Books of Australia – For Kids

January 26th marks the date in which Australians reflect upon our cultural history and celebrate the accomplishments since the first fleet landed on Sydney’s shores in 1788. Here are a select few picture books aimed at providing children with some background knowledge of our beautiful land, flora, fauna and multicultural diversity. There is plenty of scope for teaching and learning opportunities under the Australian curriculum, and respectful inclusions of Aboriginal traditions.  

9781921966248An Aussie Year; Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids, Tania McCartney (author), Tina Snerling (illus.), EK Books, 2013.  

What a joyous celebration of all things Australiana, all encompassed in one gorgeous book; An Aussie Year. From January through to December, with every season in between, from Melbourne to Sydney’s City to Surf and the Great Barrier Reef, we get a taste of Australian life for five young individual children of different cultural backgrounds. Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirra and Matilda provide us with snippets of their typical ethnic traditions, seasonal activities, food, terminology and special events that occur throughout the year. From icy poles, cricket, swimming and Australia Day in January, to back-to-school, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year in February. April brings Easter, Anzac Day and the Antipodes Festival, and creepy-crawlies and Mother’s Day breakfast are common occurrences in May.
Tania McCartney’s Aussie culmination continues with plenty more fun and interesting experiences as told by the kids, beautifully capturing our wonderful multicultural nation. The pictures by Tina Snerling illustrate that diversity perfectly; they are colourful, creative, rich and varied in what they portray, and very sweet.
An Aussie Year is a wonderful learning resource for primary aged children, as well as an engaging and delightful book just to peruse and reflect upon for both young and old.  

9781921504402Jeremy, Chris Faille (author), Danny Snell (illus.), Working Title Press, 2013.  

One of the wonderful elements of Australia is our exotic and amazing wildlife. The king of the bush is no exception. In ‘Jeremy’, a heartwarming story is brought to reality with the events of a growing baby kookaburra over the course of several weeks. Starting out as an ugly, featherless chick, Jeremy is brought in by the family cat and cared for by its loving family. Descriptive language allows the reader to learn his behavioural traits and aesthetic characteristics. As the story develops, we also become familiar with his personality; as an endearing and cheeky little bird, who loves to watch television and spy the goldfish for lunch. Stumbles and crashes are all part of learning to fly. But once established, a final kiss goodbye sees Jeremy reunited with his kookaburra family as they fly away into the sunset together.
Based on a true story, ‘Jeremy’ is a beautifully written and engaging information story by author Chris Faille. Illustrator Danny Snell has provided equally soft and detailed acrylic paintings. Preschoolers will adore learning about the kookaburra’s development and fascinating facts, as seen in the endpapers, as well as showing them the need to care for defenceless creatures.  

9780763670757Big Red Kangaroo, Claire Saxby (author), Graham Byrne (illus.), Walker Books, 2013.  

Another native animal to Australia is the symbolic kangaroo, and in ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ by Claire Saxby (author of other Aussie themed books including Meet the Anzacs and Emu), the typical behaviours of these large marsupials is explored in both a storytale and informative format.
‘Red’ is surrounded by his mob, and at nightfall they bound off in search of grasses. Did you know that kangaroos sometimes regurgitate their food to help with digestion? The mob are met by other creatures looking for water in the middle of the dry season. But they cannot settle when other male kangaroos are nearby. Red is the male leader, but is soon challenged by another to take over his mob. A brief fight for dominance sees Red retain his role as king, and he takes his followers to the safe shelter amongst the trees.
A compelling account, written with sophisticated, descriptive language, and enlightening charcoal and digital media illustrations to match. Equipped with an index and plenty of information, ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ is the perfect learning tool for primary school aged children.  

9781922081322Calpepper’s Place, Trudie Trewin (author), Donna Gynell (illus.), Windy Hollow Books, 2014.  

In ‘Calpepper’s Place’ we are taken on a journey with a range of Australian animals around our beautiful continent. It is an adorable story of acceptance, and trying new adventures.
Calpepper is a camel who decides one day that trudging through the hot desert just isn’t exciting enough. He jumps aboard a bus named ‘Adventure Tours to the Unknown’, and in a trialing series of experiences, Calpepper discovers these places are not the places for him after all. Whooshing down chilly ski slopes, being trampled by an avalanche of shoes in the concrete jungle, and tumbling off a wave onto the beach shore are not camely sorts of places. Finally, a little ray of sunshine gives him the comfort he needed and he returns back to plod along with the camel train once again.
A rhythmic story with fun, varied text and expressive language, gorgeously fluid and whimsical watercolour illustrations, make ‘Calpepper’s Place’ a truly engaging way to explore our scenic country and appreciate your own special place to call home.  

9781922179760A is for Australia, Frané Lessac (author / illus.), Walker Books, 2015. (See also Midnight and Ned Kelly and the Green Sash). 

Described as a ”factastic tour of Australia” and a ”celebration of Australian people, places and culture.” Exactly that, Frané Lessac’s ‘A is for Australia’ is a colourful, informative and truly engaging book visiting various locations around our amazing country. With each letter of the alphabet, we are introduced to many of Australia’s fascinating and iconic landmarks, covering every state and territory. From our beautiful beaches, to the dry outback, busy major cities and temperate rainforests, this book provides ample opportunity to get to know more about geographical places and the flora, fauna, people and structures that can be found there. Riveting facts accompany each location, including indigenous and cultural history. For example, the Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, took 16 years to build and opened in 1973.
There is plenty to experience with this bright, aesthetically pleasing and engrossing information book about our special continent. It is perfect for families to share (and create) their own memories and experiences, and for primary school children to utilise for their Australian studies.  

So, after travelling through the alphabet, the seasons and across Australia, you’ll be able to say, ‘I’ve been everywhere, man. Here, there, everywhere, man!’

Happy Australia Day, Australia!

Children’s Book of the Year

Rules of SummerIt is the time to celebrate the CBCA Books of the Year: a plethora of excellent books. No one will be be surprised that Shaun Tan’s inimitable Rules of Summer has won Picture Book of the Year. From a visual literacy perspective, it excels in composition – what is put where and how distance and depth is created; salience – what is most prominent on the page; juxtaposition – contrasting elements such as light and dark and texture; and symbolism. Congratulations to Bob Graham and Nick Bland for their Honour awards in this category. Graham’s Silver Buttons was always a contender with its consummate celebration of the ‘everyday’ and Bland’s award for King Pig, a fable about selfishness, power and redemption, also reflects his enormous popularity. Such a shame that Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood’s peerless The Treasure Box wasn’t recognised, and Danny Parker and Matt Ottley’s brilliant Parachute may have fared better in Early Childhood.

The SwapThe judges got the awards in the Early Childhood category absolutely right. The Swap by Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner uses subtle humour and retro illustrations to look at sibling jealousy and love. I’m a Dirty Dinosaur is a rhythmic swamp romp by Janeen Brian, illustrated with pencils and mud by Ann James. Banjo and Ruby Red is a tale of farmyard friendship by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood.

Book of the Year: Younger Readers is an unusual shortlist, particularly because only five of six possible books were shortlisted so a fine book for this important primary age-group was omitted. Catherine Jinks, a well-regarded writer, won the category with her Victorian gothic, A Very Unusual Pursuit. No surprises that the award-scooping My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg is an Honour book but less expected is Dianne Wolfer and Brian Simmonds’ Light Horse Boy, which many would have shortlisted in the factual Eve Pownall category. It is disappointing not to see Julie Hunt’s Song for a Scarlet Runner receive an Honour but it has been acclaimed in other awards.

I'm a Dirty DinosaurSome of my personal favourites missed out in the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, particularly the well designed, Meet … Captain Cook by Rae Murdie and Chris Nixon but due regard to winners Christopher Faille and Danny Snell for Jeremy, which explains the life of a kookaburra at a perfect level for very young readers and Honour recipients Peter Gouldthorpe for Ice, Wind, Rock, which tells the important story of Mawson, and the commendable Welcome to My Country by Laklak Burrarrwanga and family, which has also been acknowledged in an outstanding new YA novel, Nona and Me by Clare Atkins.

ParachuteWildlife by Fiona Wood is a completely deserving winner of the Older Readers category and Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near and The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn are meritorious Honour awardees.

(See my previous posts on Older Readers and Eve Pownall)

 

 

 

What is the Eve Pownall Award?

Meet Capt CookThe CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) shortlist is Australia’s most important award for children’s and YA literature. These books are celebrated in Book Week.

The CBCA shortlist generates most sales of awarded books – for children’s books, although perhaps not for YA books – in Australia. The shortlist is used as a buying guide for parents, grandparents and community members. Schools (especially primary schools) use it extensively for the build-up and culmination of Book Week.

These awards are unusual because there is such a long lead-time between the announcement of the 30 shortlisted books (around April) and the announcement of the winning and honour books in Book Week in August – this year on August 15th. The shortlist is possibly even more important than the winners. http://cbca.org.au/ShortList-2014.htm

There are five categories of shortlisted books, each with six books. Four of the categories are fiction and judged by a panel of 8 judges, 1 from each state and territory, who have a two-year judging term. The fiction books are judged on literary merit.

So, what is the Eve Pownall Award? This is not the place to look into the background of the award but its purpose is to judge non-fiction – Information Books. A panel of judges from the one state, as distinct from the fiction judging panel, selects the Eve Pownall shortlist.

The 2014 shortlist is generally aimed at primary age children and has a focus on our Indigenous people:

Jandamarra

Jandamarra is in picture book form. It is written by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Terry Denton (Allen & Unwin) and looks at the conflicted Aboriginal hero or villain, Jandamarra. Welcome to My Country is written by Laklak Burrarrwanga and family (A&U) and is aimed at upper primary and secondary students. We are given an insight into NE Arnhem Land, particularly into ‘Yothu Yindi’ – the relationship between mother and child, people and land, land and land… Meet … Captain Cook by Rae Murdie, illustrated by Chris Nixon (Random House) naturally touches on Australia’s first people. It is an outstanding book in this series for younger readers. The design and stylised illustrations are excellent and the writing is understated and enhanced with humour.

Jeremy

Jeremywritten by Christopher Faille, illustrated by Danny Snell (Working Title Press) is for the youngest readers here. In picture book format it shows what could happen to a baby kookaburra. Ice, Wind, Rock by Peter Gouldthorpe (Lothian) is an evocative picture book about our Antarctica hero, Douglas Mawson. And finally, Yoko’s Diary: The Life of a Young Girl in Hiroshima, edited by Paul Ham (ABC Books) is a heart-breaking first-hand account of Japan in WWII by a twelve-year-old girl.

Which Information Book do you think will win the Eve Pownall award on 15th August?

Ice, Wind, Rock