Colfer and Landy on children’s book of the year shortlist

Three-year-old Nahla Burke and Children’s Books Ireland Book Doctor Kim Harte celebrate the eight books shortlisted for the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Award. Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Three-year-old Nahla Burke and Children’s Books Ireland Book Doctor Kim Harte celebrate the eight books shortlisted for the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Award. Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland


Eoin Colfer, Derek Landy, PJ Lynch and Oliver Jeffers are among the big names shortlisted today for the 24th CBI Book of the Year Awards. The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on May 13th.

The shortlisted titles are:

The Sleeping Baobab Tree by Paula Leyden

Warp The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

Heart Shaped by Siobhán Parkinson

Hagwitch by Marie- Louise Fitzpatrick

Too Many Ponies by Sheena Wilkinson

Skulduggery Pleasant Last Stand of Dead Men by Derek Landy

Mysterious Traveller illustrated by PJ Lynch

The Day the Crayons Quit illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Founded in 1990, The CBI Book of the Year Awards are the leading children’s book awards in Ireland, a celebration of excellence in children’s literature and illustration and are open to picture books and novels written in English or Irish by authors and illustrators born or resident in Ireland. Previous winners include John Boyne for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas ; Chris Haughton for A Bit Lost , Marie Louise Fitzpatrick for There and Kate Thompson for her books The New Policeman, Annan Water and The Alchemist’s Apprentice .

Pádraic Whyte, chairman of the judging panel that read almost 70 titles, said: “The books on this year’s shortlist offer children and young people from a broad age group rich and satisfying reading experiences. Many of the books engage with difficult contemporary or global issues while others are stories of whimsy and fun. This is a wonderfully diverse shortlist that highlights the literary and artistic excellence of current Irish children’s literature.”

Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) who administers the awards, will again be working closely with reading groups from schools and libraries across Ireland. These young readers will choose the winner of the Children’s Choice Award. Four other awards will be made in May also: The Book of the Year Award, Honour Awards for Fiction and Illustration as well as a Judge’s Special Award.

Elaina Ryan, Director at CBI said “Empowering children and young people to discover books they enjoy reading is a great pleasure. This year we have eight books which we know will resonate with readers both young and old. Irish authors and illustrators rank among the best in the world so we are very proud to announce our shortlist today.”

The shortlist in summary:

The Day the Crayons Quit (Harper Collins), illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking, each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Judges’ Comments

Jeffers incorporates vibrant child-like illustrations into a narrative that explores the possibilities of colour in life. The complexity of the plight of the crayons is subtly revealed through humorous pictures that encourage the reader to rethink the ways in which colour can be used.

Mysterious Traveller (Walker Books), illustrated by PJ Lynch

Issa is the greatest of all the desert guides and knows the desert better than any one else. One particular day, the desert reveals something that will change Issa’s life forever. In the aftermath of a dangerous storm he stumbles upon a camel that is protecting some precious cargo, a basket containing a baby girl. Issa decides to raise her as his own granddaughter and as a child of the desert. Over the years, Issa loses his sight and so Mariama must become his eyes. When a mysterious traveller arrives at their house Issa does not see the clues that would reveal his true identity and both he and Mariama embark on a perilous journey, eventually leading to a surprising revelation.

Judges’ Comments:

With an emphasis on browns, tans and blues, Lynch’s superb and stunning textured paintings transport readers/viewers into the desert landscape of the tale and guide us through the emotional journey of Issa and Mariama.

Hagwitch (Orion) by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

In 16th-century London, Flea Nettleworth, apprentice to a playwright, watches as his struggling master’s fortunes turn, and all of a sudden London is in his thrall. But soon Flea’s master can no longer tell where the imagined world ends and the real one begins. Could the arrival of a mysterious Faery Hawthorn trunk hold the answer? Modern-day Lally lives on a barge, roaming the canalways and performing shows with her puppeteer father. Then, after Lally’s father pulls an ancient piece of wood from the canal and fashions it into a puppet, his success seems unstoppable. As her father’s obsession with his puppet grows and his plays become darker, Lally begins to wonder if there is something rather sinister, dangerous even, about the wooden doll.

Judges’ Comments

Fitzpatrick brings the reader on a journey down a canal, through a world of theatre and puppetry, and into a realm of magic and mystery. This expertly-crafted novel, with its meticulous attention to detail, seamlessly interweaves the two narratives of present-day Lally and sixteenth-century Flea.

Too Many Ponies (Little Island) by Sheena Wilkinson

Rosevale is a sanctuary for abandoned and abused horses, but Aidan’s family can’t afford to run it any longer. If Rosevale closes down, though, what is going to happen to all the horses that are looked after there? Then Lucy comes up with a super idea: there’s a cross-country competition offering an unbelievable prize of £5,000. Can they possibly muster a team that is good enough to beat the posh stables and win the competition? Not without Aidan’s help - but Aidan has lost his nerve and is terrified of riding. The future of Rosevale is at stake. Aidan is going to have to help. He can’t - but he just has to.

Judges’ Comments

Wilkinson’s brilliant story of underdogs, friendships, and ponies is both insightful and intelligently written. With great skill and integrity the author brings a fresh perspective to the pony tale.

Skulduggery Pleasant Last Stand of Dead Men (Harper Collins) by Derek Landy

In this, the eighth instalment in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, war has finally come. But it’s not a war between good and evil, or light and dark - it’s a war between Sanctuaries. For too long, the Irish Sanctuary has teetered on the brink of world-ending disaster, and the other Sanctuaries around the world have had enough. Allies turn to enemies, friends turn to foes, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie must team up with the rest of the Dead Men if they’re going to have any chance at all of maintaining the balance of power and getting to the root of a vast conspiracy that has been years in the making.

Judges’ Comments

Landy’s ability to write a story of this scale and complexity with such dexterity and control is incredible. This is a rollicking good read about war, betrayal, power, and temptation.

Heart Shaped (Hodder) by Siobhán Parkinson

Heart Shaped is the companion to Siobhan Parkinson’s novel Bruised, which tells the story of a brother and sister’s escape from their alcoholic, abusive mother. The narrator of Heart Shaped finds herself in the middle of Jono and Julie’s story and while trying to discover what has happened to the missing Jono, she is also struggling to cope with her own grief.

Judges’ Comments

Parkinson’s convincing and beautifully-written narrative centres on fourteen-year-old Annie’s search for answers to her past. Through an authentic and credible teenage voice, difficult subjects are handled with great care and sensitivity.

The Sleeping Baobab Tree (Walker) by Paula Leyden

One morning twelve-year-old Fred wakes up with an unaccountable sense of foreboding, which his friend Bul-Boo, one of the twins from next door, insists is just in his imagination. However, the feeling persists - and grows stronger when Fred’s terrifying great-granny, Nokokulu, asks him to accompany her on a trip to an ancient burial site known as the Place of Death. Then Bul-Boo overhears her parents talking about patients going missing from her mother’s AIDS clinic, and when one of the patients turns out to be Fred’s Aunt Kiki, the children suddenly view Nokokulu’s trip in a different light. Could the two events somehow be linked? As the three friends and the old woman journey into the heart of Zambia, each of them hopes to right wrongs, both past and present … but dark clouds are gathering and ancient magic is in the air.

Judges’ Comments

Combining robust character development with vivid descriptions of the Zambian landscape, Leyden skilfully creates an evocative and atmospheric narrative that explores themes of friendship, family and human rights.

Warp The Reluctant Assassin (Puffin) by Eoin Colfer

The reluctant assassin is Riley, a Victorian boy who is suddenly plucked from his own time and whisked into the twenty-first century, accused of murder and on the run. Riley has been pulled into the FBI’s covert W.A.R.P. operation (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). He and young FBI Agent Chevie Savano are forced to flee terrifying assassin-for-hire Albert Garrick, who pursues Riley through time and will not stop until he has hunted him down. Barely staying one step ahead, Riley and Chevie must stay alive and stop Garrick returning to his own time with knowledge and power that could change the world forever.

Judges’ Comments

Moving between Victorian London and the present day, Colfer constructs a fantastic fast-paced time-travel adventure with an intricate plot and wonderful characters.