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:
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.
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).
“Our roof leaks.
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.
“One day, on the banks of a billabong, a very clever dingo caught a wombat …
and decided to make …
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 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 for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.