CBI Book of the Year 2019 Shortlist Announced

Ten titles will compete for the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards 2019, the most prestigious awards for children’s books in Ireland.

The shortlist for the 29th Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) Book of the Year Awards was revealed today, Monday 11th March 2019 at the Strand Arts Centre, Belfast as part of Belfast Children’s Festival. Each of the ten titles will compete for the high-calibre awards, which includes the innovative Children’s Choice Award, voted for by young readers across the island of Ireland. The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on 22nd May at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre as part of International Literature Festival Dublin. The awards and Children’s Choice Award shadowing scheme are kindly supported by the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The shortlisted titles are:

Mucking About by John Chambers

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan

Beag Bídeach scríofa ag Sadhbh Devlin, maisithe ag Róisín Hahessy

The Great Irish Weather Book written by Joanna Donnelly, illustrated by Fuchsia MacAree

Between Tick and Tock written by Louise Greig, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

Tin by Pádraig Kenny

Tuesdays are Just as Bad by Cethan Leahy

The Pooka Party by Shona Shirley Macdonald

Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals written by Rob Maguire, illustrated by Aga Grandowicz

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain

Áine Ní Ghlinn, chair of the judging panel that read over eighty titles, said: ‘A shortlisted book must achieve the highest level of literary excellence. An excellent children’s book is extremely well-conceived, -structured and -written or -illustrated (or both). An excellent book must show respect for the reader. It must appeal to an audience of children or young people without patronising or exploiting that audience. It must entertain and engage the sustained interest of the reader, offer the reader a stimulating and satisfying aesthetic, imaginative, intellectual or emotional experience, an experience that develops or challenges the reader’s inner life, sense of self or understanding of and engagement with the world. To achieve one or two of these can make a wonderful book. To achieve all of them? Well, that’s how to get to the shortlist!’

CBI, which administers the awards, will again be working closely with reading groups from schools, libraries and bookshops across the island of Ireland as well as with CBI Shadowing Champion, broadcaster Rick O’Shea, who announced the shortlist and will present the awards ceremony in May. In his role as CBI Shadowing Champion, he will help Children’s Books Ireland to recruit its largest ever shadowing community of children and young people who will read and judge the shortlisted titles. The shadowers’ scores decide the winner of the Children’s Choice Award, giving children a real way to participate in the awards and make their voices heard. Tyrone Productions will be helping CBI film groups of young shadowers around the country, with their opinions screened at the awards ceremony. Reading groups nationwide are invited to sign up for the shadowing scheme via www.childrensbooksireland.ie/shadowing. Tomorrow (12th March) is the last day to sign for a free printed shadowing pack – contact CBI now to join the scheme. Five other awards will also be made in May – The CBI Book of the Year Award, Honour Awards for Fiction and Illustration, the Eilís Dillon award for a first children’s book and the Judges’ Special Award.

Elaina Ryan, Director at CBI, said ‘With our largest number of debuts ever, this year’s shortlist is remarkable, and it gives us great pride in the artists who are being deservedly honoured, as well as building our anticipation for the future of Irish writing and illustration. The majority of shortlisted titles are Irish-published, a tribute to an industry which is producing work of an exemplary standard. Our mission to make books central to every child’s life is made easier when we have such an extraordinary pool of talent to draw on here in Ireland.’

This year there are five first books on the list – début artists Joanna Donnelly and Fuchsia MacAree (The Great Irish Weather Book), Pádraig Kenny (Tin) Cethan Leahy (Tuesdays are Just as Bad), Rob Maguire and Aga Grandowicz (Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals) and Kelly McCaughrain (Flying Tips for Flightless Birds) have all been shortlisted. Irish publishing house Little Island Books, who last year had a total of four titles shortlisted show a strong return with two books shortlisted, the only publisher which appears more than once. It’s a strong year too for Irish-published books, with six of the titles shortlisted coming from independent Irish publishers Little Island Books, The O’Brien Press, Gill Books, Mercier Press and Futa Fata.

Founded in 1990, The CBI Book of the Year Awards are the leading children’s book awards in Ireland. They are a celebration of excellence in children’s literature and illustration and are open to books for all ages written in English or Irish by authors and illustrators born or resident in Ireland and published between 1st January and 31st December each year. Previous winners include Deirdre Sullivan and Karen Vaughan for Tangleweed and Brine, Sarah Crossan for One, Oliver Jeffers for Once upon an Alphabet, John Boyne for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Sheena Wilkinson for Grounded and Kate Thompson for The New Policeman, Annan Water and The Alchemist’s Apprentice. 

For further information on the awards or shadowing scheme, please contact Daiden O’Regan at Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) Tel: 083 8978177/ 01 8727475 Email: daiden@childrensbooksireland.ieA judges’ comment on each shortlisted title follows:

John Chambers
Little Island Books, ISBN 9781912417056

A mischievous and quirky story about young Manchán, his pet pig, Muck, and his best pal, Pagan-of-the-Six-Toes. Living in an Ireland of sometime long ago, Manchán loves to muck about with pig and pal but his mother has other ideas – like ‘monking’ (not a career Manchán would choose for himself). Through a series of fun-filled adventures and unique characters, John Chambers gives us a refreshingly light-hearted and often laugh- out-loud insight into some aspects of Irish history.

Brian Conaghan
Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 9781408871539

Plenty of philosophical questions are raised here, as seventeen-year-old Bobby faces issues of life and death. With Bobby as a convincing, authentic and ever-so-human narrator, we are with him all the way as he cares for his mother and younger brother and deals with questions and decisions no young adult should have to face. This is a brave, masterful and powerful look at the lengths to which we’ll go for someone we truly love.

Sadhbh Devlin and Róisín Hahessy

Futa Fata, ISBN 9781910945407

Nár dheas a bheith beag bídeach agus éaló isteach sa teach bábóige seachas a bheith cráite ag daoine eile? But be careful what you wish for! Nína’s escape into the miniature world is told with a simple, beautiful richness of language and illustrated with a soft – yet vibrant – colour palette. Coincheap cliste a mheallfaidh léitheoirí óga. An-oiriúnach freisin le léamh os ard do leanaí beaga. Scéilín aoibhinn, saibhreas iontach san insint  agus úsáid álainn bainte as athrá agus as dathanna.

Joanna Donnelly and Fuchsia MacAree


Gill Books, ISBN 9780717180936

From satellites to storms, from clouds to climate change and from Hurricane Ophelia to the Beast from the East, meteorologist Joanna Donnelly explains while Fuchsia MacAree illustrates every aspect of our great – and not so great – Irish weather. Packed with facts and fun, this is a book overflowing with in-depth knowledge – yet it wears its learning lightly. Easy to read alone or fun to read aloud with friends, it’s ideal for any age.

Aga Grandowicz and Rob Maguire

Little Island Books, ISBN 9781910411940

The mysterious Dr Hibernica Finch wanted to be a dolphin when she grew up! Having become a zoologist instead, she now offers us a well-designed, beautifully produced blend of insight and information on the animals of Ireland. Presented in a playful tone, the text is both accurate and humorous, and the superb, zoologically perfect illustrations are truly compelling.

Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay

Egmont Publishing, ISBN 9781405286596

In this engaging picturebook Liesel sees the loneliness of the frowning city. She climbs up to pause the city clock and ‘for one tiny moment between tick and tock’ she freezes time. While ‘the city shudders to a stop’, Liesel weaves her way through the grey streets replacing grey with green and pink and purple. The illustrations are gentle and consistent while the story of Liesel and her kindness will appeal to young and old.

Pádraig Kenny
Chicken House, ISBN 9781911077657

What makes us human? What is it to be proper? To have a soul? To be a sentient robot? What does it mean to belong? These are just some of the philosophical questions raised in this gripping story of Christopher and his robotic companions. The characters – even those we know to be mechanical toys – ooze personality and engage us emotionally. Their unique  story will allow a young reader to wonder about the nature of being, of family and friendship, of belonging.

Cethan Leahy

Mercier Press, ISBN 9781781175644

A challenging exploration of the difficult issues surrounding suicidal ideation, bullying and coming of age. The relationship between Adam and the ghostly inner voice that becomes his constant companion following a failed suicide attempt is handled with great tenderness and understanding. This is a thought- provoking and moving novel about teenage depression, male friendship and young love, all bound together with sensitivity and an occasional touch of black humour.

Shona Shirley Macdonald
The O’Brien Press, ISBN 9781788490009

With spirals, twirls and double spreads, there is an inventiveness, a boldness and a vibrant visual blend of text and illustration in this engaging story of the pooka. The non-gender pooka is a shapeshifter, suddenly faced with its aloneness and loneliness. The illustration style is as wild and unruly as the pooka itself. The story is touchingly told with minimal text, leaving us with a satisfying sense of show rather than tell.

Kelly McCaughrain

Walker Books, ISBN 9781406375657

From the high wire of the Big Top to the high wire of teenage sexuality, this warm and funny story of adolescence is a delight to read. It explores family, friendship and first love with an authenticity that is both engaging and emotionally satisfying. Through the eyes of the two main characters – one through very clever use of a blog – we learn the pros and cons of being different and of managing life in the margins.