Written by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
I think it's important not to get too fixed on what makes a book suit this 2016 Children's Book Week theme. Australia IS a Story Country. Our stories come from all over: from our own indigenous people, from migrants and refugees who have come to live here, from books, movies and orally transmitted stories. Let's encourage Australia's children to immerse themselves in a range of stories, to read them, listen to them, watch them, think about them, and go on to share them with others!
I have a few books I will suggest that I think make great resources for libraries and schools generally AS WELL AS suiting a theme like Australia: Story Country. Though I believe that almost any story with an Australian link of some kind (character, setting, author, illustrator etc) is suitable for this theme, I have a deliberately short list to suggest, many of them picture books. If I’ve reviewed them, I will link to my review so you can read more about them. Further below you will also find links to some great repositories of suitable books for your browsing pleasure.
Jandamarra by Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton. “Set in the Kimberley region in north-west Australia, this is the story of a young warrior born to lead. To the settlers, he was an outlaw to be hunted. To the Bunuba, he was a courageous defender of his country.”
That Car by Cate Kennedy is a children’s picture book that’s about Australian kids using their imaginations to bring an old car to life.
Stories for Simon “When Simon unwraps a beautiful boomerang wrapped in an old newspaper, he learns of the national apology to the Stolen Generations. Who were the Stolen Generations and how can saying ‘sorry' help? Through a new friendship and a magnificent collection of stories, Simon gains a deep appreciation of the past and a positive vision for the future."
The Big Book of Australian History If you buy one nonfiction resource, let it be this. So many stories about Australia!
Where's Jessie? by Janeen Brian and Anne Spudvilas. " When Jessie and her family journey to Australia’s Outback, Bertie is packed into a box to travel with the cameleers. An accident finds him alone, at the mercy of the elements and creatures who sniff and nudge and nip. Bertie is frightened and all he wants is to be safe again in Jessie’s arms. A kind boy eventually finds him and returns him to her."
Look A Book! Australian author, Australian illustrator and a wonderful story.
Thunderstorm Dancing A brilliant picture book to base creative activities around, and very evocative of Australia's regular summer storms.
The Treasure Box Some stories are not particularly happy but nevertheless need to be told and can inspire us.
Greetings from Sandy Beach by Bob Graham. While important or beautiful stories are great to share with kids, funny ones are too. This is the story of one family’s camping holiday at the beach.
Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester celebrates stories based on real life family holidays.
Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo by Alison Lester. Sometimes people use letters to tell people far away the stories of what they are doing.
Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan and Pamela Lofts is an Australian classic about a sly dingo and his plan to make wombat stew.
My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood “tells the story of a little girl who has been displaced by war, and her struggles to adapt to life in a new country.”
Koala Lou by Mem Fox and Pamela Lofts “Koala Lou is the first born in a large family. She feels sad because her mother seems too busy to pay her any attention. Perhaps if she wins the tree-climbing at the Bush Olympics her mother might notice her again . . . Koala Lou starts her training right away!”
Possum Magic by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas is another Australian classic picture book. It's about Hush and his Grandma.
This is Captain Cook by Tania McCartney and Christina Booth. A play about Captain Cook serves as a vehicle for both enjoyment and learning about a famous explorer.
My Place by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins. Walker Books have Teacher Notes. A TV show was developed based on the book, and clips from the shows and teaching notes are available at the website. THE ACTF has series 1 for sale.
The Little Refugee by Anh Do and Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley. "Anh Do nearly didn't make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. It was a dangerous journey, with murderous pirates and terrifying storms, but they managed to survive. Life in suburban Australia was also hard for a small boy with no English and funny lunches."
My Life and Other Exploding Chickens by Tristan Bancks and Gus Gordon. I am half-way through this fun story which I suspect kids will love for its total zaniness. Australians will recognise lots of the plot elements, and teachers will urge kids not to try them at home!
Poetry by Lorraine Marwood - A Ute Picnic and other Australian Poems, and Celebrating Australia - is a wonderful way to remind kids that poetry can be yet another form of Story.
Folk Tales: for Reading and Telling by Leila Berg is an excellent book that is perfect for finding great folk tales. Though published in 1966, you may find a library or second hand copy.
Check out a range of titles from 2014 in A Swag of Australian- themed Picture Books.
Looking for book reviews of terrific Australian books? Try Read Plus, Kids Book Review, Alphabet Soup or Children's Books Daily. Also try my post, Finding Great Australian Children’s Books, or look under the Reviews button.
TL Audrey Nay has a Pinterest page with a focus on books suitable for this year’s theme.
How the Birds Got Their Colours
The Kangaroo and the Porpoise
Dunbi the Owl
Dreamtime Stories - Biladurang the Platypus
Dreamtime Stories - Mirram the Kangaroo and Warreen the Wombat
Dreamtime Stories - Girawu the Goanna
Dreamtime Stories - Tiddalick the Frog
Australian Dreamtime Story - a narrator with minimal animation tells of Waatji Pulyeri (the Blue Wren)
The Dust Echoes website has wonderful animated stories from Central Arnhem Land. (Click Enter Here by the fire to see Flash movies via buttons top next page.)
Videos with stories that might be adapted by kids for their own storytelling projects
Tales with GIGI is a Youtube channel with many classic fairy tales read aloud over illustrations and text on the screen for children to follow.
Sesame Street - African Story about the Sun and the Moon
Stone Soup - based on a French tale. Story read aloud with illustrations and text for children to follow.
Tikki Tikki Tembo - classic Chinese tale retold by Arlene Mosel and djembe instruments.
The Magic Pot - animated Chinese tale.
The Well of Truth - animated Egyptian folktale
Hen and her Chick - Indian folktale
The Starfruit Tree - Vietnamese folktale
Sample storytelling for kids to watch: using flannel board props and inviting interaction - Three Little Pigs: Storytime with Kelsey Coulter.
Book Week for Beginners Wiki
Mrs Mac's Library
Here at The Book Chook: Visual Storytelling and Questions to Promote Visual Literacy
At my website, I have a free two page quiz in PDF format for you to download and use with your kids. The quiz questions are about all sorts of books, not the short list.
National Library of Australia Digital Classroom has wonderful resources kids can use for research. Students could use these to help build a character and story from Australia’s past.
ACMI storytelling resources (better for teens and up) and storyboard generator tool.
Resources for Filmmaking in the Classroom
Not Australian, but great global stories at Storynory. Audio and read along.
You might find these useful: Myths and Legends shed at The Literacy Shed and Other Cultures Shed.
There are pages of great Australian art and craft ideas on Pinterest that will help anyone interested in display ideas. Try using “Australian crafts for kids”.
Here’s a printable Australian map.
The next in this special Children's Book Week series is Children’s Book Week 2016 - Focus on Storytelling! And if you missed it, Monday's special Book Week article was Children’s Book Week 2016 - Educational Activities.
Image Credit (girls reading): Graphics Fairy