Fantastic Fiction for Kids: All things Australian

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The first contribution to Fantastic Fiction for Kids in 2010 comes from Kristine, a stay at home mother to two girls aged 3 and 11 months, who writes a lovely, down to earth blog called Bilbified where she documents the crafting, playing, sewing and other doing her family get up to in Western Australia. Kristine is relatively new to world of blogging and is “enthusiastic about being part of a community of like minded people, generously sharing their ideas, inspiration and life“.

Kristine chose “Australia” as her theme and with Australia Day coming up in just under three week’s time, I’m sure you’ll find some suggestions here that you’ll want to reserve through your library if not also add to your book wish list.

the_hidden_forest_frontcoverThe Hidden Forest by Jeannie Baker
Although Jeannie Baker is an English author this book is set in Tasmania. It tells a lovely simple story about a boy named Ben who is fishing for a big fish but loses his trap. His friend Sophie helps him recover his trap and in doing so overcome his fearfulness of the ocean. “But now, Ben see things differently … He sees how wonderful these creatures are here in their mysterious, hidden world. He feels this is where they belong.” The illustrations are a beautiful collage of collected materials, clay, resin and seawater. This was a favourite of my older daughter for a long time when she around 18m to 2 years. I’m not sure why this book appealed so much – maybe the simple story, maybe the beautiful illustrations or maybe just the magical underwater world.
sailing_home_frontcoverSailing Home by Colin Thompson
Another non-Australian but he’s lived here for the past 15 years! The family (and a stow-a-way mouse who you can find in most pictures) wakes one morning to find the tide has come in and they’re house is adrift. They have this amazing adventure and see different sights and animals as they travel from the colder waters through to the warmer waters.
stellaluna_frontcoverStellaluna by Janell Cannon
The story of a little bat that loses her mother and lives for a while with a family of baby birds where she has to act like a bat to fit in. “How can we be so different and feel so much alike?” mused Flitter. “And how can we feel so different and be so much alike?” wondered Pip. This book is a new favourite as my daughter is now able to enjoy longer stories. My daughter has a strong emotional response to this story. I guess for a 3 year old the thought of losing her mother is probably her greatest fear.
bunyips_don't_frontcoverBunyips Don’t by by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Kim Gamble
Bunyips are mythical creatures that live in waterholes. Old Bunyip is teaching Young Bunyip all the things that bunyips don’t – dance, sing, live on the sunny side of the creek. One day Young Bunyip discovers that Old Bunyip was wrong – Bunyips can have fun too! As Bunyip discovers fun the pictures become more colourful and fun too. This one is really enjoyable to read out loud particularly because Old Bunyip is so grumpy. I must warn you though his language is he calls Young Bunyip names like “fat-head” and “hammer-nose” and my husband edits them out when he reads this story.
Sebastian_lives_in_a_hat_frontcoverSebastian Lives in a Hat by Thelma Catterwell, illustrated by Kerry Argent
This book tells the story of a little baby wombat that is orphaned when a car hits his mother. He lives in a brown wooly hat. This book has really simple text and tells of how animal cares look after orphans. I must say my daughter’s favourite bit is when his hat has to go in the wash because he wees in it.
snap_frontcoverSnap by Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Sascha Hutchinson.
MahRoo is too tired to play with Joey today. Joey finds lots of other animals to play with until one animal’s game is a little too scary. The story ends with MahRoo ready to play but Joey just wants the safety of his pouch. This book has a few rhymes that are repeated which adds to the enjoyment of reading this aloud ” What do you say? Do you know any games to play?” “Please stay. Don’t go away” said Joey “We can play together all day.” There are also some lovely examples of language play, such as Twisker the Mouse teaching Joey to play Hide-and-squeak. The pictures are torn paper collages.

If you’d like to know more about children’s books in Australia here are some starting points:

  • Australian children’s books – from Australia’s Culture Portal
  • The Children’s Book Council of Australia
  • The 2009 list of wonderful new Australian kids’ books to add to your library, from the (Australian) children’s author Chris Cheng
  • As for some appropriate music to put on you could do worse that anything by The Mudcakes or The Mighty Buzzniks, both Aussie bands for kids. Or for something completely different how about the short and sweet Kangeroo piece in Saint Saen’s Carnival of the Animals?

    Photo: Sam Ilic Photography - Stage 88
    Photo: Sam Ilic Photography - Stage 88

    Kristine tells me that Aussies are pretty laid back in their celebrations on Australia Day – “A typical Australia Day for many would be a swim / surf at the beach, a bbq with mates – maybe a bit of backyard cricket or listen to Triple J’s top 100 songs for the year, followed by watching the fireworks in the evening.” Swimming in the sea might not be an option for all of us at the moment, but we could try:

  • baking some Lamingtons – a very typical Australian cake
  • making an origami Koala
  • these great colouring in pages from

  • Now do pop over to Bilbified and say hello to Kristine – if you want somewhere to start I particularly like this post about the bug theme birthday party held recently for Kristine’s eldest daughter and this one, with a great tutorial for making a flower brooch from fabric. And don’t forget to leave us a comment with your favourite books on an Australian theme!

    7 Responses

    1. Zoe

      I should have included one of my favourite books which happens to have an Australian theme:
      What made Tiddalik laugh by (well, retold by) Joanna Troughton – a super retelling of an Aboriginal story with fantastic illustrations. And then of course there is everything we’ve read by Alison Lester – definitely an author/illustrator worth looking for.

    2. Kristine

      Ahh Alison Lester. She’s been my daughter’s favourite so many times – First “Imagine” (Our copies falling apart), then the “Clive eats Alligator” series. “My Farm” induced a pony passions (which thankfully has dwindled – backyards a little small). “Are we there” makes us want to jump in the car and travel around our beautiful country(one day…) and recently “Magic Beach” which Zoe and her girls have featured .

    3. Catherine

      I’ve just found your website and am really enjoying looking around. I love Jeannie Baker’s books the illustrations just take your breath away. And I’m definitely going to look out for Snap! as my son loves crocs.
      We like Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat and also Bruce Whatley is a bit of a favourite at the moment.

    4. Choxbox

      All your suggestions sound lovely! Hopping over to check the links. Thanks!

      Our Australia picks –
      Birds, Birds and More Birds -picked this from a charity shop one time, awesome book;
      Kangaroo’s CanCan Cafe;
      Teddy’s Night Lost in the Bush – the author is a foot & mouth artist.
      All three enjoyed over and over 🙂

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