We’re sticking with tradition and continuing to celebrate another wonderful year in children’s books, with the help of our amazing Just Write For Kids Australia community. If this year has taught us anything, it’s a much greater resilience than we thought possible, and to really appreciate the little things in life. Withstanding the testing times over 2020, books have given us safety, comfort, understanding, validity, hope, courage… I could go on. And we are truly grateful for our community of talented creators and publishers (and everyone behind the scenes) who have persevered to gift us with these beauties throughout the year.
Now, no doubt this list deserves to be far more extensive, but for the sake of limiting the boundaries, we’ll share our Top 20 of 2020! So, without further ado, please enjoy (some of) our top kids’ books, as recommended by a few of our JWFK members, myself and my children. Wishing you a Happy New Year; the most brilliant, prosperous and boundless 2021! xx
Romi Sharp‘s Top Picks (in alphabetical order) –
Boo Loves Books by Kaye Baillie and Tracie Grimwood, published by New Frontier Publishing
Boo Loves Books touched us so deeply we could literally feel the warmth radiating from our hearts. I read this with my 7 year old, and needless to say we are HUGE dog-lovers (we have two of our own), and book-lovers (naturally), so the combination just perfectly aligned. As much as Boo does, we absolutely LOVE this book! It’s the kind of book you want to read to every dog you meet, and one you’ll easily get comfortable with, read after read.
My 7 year old is recommending this series as a fun, playful and cute set, including Puppy Playtime!, Take Off! and Party Perfect! She loved the dialogue and illustrations by talented author/illustrator, Tania McCartney (well, we both did) with their guiding sequences, hilarious quirks, enlightening little conversations and quick-thinking antics between the creative and imaginative Evie and her co-star; smart and sassy Pog, amongst other fascinating characters. Gorgeous!
Feathers by Karen Hendriks and Kim Fleming, published by Empowering Resources
Karen Hendriks’ wistful essence and lilting language is as soothing as the floating feathers and glimmering night stars in Kim Fleming’s illustrations. Feathers; an empowering and uplifting picture book that delicately carries an air of refreshing lightness around the topic of loss. Tender, warm and loving; a book of the power of memory and the power of keeping connections in the most meaningful, spiritual and personal ways. Ethereal and magical.
In My Dreams by Stef Gemmill and Tanja Stephani, published by New Frontier Publishing
Just the front cover is enough to pull you in to its entrance, with its vibrant melody of jewel coloured lustiness, enigmatic wonders, and dazzles of gold embossing that all dreamily lull you over with an irresistible charm. In My Dreams is filled with heart and soul, beauty and imagination at its grandest scale in the sweetest, heavenly fantasy world imaginable. Stef Gemmill ignites the wonder in every child, and most likely will also take adults back to this carefree, delectable world out of the realms of reality. Definitely one you must possess in your stash of treasures.
Into the Wild by Robert Vescio and Mel Armstrong, published by New Frontier Publishing
The masterful exploration into emotional connections, blended with the discovery, wonder and magic of nature – all through beautiful language that pulls us right ‘into the wild’ and breathtaking illustrations that create both a sense of calmness and excitement at the same time. Into the Wild celebrates the heart, mind and soul; a gift of treasure that all wanderers, and wonderers, should have in their collection.
Rain Shaker by Elizabeth Mary Cummings and Cheri Hughes, published by Big Sky Publishing
Elizabeth Mary Cummings’ uplifting and vibrant language synergise perfectly with Cheri Hughes’ dance and movement, bright-eyed and sparkling illustrations. Both text and pictures emanate with warmth and emotion; a celebratory downpour of life! Rain Shaker is an enlightening and empowering story with a strong environmental message about the effects of climate change and global warming, showered with vitality and playfulness that encourages advocacy and care for our planet.
Ribbit Rabbit Robot by Victoria Mackinlay and Sofya Karmazina, published by Scholastic Australia
This is one of the most engaging literary experiences we’ve discovered this year, and with so few words, it’s like magic that author Victoria Mackinlay and illustrator Sofya Karmazina have pulled off such a fun, pared-back story with so many layers. Ribbit Rabbit Robot is like every kid’s wish come true!
The Battle by Ashling Kwok and Cara King, published by EK Books
Inspired by her own son’s experiences, Ashling Kwok’s The Battle is an emotive and highly relatable story of the internal tug of war of young Edward, wanting to make friends in the school yard, but with great trepidation. She keeps the tone light and playful to support the perception of a friendly scene, as opposed to one of anxiety. The falling away of the ‘suit of armour’ is a clever metaphor and really exemplifies the winning feeling of overcoming challenges, which readers can so easily take away with them, too. Must-have for homes and schools.
The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon, published by UQP
This middle grade read is absolutely beautifully heart-breaking with the most soulful language and messages of infinite connection and bravery. Kate Gordon has divinely captured the very essence of life and death and all the beauty in between with her story of a powerful friendship and bravery, and finding the golden glow that exists within us all. Spirit runs through this gorgeous piece of literature like a liquid gold that sings straight to your heart. Must-must-read. Honestly.
Tree Beings by Raymond Huber and Sandra Severgnini, with foreword by Dr Jane Goodall, published by EK Books
Stunning. Tree Beings is an absolutely extraordinary treasure brimming with life, emotion, and with a light that inspires advocacy and protection for the future of our natural world. This cumulative collection of tree facts, tree stories, tree discoveries and mysteries are truly fascinating, and backed by the world-renowned anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall, this is a complex and wonderful system into the science and importance of trees. With gorgeous, vibrant text and illustrations, and with the luxe canvas-feel cover alone that you could spend much time poring over, Tree Beings would make a beautiful gift for children and adults alike.
Vlad’s Bad Breath by Rory H. Mather and Jesus Lopez, published by Larrikin House
A deliciously sweet rhyming romp with characters as charming as they get. Vlad’s Bad Breath is the ideal tale for persuading those hygiene-evaders to rethink their washing and brushing habits! My 7 year old loved the illustrations for their ability to almost literally elicit the sensory elements through the pages! Humour, heart and funny bodily functions are always a hit with young readers!
The quintessential book to represent the year that was 2020. The whole world, in unison, can relate to this ‘unprecedented’ piece of history, and We’re All in This Together beautifully brings together this sense of unity, community, friendship and togetherness, despite being apart during the Covid lockdown. Acting as a relatable, reflective keepsake treasure, this picture book brings hope and brightness to this challenging year.
Just Write For Kids Australia Members’ Recommendations (in alphabetical order) –
A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner
“My pick for kid’s book, as it’s hilarious, zany and heart-warming all in one.”
- Debra Tidball, author of When I See Grandma and The Scared Book
Aster’s Good, Right Things by Kate Gordon
“Amazing. I finished it in a night, it hooked me straight away and I felt like I was reading a journal written by me when I was younger. It is a great account of anxiety and depression in young people and the need for good friends.”
- Tabitha Page, author of Mikah’s Wandering Feet
“An amazing look at depression and anxiety in kids, through the eyes of a kid.”
- Melissa Gijsbers, author of Lizzy’s Dragon and Swallow Me, Now!
Beyond Belief by Dee White
“A well researched piece of history, crafted into page-turning suspense, with a good dollop of hope for humanity to do the right thing when the world is in chaos. Very touching story – a definite can’t put downer.”
- Nicky Albrecht, writer and editor of Bookbuzz Family
Deep Water by Sarah Epstein
“It was a gripping mystery with great, complex characters (and not nearly as creepy as her Small Spaces).”
- Debra Tidball, author of When I See Grandma and The Scared Book
Oma & Opa’s Song by Jenny Gillan
“It was originally written as a song that went viral as it explained to Jenny Gillan’s 3 year old, and other kids, that, although they couldn’t hug their grandparents, they’re still loved. That message is carried through into the book. While it was written for Covid, this is a powerful lesson for kids – even though they can’t see their grandparents every day, or they may be far away from each other, they are still special & loved.”
- Melissa Gijsbers, author of Lizzy’s Dragon and 3, 2, 1, Done!
The Colouring Competition by Heath McKenzie
“The illustrations are so clever and the concept is so original. Love it to bits.”
- Suzanne Houghton, illustrator of Starring Walter Pigeon, There’s a Shark in the Loo and Who is at the Zoo?
The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford
“So much fun, and lots of cake. Even hubby read it and laughed and he doesn’t read books!”
- Sandra Bennett, author of The Adamson Adventures, including #3 Fossil Frenzy
We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad
“(I recommend) We Are Wolves for the depth of the characters and the intriguing storyline. The plot keeps you hooked.”
- Karen Hendriks, author of Go Away, Foxy Foxy and Feathers
Hope you enjoyed our list! Feel free to comment with your own Aussie kids’ top picks for 2020! And once again, a safe and healthy New Year to all! xx
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