Archive for the ‘YA Fiction’ Category

Finally, here it is – my 2012 Clayton’s Shortlist for Older Readers.

No doubt my Six Pick will be different to the CBCA judges’ Shortlist (out on 3  April), and, no doubt, different to yours – and so it should be.

We all clasp books to our hearts for different reasons – what speaks to me might fall on deaf ears elsewhere. And that’s the beauty of reading.

We are all Clayton’s judges of what we read. As Kate Grenville once wrote: ‘Each of us brings our own experiences, memories and prejudices to a work of art and looks at it through that unique lens. We all read the same words…but we all see different things.’

I’ve enjoyed being a Clayton’s Judge for CBCA Qld. I hope you enjoy what you see in my shortlist and that you’ll take the time to rummage through My Clayton’s Notable Books for 2012 for a shortlist of your own. 🙂
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock was a fine fantasy novel in its own right, but its sequel Froi of the Exiles proves that Melina Marchetta just keeps getting better.

After making her name in contemporary realistic fiction with award-winning books like Looking for Alibrandi and The Piper’s Son, she is now really hitting her straps in the richly imagined world of fantasy.

Froi of the Exiles is superb storytelling –  gripping, complex, and intense, with characters that will steal your heart.

The little thief from Finnikin is now eighteen years old and trained by the Royal Guard to protect Lumatere’s royal family with his life. When he is ordered to infiltrate the enemy kingdom of Charyn and assassinate the cruel despot who rules it, his fierce loyalties are tested. He discovers unexpected bonds of kinship with Charyn’s damaged people, and an unlikely love with the land’s abused and half-mad Princess, Quintana.

Like all the best fantasy, Froi of the Exiles canvasses great themes, challenging the reader to view the harsh realities of war through the microcosm of those who endure it. By showing the heart of the enemy, the hardships of refugees, and the call of blood to blood, it challenges us to examine our own prejudices, our own contemporary failures.

At almost six hundred pages, and charged with sexual tension, this is a novel for mature readers, fifteen plus.

I wept at the end, for Froi, for Quintana, but most of all for myself. The final in the series, Quintana of Charyn cannot come out quickly enough for me – or for the legion fans Froi of the Exiles will inevitably attract.

When We Were Two by Robert Newton

A beautiful, funny and deeply moving book set at the beginning of the Great War that  suggests an answer to the eternal question: Why would anyone want to go to war?

Sixteen year old Dan is running away from home, his violent father, and the responsibility and guilt of caring for his brain-damaged younger brother, Eddie.

Dan steals away in the dead of night, determined to track down their missing mother. The only clue to her whereabouts, a postcard from Port Macquarie, more than two hundred miles away across the plains and mountain ranges of central NSW.

Eddie refuses to be left behind, and tags along with his billy cart and old dog, Bess, believing Dan’s story that they are off to fight a group of Huns who are causing trouble in Port Macquarie. They set out together on foot. And then they were Two.

The frustration, guilt and love that Dan feels for his special younger brother is at the heart of this inspiring rite of passage novel. The complexity and depth of the brother’s relationship is beautifully depicted as the boys encounter hardships and danger during their trek from Gunnedah to the ocean.

This is a story about how boys become men and deals deftly with the best, and the worst, that men can teach boys.

Together the boys conquer mountains, prejudice and the pain of their shared past. Then Dan loses everything, and alone, he must make a decision about his future based on all he has learned along the road.

When We Were Two is a journey worth taking. Highly recommended for just about anyone over the age of twelve.

Shift by Em Bailey

This is the first YA offering from Aussie children’s writer, Meredith Badger (author of the Go Girl books and Tweenie Genie series) and it’s a cracker.

Copies have been walking off the bookstore shelves thanks to the mega-cool cover, and genre-busting, tightly-plotted psychological thriller contained in its pages.

Olive Corbet is a dark, salty, intense little thing. She’s been taking her meds like a good girl. Taking baby steps. Trying to make it up to her little brother for their Dad leaving. Avoiding her old toxic friendships and trying to adjust to life since The Incident that changed her from popular insider to self-styled outsider.

Olive is doing OK, she’s holding it together – just…

Then the new girl Miranda Vale arrives at her school. A blurry, ill-defined creature that on first sighting seems to slip out of focus. Like someone who moves just before the photo is taken.

Only Olive seems to notice Miranda’s mirrored eyes. Her parasitic ways. The way she cannibalizes other people’s lives….

The tension between Miranda and Olive grabs the reader from the first page and doesn’t let up.

Did Miranda kill her own parents? Is she sucking the life out of Katie, Olive’s former best friend? Will Olive be next? Or is it all in Olive’s head?

Nobody trusts Olive’s judgement any more. Not even Olive.

This hard-to-put-down story is a riveting gallop of a read that examines toxic friendships through a more sinister lens.  Definitely on this year’s Must-Read list for teenaged girls.

Pig Boy by J.C. Burke

A powerful and confronting story about bullying and prejudice.

Damon Styles is not a likeable protagonist – obese, belligerent, and arrogant about his own intelligence. The other kids at school cruelly call him Damoink and his mother, the sow.

On the morning of his 18th birthday Damon witnesses something so dreadful that it dictates all his subsequent behavior. We don’t know what he’s seen, but we do know that he’s unpopular at school, that he plays violent video games and is given to angry outbursts. Like others in the small town of Strathven where he’s grown up, we are quick to believe the worst of him.

Damon is all too easily cast as the boy most likely to commit a Columbine-style massacre. He keeps lists of people who have let him down…He is obsessed with the idea of learning how to shoot.

He teams up with the town’s other outsider –Miro, the Serbian pig shooter known as the Pig Man. Miro too has secrets. He has survived the horrors of the Bosnian conflict. He understands what it is like to be hunted.

He takes Damon under his wing, teaches him to shoot and an unlikely friendship develops. The town watches uneasily, sensing evil afoot. When it is finally unleashed, it comes from a most unexpected quarter.

Pig Boy is a compelling story that will confound your expectations. It peels back the layers of a small country town, revealing the unreliability of perceptions and the prejudices they lead to.

The Wake in Fright elements mask author JC Brennan’s real and more subtle intentions. This is truly impressive story telling for mature readers and would make a good class novel for high schoolers.

A Straight Line To My Heart by Bill Condon

Bill Condon could not have chosen a more telling title for this funny, poignant coming-of-age story.

Everything is so beautifully observed. From the deceptively simple cover, and the wry voice of its protagonist, to the irresistible banter of characters who brim with a laconic but unconditional love for each other and the world they inhabit.

Tiff is an orphan whose mum died when she was just a baby. She was taken in by friends of the family, Reggie and Nell, and Nell’s 22 year old son, Bull, from an early ‘bad’ marriage. Nell dies a few years later, leaving Tiff to be brought up by a pair of boofy blokes.

My the time Tiff finishes school, Bull is forty and his step-dad Reggie is older than God’s dog. Reggie still has some hair, but most of it is poking out of his ears and nose. He’s given up the smokes, diagnosed himself as cactus and is quite adamant about how he wants his funeral to play out.

But Tiff’s all grown up, and it’s time to leave Gungee Creek for the big wide world:

Gungee is an ancient word that means: This place is a hole… There’s not much to do there. Gungee Creek doesn’t even have a creek.

All they have is the football team, the Gunners, which under Bull’s obstinate captaincy has notched up twenty straight losses.

Then Tiff gets a dream job (well work experience, but it could definitely lead somewhere) on the local paper, the Menindah Eagle, an hour’s bus ride away. She meets a boy, her world opens up … then Reggie starts coughing up blood.

This book will make you laugh and cry. A lovely story from one of Australia’s finest and most understated writers for young people.

The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan

Andrew McGahan’s adult fiction has won a swag of awards including the Vogel and Miles Franklin literary awards, a Ned Kelly for crime fiction and an Aurealis for Science Fiction.

His first foray into children’s fiction comes laden with expectations and in my opinion, it does not disappoint.

The Coming of the Whirlpool brims with adventure, heroism and secrets and has all the hallmarks of a swash-buckling classic.

This,the first book in The Ship Kings series, sets the scene for an engrossing historical fantasy on the high seas.

Young Dow Amber is the son of a wood cutter, brought up in the high country of New Island. But from his first glimpse of the distant ocean, he is driven by a strange and unsettling yearning for the sea.

His mother has long feared this awakening in his blood. It is not drowning that she fears: “What she truly dreads is that if you go to sea then you will come to the attention of the Ship Kings. And that if they discover who you are, they will kill you.”

Despite the grim warning, Dow makes his way down from the high country to a cursed fishing village where he is apprenticed to the embittered and grieving Nathaniel, who has lost both son and grandson to the Maelstrom.

The locals live in dread – not only of the mysterious Ship Kings, but of the ocean as well. The old ways, the secrets of navigation, have been lost. No-one dares to venture out past the heads: it is forbidden by order of the Ship Kings.

When they sale into port in their tall ships to collect the annual ‘tribute’ that keeps New Island impoverished, Dow’s forbidden longing only grows.

Then the whirlpool rises, precipitating events that end with Dow Amber sailing out through the Heads, a prisoner of the dreaded Ship Kings.

You’ve been given Fair Warning, the elements are gathering for the next thrilling installment in the Ship Kings saga!

And that’s my Clayton’s YA Six Pick for 2012. Feel free to post your own shortlist below. 🙂
So, I’ve done it again. Agreed to be a Clayton’s judge for Qld in the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

I’ve gorged on books: eighty-odd were entered in the Older Readers category this year.  The REAL CBCA Shortlist and Notables will be announced nationally on 3 April.

My Clayton’s Notable Books for Older Readers for 2012 is being announced right here, right now (Shortlist to follow… well, shortly).

Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel by Michael Gerard Bauer

Hilarious third and final book in the Ishmael series where our cast of lovable larrikins finish Year 12 at St Daniels. A must for every kid’s library.

Votive (Curse of the Bond Rider #2) by Karen Brooks

Compulsively readable second installment in Karen Brooks’s fantasy trilogy. The gentle candlemaker Tallow has been suborned by the corrupt Maleovellis and transformed into courtesan and assassin Tarlo. The machiavellian intrigues of this beautifully realised world will have you on tenderhooks for the final installment. Bring on Illumination!

Silvermay by James Moloney

The first in James Moloney’s brlliant new fantasy series where a young village girl battles the Wyrdborn, a race of corrupt wizards, to save a baby prophesied to lay waste to the world.

The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

Gritty yet sensitive tale of a troubled boy apprenticed to a kindly undertaker. A celebration of life in the face of death.

All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield

A difficult-to-put-down, warm and gritty novel about a girl from a rough neighbourhood who is desperate to escape her small-time crim roots. The engaging storyline and characters, fluid narrative and evocative writing make for a fantastic debut novel.

A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson

Deliciously fun geek-girl detective story set in a museum with bonus gross-out natural history trivia wrapped up in a treasury of mystery genre references. Something to nurture your inner nerd. Highly recommended.

The Extinction Gambit (The Extraordinaires, #1) by Michael Pryor

Entertaining romp through a richly re-imagined 1908 London, where magic flourishes, an enclave of Neanderthals survives in hiding, and a wolfish young man and a beautiful albino are all that stand between a trio of Immortal magicians and their plans for world domination. Wry and witty, for those who love their steam punk.

Being Here by Barry Jonsberg

Beautifully told story about the power of imagination. An unlikely friendship develops when an elderly woman relates the grim story of her childhood to a teenage girl for a school assignment. Keep tissues handy for the ending when the ghosts of the past come to claim their own.

Black Painted Fingernails by Steven Herrick

Life and happiness can turn on the toss of a coin. A lovely, affirming story by a writer who keeps coming up with the goods. If you liked Herrick’s last YA novel “Slice”, you’ll love this.

Crow Country by Kate Constable

A time-slip novel exploring black/white relations over three generations in rural Victoria. Deftly weaves Aboriginal spirituality into a magical realist framework. Highly recommended as a class novel for early high school.

The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

Exquisitely written story about the mysterious disappearance of a teacher from a 1960s girls’ school in Sydney. Haunting and lyrical, with shades of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan

All the hallmarks of a swash-buckling classic from Miles Franklin award-winning author Andrew McGahan. The first instalment in the Ship Kings series brims with adventure, heroism and secrets.

When We Were Two by Robert Newton

Beautiful, funny and deeply moving story set at the start of World War One about runaway brothers marching towards their future. Deftly deals with the best and worst that men can teach boys as they conquer mountains, prejudice and the pain of their shared past.

The Shadow Girl by John Larkin

Thoughtful and edgy story about teenage homelessness. Recommended for upper secondary due to mature themes.

Only Ever Always by Penni Russon

Claire’s world is commonplace and familiar; Clara’s, post-apocalyptic and dangerous. A music box provides the key to their worlds colliding in a shared dreamscape. Fascinating and adventurous in its writing, “Only Ever Always” is for those who love reading to be both challenging and mesmerising.

Shift by Em Bailey

Is the new girl at school a parasite or something far worse? Is she imitating other girls or cannibalizing their lives? A genre-busting, riveting gallop of a read that examines toxic friendship through a more sinister lens.

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2) by Melina Marchetta

In this mesmerising sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, loyalties are tested and dark bonds of kinship revealed as Lumatere strikes back at the heart of its enemy. Richly imagined, powerful story telling, with characters that will steal your heart.

Pig Boy by J.C. Burke

A confronting and compelling read that confounds expectations. An unlikeable outsider teams up with a Bosnian pig shooter so that he can learn to shoot. But the Wake in Fright elements mask author JC Brennan’s real and more subtle intentions. Impressive story telling.

A Straight Line To My Heart by Bill Condon

“Gungee is an ancient word meaning: this place is a hole.” Join Tiff from Gungee Creek in her funny, poignant and heartfelt tussles with life, death, first love, first job. From one of Australia’s finest writers for young people.

Eona (Eon, #2) by Alison Goodman

Stunning conclusion to the Dragoneye fantasy duology that started with Eon (also published as The Two Pearls of Wisdom). Eastern fantasy with spirit. Highly recommended.

Dangerously Placed by Nansi Kunze

Alex’s dream work experience placement becomes a nightmare when a co-worker is murdered and Alex becomes the prime suspect. A virtual reality thriller for high schoolers.

Just a Girl by Jane Caro

Atmospheric first person account of the young Elizabeth I on the eve of her coronation. A compelling fictionalisation and fascinating glimpse into the life of a great queen when she was just a girl.

Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

A fascinating story of a teenager who becomes profoundly deaf after contracting meningitis. Her attempts to reconcile her hearing and non-hearing worlds make for riveting reading.

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

Lanagan’s latest short story collection is beautifully written, mesmerisingly strange, yet oddly familiar. She tilts the world on its axis, we lose our balance and topple into the bizarre. An original and unique voice in Australian literature.

Lately I’ve been feeling like a one-armed woman in a phone booth with a swarm of bees. Too many things coming at me at once.

Talks, deadlines, workshops, Mum in hospital, hubba hubby overseas (on a Brokeback Mountain-biking week, no less  – better bring back some fish!), a crescendo of kids’ sporting commitments, an unfinished novel burning a hole in my desktop, a ker-ching of tilers, builders and electricians battering all the bent bits of my life into shape.

The only tradesman I haven’t been blessed with lately is the plumber, which must be why the fridge and bathroom tap have just started leaking….

At 8pm last night, I had a melt-down. Then I got to work. By 11pm, I’d made a big dent in my in-tray AND sent off my edits for my illustrated chapter book Dronges to Scholastic. (Very happy that Dan McGuiness, author of Pilot & Huxley, is doing the illustrations. Check out his cool website here.)

At 5.30 this morning, I hauled my grumpy bum out of bed to flip 300 pancakes for my daughter’s waterpolo breakfast at school. She rocked up, all smiles, at 8am with her gaggle of gfs. ‘Having fun, Mum? she asked.’

And you know what? I realised that I was.

The sun was shining, my co-workers were fun, and our pancakes were the bomb. I squirted maple syrup on a huge hotcake, stuffed it in my mouth and made a mental note to myself:

When there’s a lot on your plate, don’t forget to savour the good bits. 

Since I got home, I’ve been ticking off the jobs like a machine.

Next on my list is my Six-Pick for next week’s CBCA Qld Short List Night.  I’m a Clayton’s judge again this year for books for Older Readers and let me tell you, nominating a Top Two Dozen is fun, but narrowing down all those fabulous books to a Top Half Dozen is downright harrowing. Definitely not a job for sissies….  Click here if you’d like to come along and get the inside running on top kids’ books for 2012.

But right now, you will have to excuse me.

I have a talk to prepare, a workshop program to finalise for my Year of the YA Novel Course (starting 29 April at the Queensland Writers Centre), a novel to finish…And after all that, I think I’ll be ready for another pancake. 😉

You know that old cliche “Never in my wildest dreams”?

Well, I never say that.

Because as we all know, good writers avoid cliches like the plague…and in my wildest dreams, I’m usually fighting a one-woman guerrilla war against Columbian drug lords, or facing down a serial killer threatening a library full of school children or –

OK, so I  like my dreams to have exciting plot lines. But I like to keep them real too….

So never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would ever write the following words….

I just made a list with David Malouf!


No, honestly, I did. Truly. I’m not even lying.

You can click here if you don’t believe me. And here.

And here.

See, I told you!

Thanks to the good folks from Book Links (QLD) and their brilliant Big Read idea, everyone will get a chance over the next few months to vote on their favourite Queensland book for young people.

I’m still giddy with excitement. Who would have thunk Henry Hoey Hobson and Dust would both get a guernsey?

The only problem with making a list with David Malouf, Nick Earls, Michael Gerard Bauer, and all those other incredibly talented writers, is that you can bet your bottom dollar that just about everyone will be voting for one of them.

So Mum, if you’re reading this, there’s one little thing I need you to do for me….

Just click on this link here … and let your conscience be your guide.

No pressure.

lots of love from your only daughter ever

Chrissy xx

When I wrote my first novel I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

I had a head full of dreams and a driving need to capture evocative moments on paper.

I wrote scene after scene, but had no idea how to string them together into a meaningful work of fiction.

When I finally finished my first draft, it was 80,000 words long, and the kindest thing I could say was that it …. meandered.

Oh, it had its moments – enough for the dear folk in at Varuna to short-list it for a manuscript development award – but not enough to win, or to be seriously considered for publication.

After a brutal, but necessary, independent manuscript assessment (that made me cry at the time, and still makes me cringe), I did what I should have done in the first place.

I enrolled in Year of the Novel at the Queensland Writers Centre, and learned everything that I should have known, but didn’t, about writing a novel.

The following year, in 2008, I enrolled in QWC’s Year of the Edit … and halfway through the course had my entirely rewritten first novel Dust accepted for publication.

Three publishing contracts later, I remain a huge fan of QWC’s Year of the Writer courses.

And now young grasshopper, the student is to become the teacher.

This year, I’ll be the one out front teaching Year of the YA Novel at the Qld Writers Centre.

Across five Sunday workshops between April and December, I’ll be sharing everything you’ve always wanted to know about writing that YA novel.

So, if you have a burning ambition to get a novel for young people written this year, click here to learn more.

I’d love to see you there. 🙂

QWC | Year of the YA Novel | Queensland Writers Centre.

If, like me, you plan to end the year skidding in sideways with a book in each hand, then read on for this year’s hot Xmas pressie ideas for family and friends…

For the Teen Miss, it would be hard to go past Shift by Em BaileyA genre-busting, riveting gallop of a read that examines toxic friendship through a more sinister lens. For me, this is the Young Adult psychological thriller of the year, with a doozy of a cover that booksellers tell me is walking off the shelves.

For tastes that run more to funny and poignant, first job, first love, then get Bill Condon’s A Straight Line to My Heart. All Aussie humour and heart, with cracker dialogue and characters you can’t bear to say goodbye to when the last page is turned.

For the young fella in the house, you can’t go wrong with The Coming of the Whirlpool: Ship Kings 1This new series has all the hallmarks of a swash-buckling classic from Miles Franklin award-winning author Andrew McGahan.  Brimming with adventure, heroism and secrets. A must-buy for boys 12+ this Christmas.

Michael Gerard Bauer’s Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel is a corker of a read for anyone aged 12 and over. In this hilarious third and final novel in the Ishmael series, our cast of lovable larrikins finishes Year 12 at St Daniels. The colourful rejacketed full set will make a terrific addition to any kid’s library.

For the knee-highs, Katherine Battersby’s adorable picture book Squish Rabbit is a winner with a squishy cover as sweet as the gelati palette used in its collaged pages. I have a very special three year old in mind for this one…

Lovers of fantasy are spoilt for choice with wonderful offerings from award-winning authors Melina Marchetta, Karen Brooks, Alison Goodman and James Moloney.

Froi of the Exiles is the riveting sequel to Finnikin of the Rock  and once again proves that Melina Marchetta is gifted with the grace of writing characters who steal your heart. Powerful story telling coupled with a nuanced understanding of human nature creates a richly imagined tale peopled with unforgettable characters. Froi of the Exiles is compulsive reading that will leave you clamouring for the final book in the series.

In Karen Brooks’ Votive, the second in her Curse of the Bond Riders trilogy, the gentle candlemaker Tallow has been suborned by the corrupt Maleovellis and transformed into courtesan and assassin Tarlo. The machiavellian intrigues of this beautifully realised world will have you on tenderhooks for the final installment. Bring on Illumination!

Alison Goodman’s Eona is a stunning conclusion to the Dragoneye fantasy duology that started with Eon (also published as The Two Pearls of Wisdom).

And finally, James Moloney’s new fantasy Silvermay is guaranteed to please his myriad fans with Wyrdborn and common folk fighting over a child destined to destroy the world.

PS I’ve just realised this list is top-heavy with speculative fiction and kids, so next time I’ll post some recommendations for Nana and other significant adults in your lives. 😉

So tell me, what books are on your must-buy list this Christmas?

The third Friday in August is a red-letter day for every Aussie kids’ writer.

It is the day the Children’s Book Council of Australia announces its Book of the Year Awards across five categories covering toddlers to teens.

The CBCA awards are arguably the most prestigious children’s literature awards in this country. School libraries snap up its shortlisted titles. International networks promoting and celebrating literature for children and young adults bring the books to international attention.  Authors, like me, are honoured to even make the shortlist.

I’m happy to see some of my favourite books and authors honoured this year, so with no further ado, the winners are…

Book of the Year for Older Readers – The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett. Honour books are Cath Crowley’s Graffit Moon and The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher by Doug MacLeod.

Book of the Year for Younger Readers is The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody. Honour books are Michael Gerard Bauer’s Just a Dog and Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford.

For a full list of all the 2011 CBCA Book of the Year Awards, click here. And congratulations to all winners, honour books and others who made the shortlist. The world of books is richer for your presence. 🙂

pegghr 3610247709_0a6a3b4442

I take my hat off to the real judges of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

Not just because they short-listed my Henry Hoey Hobson For Book of the Year for Younger Readers (though, let’s be honest, I LOVE them for that), but because they do such a difficult job, for little pay or thanks.

As a Qld Clayton’s judge, I managed to read less than half of the 95 books entered in the Older Readers category of this year’s Children’s Book Council Awards.

(Though in my own defence, I was given less than a month to do the job – thank the high heavens I’d already read ten before they asked me!)

The real judges read more than 400 books across four categories and then had to nut out Notables and Shortlists in each.

I enjoyed picking my Clayton’s Notable Books for Older Readers (the twenty-plus books that I thought were just terrific last year), but really struggled to decide the final six.

In the end it was a teenager’s plea that swayed me: “Pick some books that we might love, instead of the ones that oldies like you love.”

He had a point; I’m not 15 anymore. So in trying to be true to both myself and the intended audience, I went with the following six books because I loved them AND I couldn’t wait to press them into the hands of teenage readers.

Cath Crowley – Graffiti Moon

A lyrical, beautifully-crafted novel told seamlessly through three voices: Ed, a functionally illiterate high-school drop-out who moonlights as the mysterious graffiti artist Shadow; Lucy Dervish, the smitten teenager who is determined to track Shadow down; and Poet, the edgy wordsmith who is Shadow’s partner-in-crime.

The action unfolds over a single night at the end of Year Twelve, bringing to life the street art of Melbourne and illuminating the lives of its teenage protagonists.  An invigorating read that proves art and poetry are definitely not too cool for school.

Anthony Eaton – Daywards.

This final instalment in Eaton’s Darklands Trilogy completes a landmark undertaking in Australian speculative fiction writing.

The landscape is evocatively Australian, a thousand years into a dystopian future, where the only hope for a dying world lies in the bloodlines of the few surviving descendants of its oldest inhabitants.

Dara, her brother Jaran, and cousin Eyna are ‘viable” members of their hunter-gatherer clan. With clan elder Ma Saria,  the children flee the invading Nightpeople, by walking Daywards, into the deadly sunlight.

In their fight for survival, the children’s spiritual connection to the land is their only defence and greatest weapon against the technologically-driven survivors of the doomed Sky Cities.

This is political writing in the best tradition of science fiction, pitting a spiritual affinity with the land against the transgressions of technology and the contamination of nature.

While Daywards can be read as a stand-alone novel, this trilogy has been ten years in the making and cries out to be introduced to a new generation of readers.

AJ Betts – Wavelength

Oliver’s world has shrunk to the point where he can’t see past the 80 percent he needs to get into Uni with his mates.

But the study break he takes away from the noise and distraction of his Mum’s crunchy muffin business turns sour 300 kilometres from home.

He lands at the Sunny Haven Old People’s home without text books, clothes, phone, or money. The only person anywhere near his age hates him, nobody is on his wavelength, and his chances of achieving the all-important 80 percent seem to have disappeared with his luggage.

But somehow, between the incorrigible elderly and the girl he can’t impress, he learns what no text book can teach: life is long, choices are infinite, and there is always time to change your mind….

A must-read for teens stressing out over OPs and HSCs.

Cassandra Golds – The Three Loves of Persimmon

The shy and solitary Persimmon Polidori is an unlikely rebel.

Cast out by her family for favouring the frivolity of flowers over a more respectable career in vegetables, she labours alone, dreaming of love, in her heart-shaped florist shop on the top level of a vast underground railway station.

Five levels below, under the railway line to Platform One, a tiny mouse called Epiphany dreams of a world free of the rattle and screech of trains arriving and departing at six minute intervals.

They embark on their separate quests,  not knowing that they are destined to meet in a life-changing encounter that will win them their hearts’ desires.

An exquisitely layered tale that will appeal to girls who appreciate the magical in life and reading.

Fiona Wood – Six Impossible Things

Fourteen-year-old nerd-boy Dan Cereill (pronounced surreal) has lost everything.

His family is bankrupt, his dad gay, his Mum is sabotaging her own wedding cake business by talking potential customers out of getting married, the new house is freezing, the new school a living hell, and then there’s the impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door.

Dan sorts the whole unspeakable mess into something quantifiable; to make his life better he needs to achieve just six impossible things.

Fortunately, Dan Cereill is an anagram for Cinderella…And yes, there is a climactic dance scene, a midnight curfew, and unexpected helpers who come out of the woodwork to save Dan’s adorable dorky hide.

This fresh and funny reversal-of-fortune story about love and loneliness in Year 10 is perfect for early-to-mid secondary schoolers with undeniable appeal for older readers as well.

Melina Marchetta – The Piper’s Son

This stunning stand-alone book picks up the lives of a group of friends from Saving Francesca. It’s five years down the track, and this time it’s Tom Mackee who needs saving.

Tom has lost his way, seeking oblivion through drink and drugs. Trying to forget the London bombing that claimed his uncle’s life, trying to survive without the friends he has pushed away and a family torn apart by grief, alcoholism and loss.

His journey back from the edge is a heart-wrenching read, leavened with a warm humour and lovingly crafted by an author who understands the flaws and strengths of family and friendship, and how they weave a safety net capable of saving us all.  Powerful and unforgettable, for mature readers.

And that’s my six. No doubt they will differ from your six in various important ways – and so they should. As Kate Grenville once wrote “Each of us brings our own experiences, memories and prejudices to a work of art and looks at it through that unique lens. We all read the same words…but we all see different things.’

[This is an abridged version of the talk I gave to celebrate the Qld CBCA Shortlist announcement at St Aiden’s College on April 12. Please click here for a full list of CBCA Notable and Short Listed Books in the 2011 Book of the Year Awards.]

The CBCA 2011 Notable Books have been released (click here for the full list), so it’s now safe for me to publish my own Clayton’s Notables for Older Readers.

AJ Betts – Wavelength A must-read for stressed out Year Twelve students

Laura Buzo – Good Oil Ahhh, first love, don’t we all remember that?

Cath Crowley – Graffiti Moon A lyrical adventure proving that Art and Poetry are not too cool for school

Cassandra Golds – The Three Loves of Persimmon An exquisite fable for those who believe in love, magic and talking cabbages

Kirsty Eagar – Saltwater Vampires Aussie vampire fiction with bite – a clever re-imagining of the story behind the wreck of the Batavia

Anthony Eaton – Daywards The highly-anticipated final instalment in a landmark Australian speculative fiction trilogy

Jackie French – A Waltz for Matilda Absorbing drama set against the backdrop of the shearer’s strike, federation, suffragette movement and war

Steven Herrick – SLICE Sixteen year old Darcy suffers from premature enunciation; his mouth runs ahead of his brain. Just delicious.

Leanne Hall – This is Shyness A weird and wonderful night on the prowl with Wolfboy and Wildgirl

Sonya Hartnett – The Midnight Zoo Talking animals and gypsy children create a moving fable about war and freedom

Nette Hilton – The Innocents Deadly secrets in 1950s Australia. A rewarding read for mature readers.

Joanne Horniman – About a Girl A beautiful, wistful story about love between two teenage girls.

Belinda Jeffrey – Big River, Little Fish All the makings of an Australian classic, set against the 1956 flooding of the Murray.

Kathryn Lomer – What Now, Tilda B? A heartening story of finding a purpose washing up on the shores of your life.

Melina Marchetta – The Piper’s Son Heart-wrenchingly real; a lovingly crafted story of grief and redemption from an outstanding Australian writer

Foz Meadows – Solace and Grief Supernatural fantasy set in Sydney’s underworld introducing a vampire saviour and other members of the Rare.

Kirsty Murray – India Dark Based on a true story of exploitation and mutiny in a troupe of child stars touring India in 1909.

Tim Pegler -Five Parts Dead Dan has dodged death five times, but his mates haven’t been so lucky. Supernatural thriller with dual time-line making for addictive reading for teens.

Nicole Pluss – Scout Fascinating historical fiction based on a young English girl’s experiences setting sail to the colonies.

Michael Pryor – Laws of Magic 5: Moment of Truth The latest enthralling episode in a phenomenal steam-punk adventure series.

James Roy – Anonymity Jones When life falls apart for this sixteen year old, should she hang on, get out or get even? Tough choices for our resourceful, headstrong heroine.

Karen Tayleur – Six Guaranteed to keep you reading. Six teenagers. Five seatbelts. One after-party. And a twist in the tale.

Fiona Wood – Six Impossible Things Fresh and funny tale of love and loneliness in Year Ten.

Richard Yaxley – Drink the Air A beautiful and moving verse novel set in Hervey Bay about love and loss in high school.

[PS: I was given less than a month to come up with a CBCA Clayton’s shortlist for 2011 (which stays strictly Secret Squirrel until tonight’s Qld CBCA function at St Aidens), so I didn’t get to read all 95 novels entered in the Older Readers category. So please feel free to add any other Notables published in 2010 that you have discovered for yourself.] 🙂

I’ve just spent the best part of a week unable to walk up or down stairs.

Quadriceps that once functioned perfectly adequately for a woman of my years, have failed me.

Despite the general consensus of family and friends, I refuse to blame it on last week’s indoor netball game.

I may be the oldest member of the team (the oldest member in the comp, some have unkindly suggested), and I may have played only the one season since 1973, but by golly, I’m still up for it.

The sweet young things we played were barely half our age, but I only fell over the once; the scrape on my elbow hardly bled at all and my left knee didn’t turn green for days.

But old and cunning still has some advantages over young and beautiful.

Unlike the SYTs on the other team, we didn’t have any makeup to sweat off, we weren’t there to hook up, and we didn’t have the rest of our lives to win a game of netball; every mature netballer knows that every game could be her last.

I was feeling pretty good afterward, despite my fall. So good in fact, that the very next day I offered to stand in for a fellow indoor netballer at her group Pilates class.

Clearly she knew something I didn’t.

The instructor had biceps like ham hocks and little understanding of the special needs of the more mature indoor netballer.

An hour later I wobbled out on trembling legs, in such a state that a friend who has survived cancer asked if I needed a hand.

I’ve been keeping a low profile since. Walking the dog slowly, hoping to regain full use of my legs.

But today, I rose without groaning, felt an unaccustomed spring in my step, ran up the stairs, just to prove that I could, and turned on the computer to hear via the lovely Jim Roy that HENRY HOEY HOBSON had made the Victorian CBCA Clayton’s Shortlist for Younger Readers.

So chuffed was I that I did a little dance (just because I could). Happy too, that Jim’s latest novel ANONYMITY JONES made the list for Older Readers, along with fellow Woolshed Press author Nette Hilton for THE INNOCENTS.

If you’d like to see the Victorian Clayton’s judges’ hot tips on which books could be contenders for the REAL Children’s Book Council Shortlist to be announced on April 12, click here.

Meantime, I can die happy.

I’ve won an indoor netball game (I did mention we won, didn’t I? 29-20. Against those spritely young things) AND I’ve shared a (Clayton’s) shortlist with the likes of  Michael Gerard Bauer and Glenda Millard.)

Oh yes, my week has definitely got better. 🙂