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Each of the ten titles will compete for the high-calibre awards, which includes the innovative Children’s Choice Award, voted for by young readers across the country. The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on 23rd May at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre as part of International Literature Festival Dublin.
The shortlisted titles are:
A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell
A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea written by Sarah Webb and illustrated by Steve McCarthy
Chocolate Cake written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Kevin Waldron
Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
Illegal written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
Rabbit and Bear: The Pest in the Nest written by Julian Gough and illustrated by Jim Field
Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson
Tangleweed and Brine written by Deirdre Sullivan and illustrated by Karen Vaughan
The Space Between by Meg Grehan
Founded in 1990, The CBI Book of the Year Awards are the leading children’s book awards in Ireland. They are a celebration of excellence in children’s literature and illustration and are open to books for all ages written in English or Irish by authors and illustrators born or resident in Ireland and published between 1st January and 31st December each year. Previous winners include Sarah Crossan for One, Oliver Jeffers for Once upon an Alphabet, John Boyne for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas; Sheena Wilkinson for Grounded and Kate Thompson for The New Policeman, Annan Water and The Alchemist’s Apprentice.
Dr Patricia Kennon, chair of the judging panel that read over eighty titles, said: ‘It is a pleasure to present the ten shortlisted books which all exemplify excellence in their aesthetic distinction and immersive story worlds. The 2018 shortlist spans a rich variety of genres and formats including rhymes, chapter books, poetry, non-fiction, retellings of fairy tales, verse novels, graphic novels, fiction and picturebooks. The groups participating in the CBI Shadowing Scheme and readers, young and old, have many rich, imaginative adventures to look forward to!’
CBI, which administers the awards, will again be working closely with reading groups from schools, libraries and bookshops across the island of Ireland. These young readers will choose the winner of the Children’s Choice Award. Reading groups nationwide are invited to sign up for the shadowing scheme via www.childrensbooksireland.ie. Five other awards will also be made in May – The CBI Book of the Year Award, Honour Awards for Fiction and Illustration, the Eilís Dillon award for a first children’s book and the Judges’ Special Award.
Jenny Murray, Acting Director at CBI said ‘Children’s Books Ireland’s goal is to make readers of every child by making books a part of their day-to-day lives. This year’s shortlist encompasses everything from the value of friendship, feminist fairytale retellings, the plight of refugees, the march of the suffragettes, the awe-inspiring universe, through to the never-to-be-underestimated lure of chocolate cake … All of the titles on this year’s shortlist highlight the very best of Irish writing, illustrating and publishing for children and young readers.’
This year former winners of the CBI Book of the Year Award – Sheena Wilkinson, Oliver Jeffers and Sarah Crossan return to the shortlist with Star by Star, Here We Are and Moonrise, respectively. Irish publishing house Little Island Books has a total of four titles shortlisted; Tangleweed and Brine, Star by Star, A Dangerous Crossing and The Space Between. Former Laureate na nÓg Eoin Colfer also appears on the shortlist with Illegal. Jane Mitchell, who won the inaugural Children’s Choice Award in 2010, also features on the shortlist with A Dangerous Crossing.
A judges’ comment on each shortlisted title follows:
A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell (Little Island Books)
This tense and gripping novel is layered with compassion, insight and psychological authenticity in its powerful evocation of the chaos of the Syrian civil war. Ghalib doesn’t want to leave his home but he and his family have no choice but to flee. Based on the experiences of real Syrian families, Jane Mitchell has crafted a deeply empathetic exploration of the plight of refugees and the intense challenges posed by embarking into the bewildering unknown
A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea: Favourite Rhymes from an Irish Childhood by Sarah Webb and illustrated by Steve McCarthy (The O’Brien Press)
This exuberantly illustrated collection of beloved rhymes celebrates the richness of Irish and international traditional verse for children and offers a multigenerational appeal. Sarah Webb’s skilful curation of traditional rhymes is beautifully counterparted and vividly interpreted by Steve McCarthy’s design. Bringing together well-known favourites such as She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain and dual translations such as Óró, Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile, the compilation provides a treasure trove for young and old readers alike.
Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Kevin Waldron (Puffin)
The ideal picturebook partnership of Michael Rosen’s beloved poem and Kevin Waldron’s lively illustrations adroitly captures the exploits of Michael, a little boy with a big appetite for chocolate cake. In this witty tale of a midnight feast that goes wrong, Waldron’s good-enough-to-eat illustrations, quirky design and clever use of page turns enhance Rosen’s child-centred approach, appealing use of language, anarchic sensibility, and energetically onomatopoeic account of the allure of the forbidden.
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
This thought-provoking book extends an invitation to all humans, young and old, to consider the interconnectedness of life and to celebrate the kaleidoscope of inhabitants on our common home, the Earth. Each spread explores aspects of the solar system, people and animals, the passage of time, human relationships, and the awe-inspiring cosmos. Addressing his infant son about what it means to alive on this planet, Oliver Jeffers has created an impressive and engrossing visual narrative.
Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano (Hodder Children’s Books)
This timely and powerful graphic novel charting a young boy’s journey across the Sahara Desert on the long, dangerous trek towards Italy and the potential for a new life there and reunion with his sister. This affecting book weaves together real stories of migration with immersive, naturalistic illustrations and carefully paced, minimalistic text. Combining intensity with accessibility, this is an important book that will stimulate important conversations and reflection about human rights, inclusion, solidarity, and prejudice.
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Joe hasn’t seen his brother Ed for ten years and is determined to see him, regardless of the formidable obstacles in his way. For Ed is on death row and his execution date has been set … This intense and formidable novel, told in blank verse, combines beauty and starkness in its depiction of family ties, love, mistrust, forgiveness, capital punishment, and incarceration. Crossan’s lyrical, compelling and heart-breaking novel will be an unforgettable reading experience for its young adult readers.
Rabbit and Bear: The Pest in the Nest by Julian Gough and illustrated by Jim Field (Hodder Children’s Books)
The second in the Rabbit and Bear series, this beautifully executed and cheeky book about this appealing duo is a laugh-out-loud modern classic. Field’s seductive palette and evocative rendering of the characters’ emotional dilemmas synergise with Gough’s wry, insightful and compassionate text. Perfect for reading aloud with individuals and groups as well as for supporting fledgling independent readers, this tale of mutual acceptance and the importance of mindfulness also poses interesting philosophical and ethical questions for older audiences.
Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson (Little Island Books)
It’s 1918, the Great War is coming to an agonising close, women are on the verge of being able to vote, and the determined and vulnerable Stella resolves to change the world. This assured and bold tale of heroism, courage, and survival skilfully draws the modern reader into its vividly rendered early-twentieth-century setting. Sheena Wilkinson offers an inspiring, humorous and insightful proclamation of each individual’s potential to enact change and create a more just society, vote by vote and star by star.
Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan and illustrated by Karen Vaughan (Little Island Books)
This remarkable book is a significant and timely contribution to Irish young-adult literature and feminist literature for young people. Deirdre Sullivan’s simultaneously rich, delicate and stark text is powerfully enhanced by Karen Vaughan’s haunting black and white illustrations. Combining the timeless allure of dark fantasy with subversive explorations of female embodiment and systems of women’s suffering and triumphs, this incisive, exquisite collection promises an enthralling and unsettling experience.
The Space Between by Meg Grehan (Little Island Books)
Meg Grehan’s debut novel offers an honest and tender chronicle of new love between two young women and explores the complexities of sustaining mental health in contemporary society. The story ebbs and flows and is enhanced by intriguing layout of text which expresses the tumult of the protagonist’s life and experiences. Skilfully rendered in verse and elegantly written and presented, Grehan’s narrative is a significant new addition to Irish children’s literature.