Top Thirty Australiana Books

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Top Thirty Australiana Books

(+ one app!)

To date I have resisted creating a list of books about Australia because our country is so many different things to so many different people and I don’t think any one book, or even collection of books, can cover ‘Australia’.  Anyway I’ve been asked so many times now that I’ve ‘dont’ my list! Clearly this list covers but a teeny tiny portion of the books out there and I’d love you to leave a comment with your own favourites. In terms of age range, I’ve spanned early childhood to lower secondary but you can click on each title to check suitability and/or purchase.

Australia

These books are in absolutely no order as I couldn’t think of how to order them – so just scroll and enjoy!

The cover and title links of books take you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here.

Top Thirty Australiana Books (+ one app!)

Possum and Wattle’ by Bronwyn Bancroft. Stunning. A magnificent publication in so many ways and one of my favourite alphabet books. In hardcover this is a worthy coffee table book.

possum-and-wattle

‘Why I Love Australia’ by Bronwyn Bancroft. Again…stunning. The work of Bronwyn Bancroft is just exquisite and one day I will have a piece of her artwork on my walls.

why-i-love-australia

‘Our Australian Girl’ series – various authors. My favourite series in many years…read my gushing review here. I’m very excited about the companion series coming out this year. A selection of the covers from this series are below.

meet-grace meet-alice meet-poppy

‘Australia’s Greatest People and Their Achievements’ by Linsay Knight. This is a great reference book for every home and school library and its format will greatly appeal to the plethora of young people who pour over ‘world record’ type publications. From explorers to scientists, business people, artists, politicians and writers, this book celebrates the many Australians who have made this country the great nation it is today. You can have a glance at some sample pages here.

australia-s-greatest-people-and-their-achievements

‘Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations’ by Christopher Cheng, Linsay Knight and the Powerhouse Museum. In conjunction with the Powerhouse Museum comes this comprehensive guide to Australia’s most innovative inventions as well as their amazing creators. Full of facts, photos and surprises for curious kids and grown-ups alike – another one to add to your home or school library collection.

australia-s-greatest-inventions-and-innovations

‘The Big Book of Australian History’ uses images from the National Library of Australia collections and has been compiled by the multi-talented and award winning, Peter Macinnis. This book provides an overview of the history of Australia from its earliest geological formations to the present day and was developed with teacher libarians (yay us!) and experts in the field. The contents page and index are comprehensive whilst remaining student friendly and the list of illustrations is a fine example of referencing and provides information on how to view full titles, medium and dimensions through the National Library of Australia website. This is a must have for home, school and library collections and would be suitable from middle primary to lower secondary.

the-big-book-of-australian-history

‘Burning the Bails’ by Krista Bella is perfect for cricket fans (as is the Cowzat app mentioned earlier and below). It recounts the true story behind the Ashes: that wooden bails were burnt by Janet Lady Clarke on Christmas Eve 1882 at her home, ‘Rupertswood’, in Sunbury, Victoria, after a social cricket match between some local lads and the visiting England team. Her son, Russell aged six, was witness to their burning and the story is told through his eyes. This illustrated text is a fictionalised account of the story and is perfect for cricket fans from five years to…well my nanna enjoyed it! The illustrations by Ainsley Walters are truly beautiful and a perfect match for the text. This book is having it’s official launch at the Melbourne Cricket Club on Jan 31 2014…which you can read more about on Krista Bell’s website.

burning-the-bails

‘Possum Magic’ by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas. Need I say more? I mean seriously if you don’t own it…click now. You can read about our celebrations for this book and find some teaching notes here. The lovely Jackie from ‘My Little Bookcase’ recently had a ‘Possum Magic’ party for her equally lovely son Ike which you can read about here.

possum-magic

Koala Lou’ by Mem Fox and Pamela Lofts Hear Mem Fox read here. “Koala Lou I DO love you! I always have and I always will” – one of my all-time favourtite lines from a children’s book.

koala-lou

‘Meet Mary McKillop’ by Sally Murphy & Sonia Martinez, ‘Meet Ned Kelly’ by Janeen Brian & Matt Adams, and ‘Meet Captain Cook’ by Rae Murdie & Chris Nixon. This picture book series invites middle primary – lower secondary readers to ‘meet’ some of Australia’s identities by presenting a very personal snippet of their lives. How I wish more books like this were around when I was in in primary school! Teaching notes for the Mary McKillop volume are on the Random House website here.

meet-mary-mackillopmeet-ned-kellymeet-captain-cook‘An Aussie Year’ by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling. I have been loving using this book with our early childhood classes at school and it will certainly be used to start the year off with discussions about Australia Day. ‘An Aussie Year’ takes us through significant events through the year and aims to showcase the enormous variety of cultures and ethnic backgrounds that make up Australia as a nation. Teachers notes are here.

an-aussie-year

‘All Through the Year’ by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker. You can see my review of ‘Today we Have No Plans’ here, which is the companion book. This book is gentle, whimsical and takes us through an Australian year. I adore both these books and the production quality is outstanding – perfect books for gift giving.

all-through-the-year

My Place’ by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins. Another classic which really every home should own. The television production based on the book was also fabulous. Teachers notes are here.

my-place

‘Mirror’ by Jeannie Baker. Set in Morocco and Sydney, this wordless picture book is stunning on so many levels. I can’t say enough good things about this book. Have a glance at the teaching notes here.

mirror

‘Our Australia’ series by Phil Kettle. The ‘Our Australia’ have been written for Australian Geographic and there seems to be now 12 titles in the series covering places such as Kangaroo Island, Byron Bay, Kununurra, Broken Hill, Cairns, Esperance, Darwin  and Mildura. The stories focus on a young Greek-Australian boy, Taha, who goes on a road trip with his Mum, visiting Australian regional towns and cities. On the way he learns about the people, history and geography of each place he visits. Phil Kettle is a prolific writer and his books are always engaging, fast paced and entertaining. You can read my review of his TooCool series here.

byron-bay

‘The Adventures of Nelly Nolan: The Nelly Gang’ by Stephen Axelsen. I am a relatively recent convert to graphic novels and it was the work of this talented author/illustrator which got me hooked. This one is oh so Australian and I was lucky enough to launch it – which you can read about here. My review of ‘The Nelly Gang’ is here and you can read more about author/illustrator Stephen Axelsen here.

Nelly Gang

‘Look See, Look At Me!’ By Leonie Norrington and Dee Huxley From the acclaimed author and illustrator team of ‘You and Me: Our Place’ comes a delightful celebration of outback family life in an Aboriginal community. This is a gorgeous read aloud picture book and a firm favourite in our house.  You can read more about Leonie and her books here.

look-see-look-at-me-

‘Big Rain Coming’ by Katrina Germein and Bronwyn Bancroft. Oh glory me where do I start with this one? I would list this as one of PudStar’s all-time favourite books (at age five!). Dan read this book every.single.night for nearly a year and it was still never enough. They can both recite the text and whenever either of the girls (or Dan) spot a dark cloud there is a deep voiced “big rain coming”. You can read more about the book and Katrina here.

big-rain-coming

Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo’ by Alison Lester and  ‘Are We There Yet?’ by Alison Lester. There are SO many books by Alison Lester which I could list here but these two are my personal favourites.

ernie-dances-to-the-didgeridoo

are-we-there-yet-

‘The Crow and the Waterhole’ by Ambelin Kwaymullina. You can read more about Ambelin Kwaymullina here. Teachers notes are here.

the-crow-and-the-waterhole

‘Ten Blue Wrens and What a Lot of Wattle’ by Elizabeth Honey. You can read my review of this book here. It’s probably my favourite counting book EVER.

ten blue wrens

‘The ABC Book of Australian Poetry’ compiled by Libby Hathorn and Cassandra Allen.

the-abc-book-of-australian-poetry

‘Sand Swimmers. The Secret Dead Heart of Australia’ by Narelle Oliver. Read more about Narelle Oliver and her stunning books here.

sand-swimmers

I absolutely love the ‘Nature Storybooks’ series by Walker Books whose titles include ‘Python’, ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ and ‘Bilby Secrets’. Both my girls request these book as bedtime reading regularly and they are a fabulous way to introduce narrative non-fiction texts to young children. You can read our review of ‘Python’ here, which also includes links to teaching notes.

python

big-red-kangaroo

bilby-secrets

Okay that’s more than 30…but why stop now?

‘The Australia Book’ by Eve Pownall. First published in 1952, this was re-published to deserved acclaim in 2008.

the-australia-book

‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’ by May Gibbs. A bit like ‘Possum Magic’…if you don’t own some Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, click very fast. See our gumnut babies here – great Australia Day craft activity.

the-complete-adventures-of-snugglepot-and-cuddlepie

‘To The Top End’, ‘In the Bush’ and ‘At the Beach’ all by Roland Harvey

to-the-top-end

in-the-bush

at-the-beach

‘The Animal Stars’ series by Jackie French, such as ‘The Goat Who Sailed the World’ and ‘The Camel Who Crossed Australia’. I have learnt more about Australian history from these books than in all my years in school. They are aimed at middle to upper primary and they are brilliant, engaging and gritty (check suitability for your child on some!). Clearly here we must also mention ‘Diary of a Wombat’ also by Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Whately. 90% of Jackie French books could be classified as ‘Australiana’ and we are incredibly fortunate to have her as our Children’s Laureate for 2014-2015. Read more about Jackie French here in my ‘Book People’ series.

the-goat-who-sailed-the-world

the-camel-who-crossed-australia

‘Australia: A Three Dimensional Expanding Country Guide’ by Charlotte Trounce (see photograph at start of post for an image of the book unfolded). A tiny little book (approx.10x10cm folded) which I can see I will be gifting to many friends overseas. I do so love when a book is also a décor item! Beautifully illustrated, it unfolds to a length of 1.5 metres and features some of the most significant sites in Australia, including Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Parliament House, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Twelve Apostles, Port Arthur, Daintree Rainforest, St Peters Cathedral, Wave Rock, Uluru, the Ghan, Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef. Presented in a slipcase, this is the perfect gift or souvenir.

australia2

The Penguin ‘Australian children’s classics series is perfection. I love, love, love them and would like to own every one of them merely to line them up and admire their gorgeousness. My review of them is here. My nan stole ‘A Fortunate Life’ from me this afternoon. I shall be checking it is returned. These are perfect gift books for older children, young adults, adults and great grandparents like my nan.

the-power-of-one taronga seven-little-australians playing-beatie-bow picnic-at-hanging-rock i-can-jump-puddles hating-alison-ashley a-fortunate-life

Two more titles by one of my favourite non-fiction authors, Peter Macinnis are ‘Australian Backyard Naturalist’ and ‘Australian Backyard Explorer’. Perfect for middle primary+.

australian-backyard-naturalist

australian-backyard-explorer

Finally…enormous congrats to all involved in the ‘Cowzat’ app which has just won the Children’s App Catergory at the 2014 Digital Book Awards. It really is a fabulous app – an interactive story about a herd of Australian cows who invent the game of cricket. Sound odd? It is – delightfully odd and madcap and fabulous and funny all rolled into one. If cricket or cows are your thing, or if you just like great book based apps…this is for you. You can purchase it for your iphone here or for your ipad here.

Cowzat

The cover and title links of books take you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here.

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The titles of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for including my books (and me) in such august company. As a boy in the 1950s, I read the books of Ion Idriess, Henry Lawson, Bill Wannan, Ada Jackson and a raft of short story writers, having earlier cut my teeth on Norman Lindsay, Dorothy Wall, Leslie Rees (especially) and Eve Pownall. Those are the ones i recall best, but Kylie Tennant, Ruth Park and Darcy Niland (all near neighbours whom I failed to exploit, alas), were there with Alan Marshall and Frank Hardy, Dymphna Cusack, Will Lawson, R. S. Porteous, Dal Stivens, Ivan Southall, Brent of Bin Bin (aka Miles Franklin), the Duracks and Brian James who wrote the Bunyip of Barney’s Elbow as well as Spencer Button which explained the mindset of my ex-WW1 male teachers in Manly. But I also read Griffith Taylor (geology), Keith McKeown (spiders) Charles Laseron (who lived over my back fence, close to Kylie Tennant) and any number of others. Hooray for the old Bulletin that gave them exposure and the old A&R that put the best of them on shelves.

    As a young teenager, I conceived a parochial dream of writing Australiana, but this is the first time I have been accused of it. All I can say is that you don’t arrive in such a place without aids and abettors.

    That said, forget the extenuating circumstances: I cheerfully plead guilty.

    • Dear Peter,
      Firstly, you’ve made my day leaving a comment. I loved your contributions on the OZTLNet more than any others (well you and Barbara of course…must not forget Barbara!). Secondly…I’ve just read your blog post on Christopher Pyne and my glory how I’d like to see you debate him and FLOOR him in two minutes flat. Finally…I agonized over what this collection of books were to be called…’Australiana’ isn’t quite right is it? ‘Books with an Australian Theme’ sounded all wrong and ‘Australiana’ was the best I could do! Please do start writing historical YA fiction.
      Megan

  2. Hi Megan,

    loved your compilation! Not an easy task, I’m sure, but so valuable for kids, parents, teachers and librarians. A great kick start to hopefully a life-long love of reading about our country.

    Many thanks too for including my book, ‘Meet Ned Kelly’, illustrated by Matt Adams! (‘Meet the . . .’ series by Random House).

    Janeen

    • I really love the ‘Meet the..’ series…hoping there will be some more Janeen! Some fab author/illustrator pairing so far in the series and they’ve been so popular in my school library which is always a good sign!

  3. I cannot tell you how thrilled i am to have found this review! With a language arts curriculum to prepare for my two little ones, this is exactly going to fit all bases for literature, history and FUN! Great!

  4. What a perfect list of books – thank you for taking all that time and effort. I’m a book illustrator and at the moment drawing and researching for another Australian Book for Walkers about Lake Eyre – please taken a look at my drawings at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.597163007027294.1073741836.295089853901279&type=1
    Before this I also made a cricket book also for Walker Books – but this one was international – a little bit of the game played in 12 different countries – Its called’ Howzat’ and out in September. Hope you like the pictures on my Facebook pages.

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