Find out more about the ten fiction books for younger readers on this year's KOALA Shortlist by clicking on some of the highlighted links for each of the nominated books.

What do you think of the books on the list? Tell us in the comments below. Better still, if you are a young reader - up to Year 9 - then send us your review to and we will put it on the blog. 


Alice Miranda in Paris by Jacqueline Harvey

This is the seventh book in the Alice Miranda series. Alice and her friends are in Paris to sing at Fashion Week and discover a darker side to the glitz and glamour of this famous city. Aussie Reviews | Read an Excerpt

Andy Roid and the Tracks of Death by Felice Arena

This adventure takes Andy and Judd to Switzerland to find the headquarters of the Blaireau Corporation. Andy's enhanced powers will certainly be needed if this mission is to succeed. Read an Excerpt | About Andy Roid

Billie B. Brown: The Best Project by Sally Rippen

Billie B. Brown's class has a casual teacher for the week. This teacher has decided that the students will build a model city.  Billie has decided on what she wants to make but will she be able to succeed? Read an Excerpt | Meet Billie B. Brown

EJ12: Kimono Code by Susannah McFarlane

Kimono Code was included in the Get Reading! top 50 Books You Can't Put Down list for 2012. Special Agent EJ12 needs to stayed focused if she is to stop the evil agency Shadow sabotaging the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival.  Book Outline | Book Description | Author Biography

Extra Time by Morris Gleitzman

Matt, a 13 year old Aussie soccer genius, is offered the opportunity of a lifetime - a tryout with a junior side for a Premier League soccer club. Bridie, his 10 year old sister and manager, goes half way across the world with Matt but she has a very difficult challenge ahead of her - reminding everyone that soccer is meant to be fun! Read and Listen | Kids' Book Review

Extreme Adventures: Monkey Mountain by Justin D'Ath

During a class excursion to see a real-life volcano in Borneo, Sam Fox is thrown into the thick of the action. The volcano erupts with a bang, his teacher has a heart attack and he must fight off blood-thirsty creatures to save the day. Will Sam's trademark ingenuity be enough? Book Review | Read an Excerpt

Go Girl: Style Stars by Chrissie Perry, Sonia Dixon & Danielle McDonald

Casey loves clothes and fashion. Will she be able to create a knockout outfit for the fashion show from items bought from the op-shop? Author Interview 

Meet Grace by Sofie Laguna & Lucia Masciullo

It's the year 1808 in London. Life is very tough for a young orphan named Grace who is responsible for her own survival. When she is caught by the police for thieving apples, will this be the end of her life or a new beginning for Grace? Read an Excerpt | Kids' Book Review

The Third Door by Emily Rodda

Rye and Sonia have survived the perils of The Golden Door and The Silver Door. Drawn to the last remaining door, the Wooden Door, from the very beginning of his quest to save Weld, will Wye have the courage to go through it and face the challenges that await him? Teaching Notes | Kirkus Reviews

The Wishbird by Gabrielle Wang

In this moving tale of courage, friendship and magic we met Oriole, a young orphan girl raised by Mellow, a Wishbird, in the Forest of Birds and Boy, a street urchin. Mellow is dying and Oriole must travel to the City of Soulless to try and save him. This is where her story and destiny becomes entwined with Boy's.  Listen to a Reading | Author Interview | Teaching Notes



Shortlist 2014 - Focus on Picture Books

Below are some links to help you find out more about the ten picture books on this year's KOALA Shortlist. What do you think of the books on the list? Tell us in the comments below. Better still, if you are a young reader - up to Year 9 - then send us your review to and we will put it on the blog.


A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

The discovery of an old derelict bus named 'Heaven' outside Stella's house, brings a community together for a common good. But then, one day the bus is towed away. Will Stella manage to save the day?  Teaching NotesKids' Book Review

Alphabet Town by Bryan Evans & Kimberly Moon

This is a delightful story of curiosity and imagination set in a place called Knowledge. In one little town live Numbers and in another little town live Letters. When a disheartened Zero and an unemployed Spot the Dot meet, they discover that everyone does indeed have a purpose.  Book Trailer |  ReadPlus Review

Annie to the Rescue by Deborah Niland 

Daring Annie is back in this story of adventure and courage. When Callisto the cat, gets stuck in a tree it is Annie to the rescue. But will Annie be brave enough to save herself? Teaching Notes | Illustrations Up Close

Fiona the Pig's Big Day by Leigh Hobbs 

It is the first day of school and everyone is excited including Fiona the Pig. But why are her parents so sad? Will Mr & Mrs Pig survive Fiona the Pig's Big Day at school? Meet Fiona | Teaching Notes

First Day by Andrew Daddo & Jonathan Bentley 

Everyone is nervous about the first day of school. It will be fun. You'll meet new friends. New BFFs! But who is more nervous about the first day? Kids' Book Review | Author Interview

Noah Dreary by Aaron Blabey 

Noah Dreary loved to complain! One day he complained so much his head fell off. But still Noah complained..... until one day a terrible event happened. That's when things began to change. Inside the Book | Book Review

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey 

Serenity Strainer thought that her life was perfect until one Saturday morning she made a perfectly dreadful discovery - evil belly button fluff!  Book Trailer | Inside the Book Teaching Notes 

The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky & Andrew Joyner 

An unexplained noise causes panic among the forest animals. As the animals try to get away from the Terrible PLOP! only the littlest rabbit finds the courage to face this fear and have the last laugh. Ursula Dubosarsky Reads The Terrible Plop | Andrew Joyner Draws the Bear | Kirkus Reviews 

The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland

The Very Cranky Bear is back with a new adventure. This time he faces off with Boris Buffalo in a contest to see who is the bravest. But an unexpected surprise has both of them running through the jingle jangle jungle in fear! Read an Excerpt | ReadPlus Review 

Too Many Cheeky Dogs by Johanna Bell & Dion Beasley 

Set in a remote Indigeous community, this is a quirky story about a pack of pesky dogs. Each day our narrator encounters an increasing number of cheeky dogs in various locations. Kids' Book Review | Too Many Cheeky Dogs Website


Shortlist 2014 - Focus on Years 7 to 9 list

What a fabulous list of books chosen by our junior secondary cohort! We would love to publish reviews of these books by students in Years 7 to 9. Go to our contact page to make your contribution, or comment below.

13 by James Phelan

Sam wakes from a nightmare to discover the terrifying reality. It will come true. Kidnapped from school and finding out his parents aren't who he thinks they are, Sam is suddenly running from danger at every turn. First Chapter | Author Video

HIT LIST by Jack Heath

When Ash and Benjamin are hired to rescue an imprisoned girl they realise they are in over their heads, with corrupt governments, ruthless corporations and rogue assassins. A gripping, fast paced story. Trailer | Synopsis | Review Excerpts

RED by Libby Gleeson

Red can't remember the cyclone. She doesn't remember her name, where she lived, who her family might be. What can she do to find out who she is and where she belongs? Is there anyone she can trust to help her? A gripping mystery. Synopsis | Author Bio | First Chapter

MY LIFE AS AN ALPHABET by Barry Jonsberg

Candice Phee wants to bring light and laughter to those around her, and somehow she succeeds despite the bizarre mix-ups and the confusion she effortlessly creates. An uplifting comedy-drama. Description | Author Info | Preview


The complexities of Georg's life in 1939 Nazi Germany are more than any child should know, but his experiences and the people he meets make for an inspiring coming of age story. Set in Germany, England and Australia. Preview | Description | Author Information


A witty and warm book about Dan, who has had to move house and school when his parents' marriage and business fail. His Dad has also come out as gay, just another thing to throw into the mix. Dan is struggling, but then there is this girl who lives next door, and it so happens they share an attic. Five Reasons To read Six Impossible Things


With a grieving father and a terrible secret of her own, Shelly takes shelter in a full blown obsession with AFL footy – the games, the players. But her friends don’t get it and she doesn’t know why. Book Description | Free Chapter


Alex Hudson is a good guy. He plays water polo. He has a part-time job. He's doing okay at school. Then the thing that anchors Alex is ripped away and his life seems pointless. How can he make anyone else understand how he feels, when he doesn't even know? Review

DOOMSDAY by Chris Morphew

PHOENIX FILES #6 With less than a day to go until the end of the world, there's nowhere left to hide. Luke and Jordan don't think they'll make it through the night, let alone save the day. "...the ultimate battle between good and evil [is] powerful and engaging. Not a read for the fainthearted, however!" (Jo Schenkel, Reading Time.) Review


Tuesday McGillycuddy loves stories - and her mother is a writer. A very famous writer, who has locked herself away in her writing room to finish the final book in her best-selling series for children. But when Tuesday knocks on her door, she discovers her mother is missing! Description | Author Info | Preview


Jackie French on Inspiration

The Australian Children’s Laureate: enriching the lives of young Australians through the power of story.

Since 2011, highly respected Australian children’s authors or illustrators have been awarded this prestigious honour for an outstanding contribution to children’s literature. They act as national and international ambassadors for reading.

Find out what the second Children’s Laureate, Jackie French is doing during her two year term (2014-15), from the Australian Children’s Laureate Page

Today Jackie shares with us her once and only experience of true inspiration as a writer - and also a favourite recipe!

Only Once

Sometimes, just sometimes, a book comes to you with almost no conscious thought. And yet for years I’ve denied this happens.

Kids’ favourite question is, ‘Where do you get your inspiration’. I tell them there is no such animal. Each book is made up of millions of ideas, observations, themes, all drawn together and built up over years. A book never spears down from the ether into your brain.  Instead there are years of work and thought and planning and rewriting.

And mostly that is true. It’s wrong to encourage a child – or any writer – to expect to wait for a book to come to you, ready made whispering ‘here I am, your inspiration.’

Except this year it happened.

The book is To Love a Sunburnt Country, about 200,000 words written in three weeks, and then revised a little after the editor had seen it. There’ll be other small changes along the editorial process till it comes out on December 1. But mostly, that book just came to me. And reading it – crying for both the beauty and the tragedy of the human race and the many, many wastes of love – I can’t believe I wrote it.

Yet, in another way I have been writing this book since I was three years old. I screamed at the sight of a friend’s father, bent over and scarred from torture and starvation in the prisoner of war camps. I thought that poor hunched man with his twisted face was a spider, and only years later realised the anguish a three year old’s horror must have meant to him. The children of the street played at other houses after that.

To Love a Sunburnt Country is about Australia, in all its diversity, and the many and diverse ways one can be connected to country. It is also about a girl called Nancy of the Overflow, and Australia’s war, from the day Japan attacked in December 1941 to January 1946 – the years we had to fight to keep our country.

I fell in love with Clancy of the Overflow when I was twelve years old. But why is there no Nancy of the Overflow in those ballads and bush stories, no strong women of the bush, just the desperate wives and lonely sweethearts? They were there, pioneering women managing properties, teaching their children, droving mobs of cattle thousands of miles. But they didn’t fit the clichés of the day.

And so it’s written. And it is far better than anything else I have written, even if it still doesn’t feel as if I am the writer. Luckily I had time and emotional space space to write it in early January. Since then I’ve been ‘laureating’, talking, writing, talking, talking, talking, forgetting the banner twice and losing it once (hopefully it’ll turn up again, and there is a spare) and juggling events for the next two years and wishing there was a way to stretch each day to three times its length, or at least invent faster-than-light travel across Australia.

I’ve also been asking kids what they’d like to see at schools, and receiving gems as replies like ‘more time for inventions’ from Sam, five and three quarters, who is working on a machine to mine steroids but hasn’t quite got it right yet; and a fourteen-year old in Queensland who is developing an app that he hopes will make him a millionaire by the time he is eighteen, and would love a panel of teachers to call on for advice in the second half of every lunch hour.

Humanity’s capacity for invention is perhaps our greatest gift and mover of society. But where is it in the syllabus, except as small parts of courses in the last two years of school.  We accept the need for creativity in writing and in the arts. But- in the words of one of the respondents- when you  prefer ‘things and stuff’ to art and books, there’s little room for you to invent.

Other kids – most kids – long for classes held out of doors, and to be able to talk in class – not gossip, but about lessons, to explain a problem to their best friend or ask them for help or just to say, ‘Cool’. (A cheap microphone, ear sets and amplifier, total cost about $40 a year, would make this possible.)

A kid in the NT wants school to begin at 4 pm, because his brothers keep him up late and he gets into trouble if he can’t get to school till 10 am and, anyway, by 4 pm you have done all the fun stuff. He’d really like to sit down and learn stuff, he says, if it was in mid-afternoon and you got afternoon tea too.

Plus another project that I’ll write about next time, because this is already too long, and there are 36 kids waiting for a phone link, Q and A session, and two more laureate blogs to write after this one, and the pumpkin vine to haul out from among the winter veg and send on its proper course down the path before it smothers the silver beet, and clothes to choose for tomorrow’s visit to Sydney to the Jewish Museum – ‘work’ clothes, most respectable, unlike the too-big jeans and sloppy jumper with flour smudges I’m wearing as I write this…

Which reminds me. Must take biscuits out of the oven. And very good biscuits they are too. It’s good to create things. Biscuits, a garden, a book and, most of all, the slow and joyous guiding of children’s minds.

Flat Out Biscuits

Quickly made, quickly cooked, good to keep husbands happy when you are jaunting off to Sydney. Keep two weeks in a sealed container.

125 gm butter

2 tbsp golden syrup

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

½ cup SR flour

1 cup white choc bits.

Melt sugar, butter and syrup. Mix in all but chocolate. Cool. Mix in chocolate.

Use your hands to make small balls then pat them flattish. Place on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Bake at 200º C for about 10 minutes till gold on top. Cool before removing from the tray as they crisp up as they cool. Keep in a sealed container.

They are very good indeed.  


Chris Morphew reporting from America

Chris Morphew is an author very popular with kids in NSW. His books, Phoenix Files #1: Arrival and #2 Contact have blitzed the Year 7 to 9 category of the KOALA Awards, winning in 2012 and 2013. Chris was at both awards ceremonys, where he was mobbed by adoring fans!

In January 2014 Chris was pretty busy with an author tour of America, but he did keep up a video diary of the high points, presented here with compliments of the author. (Thanks Mr Morphew!)