In March the shortlist for the Children's Books Ireland (CBI) Book of the Year Awards will be announced. Over the last few years I've put together my predictions for the shortlist. (Purely my own opinion. I am on the CBI Board but not on the judging panel.) You can see the predictions for last year here and the previous year here. The shortlist is for books published in 2014 and covers all age groups and all genres (fiction only). It includes books published in the Irish language. The writers/illustrators must be Irish or resident in Ireland.
2014 was an interesting year for children's books, with some stand out YA novels (young adult) in particular.
So here's my list. See if you agree with my choices - I'd be interested to know what you think. There are usually 8 to 10 books on the list. All the categories are not always awarded - eg Special Judge's Award.
CBI Book of the Year Award 2014
I would like to see Louise O'Neill win this award for her stunning YA novel, Only Ever Yours. However it may not as it tends to divide opinion. I think it's brave, original and still has people talking about its characters and plot over six months after its publication.
Eilís Dillon Award (first book)
Again, Louise O'Neill. It has happened before. In 2011 (awarded for a book published in 2010), Chris Haughton won both for A Bit Lost. Kim Hood could also be a contender for this award for Finding a Voice. It will depend on the judge's preferences.
Honour Award for Illustration
For me this is a toss up between Chris Haughton for Shh! We Have a Plan, a glorious picture book with glowing illustrations and Oliver Jeffers' clever and beautifully produced Once Upon an Alphabet. I'll go with Chris.
Honour Award for Fiction
I'm not sure about this award as it makes no sense to award Louise O'Neill the overall prize but not to give her this one also. Unless this prize is for the second best novel. If it's for the best, then Louise O'Neill. If it's for the second best, then for me Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan and The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald stand out. I still can't understand why Sarah's first book was not shortlisted last year. Back to Blackbrick is a great YA novel.
Judge's Special Award
This is not awarded every year - and I'm not sure it will be this year, unless Oliver Jeffers' Alphabet qualifies. Of course being completely biased (as I edited it), I'd love to see Beyond the Stars shortlisted. But as it's a collection of 12 stories and 12 illustrations, all by different creatives, it may not fit the award criteria. We shall see.
Other titles I believe deserve to be on the shortlist are:
Specs for Rex by Yasmeen Ismail
A fun, fresh book with wonderfully lively illustrations and colours that sing.
Brilliant by Roddy Doyle, illustrated by Chris Judge
A book with a lot of heart with astoundingly good illustrations by Chris Judge. I'd shortlist it for them alone, but together they make a cracking team.
City of Fate by Nicola Pierce
If the judges like historical fiction, they may shortlist this strong novel about the Battle of Stalingrad.
I've already mentioned Apple and Rain and The Apple Tart of Hope on the YA end of things, but I'd also add Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan, a moving with some of the best teen dialogue I've ever read in an 'Irish' YA novel (Brian lives in Ireland).
Other possible contenders:
The Fish in the Bathtub by Eoin Colfer
Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy
The Black North by Nigel McDowell
Pop! by Andrew Whitson and Caitríona Nic Sheáin
Watch out for my new book, The Songbird Cafe: Mollie Cinnamon is Not a Cupcake which will be published in March by Walker Books.