Author Fiona Wood won the Older Readers category of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards with her book Wildlife. Photo: Jay CronanReading was something of an escape hatch for author Fiona Wood during her teenage years as she dealt with the everyday issues that trouble young adults.

The Melbourne author won the Book of the Year (Older Readers) for her novel Wildlife at the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards at the National Library in Canberra on Friday.

“Wildlife’s about identity, friendship, sex and death,” Wood says of her book, a coming-of-age story about two girls spending a term in an outdoor education program.

Wood says it is crucial not to shy away from addressing sensitive issues in young adult fiction.

“For many teenagers the first time they have to deal with these things is through fiction so it’s absolutely crucial that we deal with them in a realistic way,” she says.

“And sometimes teenagers have to deal with some pretty bad stuff; it would be wrong of us to sanitise it.”

Wildlife does not shy away from the issues, particularly sex, but Wood says it is more important than ever to present a positive image of sex and sexuality to teen readers.

“There’s so much unrealistic sex out there; it’s ubiquitous,” she says.

“I wanted to show that sex can be warm and human and fallible.

“Sex at 16 is not about happily ever after, it’s about who am I. Wildlife is a book about identity not a book about sex.

“I want girls to be empowered by it.”

Other winners were Catherine Jinks for City of Orphans: A Very Unusual Pursuit (Younger Readers), the late Jan Ormerod for The Swap (Early Childhood), Shaun Tan for Rules of Summer (Picture Book), and Christopher Faille and illustrator Danny Snell for Jeremy (Information Book).

The president of the CBCA national board, Angela Briant, says: “Enjoying literature is the pathway to literacy. Our children deserve the very best, most inspiring literature that reflects their own, contemporary experience and leads them into being readers for life.”

The 2014 Judges’ Report and the Notable Australian Children’s Books 2014 publication are available online and give valuable insights on each awarded book.

The awards kick off Children’s Book Week, which runs until August 23 with activities in libraries and schools across the country. This year’s theme is “Connect to Reading”. FULL LIST OF WINNERS

BOOK OF THE YEAR: Older Readers

Winner: Wildlife by Fiona Wood (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Honour Books: Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)

The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn (UQP)

BOOK OF THE YEAR: Younger Readers

Winner: City of Orphans: A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks (Allen & Unwin)

Honour Books: My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin)

Light Horse Boy by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds (Fremantle Press)

BOOK OF THE YEAR: Early Childhood

Winner: The Swap by Jan Ormerod, illustrated by Andrew Joyner (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)

Honour Books: I’m a Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Ann James (Puffin Books, Penguin Group Australia)

Banjo and Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Little Hare, Hardie Grand Egmont)


Winner: Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)

Honour Books: King Pig by Nick Bland (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)

Silver Buttons by Bob Graham (Walker Books)


Winner: Jeremy by Christopher Faille, illustrated by Danny Snell (Working Title Press)

Honour Books: Welcome To My Country by Laklak Burarrwanga and Family (Allen & Unwin)

Ice, Wind, Rock by Peter Gouldthorpe (Hachette Australia)

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