Kate’s Hottest 50 Australian Children’s and YA Books of All Time

“You have to do something special for your next blog post,” said Husband Bear.

“Oh yes? And why is that?” said I (actually, it was pretty late at night when he said that, so my response was probably more like “Wha? Blog? Wha?”, but since I’m trying to sound like a professional, articulate writer person here, let’s just pretend, okay?).

“Because it is YOUR 100th POST!” cried Husband Bear with great gusto (ahem, still pretending here. But he was a bit excited).

Bear is excited!

And so was I! 100 posts! Jeepers!

So, what could I blog about for my 100th post, I wondered.

And then it struck me: I should do something I’d been planning to do for awhile. I should put together a list of my top Aussie Children’s and YA books of all time.

Partially inspired by Triple J’s Hottest 100 Australian Albums Of All Time, and partly by the fact that the books I love very rarely win any of the big book awards, I’d been mulling over the idea of this list for quite awhile. I’d just been looking for an excuse to do it.

What better excuse than MY 100th POST!

So, I’ve spent the past couple of days drafting and redrafting, adding and removing, shuffling the numbers and then changing the order around yet again, remembering books I’d forgotten and getting distracted reading books I loved, love and will never forget.

And, finally, it’s done. My top fifty Australian children’s and YA books of all time. These are books that have inspired me, challenged me, moved me to tears and laughter. They are books that have in some way affected me deeply. Many of them are books I have read again and again.

I know that some of the books (particularly my number one), are considered classics and may, therefore, be considered predictable but I’m a firm believer in the idea that some things are popular because they’re just so bloody good! Conversely, there are some books here that might seem a bit left-of-centre and might have you questioning my “taste”. I don’t mind. I don’t really think I have “taste”. I just enjoy what I enjoy (see my love of metal – proper metal, not Slipknot or Korn – country and bubblegum pop music in equal measures).

A proper metal band (Sonata Arctica)

I hope you enjoy reading my list. It would be awesome if it provoked you to make a list of your own. If it does, I would love to hear it!

I’d also love to hear what you think of my list. Are there books I really should have included? Are there any books on my list that you’re flabbergasted I did include? Please let me know!

Nb, I spent hours yesterday attaching links to each of the titles, but then WordPress had a little “moment” and the entire blog decided to disapparate. I have thrown things. I hope you don’t mind the lack of linkies and that you take the time to Google some of the books on this list. In my opinion, they’re worth it.


  1. Ethel Turner – Seven Little Australians
  2. Robin Klein – The Enemies / Maureen McCarthy Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life (tie)
  3. Steven Herrick – Black Painted Fingernails
  4. Emily Rodda – Finders Keepers
  5. Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow – Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight
  6. Graeme Base – The Eleventh Hour
  7. Morris Gleitzman – Two Weeks With the Queen
  8. Libby Hathorn – Thunderwith
  9. John Marsden – Checkers
  10. Brigid Lowry – Guitar Highway Rose
  11. Norman Lindsay – The Magic Pudding
  12. Melina Marchetta – Saving Francesca
  13. Emily Rodda – The Best Kept Secret
  14. Colin Thiele – Storm Boy
  15. Nick Earls – 48 Shades of Brown
  16. Jaclyn Moriarty – Feeling Sorry for Celia
  17. Sonya Hartnett – Thursday’s Child
  18. Gillian Rubinstein – Space Demons
  19. Isobelle Carmody – Little Fur
  20. Gary Crew – The Watertower
  21. Mem Fox – Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
  22. Thelma Catterwell – Sebastian Lives in a Hat
  23. Steven Herrick – By The River
  24. Robin Klein – Came Back To Show You I Could Fly
  25. Victor Kelleher – To The Dark Tower
  26. Paul Jennings – The Paw Thing
  27. Robin Klein – Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left
  28. Victor Kelleher – Taronga
  29. Margo Lanagan – Black Juice
  30. Justine Larbalestier – Liar
  31. Tim Winton – That Eye, the Sky
  32. Morris Gleitzman – Blabber Mouth
  33. Garth Nix – The Ragwitch
  34. Leigh Hobbs – Mr Chicken Goes to Paris
  35. Colin Thompson – The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley
  36. Cassandra Golds – The Museum of Mary Child
  37. Melina Marchetta – Looking for Alibrandi
  38. John Marsden – Letters From the Inside                
  39. James Moloney – The Book of Lies
  40. Nansi Kunze – Mishaps
  41. Michelle Cooper – A Brief History of Montmaray
  42. Shaun Tan – Tales From Outer Suburbia
  43. Margaret Wild – Woolvs in the Sittee
  44. Lili Wilkinson – A Pocketful of Eyes
  45. Marianne de Pierres – Burn Bright
  46. Penny Tangey – Loving Richard Feynman
  47. Sally Murphy – Toppling
  48. Christina Booth – Potato Music
  49. RA Spratt – The Adventures of Nanny Piggins
  50. Garth Nix – Troubletwisters

What did you think? Please let me know. Just … be nice. I have thrown all the things in my house that can be safely thrown. Mephy is starting to look at me very nervously …

20 thoughts on “Kate’s Hottest 50 Australian Children’s and YA Books of All Time

  1. Gee, I don’t think I could list just 50 – that must have been quite some process. What I like about your list is that so many of these are quite recent and that shows just how strong children’s lit and YA is in Australia right now. Aren’t we lucky?
    But what it also means is that many really fine older books aren’t on your list. So it is quite like the Triple J list, because inevitably the ones that come to mind are those that have been around most recently.
    So I have to agree with some of the others that Pagan and Rowan would be on my list, books that stand up in any company over time – and really changed what young people read – as would Ruth Park and Mary Grant Bruce. If it’s OF ALL TIME, then Ivan Southall and Allan Marshall would get a tick from me. Lovely to see Storm Boy here. And there are a few titles on your list I could happily throw over the side so they could clamber aboard.
    (I also secretly love Wilfred … Partridge much more than Possum Magic, though I think it’s against the law to say so!)
    But what a wonderful problem to have – spoiled for choice.
    Thanks for sharing your list with us. It got me thinking. Cheers.


  2. I’ll have to write my own list when I have nothing else to do…. But where oh where is Mary Grant Bruce – her Billabong series began with A little bush maid and always had to power to bring me to sniffles!


    1. It was so difficult putting this list together. In the end, I just had to go for books that I just loved – whether they were “classics” or “critically acclaimed” or not. It is totally subjective. I wish now I’d done a top one hundred, though, as so many wonderful books missed out!


  3. As you know I’m on the go with several children’s books at a time so I have a long road ahead of me. But your wonderful list has certainly given me food for thought! Might even do my own …


  4. Wonderful list. Narrowing it down to 50 must be incredibly hard and over essentially two genres too: children’s and YA.

    I can’t say because I haven’t read all your selections, the ones I have read that you’ve selected, I agree with you 100%, but I would’ve considered The Rabbits, Tomorrow When the War Began, Pagan’s Vows, Rowan of Rin and Dragonkeeper. And it feels a little light on picture books, I’m glad you got Toppling in there, but what about Diary of a Wombat and Ubby’s Underdogs?


  5. ‘The Red Tree’ by Shaun Tan is one I love now. Every book I keep thinking of is by a Brit! ‘Peepo’ is my all time favourite picture book and I also love ‘The family from one end street’ books.


  6. Not a Judy Blume in sight!! I am ashamed to say that I have NOT read 38 of these books. I need a catch up.


  7. This is a very cool thing to do (I’m hopeless with lists but I like other people’s lists very much). I have to admit that I’ve only read a handful of those, despite diving headfirst into Australian literature since I arrived here three years ago (and loving every moment), so I’m playing a big game of catch-up. But you’ve got my first Australian YA hero on there (Jaclyn Moriarty) and I remember so vividly how I felt when I finished Feeling Sorry For Celia – what was it – 10 years ago?


  8. Clearly I have some reading to catch up on! Some of my favourites are in your list, but many of yours are new to me. I agree with Seven Little Australians, it is such an Aussie classic. *sigh* so many books to read, so many good ones being written. Slow down world!


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