With Australia Day coming up this week it got me thinking of the great Aussie authors we have in this special country. I decided that 5 days wasn’t going to be enough to showcase ALL of the amazing Aussie authors we have, but it will give me a chance to share a snibbit of some of the good stuff we have on offer.
These guys are among my favourites, and these books in particular have been loved for many years in my classroom. With the exception of one newbie!
Can you guess who I will be showcasing? Well here goes!
Jackie French- Diary of a Wombat
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley
A funny and entertaining peek into the life of one very “busy” wombat! Monday Morning: Slept. Afternoon: Slept. Evening: Ate. Scratched. Night: Ate. Ha! If only we could be as relaxed as this cheeky wombat. But wait, maybe she’s busier than we think! She wrestles unknown creatures, runs her own digging business, and most difficult of all – trains her humans. Ha! She teaches them when to give her carrots and oats. It takes a little while but in the end, humans can be trained after all. A funny and simple read with great illustrations! Perfect for ages 3-7.
Get your little readers to make their own diary. In Prep (Foundation) we get the children to just draw their week from Monday to Sunday, but older children can add more writing and detail to their diaries.
Graeme Base- Eleventh Hour
When Horace the elephant turns eleven, he celebrates by inviting his eclectic friends to an amazing costume party. But there is a mystery during the party… someone has eaten the birthday feast! Yikes!! The text is rhyming and the illustrations are so intricately detailed you could stare at them for hours. You have to look very carefully through the pictures, and try to decode the text so you can find the clues and piece together whodunit! It’s such an interesting book, with a creative theme, that I always wondered how Graeme Base even came up with such a wonderful idea?? If I ever meet him, that’s what I am going to ask! I’d recommend this book for children aged 8+.
Can you challenge your little readers to make their own book with secret messages and codes. Can they intertwine a mystery to be solved?! In fact, I’m going to get my students to do this exact task!
My Place- Nadia Wheatley
Illustrated by Donna Rawlins
This book is such a special representation of Australia over time. A wonderful time line of the same piece of land spanning across two centuries, from 1788 to 1988. We get to see how it has changed throughout this period of time and we also get to see how the lives of children in that area have changed too! I love how it’s actually a backwards timeline starting in 1988 and working back through time. The landscape changes from a modern built-up townscape, through to farm land, and finally back to the wilderness of the aborigines. The one thing that stays constant is a much loved old fig tree.
A great follow up activity for your children could be to make a map of their own environment!
I’d recommend this story for children aged 8+.
Alison Lester- Imagine
I find this book really clever and interesting because it’s not so much a story as a series of imaginative scenarios: children playing, creating worlds in their collective imaginations, turning bunk beds into tents and fishbowls into the ocean. On each page the children talk of a beautiful imaginative scene. Then you turn the page to see a a double page spread of their imagined scene in their own heads. There was a farm, Amazonian jungle, African plains and more. There’s a wonderful mix of fact and fiction, where the children turn into mermaids, or they swing through the trees while being surrounded by real creatures that actually belong to that particular landscape. Around the pictures you will find all the names of the creatures within the double page spread. The nouns can be a bit tricky though… some of them I don’t even know! Ha! It’s provides a look and find type feel, which is sure to engage your little readers!
To make the reading more rich, you could follow on by getting your little readers to make models of the panoramic pages. Or they could do a collage, paint or draw their favourite pages. Better yet, they could make their own!
Mem Fox- I am Australian Too
Illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh
I’m Australian! How about you? Many people from many places have come across the seas, to make Australia their home. How Australian is that?
This is the type of book that everyone should read. It’s about welcoming those of other cultures and nationalities to our country, Australia. This is very topical as we all know, and the rhymes are creative and clever. For example: “My auntie came from Athens with her brother and her niece. And now we live in Adelaide because it’s so like Greece. How bout you?”
I love how Mem has applied humour and simplicity to talk about this topic, which can be a quite political for many of us. Australia is special because ot it’s many nationalities. Its like the sweetest bag of lollies, and for that I am pretty proud!
I’d encourage your little reader to do a family tree after reading this. Find out where your family comes from and celebrate your background. You could even encourage your little reader to talk to friends and neighbours about their backgrounds in a bid to raise more tolerant, peaceful and inclusive young Australians.
Mem Fox- Possum Magic
Illustrated by Julie Vivas
My favourite and most iconic of all! A sparkling story steeped in Australian “magic” about Grandma Poss and little Hush, two possums from the country. Grandma works her magic so Hush is invisible, which allows the little possum to do lots of fun things (like slide down kangaroos’ backs) and also stay hidden from snakes. But one day, Hush decides she wants to be visible. Grandma tries everything to to turn Hush visible again but nothing works. It turns out that eating human Aussie food is the only way Hush will be visible again. He bites his way through lamingtons, vegemite sandwiches and pavlovas, and he travels from city to city doing this in a bid to be visible again!
You haven’t a true Aussie upbringing if you haven’t read this gem! It’s a total delight for children aged 4+ I’d say.
A lovely follow up from reading this story is to do some cooking with your little ones! Make the lamingtons or the pavlova with them. Enjoy all of these Aussie treats by having a picnic together! Australia Day would be a perfect day for it!
And there you have it! These are just some of my favourites. There are so many more authors and illustrators we can celebrate. Think names like Aaron Blabey, Freya Blackwood, Anna Walker, Margaret Wild, Nick Bland… the list goes on!!
Check out some of these iconic stories, and also check out some of the other authors I mentioned. you won’t be disappointed. It certainly is a time to be proud of Aussie literature.