Monday, August 4, 2014

A Swag of Australian-themed Picture Books

A Swag of Australian-themed Picture Books
by Susan Stephenson,

If you’re thinking of updating your library’s collection of books about Australia, or with an Australian theme, take a look at this recently-published swag!

Lilli-Pilli’s Sister

Written by Anna Branford and illustrated by Linda Catchlove, Lilli-Pilli’s Sister is a beautiful children's picture book published by Walker Books Australia (2014).

I fell in love at first sight with Linda Catchlove’s whimsical botanical-themed illustrations. A year or so ago, I bought some cards from Catchlove, so I was delighted to see her paired with Branford in this children’s picture book. Branford’s Violet Mackerel series is also a firm favourite of mine.

From the publisher: Lilli-Pilli s mother is having a baby. Lilli-Pilli is sure the baby is going to be a sister. She can feel it in her wings.

Lilli-Pilli’s Sister is one of those amazing children’s picture books that truly is made more powerful and delightful because of the combination of author and illustrator. Yes, I expected to like it, but I LOVE it, and I think kids will too. It’s the kind of story you finish with a swallow and a blink and a tremulous smile. Do seek this one out if you have children who will love the idea of little bush fairies.

The Cuddliest Hug

Written by Meredith Costain and illustrated by Cee Biscoe, The Cuddliest Hug was published by Koala Books (2014). RRP: $14.99

From the publisher: Little baby Kanga is lost and can’t find his mother to give him his special sleepy-time cuddle. All his bushland friends try to help him with their own cuddles but nothing is quite right. Where could Mama be? Rhyming text and charming illustrations will delight the very young.

Kids will feel for the sad baby kangaroo and want to help him find his cuddly mother. They’ll also join in with Uncle Dingo when he warns baby Kanga NOT to hop into the cosy crocodile mouth! The large format paperback and eye-catching illustrations make The Cuddliest Hug perfect for sharing with a group of children.

One Woolly Wombat First Reader

Most Australians would recognise Kerry Argent’s One Woolly Wombat. It’s a counting classic that’s been entertaining Aussie kids for over thirty years. Recently Omnibus Books published four stories for first readers based on the wombat in One Woolly Wombat: One Woolly Wombat: Hide and Seek First Reader, One Woolly Wombat At the Beach First Reader, One Woolly Wombat Best of Friends First Reader, and One Woolly Wombat First Reader. The latter is exactly the same as the counting book I remember in my classroom, only more suitably sized for small hands.

Scholastic has Teacher Notes to support One Woolly Wombat. Here’s a short description of another in the series:

One Woolly Wombat: Hide and Seek First Reader

From the publisher: Wombat likes to trick his friends by hiding from them – but does this mean he’ll miss out on a special treat?Simple, funny and wise stories for first readers, featuring Australia’s unique birds and animals. Based on the Wombat character from One Woolly Wombat, and a companion to Best of Friends and At the Beach. RRP: $6.99

As I grew older

This is a new edition of the children’s picture book classic first published in 1993. As I grew older was written and illustrated by Ian Abdulla, and published by Working Title Press (2014).

From the publisher: As I grew older affirms the culture of rural Aborigines who, despite being dispossessed, have been determined to stay on their own land. RRP: $14.99

As I grew older gives us a glimpse into the life of an Aboriginal family living on Australia’s Murray River in the 50’s. Told in the form of reminiscences, and from the perspective of a young boy, each page is enlivened by Abdulla’s wonderful full-colour naive art work. Lots of Australia-themed children’s picture books are stories about Australian animals. And that’s lovely. But it’s nice to find a book that’s about the lives of actual Australian people.

First Flight

Although we tend to associate David Miller with colourful and detailed paper sculpture illustrations, in this children’s picture book, he uses watercolour and coloured pencil. First Flight was written and illustrated by David Miller, and published by Working Title Press (2014).

It’s a charming story about a young yellow-bellied glider who’s startled into taking his first flight by a pair of raucous kookaburras. Miller’s words and images really bring the Australian bush to life for us. There are Teacher Notes to support this book.

Possum’s Big Surprise

Written by Colin Buchanan and illustrated by Nina Rycroft, Possum’s Big Surprise was published by Scholastic Australia (2014). RRP: $14.99.

From the publisher:
Flossy the Possum is up and away!
Off in a flash and a tumble of grey
Flossy the Possum, quick as can be!
When all of a sudden ... what does she see?
Flossy’s friends have a big surprise for her. Will she find out before everything is ready?

Possum’s Big Surprise is a perfect introduction to Australian animals, with most revealing just a little of themselves when we first see them, encouraging young sleuths to guess who it is. The rhyming text bounces along, just like Flossy, and the illustrations are gorgeously detailed.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’s Sleepover and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’s Underwater Adventure

Such a great way to introduce a new generation of young Australians to the wonderful world of May Gibbs! Written by Mark Macleod and published by Scholastic Australia (2014), both children's picture books have a RRP of $19.99 for the hardback version. MacLeod’s gentle stories bring Gibbs’ charming art work to life. Follow up the stories with a gorgeous gum nut baby-making experience.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’s Sleepover

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are having a sleepover with their friends! But when Mrs Kookaburra invites her chicks along, just how are they going to fit everyone in? A new story based on May Gibbs' enchanting Gumnut Babies characters.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’s Underwater Adventure

One summer's day, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie find themselves on a magical underwater journey. Under the clear blue sea, they befriend the delightful Fish Folk and encounter the beautiful Princess Obelia. Join May Gibbs' best-loved characters Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in an endearing Australian ocean adventure.


Written by Tania Cox and illustrated by Janine Dawson, Alberta is a children’s picture book published by Working Title Press (first in 2007, this edition 2014).

Nothing Alberta does is small. So when her parents tell her she will soon be a BIG sister she is very excited. But on the day the eggs arrive Alberta can’t help being a little disappointed. A great book for introducing children to the idea of having a new sibling – or possibly even two!

Alberta is a penguin after my own heart. Larger-than-life reactions and expectations dominate her days. As a character, she would identify with Crocodile Dundee’s “That’s not a knife - THAT’s a knife!” So she’s not too impressed when her just-hatched twin baby sisters are, well, little. But she’s big-hearted too, and soon opens her flippers wide for the new arrivals. There are Teacher Notes available at Working Title.

Bilby’s Secrets

Bilby Secrets is a children’s picture book written by Edel Wignell, illustrated by Mark Jackson and published by Walker Books (2011).

From the publisher: Well-researched facts accompany the narrative text as part of the already successful Nature Storybook list. Bilby Secrets was short-listed for the Eve Pownall Award in the 2012 CBCA Awards.

While most of the books in this swag are fiction aimed at children 3-8, Bilby’s Secrets is essentially a non-fiction narrative, interspersed with related and relevant facts about bilbies. As such, I think it will also work well with children up to 10 as a non-fiction resource. We follow the life of a bilby from his birth to his independence, touching on habitat, behaviour and diet. Wignell helps us “see” through bilby eyes, and Mark Jackson’s detailed and dramatic art work completes the feeling of immersion. Bilby’s Secrets is a great model of an information text for kids to use in their own writing.

The Bush Book Club

The Bush Book Club was written by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ben Wood, and published by Omnibus Books (2014). RRP: $24.99 (hardback)

From the publisher: All the animals belong to the Bush Book Club and love to read. All except Bilby. He can’t stay still long enough to read a book, not when there are somersaults and cartwheels and handstands to do. What would it take for Bilby to slow down and look into a book?

Bilby is the star of the story. Many a parent and teacher will be nodding and smiling ruefully over THIS bilby. Unlike all the other kids who love to read and discuss books, he wants to wriggle and jiggle, do handstands and cartwheels. It’s only when circumstances conspire against him that Bilby is forced to read a few words of a story. And then he reads a few more… Wild has gifted us with some fun rhyming couplets, but the majority of The Bush Book Club is a regular story, beautifully told. Wood’s illustrations of the Australian animal characters are colourful and soft enough to cuddle. There are Teacher Notes available for this book and blackline masters at Scholastic’s website under Resources.

Karana: The Story of the Father Emu

Karana is a children’s picture book writen by Uncle Joe Kirk, with Greer Casey and Sandi Harrold, illustrated by Sandi Harrold and published by Scholastic Australia (2014).

From the publisher:
These are my chicks. I love them a lot...
I will stay with them, no matter what!
This is the story of Karana, the father emu. Karana cares for his chicks and teaches them everything they need to know to survive in the bush.

Harrold’s lovely textural and eye-catching artwork highlights this Australian Aboriginal story told by Brisbane and Wakka Wakka elder, Uncle Joe Kirk.

A Feast for Wombat

A Feast for Wombat was written by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Tania Erzinger and published by Omnibus Books (2014). RRP $24.99 (hardback)

This is a feel-good story about a little wombat. He keeps comparing himself to his friends, trying to be like them, but not succeeding. He learns that he is special in his own way too. There are Teacher Notes to accompany this book.

The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly

The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly was re-told by Bronwyn Davies, illustrated by Pixie O’Harris and published by National Library of Australia (2014). RRP : $24.99 (hardback)

From the publisher: As far as the Fairy Queen was concerned, the Fairy-who-wouldn’t-fly was lazy and so she banished her to the Woodn’t, the place where she had sent all the other creatures who wouldn’t do as they should. There, the Fairy-who-wouldn’t-fly met many friends—the Kookaburra-who-wouldn’t laugh, the Bee-who-wouldn’t-live-in-a-hive, the Frog-who-wouldn’t-hop. Find out how they worked together to return to Fairyland, and how they convinced the Fairy Queen that they had good ideas of their own about how to live their lives.

When I was a little girl, my godmother used to let me wash my grubby hands and sit turning the pages of a Pixie O’Harris book. I don’t remember which one. What I do remember is the delight and privilege I felt to be poring over its pages. I’ve been searching for fairies ever since.

The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly is a lovely way to introduce Pixie O’Harris to a new generation of Australian children. With illustrations from the original version, as well as extras from the National Archive, this charming children’s picture book has text pitched at primary school level.

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