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“Australia’s Harry Potter” scoops Book Awards

Books with strong female protagonists shone brightly at the 2018 ABIA Awards with a cursed girl tale being compared to the Harry Potter series after winning three awards, including Book of the Year.

A cursed girl in a magical universe, two pregnant women with dark secrets, a historic murder and a little puff of gas. These are the subjects that captured the judge's imaginations at the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) this year.

Julia Gillard presented the award for Book of the Year to Gold Coast author Jessica Townsend for her runaway hit debut Nevermoor which has already been optioned for a film by 20th Century Fox. Jessica has been dubbed Australia's J.K. Rowling for her imaginative and adventurous novel about a cursed girl who escapes death. Jessica has previously said the deeply personal book, which took 10 years to write, is a bit "weird".

Winner of three ABIA Awards including Book of the Year, New Writer of the Year and Book of the Year for Younger Children, Jessica Townsend.
Winner of three ABIA Awards including Book of the Year, New Writer of the Year and Book of the Year for Younger Children, Jessica Townsend.

"Maybe it's that weirdness that people connect to," she told The Daily Edition, on Thursday before the awards ceremony.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is the first book in a trilogy which is being published in 25 territories after publishing house Hachette won the English language rights at a bidding war in Frankfurt. The executive producer of Netflix hit The Good Place Drew Goddard will write and produce the big screen version of Nevermoor.

Winner of three ABIA Awards, Jessica Townsend's Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow.
Winner of three ABIA Awards, Jessica Townsend's Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow.

A thriller by perennial crime writing favourite Michael Robotham, The Secrets She Keeps, won the award for General Fiction Book of the Year while rock icon Jimmy Barnes scooped the prize for the Biography Book of the Year with Working Class Man, the follow-up to his 2016 book Working Class Boy, which took home the ABIA for Biography Book of the Year last year.

*The Weekly's* Juliet Rieden presented the General Fiction Book of the Year award to Michael Robotham .
The Weekly's Juliet Rieden presented the General Fiction Book of the Year award to Michael Robotham .
Jimmy Barnes won the 2018 ABIA Award for Biography Book of the Year with *Working Class Man*.
Jimmy Barnes won the 2018 ABIA Award for Biography Book of the Year with Working Class Man.

Sarah Schmidt's literary masterpiece See What I Have Done was awarded the title Literary Fiction Book of the Year.

The Australian Women's Weekly's editor-at-large Juliet Rieden said Sarah's reimagining of a real-life double murder case was "not a forensic analysis of the facts, but a bloodbath of the senses."

Zoe Foster-Blake's book about a little fart in search of a friend captured the hearts of young readers and the attention of the ABIA judges, who awarded it Children's Picture Book of the Year.

Earlier this year Zoe announced on Instagram that her little book had "Far(t) outsold all my other far more elegant, grown-up books."

Zoe Foster Blake's children's book *No One Likes A Fart*.
Zoe Foster Blake's children's book No One Likes A Fart.

General Non-fiction Book of the Year was awarded to The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein. In her stunning, sensitive debut, Sarah chronicles the life of Sandra Pankhurst, who was once a husband and father and is now a transgender woman who works as a trauma cleaner who witnesses the most confronting extremes of human misery.

A Field Guide to Australian Birds, produced by CSIRO Publishing, took out the Adult Small Press Book of the Year, while Louise Milligan's unflinching and highly topical examination of George Pell, Cardinal, earned an honourable mention.

The prize for Illustrated Book of the Year went to Maggie Beer and Professor Ralph Martin's book about healthy eating, Maggie's Recipe for Life. The International Book of the Year was awarded to Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

Maggie Beer and Professor Ralph Martin with 2018 ABIA Illustrated Book of Year award presenters Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales.
Maggie Beer and Professor Ralph Martin with 2018 ABIA Illustrated Book of Year award presenters Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales.

An anthology of Australian Young Adult Fiction, Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, featuring work by beloved writers for younger readers Gabrielle Tozer, Jaclyn Moriarty, Will Kostakis and Amie Kaufman was awarded Book of the Year for Older Children (ages 13-plus) and The 91-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton won Audiobook of the Year.

Nevermoor was also awarded Book of the Year for Younger Children (ages 7 to 13) and The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year at the ABIA ceremony in Sydney on Thursday.

Nevermoor was always short odds to claim the prize, having already won the Book of the Year and Children's Book of the Year and the Indie Book Awards, Best Children's Fiction at the Aurealis Awards and The Younger Fiction prize at the Waterstones Children's Book Prize in the UK.

The ABIA ceremony is a celebration of the connection between the book makers – authors, editors, publishers and book sellers – and the readers they serve. The awards recognise Australia's best and best-loved writers.

Dame Quentin Bryce gave a speech to honour Suzy O'Neil, founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, who received an award for outstanding service to the book industry.
Dame Quentin Bryce gave a speech to honour Suzy O'Neil, founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, who received an award for outstanding service to the book industry.

More than 100 representatives from the bookselling and publishing industry vote on the shortlist, that then goes to an expert panel that makes the final decision.

Award chairs Louise Sherwin-Star and Greg Bain said in a statement Australian publishing is in a "golden age".

"This is reflected in this year's shortlist of books Australian readers will love," they said.

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