The Text Prize aims to discover incredible new books for young adults and children by Australian and New Zealand writers. It’s awarded annually to the best manuscript written for young readers and the prize has unearthed extraordinary, multi-award-winning books and launched international publishing careers.
In 2017 the standard of entries was so high that the entire shortlist was published. We’ve reviewed all of these special titles for you and you’ll also find a link to a sample chapter for each to get you started.
Eleven-year-old Cassie Anderson, is writing a book for her Dad as a Christmas gift. Observant and diligent, she has been advised to start with an exciting incident and write about what she knows.
That’s where the peacocks come in. Her neighbours, Mr and Mrs Hudson, have lost their two peacocks (William Shakespeare and Virginia) again. ‘The Peacock Detective’ aka Cassie, found them last time and she is once more on the case.
Whenever there is a new clue, she jots it down in her notebook, collecting all manner of details in the hope they will lead her to the peacocks’ hideout and make for a good story. However, all this observation and note-taking leads her to discover quite a few unexpected things about her family.
Huggabie Falls is the weirdest town on earth, a place that is filled with extremely weird people who fill their days doing extremely weird things.
It’s a place where factories exist in another dimension, there’s a bottomless river, a topless hill and a train tunnel to nowhere. The people who live there are equally unusual – witches, pirates, talking rats, invisible families and that’s just the beginning.
The story opens with friends Kipp, Tobias and Cymphany at school on a day like any other; not what you would call a ‘normal’ day but they don’t do ‘normal’ in Huggabie Falls – or do they?
When Mrs Turgan asks her class if anyone knows about the extremely weird thing that happened at Huggabie Falls, she piques the curiosity of the three friends and they set out to get to the bottom of what could possibly be so weird in the weirdest place on Earth.
Bonesland by Brendan Lawley
‘You win some, you lose most…But you do win some.’
Using the language of teens and colouring the world from their perspective, Australian author, Brendan Lawley doesn’t hold back in Bonesland, a very raw, sometimes bitterly honest yet insightful, funny and ultimately hopeful debut novel.
Ben aka Bones is in year ten and can’t wait to escape Banarang, the dead-end small town where he lives. He’s hoping that Melbourne city, vibrant and diverse will be his refuge after school. In typical small-town style, Banarang doesn’t have a lot to offer teenagers by way of entertainment.
Aside from the limitations that come with living in a small town, Bones has also been dealing with the separation of his parents, a growing sense of anxiety and intense germ phobia. He has his mates to keep an eye on him but the arrival of American exchange student, Naya changes everything.
Naya, is a wonderfully dynamic character who loves life and is energised by all that she wants to contribute to make the world a better place. Often filling her Instagram feed with pictures of her volunteer work and over the top inspirational quotes, Bones is at first cynical about Naya’s intentions to save the world. Yet the more he spends time with her the more he realises she is sincerely interested in him and Banarang.
The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot
Lottie has an unusual hobby – she likes nothing more than to roam around the bushland that surrounds her home looking for dead animals that she can take home to her makeshift lab.
Despite describing herself as having a ‘dark heart,’ Lottie’s interest comes from her love of animals and her intention is to preserve them. ‘I wanted to keep it, to hold on. I wanted to preserve its lively expression’. And so, her specimen collection grows to include birds, rabbits, skinks and frogs.
Mr Morris, who is teaching Lottie about burialpractices in Ancient Egypt, understands but Aunt Hilda, who has been like a mother to Lottie, disapproves.
Interspersed with poignant memories of her late mother, Lottie explores her mother’s intact bedroom and wears her clothes. It gradually becomes clear that Lottie has experienced an unusual amount of loss in her young life, but as she works through her grief, the dead wildlife she finds in the bushland help her come to terms with it.
Wonderfully evocative, reading The Art of Taxidermy feels like you’re taking a long walk in the Australian bush with Lottie, reflecting on grief, loss and mortality. Slowly and gently through exquisitely descriptive verse, the extent of the pain her family has endured is revealed.