Last year I decided that for me to pick only a handful of favourite children’s books would be a little self-indulgent, and to be honest, way too difficult with the insurmountable amount of quality books released in Australia each year. So, I drew upon the brains trust of the Just Write For Kids author and illustrator community to create a compilation as a means of a group collaboration. Following this new tradition, we have joined forces again this year! It is with huge delight, and appreciation, that I present the JWFK Members’ Top Picks of children’s books published in 2019…

(In alphabetical order)


A Lighthouse in Time, the Adamson Adventures 2 by Sandra Bennett (Elephant Tree Publishing).

An old ruined lighthouse, a shipwreck, and troublesome ghosts take the young readers on an intriguing mystery around the NSW South Coast in a story full of suspense and surprises. . As a parent recently said to me, we need more books like this.

Selected by Sandra Bennett.




Can’t Beat the Chemistry by Kat Colmer (Rhiza Edge).

With fresh characters and settings, this cross between The Rosie Project and Pride and Prejudice, is a fun, easy, delightful read that I didn’t want to put down. A wholesome YA that showed how the chemistry between the characters made them better people.

Selected by Debra Tidball.




Grace’s Secret by Louise Park (Berbay).

I’ve read lots of great books this year but I have just finished my new favourite book. This book has everything. Fabulous settings and costumes beautifully described, time slip to one of my favourite eras, mysteries to solve, family and friendship stories and some of our favourite children’s authors appear too. I loved this book and can’t wait for book two.

Selected by Kerry Malone.




Horatio Squeak by Karen Foxlee and Evie Barrow (Walker Books).

Many 2019 children’s titles have touched me in some way, but I’ll have to choose this one for resonating with me the most.

I love the message hopping out of this tale by internationally-acclaimed author, Karen Foxlee – that meek and mild, quiet and polite DOES NOT at all mean weak. Horatio Squeak is a beautifully uplifting, heart-warming and empowering story, particularly for those like myself and my children with gentle natures. Horatio has BIG courage for a tiny, shy mouse, and his defence for the defenceless is totally admirable. The smooth rhythmic verse brilliantly combines with the soft gouache and pencil illustrations from Evie Barrow; capturing that charming essence of finesse, playfulness and kindness. A big cheer for Horatio!

Selected by Romi Sharp.


Macca’s Makeover by Matt Cosgrove (Scholastic)

The illustrations are colourful and appealing to children; the rhyme and rhythm ensures the text is easy and engaging to read; the incorporation of some more sophisticated word choices enhances the vocabulary of young readers; and above all, it contains a great message for children about being themselves.

Selected by Hayley Apelt.




Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai (Walker Books)

Pie in the Sky is a heartwarming and humorous middle grade tale of loss, friendship, life in a new country and… cake!

Selected by Annaleise Byrd.




Rosie & Rasmus by Serena Geddes (Simon & Schuster)

It is a beautiful story about friendship and encouraging each other.

Selected by Allison Winchester.




Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat Amoore (Penguin)

Is this book just for 8-12 year olds? Definitely not.

‘Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire’ moved me in many unexpected ways for a novel pitched at 8 -12 year olds. Tess, a small time entrepreneur enters the BIG time after ‘finding’ $1m. Her whole world shifts in many ways with one bumper adventure after another yet the sprinkles of ‘tips’ & ‘life lessons’ resonated with me so deeply I’ve taken a good hard look at how I spend my time & whether my day job is worth the stress & anguish! Thank you Tess & author Nat Amoore for such a fun adventurous book with life lessons learnt without a hint of preaching . And everyone should read Tip 29 – Your People Are Everything. Indeed they are.

Selected by Stef Gemmill.


Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire 

Funny, clever kid-friendly book, full of heart and business wisdom for the young entrepreneur.

Selected by Karen Tyrrell.



The Brilliant Ideas of Lily Green, by Lisa Siberry (HGE publishers).

This fun, fresh middle grade novel adds a splash of magical realism to a story about a girl trying to find her place in the world. It examines family and friend relationships, has a STEM component, and centres around themes like individuality, belief in yourself, connection, resilience, compassion, and sustainability (amongst others). I think it’s a wonderful mix of everything you could want in a middle grade novel, and provides equal parts pathos and humour. I loved the relatable voice of the main character, too.

Selected by Kellie Byrnes.



The Return of Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic)

Until most recently my kids were loyal supporters of my own book “Friends don’t like roaring” and made me read it to them at least twice a week. However, I have been replaced by “The Return of Thelma the Unicorn”. Fair enough though – as my daughter loves unicorns 🙂

Selected by Antje Taylor.




The Secret Science Society’s Spectacular Experiment by Kathy Hoopmann & Josie Montano (Wombat Books)

Fast-paced, zany junior fiction about four nerdy, accident prone kids who join a science club.

Selected by Karen Tyrrell.





The Thing About Oliver, by Deborah Kelly (Wombat Books)

A gentle, quiet book that packs a powerful emotional punch – I shed more than one tear reading this and I believe it’s an important contribution to writing about children and neurodiversity.

Selected by Kate Gordon.




Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth by Lisa Nicol (Penguin)

It’s a fantastical delight, with whimsy, charm, and plenty of heart. It has a strong narratorial voice, language that is rich, quirky and fun, and a plot that hooks the heartstrings. Wise and witty. Playful and heartbreaking. I am in awe of this book.

Selected by Debra Tidball.



What a truly fabulous list! Thanks to all who contributed their favourite books of 2019. If you’d like, feel free to comment with your own!

Yet another fabulous year in Australian books! May 2020 bring just as much happiness, wonder, inspiration, creativity, emotion, imagination and amazement to our bookshelves and bedside tables! Wishing you all a beautiful festive season and holiday break to spend amongst loved ones and piles of books. Thanks for your support in 2019 xxx

2 thoughts to “The JWFK Members’ Top Picks of 2019!

  • Karen Tyrrell

    What a bonza year for children’s books in 2019! So many page turning original stories.
    Thrilled to discover two of my selections were included.
    Karen ✍️

    • Just Write For Kids

      Absolutely! It’s been a spectacular year in books. Thank you for your contributions to the blog and your wonderful tour this year! xx


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