Australian Children’s Classics


Publisher: Penguin Australia

Every so often, there comes a story so brilliant and lively and moving that it cannot be left in the past.

So begins each of the re-released Australian children’s classics: ‘Seven Little Australians’ by Ethel Turner; ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ by Joan Lindsay; ‘Playing Beatie Bow’ by Ruth Park; ‘A Fortunate Life’ by A.B Facey; ‘The Power of One’ by Bryce Courtney; ‘Hating Alison Ashley’ by Robin Klein; ‘Taronga’ by Victor Kelleher; ‘I Can Jump Puddles’ by Alan Marshall; ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ by Melina Marchetta and ‘Blueback’ by Tim Winton. I just snapped ‘Blueback’ up this week in the Blue Mountains…it was my brothers favourite childhood book so I had to have it in memory of him. It also happens to be the only Tim Winton book I have really enjoyed…am I even allowed to say that?

Penguin Australia has repackaged ten of the best in children’s and young adult writing over the last decade, from ‘Seven Little Australians’ first published in 1894 to the 1990s with ‘Looking for Alibrandi’.  Not only do these books hold within their pages a slice of Australia, but their retro style covers, beautiful illustrations by Allison Colpoys, gorgeous array of colours, the endpapers (love a good endpaper) and the textured hardcovers make them perfect home décor for bibliophiles. Is that shallow of me?

textured covers

Whilst these are indeed children’s classics, they are for the upper age range. In some cases they are really young adult titles, but it is worth purchasing the set whilst they are in print and discovering or re-discovering these books with your children over the next ten years. The complete set is a fascinating look at the history writing in Australia. Classics are stories which have remained popular and timeless and they help readers to make sense of the present through considering the past.

I studied ‘Playing Beatie Bow’ in Year Eight and it was one of my favourite books of my teen years. Thanks must go to my Year Eight English teacher, Mr Chris Chapman of St Peter’s Lutheran College for brining it to life…never underestimate the power of a great teacher.

Classics can require some ‘introduction’ to young readers. For tips on introducing the classics to young children through to young adults, please see this post here.

To add these books to your home or school library click on the title or cover links.


‘Blueback’ is a deceptively simple allegory about a boy who matures through fortitude, and finds wisdom by living in harmony with all forms of life. A beautiful distillation of Winton’s art and concerns.


‘Looking for Alibrandi’

I’m beginning to realise that things don’t turn our the way you want them to. And sometimes when they don’t, they can turn out just a little bit better.


‘Seven Little Australians’

If you imagine you are going to read of model children you had better lay down this book immediately. Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.


‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’

Don’t worry about us, Mam’selle dear,’ smiled Miranda. ‘We shall only be gone a very little while.


‘Playing Beatie Bow’

‘Now then,’ thought Abigail, ‘something very weird has happened to me. I’m in the last century. I don’t know why, and that doesn’t matter. I’ve got to get back.


‘I Can Jump Puddles’

It amazed me that they would imagine I would never walk again. I knew what I was going to do. I was going to break in wild horses and yell ‘Ho! Ho!’ and wave my hat in the air, and I was going to write a book like ‘The Coral Island.’


‘A Fortunate Life’

And that’s the way it was. I would often go into the bush and watch the birds and think in some ways they were like me – they had to fend for themselves as soon as the mother bird thought that they were old enough.


‘Hating Alison Ashley’

Alison Ashley. She was the most beautiful, graceful, elegant thing you ever saw in your life . . . And from the first day I hated her.


‘The Power of One’

He had given me ‘The Power of One’, one idea, one heart, one mind, one plan, one determination.



The great dome of the sky, black, star-sprinkled, arched above him, appearing at that moment so limitless, so vast and free, that the fences and cages of Taronga were dwarfed, reduced to the point where they barely seemed to exist . . .


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.


  1. We have several of these titles too. It’s a stunning set and, like you, I’ve put it ‘up high’ until certain people are less likely to dog ear the pages! I have a soft spot for Taronga as I had to teach it when I was lecturing at Uni, and the deep green cover design in this edition is just perfect. I’ve never read A Fortunate Life start to finish. I really must!

  2. Such lovely books but the only one that I really do NOT like is “Picnic at Hanging Rock” That movie gave (and still does) me nightmares!!!


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