Speech Pathology Australia ‘Book of the Year Awards

The Speech Pathology Australia ‘Book of the Year Awards’ were established in 2003 and are presented annually for excellence in the development of children’s speech, language and literacy skills.

2012 Shortlists

Young Children

A Bus Called Heaven

Bob Graham

A Bus Called Heaven uses social and pragmatic language, as well as gentle emotions and humour to create a story that will hold both a child and their adult’s attention. The book contains age-appropriate language and provides ample opportunities for adults to speak about what is happening in the story to build critical oral language skills (the precursor to literacy) and gently introduce children to verbs and sequencing.

Christmas Wombat

Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Wombat’s laconic style and determination to be close to his family clearly reflects the delight in this series. The text is easily related to children’s own and allows for the development of language skills by describing what is happening in each scene, and what Wombat might do next,. Also a great read for adults, whose enjoyment is likely to positively impact on the child!

Come Down, Cat

Sonya Hartnett

Come Down, Cat explores fear, bravery and friendship from a child’s perspective and encouraged speech and language development using interest verbs and adverbs, as well as fun descriptions to entice young readers to engage with the story, “old, wobbly, heavy, creaked, groaned and another....” The story also aids sequence development - what happen first, what happens next, why and how – a worthy inclusion to the shortlist

For All Creatures

Glenda Millard, illustrated by Rebecca Cool

For All Creatures skilfully introduces the key oral language skill of alliteration to help develop the way children listen for and make speech sound combinations, while allowing room for on-going discussion of the themes after the reading has finished. Glenda Millard gently sows the idea that biggest isn’t often best, which encourage young readers everywhere.

Let's Go, Baby-o!

Janet McLean, illustrated by Andrew McLean

With age-appropriate themes, as well as a familiar and wonderful range of movements to encourage both adults and children to move along to the text, Let’s Go, Baby-O finds a fun and engaging way of linking fundamental movements and action to oral language & speech development. There is plenty of opportunity for adults and children to engage in the changing scenes together, promoting the development of expressive language skills through “what is happening?” questions, predicting what might be about to happen and discussing who is participating in the scene. The author skilfully uses language development tools such as repetition, rhythm and appropriate concepts to engage the readers in a world of movement.

No Bears

Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge

A witty and sophisticated spoof of well-known fairy tales, No Bears’ gentle theme will appeal to adults and children alike. The text and pictures encourage spotting the bear on each page (no bears!), participation in the story and developing syllable awareness through rhythm. A very clever compilation of classics dressed up as a new story – and a tick for language development in a picture book!

Rudie Nudie

Emma Quay

Rudie Nudie uses mood, simple rhyme and alliteration to describe the family ritual of bath time, as well as encouraging speech sound combinations to promote healthy speech development – especially those for children of 3 to 4 years. It’s also a great way to encourage playfulness in parents who may have forgotten the joy of childhood!

Ten Blue Wrens and What a Lot of Wattle!

Elizabeth Honey

Full of instantly recognisable Australian icons such as Aussie Rules football, meat pies, Uluru and the Sydney harbour bridge, Ten Blue Wrens uses rhythmic language and rhyme to encourage speech and language development (especially the formation of the letter ‘w’ and encouraging children to push their lips into the correct position!). The eye-catching and detailed illustrations ensure the attention of both child and adult alike and encourage the development of pragmatic language skills and prediction – a brilliant picture book!

That's Not a Daffodil!

Elizabeth Honey

A gentle story where the art of waiting and of watching nature together - the simple act of growing a flower together bonds the old & the young. In learning currently, children sometimes don’t have the opportunity to learn how to wait and this story can help teach this important skill as well as social/pragmatic language skills such as problem solving. Pragmatic language isn’t the only skill-based focus of this story – the story develops using interesting descriptors, verbs and metaphor, as well as using the syntactical and semantic concept of using 'not' in a positive. That’s Not a Daffodil will let young readers’imaginations run wild!

The Jewel Fish of Karnak

Graeme Base

A story for the upper end of this age group, this book contains many interesting speech components – pronouncing the hieroglyphics and the speech sounds of the heroes’ names. It also focuses on the messages for this end of the age group like owning up to mistakes and greed but tells them in a way that is engaging and that can be shared.

The Little Dragon

Mem Fox

The Little Dragon is a great book for children to share and enjoy with their adults, developing the child’s joint attention and oral language, while giving the adult a rare insight into children’s development. Mem Fox uses skilful language selection for this age group and employs rhythm, repetition, rhyme, humour and interesting plot development to weave a story with a message all readers will take to heart.

The Little Old Man Who Looked Up At the Moon

Pamela Allen

Lower Primary

Billie B Brown: The Little Lie

Sally Rippin, illustrated by Aki Fukuoka

A constant hot topic for adults, the little lie comes to life when Billie b Brown wants to impress her friends. Of course it all comes unstuck and Billie has the big decision to make. Is she brave enough to tell the truth or will she prefer to stick with the lie that just gets bigger and bigger. One decision might make her popular for a little while, but is it worth losing your best friend. Loads of potential as a discussion starter, for comparing dilemmas and discussing what and who is important.

Nancy Bentley: The First Australian Female Sailor

Tracey Hawkins

Although a Non Fiction tale, Nancy Bentley’s plight in 1914 opens the imagination to an unimaginable world. Snake bites can kill if anti venom is not at hand. What would you do if caught in this situation? A world where women’s freedom was also restricted is also hinted at. This real life adventure will start many conversations about how to get help in different crisis situations, ways of addressing people of different rank and seniority and how things have changed in little more than 100 years.

Our Gags

Catriona Hoy, illustrated by Annabelle Josse

Grandmas are the essential accessory in some families and unknown in others. Elderly relatives are both beloved and mysterious. With a strong narrative arc, Grandma aka Gags is loveable and indispensable when the new baby comes home. Although Gags works hard and is a great playmate, she is also fragile. A touching tale of family, friendship and different family roles. Perfect for comparing and contrasting different homes, activities, expectations and ways we interact…

Ready, Set, Boris

Andrew Joyner

Set in the familiar competitive setting of an athletics carnival, Boris the Hog and his friends face real life dilemmas. They want to win, but one particularly unfriendly classmate tends to take all the prizes. Will this year be different? What do you do when your friend falls in a race? Do you push on to win when you know you can, or is your friendship worth more? A great conversation starter on what is important in life. An easy read with strong picture support to engender confidence and a joy of reading. Strong narrative arc.

Sam the Cat

Sam Browning and Andrew McLean

With a strong narrative arc and opportunity to discuss elements of the story, Sam the Cat is a tale about sharing attention, belonging and gaining perspective of what is important. Short sentences, simple language and strong visual support (in the form of beautiful illustrations) and is sure to become a favourite.

Secret of the Swords: Sword Girl 1

Frances Watts, illustrated by Gregory Rogers

Set in the distant past in a land where talking crocodiles and cats are commonplace but girl soldiers are not, Tommy breaks the mould. She longs to fight and is miraculously assigned as Keeper of the Swords. A strong narrative arc opens up the imagination as well as communication possibilities. How do you address the head knight, a resident cat and the local crocodile? What do you say when you are threatened and how do you take command when you catch someone red-handed? Loads of potential for developing imagination, communication and a lifelong love of reading. Occasional picture support.

Ships in the Field

Susanne Gervay

Settling in a new country after war, overcoming painful memories and struggling to make ends meet are strong themes, as are a child’s longing for a pet. Levels of understanding differ between children and adults. Ships in the field make this clear. Different accents, culturally acceptable behaviours and ways of expressing affection are all touched on, opening opportunities for discussion and comparison. The funny side of changing vowels in words is offered when Papa talks about the ships in the field. No water is in sight. The source of misunderstanding has to be found and with it the power of intelligible speech.

Ted Goes Wild

Michael Wagner

This hybrid of early chapter book/ comic strip stretches the boundaries of imagination. Everyone’s favourite bedtime companion will be forever changed after reading ‘Ted’. A bit on the grungy side, one-eyed Ted, once thrown on the rubbish tip and left for dead now has an ongoing ambition to rescue others from potential abandonment. With a bagful of gadgets and a need for constant problem solving, Ted wriggles his way out of amazing, life threatening dilemmas. One for anyone who loves adventures, a little bit of danger and a lot of thinking outside the box.

The Great Expedition

Peter Carnavas

Based on the true adventures of Burke and Wills, a group of pre-schoolers set off on a dangerous mission: taking a present to Grandma’s. Facing parallel trials, team numbers dwindle and water becomes scarce. Strong narrative arc in this micro tale. Both words and illustrations are adorable. Life threatening adventures can begin in the backyard. Heroes have to start somewhere and where better than between the pages of a book? Irresistible.

The Little Refugee

Anh & Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Every page opens the imagination to unknown worlds and situations while giving insight from the inside into what it feels like to be different in a strange land. While heart-warming, full of adventure and courage, this book also allows children to understand the tiniest bit about what it is like to flee one country then try to settle and find happiness in another. Detailed illustrations expand on a minimalistic tale – a timeless treasure.

Violet Mack’s Remarkable Recovery

Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Favis

Although the cover is a touch schmalzy, the contents are irresistible. Violet Mackerel’s age is never revealed, but she has the lively imagination and resilient nature of an Early Primary Schooler. At a time when children identify strongly with peers, Violet takes her reader pals through the trials of a tonsillectomy, a painful recovery and losing a friend. Her search for a newfound friend who is lost again is heart rending, but Violet’s tale has more than a happy ending. I never saw it coming. Endearing and spellbinding.

Walker Stories: Lollylegs

Pamela Freeman, illustrated by Rhian Nest James

Laura’s dad brings a baby lamb home, but it’s not for keeps. The lamb will be raffled at the school fete. While the setting is familiar, the rest opens the mind to possibilities. What would you do to save someone you love? Is it possible to beat the odds? How do you get people to help your cause? Strong narrative arc. Highly emotive content to hook a fledgling readership into the joy of reading for life and the fraught world of caring for your future meal.

Upper Primary

Crocodile Jack

Leonie Norrington

Crocodile Jack has a well-developed narrative, appealing characters and storyline, and quality and entertaining graphics that encourage the reader to explore new ideas and to relate to their own experiences. It’s very Australian and a worthy entrant in the shortlist!

Father's Day

Anne Brooksbank

With a thought-provoking narrative, Father’s Day is emotive, is written with excellent characters and opportunity for language extension.


Martin Chatterton

Fast-paced, action-oriented with well-developed characters and a tight story line… what is not to love? Mort mixes modern technology with historical figures and educates readers using humour, similes, metaphors and descriptive passages.

Paradise Trap

Catherine Kinks

The Paradise Trap is a fun, upbeat, action packed narrative whose descriptive passages and appealing character make it a great read.

Pizza Cake

Morris Gleitzman

Pizza Cake is entertaining, tightly written and easily leads to extension work through the plot and character analysis. A fantastic book!

Taj and the Great Camel Trek

Rosanne Hawke

This historical narrative is engaging and the well-developed central character, making Taj and the Great Camel Trek perfect for further language extension work.

The Invisible Hero

Elizabeth Fensham

The Invisible Hero’s complex characters and themes will appeal to older readers, as will the colourful language.

The Ivory Rose

Belinda Murrell

The Ivory Rose has a strong narrative with lots of ideas and concepts for readers to explore and that engage the reader.

The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk

Glenda Millard

The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk is highly descriptive and uses creative language, believable characters and a well-developed narrative to create a useful tool for written and oral language activities.

To Die For

Mark Svendsen

To Die For takes an emotional topic and uses descriptive language, strong themes and brilliant character development to create a story that you won’t be able to put down.

Too Small to Fail

Morris Gleitzman

Too Small to Fail has a very strong narrative and uses appealing characters, appropriate language and concepts as well as providing plenty of topics for extension (to discuss after reading). The strong morals and humour make the story easily believable but also anxiety-provoking at the same time…

Vinnie's War

David McRobbie

David McRobbie’s fast narrative is packed with interesting characters, interesting illustrations and clippings interspersed with historical facts and relevant moral issues.

Indigenous Children

Darby Making Tracks

Anthony Turnbull

Readers of all ages will enjoy this book even if they’ve never heard of Darby McCarthy, the famous Aboriginal jockey. Boy Turnbull’s colloquial style and quirky watercolours bring bush racing to life.

Hey Brother

Alwyn Owens, illustrated by Rodney Lucas

Alwyn Owens and Rod Lucas have combined their talents to bring together this quirky rhythmic story. With a lively local feel and the universal theme of fishing, the story celebrates mateship.

Kangaroos Hop

Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji

If you are very quiet, you will see the kangaroos hop, the birds fly, the echidnas shuffle – across the land and down to the water’s edge, where a crocodile lies sleeping… Shhh! Kangaroos Hop celebrates animals, verbs and the art of Balarinji design studio.

Northern Territory Animals

The Galiwin'ku students of Shalom Christian College

Students from the Galiwin’ku, NT, studying at Shalom College in Townsville created this book with the help of their teachers and elders to share their Yolnu language, their country and its creatures.

Once There Was a Boy

Dub Leffler

Once There Was a Boy is a poignant, universal story of friendship, temptation and reconciliation.

Ten Scared Fish

Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji

Starting with ‘one turtle by the waterhole’, you can follow the river to the sea, counting animals along the way – until ten little fish meet a big scary shark! Ten Scared Fish celebrates animals and the joy of art from Balarinji design studio.

The Snake and the Boy

Azmen Sebastian

Beneath a sea-blue sky, a young boy swings on the bars in the school playground, only to have a green tree snake sneak up on him…


The winners of the 2011 Speech Pathology Australia ‘Book of the Year’ Awards have been announced.

The winning titles in each of the categories are:

Young Children

* Can We Lick the Spoon Now? (Carol Goess, illus by Tamsin Ainslie, Working Title Press)

Lower Primary

* Hairy Nose Itchy Butt (Elizabeth Frankel, illus by Garry Duncan, Jane Curry Publishing)

Upper Primary

* Now (Morris Gleitzman, Viking)

Indigenous Children

* Our World: Bardi Jaawi Life at Ardiyooloon (One Arm Point Remote Community School, Magabala Books).