A beautiful little verse-novel, which impressed me with its sensitivity, language and fitting illustrations. Pearl lives with her Mum and Grandma, but her grandmother is declining rapidly and Pearl is unable to come to terms with what is happening. She also has problems at school, often with her poetry assignments, as she can't make her poetry rhyme. How Pearl copes makes for a warm and uplifting story; even tough old booksellers have been known to shed a tear!
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (Fiction category winner)
Set in Western Australia in the 60s this is a blazing good read. Charlie Bucktin has his troubles (apart from adolescence!) but not as many as Jasper Jones, the town's 'bad kid' who one hot evening comes to Charlie for help. What Jasper shows Charlie is the body of a hanged girl, and in that moment, Charlie's life shifts. A distinctive voice shapes the narrative, and the prejudices of small town Australia could well stand in for all that is wrong - and sometimes, all that is wonderful - about our society.
The Virtuoso by Sonia Orchard (Debut Fiction category winner)
An assured and deft portrait of an outsider, inspired by the Australian pianist Noel Mewton-Wood, this is steeped in the bohemian times after 1945. A young music student meets a gifted and talented pianist, and they become lovers A grand passion, music, the fragility of love and life, and the consequences of not being true to oneself - this is quite beautifully done. A very polished debut - there are muti-published authors who are not so impressive!
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper (Non-fiction category winner)
Having been a judge in this category, I am not at all unbiased about this book - it was my first choice (as it was with others of my four fellow judges). It tells the story of Cameron Doomadgee's death in custody, of the policeman who was charged over it, of Palm Island - it is one of the most measured and moving examinations of white/indigenous relationships I have ever read. A powerful, affecting and complex book, careful but not cold in its style, thoughtfully done. The sort of book you think about again and again. Lindy