Books remain powerful tools for helping children make sense of their world and gain a better understanding of themselves and others, say the judges of this year's New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Thirty-five books have been shortlisted for the awards, with the winners to be announced in August. Judges' convenor Pam Jones says many of the 152 entries submitted dealt with serious issues reflecting the concerns of young readers.

However, Jones says many highlighted the meaning of family and love.

"At times the vividly descriptive writing was brutal and heartbreaking, providing moving portrayals of life through the eyes of children and teenagers. All finalist titles are convincing in their realism, skilfully laced with honour and honesty throughout.

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"War featured highly, alongside other topical themes like teenage pregnancy, surveillance, abuse, homelessness, racial tensions and bullying."

Finalists are selected across six categories: Picture Book, Junior Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction, Illustration and te reo Maori; and the Best First Book category. They are:

Picture Book Award
Fuzzy Doodle, Melinda Szymanik, illustrated by Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
Gwendolyn! Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton, HarperCollins Publishers (ABC)
My Grandpa is a Dinosaur, Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones, illustrated by Richard Fairgray, Penguin Random House (Puffin)
That's Not a Hippopotamus! Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Sarah Davis, Gecko Press
The Singing Dolphin/Te Aihe i Waiata, Mere Whaanga, Scholastic NZ

Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction
Helper and Helper, Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop, Gecko Press
My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point, Tania Roxborogh, Scholastic NZ
Sunken Forest, Des Hunt, Scholastic NZ
The Discombobulated Life of Summer Rain, Julie Lamb, Makaro Press (Submarine)
The Impossible Boy, Leonie Agnew, Penguin Random House (Puffin)

Copyright Licensing NZ Award for Young Adult Fiction
Coming Home to Roost, Mary-anne Scott, Penguin Random House (Longacre)
Kiwis at War 1916: Dig for victory, David Hair, Scholastic NZ
Like Nobody's Watching, LJ Ritchie, Escalator Press
Shooting Stars, Brian Falkner, Scholastic NZ
The Severed Land, Maurice Gee, Penguin Random House (Penguin)

Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction
From Moa to Dinosaurs: Explore & discover ancient New Zealand, Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud, Potton & Burton
Jack and Charlie: Boys of the bush, Josh James Marcotte and Jack Marcotte, Penguin Random House (Puffin)
The Cuckoo and the Warbler, Kennedy Warne, illustrated by Heather Hunt, Potton & Burton
The Genius of Bugs, Simon Pollard, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa Press)
Torty and the Soldier, Jennifer Beck, illustrated by Fifi Colston, Scholastic NZ

Russell Clark Award for Illustration
Fuzzy Doodle, illustrated by Donovan Bixley, written by Melinda Szymanik, Scholastic NZ
Gladys Goes to War, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, written by Glyn Harper, Penguin Random House (Puffin)
If I Was a Banana, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart, written by Alexandra Tylee, Gecko Press
Snark: Being a true history of the expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock . . . and its tragic aftermath, illustrated and written by David Elliot (after Lewis Carroll), Otago University Press
The Day the Costumes Stuck, illustrated and written by Toby Morris, Beatnik Publishing

Te Kura Pounamu Award for books written completely in te reo Maori
Nga Manu Tukutuku e Whitu o Matariki, Calico McClintock, illustrated by Dominique Ford, translated by Ngaere Roberts, Scholastic NZ
Ngarara Huarau, Maxine Hemi, Illustrated by Andrew Burdan, Huia Publishers
Te Haerenga Maia a Riripata i Te Araroa, Maris O'Rourke, illustrated by Claudia Pond Eyley, translated by Ani Wainui, David Ling Publishing (Duck Creek Press)
Te Kaihanga Mapere, Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan, translated by Kawata Teepa, Huia Publishers
Tuna raua ko Hiriwa, Ripeka Takotowai Goddard, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews, Huia Publishers

Best First Book Award
Awatea's Treasure, Fraser Smith, Huia Publishers
Like Nobody's Watching, LJ Ritchie, Escalator Press
The Discombobulation of Summer Rain, Julie Lamb, Makaro Press (Submarine)
The Mouse and the Octopus, written and illustrated by Lisala Halapua, Talanoa Books
Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843, written and illustrated by Matthew H McKinley, Kin Publishing.