Judging the Australian Picture Book of the Year

Castlemaine Secondary College (CSC) Literature Enrichment Program

Year 7 students choose their favourite Picture Books of the Year

Andrea McDonald is the senior librarian at CSC and an inspiring teacher. She has run the Year 7 Literature Enrichment Program for the past two years. Students are recommended for the program by their English teachers, based on their academic ability, and a passion for reading. The aim of the program is to encourage students to read quality literature that will gain them skills in literary analysis; to give them the confidence to share their thoughts and ideas with others; and to meet likeminded students. The children explore the world of literature through reading from a selection of novels, plays, short stories and poetry written by some of the great children’s authors.

Andrea asked the students to read books shortlisted for the 2016 The Picture Book of the Year category in the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Australian Book of the Year Awards. This award was established in 1946 to celebrate books of outstanding literary merit. The CBCA appoints a panel of judges to decide the The Picture Book of the Year. Sixteen year 7 students took on the task to judge the winner from a student perspective and took part in their own version of the Judges’ Conference.

The children attended a workshop on “Judging picture books” to help them think about the use of language, target audience and the relationship between text and illustration. Students learnt about blogging, and how to articulate their opinions on the CSC library blog and in front of peers at the Judges Conference. They explored different perspectives, particularly that of the CBCA adult judging panel against their own judgement as a child.

The program concluded with a Judges’ Conference, where students discussed and ultimately agreed upon a winner.

The Picture Book of the Year Shortlist:

  • Ride, Ricardo, Ride! (Honours) – Shane Devries: illustration, Phil Cummings: text,
  • My Dead Bunny – James Foley: illustration, Sigi Cohen: text,
  • Flight (Winner) – Armin Greder: illustration, Nadia Wheatley: text,
  • One Step at a Time (Honours) – Sally Heinrich: illustrator, Jane Jolly: text,
  • Suri’s Wall – Matt Ottley: illustration, Lucy Estela: text,
  • And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda – Bruce Whatley: illustration, Eric Bogle: text.

The Year 7 students’ winner is My Dead Bunny and honour books are Suri’s Wall and Ride, Ricardo Ride.

Here’s what some of the students had to say:

 Ride, Ricardo, Ride

ride-ricardo-ride-v74g2bRide, Ricardo, Ride is my favourite book and I think it should win. It had lovely, clear pictures which help tell the story, used lots of clever similes to describe the setting and what the character felt. The author also left some mystery in what the “shadows” were although then left clues so you could work it out. It was sad when the father died and when the fighting was all around them, but had a happy ending. I would recommend this book to 10-14 year olds because they would understand it better. (Alister).

Suris Wall


Suri’s Wall is a beautiful book about making others happy even if it means lying to people to do so. Suri is left out because she is so tall. The tallest child in the orphanage and the only one who can see over the top of the wide wall surrounding the village. But what she sees is a war zone. Full of smoke and burning. But she doesn’t want to tell the other children about that. She wants to give them hope. She tells them about magical lands of forests, beautiful ships and amazing animals.

The images really go with the story and they depict what Suri is telling the children. It shows the beautiful way Suri tells the stories.

Suri’s wall is a lovely book and I recommend it to everyone. (Mari)


My Dead Bunny

I think My Dead Bunny should win because it is a funny, creative and weird. And there is a cute worm that follows the bunny around on his head! My Dead Bunny should win!

It tells a story about a boy’s pet bunny called Brad who accidently bit the TV cord and got electrocuted, then Brad goes around haunting the family until they find a solution at the end.

It should win because I liked the easy cartoon pictures and the simple colour pallet of green, pink, orange, black and white. The book only contains about 16 pages so it is a quick book to read and the plot is very simple so I think even 7 year olds can read and understand it. (Elwyn)

About Andrea McDonald:

Andrea McDonaldI am both a Teacher and Librarian with a passion for encouraging students to read. I also want to give them opportunities to challenge themselves in their reading by looking beyond the surface and asking questions. As well as running the Enrichment program, I also co-ordinate a number of Book clubs (we had three different groups in 2016), author visits and literary events.

I live locally with my husband who is an apiarist, have three adult children who all love to read, and enjoy studying history, reading crime novels and travelling.

Kluwell loves to highlight inspiring teachers who encourage passion in children for reading!

You can check out the great Castlemaine Secondary College library website here.