Children’s Book Recommendations November 2021
8 Australian Picture Books
A huge thank you to Edinburgh-based children’s author Emma O’Connor for this month’s wonderfully original and varied recommendations! Don’t forget, you can preview all of Emma’s recommendations on YouTube!
Uno's Garden by Graeme Base (2006) 4+
When I was in grade 2 (P3) at primary school, Graeme came into our library to talk to us about his new book, Animalia (1986). It was an astonishing alphabet book, with the most detailed and beautiful illustrations... with everything on each page beginning with the letter represented. You can pore over the illustrations for days!
I love all his books, but I chose Uno's Garden as it was released in 2006 when my eldest son was 1 and I read it to him and his brother many times. So it has a certain amount of sentimental value. It addresses the human tendency to live out of balance with nature, and explores the consequences of that. It is also a very clever counting book, and has loads of (made-up) animals and plants to find on each page as well as a little solitary snortlepig.
Mulga Bill's Bicycle by Banjo Paterson, illus. by Kilmeny and Deborah Niland (1973) 4+
My mum read this to me when I was little, and I really just remember finding it funny. Banjo Paterson was a famous Australian Balladist, (1864-1941) and this book is an illustrated version of one of his ballads, originally written in 1896. The use of language is beautiful, and of course a little old fashioned in parts. Bill learns his lesson after bragging about being an expert cyclist when his penny-farthing bicycle runs out of control and launches him into Dead Man's Creek. Ultimately he takes back his old steed and leaves the bike at the bottom of the creek. A dig at the modern technology of the time I'd say.
Possum Magic by Mem Fox, illus. by Julie Vivas (1983) 4+
This book is a classic Australian story, from my childhood, that my children also enjoyed.
It's about two possums, Hush and Grandma Poss. Grandma Poss is magic, and makes Hush invisible for her own protection, until of course Hush doesn't want to be invisible anymore and needs to go on an adventure to find exactly the right foods to eat to make her visible again. The illustrations are exquisite!
You and Me: Our Place by Leonie Norrington, illus. Dee Huxley (2007) 4+
I chose this because it is about our First Australians and explores the cultural history of Australia and how it coexists with modern culture, in the setting of the beach. The children learn fishing, hunting, music and stories from the elders, and easily shift between the ancient and modern.The illustrations are whimsical and magical.
Where's The Dragon? by Jason Hook, Illus. Richard Hook (2003) 4+
I read this book SO many times to my kids, and I still don't think we found all the dragons. It is a lovely comedy where the woodcarving Grandfather cannot see the dragon, (even the giant real one) whilst his Grandson sees hundreds.
Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan, illus. Pamela Lofts (1984) 4+
Another classic that we read many many times. When the very clever Wombat is caught by the wily Dingo, he tricks the Dingo into creating a grotesque 'wombat stew' in the hope of saving his own skin! There is plenty of opportunity to sing a little song throughout the book, and the sheet music is included on the last page.
Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles, illus. Rod Clement (1988) 3+
Olga the Brolga by Rod Clement (2002) 3+
I loved Edward and Olga, probably for the same reasons. The rhyme is superb and the illustrations by Rod Clement are vibrant and beautiful. They both have a 'be yourself and find your own way' kind of vibe, are very funny, and are a genuine pleasure to read out loud.
Edward decides to BECOME all the other animals in the zoo, because 'being an Emu is frankly a bore...' and Olga tries to get every one of her friends to dance with her because she is in a bad mood! Needless to say they both have personal realisations in a really fun way. Interestingly, Brolgas do actually dance.
About Emma O’Connor
As an advocate for young people's mental health, Emma supports children suffering from anxiety.
You can learn more about her initiatives at: www.everydayhappy.co.uk.