A celebration of Australian picture books #1

Recently my friend Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark: Navigating the Unchartered Waters of Parenting and Life, shared a series of posts about first lines (paragraphs, sentences and pages). She discussed the importance of hooking the reader and shared some of her favourite first lines from a variety of genres. When she shared picture books I was inspired to share some by our many wonderful Australian authors and illustrators.

These are just some of the Australian picture books I quickly located on my shelves:

Australian picture books

I own multiple titles of some authors’ work, and of others’ I own but one or two. Sadly, there are many whose work I don’t own. There are too many wonderful books to share in just one post so I have decided to write a series with a post dedicated to each author of whose work I own multiple titles, including Mem Fox, Narelle Oliver, Jeannie Baker and Kim Michelle Toft (and I might sneak in New Zealander Pamela Allen).

In this post I share some lovely books, their first lines (according to Sarah’s definition) and tell you a little about why they are on my shelves.

For this series I have commandeered “celebration” as a collective noun for Australian picture books so it is fitting that the first I share is A Compendium of Collective Nouns by Jennifer Skelly.

A Compendium of Collective Nouns

This delightful little book was a gift from my grandchildren (chosen by their mother). In the introduction Jennifer asks, “Do you remember laughing when you first learned that a group of crows is called a murder? Or a group of owls is called a parliament?” Like me, Jennifer has always been interested in collective nouns but, unlike me, she has published a collection of them. Her beautiful drawings illustrate collections such as “a crash of rhinoceroses”, “a flamboyance of flamingos” and “a wisdom of wombats”, but who ever heard of “a rabble of butterflies”?

While there are a number of Hippopotamus on the Roof books I have only the original, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards (illustrated by Deborah Niland).

There's a Hippopotamus on the Roof Eating Cake

It begins,

“Our roof leaks.

Drip!

Drip!

Drip!

My Daddy says there’s a hole in our roof.

I know why there’s a hole.

There’s a hippopotamus on our roof eating cake.”

The copy on my shelf actually belongs to Bec. Her dad bought it for her on a trip back home to Belfast in 1990. He went all the way to Belfast and brought her back an Australian picture book! A good one though.

In this video Hazel Edward talks about the original idea for the book, other contributing ideas and changes as well as the the important relationship between author and reader. She also reads the book.

Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan (illustrated by Pamela Lofts) is a favourite.

Wombat Stew

It begins,

“One day, on the banks of a billabong, a very clever dingo caught a wombat …

and decided to make  …

Wombat stew,

Wombat stew,

Gooey, brewy,

Yummy, chewy,

Wombat stew!”

The amusing story tells how the animals trick the dingo and save wombat from his fate. It is a great book to read aloud with its rhythmic language and repetition of the song “Wombat stew” with slight word changes each time. Children enthusiastically join in with the reading and love acting it out. One year I wrote a play with my year one class and they performed it for the school and their parents. It was a lot of fun.

Little Bat

Little Bat by Tania Cox (illustrated by Andrew McLean) begins

“Little Bat was nervous.

She’d never done this before.”

With the encouragement of her mother and other animal friends, Little Bat discovers that she can fly. I like the story’s positive message that if you try you can succeed. Books with this theme were always popular and inspired lots of discussion in my classroom.

When I saw When the Wind Changed by Ruth Park (illustrated by Deborah Niland) in a bookstore, I had to have it for my bookshelf! When I was a child I, like Josh, must have been good at making faces, because my mother was always telling me that if the wind changed I’d stay like that. Well, I don’t think that happened to me, but it did to Josh! The book begins

“There was this boy named Josh.

He could do lots of things.

There was one thing he could do best of all.

He could make faces.”

Of course one day the inevitable happens! Fortunately the story has a happy ending, for Josh anyway – I’m not so sure about Dad!

Are you familiar with any of these books? Have you seen them in bookstores near you? What books by Australian authors have you read?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

29 thoughts on “A celebration of Australian picture books #1

  1. Bec

    Hi Nor, this was so delightful to read. Lots of memories for me! I had been thinking about Wombat Stew just recently after seeing on several occasions a spoonbill at the lake where we take Ziggy. It made me think about how much I loved the Wombat Stew Cookbook with the Spoonbill Scones. I’m glad you didn’t write about Lucy Goosey!!!!!!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Bec. We enjoyed many of these stories together. I had forgotten abut the Spoonbill scones. Maybe I should put in an order for lavender spoonbill scones!? I forgot about Lucy Goosey! I love Lucy Goosey, though neither of us can read it without tears. The illustrations are gorgeous! I must have given my copy away. Oh well, as long as it has gone to another loving home. 🙂

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  2. Sacha Black

    I haven’t ever heard of these but what a good idea – to read preschool books to my son from other countries that would be a fab way to open a world of discussion. You should totally do a series of these based on different countries too…..

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    1. Norah Post author

      Other countries. Now there’s a thought. I can think of a few I own, but most that are not Australian are by writers from the UK or USA I think. Perhaps I need to delve into that a little deeper. Thanks for the suggestion.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I thought immediately of one of my favourite Chinese folktales “Tikki Tikki Tembo”, and then discovered (from Wikipedia) that it wasn’t genuine at all!

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  3. Autism Mom

    Love these! We don’t have any Australian stories in our house, though we do have a small piece of Aboriginal or Aboriginal-esque art with the story of Ganharr the crocodile on it. I have read that to my son a couple of times.

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  4. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Lovely picture book collection Norah. I have seen many of them in bookshops but have to admit I have not paid a lot of attention to them. I guess I have no need not having children in my life although I have sent some to my nephews so that they get a taste of Australia.
    I don’t remember Australian author picture books from my youth either although Scottie in Gumnut land and The Billabong series by Mary Grant Bruce and We of the Never Never were definite favourites.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I have always been pleased to have an excuse for picture books in my life. I don’t remember picture books from my childhood either. I read the Billabong Series, but there were no pictures there. Mum had a copy of “Dot and the Kangaroo” which had a few pictures, I think; or maybe they were in my imagination. Children’s picture books have definitely increased in number and quality over recent years. I am proud to say we have many wonderful authors and illustrators in Australia.

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  5. macjam47

    What a wonderful collection of books, Norah. I’ve always been interested in collective nouns and A Compendium of Collective Nouns sounds like a book that would be fun to read with young children. Wombat Stew sounds delightful.

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  6. Annecdotist

    It might be something to do with positioning, but When the Wind Changed appeal to me immediately from your photo of your collection. I also like the idea of the book of collective nouns – I think it’s great when young children can end up knowing things that adults don’t know or have forgotten, can be confusing for the adults though!

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  7. stuckinscared

    What a delightful post, Norah! I’d not heard of any of the titles mentioned (before today), they all sound like they’d make worthy additions to Littlie’s book shelf… I’ll have to google them and give Santa a heads up 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you Kimmie. I’m pleased you like the look of them. I’ll be sharing more over the next few weeks so there may be others you like as well. The good thing about being connected on the internet now is that they are available anywhere in the world. 🙂

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  8. Sarah Brentyn

    Glad that you did a picture book post! 🙂 The Compendium of Collective Nouns looks awesome. I haven’t seen any of these and am looking forward to your other posts. The only books (I think) we have from an Australian author are two fantastic ones, “Enigma” and “Animalia” by Graeme Base.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m not familiar with “Enigma” but I have “Animalia”. Unfortunately I had placed it on my desk and forgot to include it in the photo. Have you seen his website? http://graemebase.com/
      Thank you for inspiring me to share some picture books. It actually seems like a no-brainer to me. I have no idea why I hadn’t thought of it previously. Maybe the ‘no-brainer’ gives me a clue! 🙂

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  9. Charli Mills

    What a wonderful collection. I loved simply scanning all the covers in your opening photo and they look like such interesting reads. Wombat Stew and the collective nouns book are two that capture my interest the most. In fact, I love the way, Compendium of Collective Nouns rolls off the tongue. I always enjoyed reading books to my children that were fun to read in that way. I think this Christmas I might focus on Australian books for the grands! I hadn’t thought about doing that before.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Charli. I’m pleased you enjoyed looking at the covers. I’m sure you find some books that will appeal to you and the grands as Christmas gifts. I will be sharing some more suggestions over the next few weeks so you may get an idea or two there also..

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  10. roweeee

    Hi Norah,
    You’re on a winning theme here with me. I am a great fan of Jackie French’s and did a writing for children workshop with her about 5 years ago. That was incredible. Graeme Base is another one I love and we have multiple titles. I personally loved Ruth Park’s books but haven’t read them to my kids. Mulga Bill’s Bicycle was another fave.
    Moving into illustrated chapter books, Andy Griffths & Terry Denton are fabulous. My daughter is quite a reader and has read the treehouse series. I did a great writing for children workshop with Andy Griffiths as well.
    It’s too late for me to think of anymore at the moment. Hope you have a great weekend, Norah. xx Rowena

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for adding to the list, Rowena. Jackie French is great and how wonderful for you to have done a writing workshop with her and another with Andy Griffiths. His Treehouse series is very popular though I have not yet read one – really should, I know! A week or two ago when I was at one of the larger local shopping centres Andy was there doing a book signing, meet and greet. The queue of excited children and their parents was amazing. There was a real buzz in the shopping centre. I was disappointed I didn’t have a child with me or a book as an excuse to join the queue. I knew my grandson already had some of the series so wasn’t sure which to get.
      I hope you are having a good weekend too.

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      1. roweeee

        Andy Griffiths seems to have so much energy and goes to the Sydney Writer’s Festival every year. We saw a local theatre production of the 26 Storey treehouse and it was great and we are pretty sure that Terry Denton starred in it as himself.
        I have another great Australian children’s author to add to the list: Colin Thiele. His family comes from around Hahndorf in SA where my grandfather is from and we were related through marriage I think. I went to a local Scout booksale and picked up one of his…along with a Noddy book.
        Actually, I snuck off to the booksale while my daughter was at dancing. Our place is already overcrowded with books, despite dropping a load off at the school last week. I really love old and historic books and picked up some beauties. Someting tolds me there was no way I was leaving that sale empty handed. xx Ro

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        1. Norah Post author

          The Treehouse production sounds fun. I must look out for a similar performance here. I haven’t thought about school holiday shows. I really should have a look. Thanks for the reminder.
          I have some beautiful Colin Thiele books. Storm Boy is a classic, of course. But I love his Australian ABC and Australian Mother Goose (which were in the pile of books I photographed). Magpie Island is a good one too.
          I know what you mean about a house full of books. It must be a house full of joy too!

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