The January Stars cover

Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Children's literature

Published by: Allen & Unwin


When twelve-year-old Clancy and her fourteen-year-old sister, Tash, visit their Pa at his aged-care facility, they have no idea that the three of them will soon set out on an intrepid adventure. Along the way there are many challenges for Tash and Clancy to overcome and in the process, they discover their own resourcefulness and resilience and demonstrate their heartfelt love for their grandfather.

About the author

 Kate Constable

Kate Constable

Kate Constable was born in Melbourne but spent much of her childhood in Papua New Guinea, without television but within reach of a library where she 'inhaled' stories. She studied Arts/Law at the University of Melbourne before working for a record company while she began her life as a writer. Kate has written ten novels for young people, including the internationally-published 'Chanters of Tremaris' series and the CBCA award-winning 'Crow Country'. Kate lives in a northern suburb of Melbourne with her family, a bearded dragon, a rabbit and a dog.

Judges’ comments

Twelve-year-old Clancy and her older sister Tash are left to their own devices when a family crisis takes their parents and younger brother to New Zealand, and their aunt—charged with looking after them—heads off for the weekend. A series of unusual events leads to the sisters whisking Pa, their beloved wheelchair-bound grandfather, away from his aged-care home, in a quest to find him a better life.

The realities of their plan demand a special kind of courage, and as Tash takes charge of the practicalities, Clancy looks to the stars for guidance from her dead grandmother. This blend of magical realism with a story set in a very recognisable contemporary Australia, makes for a gripping adventure and an absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

Clancy's voice—her fears, her mistakes and her instincts—endear her to the reader and we are prepared to follow her everywhere. The three fugitives' eccentric road trip involves taxis, trains and cars, taking them to Pa's old family home, an ashram in the country, a beach house and a mysterious inner-city bookshop. The novel's ending is especially satisfying.

Perhaps most memorable is the deftly conveyed, warm and authentic relationship between the sisters as they come to appreciate each other's strengths and resilience. With writing that is spirited and elegant as it explores multi-generational family dynamics, with a rich cast of engaging, believable characters, this is an immensely satisfying novel, full of heart.