CBCA 2021 Shortlist for Hold On!



I’m thrilled that Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish has been shortlisted for the CBCA 2021 Eve Pownall award, as are CSIRO Publishing and the book’s amazing illustrator, Rachel Tribout. Thanks again to them for believing in this true story and bringing it to life on the page. Thanks also to the wonderful CBCA who do so much for children’s literature and literacy in Australia. This is my second published information book for children, and it draws on many years of training in both science and in writing for children.


Many who know me, know that Handstand (the protagonist) has been with me for around two decades. I first wrote the story for an assignment in a subject taught by then Prof Belle Alderman (now Director of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature), which was part of my Master of Science Communication. I used a refined version of the story in my 2004 thesis, Communicating Science and Conservation through Children’s Literature. I revised it yet again for Hold On! published in 2020.


Being in the CBCA shortlist is a huge accolade and will help my goals of trying to make the Spotted Handfish a household name around Australia, and to raise awareness of the plight of the remaining handfish species – who are all Aussies. Sadly, one of Handstand’s relatives was listed as Extinct not long ago by the IUCN Red List (the Smooth Handfish). Handfish are small, primitive, very cute, and a great icon for the little critters of the ocean that need help but often get overlooked due to the more charismatic marine megafauna (e.g., whales, dolphins, etc.).


There are great Teacher Notes available for Hold On! too (my website, publisher’s website). I’m sure you will enjoy meeting Handstand and sharing in his conservation story of hope based on some amazing science.



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