding of her grandfather’s memory loss is uplifting and enlightening for child and adult readers alike. Exquisitely illustrated with a warm palette and a keen eye for pattern, its gentle rhythms mirror the ebb and flow of the tide and the passage of time.
A stunning double spread depicting the pair dancing in the orange glow of the full tide at sunset creates a glorious sense of harmony that assuages earlier moments of disquiet, while the warm presence of the mother, who features in most of the illustrations, provides reassurance and comfort throughout. An evocative portrait of intergenerational bonds.
Buy The Tide
The Star-Spun Web by Sinéad O’Hart
This distinctive steampunk-sci-fi fantasy adventure features an extraordinary heroine with a special talent for science, her endearing pet tarantula, a strange device that enables her to access other worlds and a colourful cast of unforgettable characters, including her male double in a parallel world.
From the mysterious opening to the dramatic denouement, readers are brought on a rollercoaster journey of scientific exploration, intrigue, treachery and mortal danger.
A captivating and original story that will excite and enthral young readers.
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Toffee by Sarah Crossan
A lyrical and moving portrayal of the relationship between a teenage girl, who has run away from her abusive father, and an elderly woman with dementia, who mistakes her for a close childhood friend. Every note in this first person verse narrative rings true.
Each poem is a gem in itself and they combine in a series of vignettes, employing a subtle interplay between information given and deferred that allows space for readers to reflect while savouring the beauty of the language.
Through deft storytelling and masterful characterisation, complex themes of identity, child and elder abuse, memory loss, loneliness and connection are explored with sensitivity, honesty, warmth and respect.
Scúnc Agus Smúirín by Muireann Ní Chíobháin and Paddy Donnelly
When Scúnc finds his missing Teddy, he is dismayed to discover that its special smell has been eradicated by a spell in the washing machine. After much searching and sniffing, Scúnc makes the happy discovery that Teddy’s smell came from his mother’s hugs, so lots of hugging of Teddy will be required for the comforting smell to be regained.
It is unusual to feature skunks as main characters in a picturebook and much is made in the illustrations of their comic indifference to the repulsion that their odour arouses in other animal characters trying to give them a wide berth. A warm, humorous and highly engaging celebration of love between mother and child.
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Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and illustrators!
Which of the 10 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!