I’m Australian Too, by Mem Fox & Ronojoy Ghosh (ill.)

My auntie came from Athens
with her brother and her niece.
And now we live in Adelaide
because it’s so like Greece.
How about you?

Since the first white settlers arrived in Australia, there have been ongoing debates, discussions and worse, regarding just who has the right to be here, or to call themselves Australian. This is a really important topic, but not always an easy one to explore in a child-accessible way. I’m Australian Too manages to explore a wide range of versions of being Australian, from the first peoples, through to refugees – including those still waiting to find out if they will be ‘let in’ –  in a form which is easily digestible but also offers a way to discuss belonging and nationhood with even quite young children.

Opening with the lines I’m Australian!/ How about you?, each subsequent spread is from the voice of a different Australian child, telling where their family is from and where they live now. The closing pages focus on Australia’s tradition of opening doors to strangers, with echoes of the national anthem, and a reminder (or rejoinder) to live in peace. The important message of the story is reflected in the wonderful illustrations, showing the diversity of Australian homes, customs, landscapes and, of course, children.

Perfect for classroom discussions of belonging, multiculturalism, refugees and more, this is also perfect for at home sharing.

I’m Australian Too, by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh (ill.)
Omnibus Books, 2017
ISBN 9781760276218

The Great Barbie Disaster by Tania Ingram ill Christina Miesen

My family never owned a NICE barbecue bought from a shop like other people.

Dad thought shop barbies were for WIMPS.

Whenever we’d see a barbecue at the hardware shop Dad would shake his head.

‘Real Aussies don’t buy barbies,’ he’d say. ‘Real Aussies make their own.’

My family never owned a NICE barbecue bought from a shop like other people.

Dad thought shop barbies were for WIMPS.

Whenever we’d see a barbecue at the hardware shop Dad would shake his head.

‘Real Aussies don’t buy barbies,’ he’d say. ‘Real Aussies make their own.’

Sarah’s dad’s family have a long tradition of making their own barbecues, from the simple to the world-famous. So it comes as no real surprise when Dad decides he’s going to make them a barbecue. There’s only one problem. Unlike some of the barbecue-makers of the family, Dad’s not known for his building skills. Sarah and Mum try to talk him out of it, but barbecue-making is in his blood and he’s determined. What a disaster! Sarah watches (from a safe distance) as Dad builds and tests his barbecue. Finally, he’s sure he’s got it right. Now it’s time to test it. There are colour illustrations on each opening and a header and footer illustrations (sauce and mustard trails)

The ‘Mates’ series from Omnibus are early chapter books are tall tales and true from Australian back yards. Sarah narrates this story of her father and his recycling and building adventures. She is captivated by his building projects, even the ones that don’t quite work. ‘The Great Barbie Disaster’ is full of fun and sure to have young readers giggling. Recommended for newly-independent readers.

The Great Barbie Disaster, Tania Ingram ill Christina Miesen
Omnibus Books 2016
ISBN: 9781742991245

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos: An Australian Alphabet Book by David Ridyard ill Doreen Gristwood

Koalas, kites and kangaroos,

Penguins and possums and pelicans too.

Worm-eating wagtails and wombats at play,

Surf-riding seals on a hot summer’s day.

Rabbits on roller-skates, lizards on land,

Card-playing crocodiles, shells on the sand.

Turn over the pages and take a close look

At this wonderful, colourful ALPHABET BOOK!

Koalas, kites and kangaroos,

Penguins and possums and pelicans too.

Worm-eating wagtails and wombats at play,

Surf-riding seals on a hot summer’s day.

Rabbits on roller-skates, lizards on land,

Card-playing crocodiles, shells on the sand.

Turn over the pages and take a close look

At this wonderful, colourful ALPHABET BOOK!

Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos: An Australian Alphabet Book’ is exactly what it says: an alphabet book. As well as Australian animals, there are words describing the Australian life including kiting, surfing, ‘beaching’. There are also a broad range of other words that young readers will be familiar with including shapes, foods and plants. Words are listed down each side of openings, with two letters sharing an illustration. Illustrations are in watercolour set in frames on each opening, although the ‘characters’ often burst beyond their frame. A list in the final pages, offers the opportunity to return to images to find other, perhaps less obvious words.

Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos was originally published in 1985 and reprinted several times before this new edition from Scholastic in 2013. It’s pitched at young children beginning to access written language. The animals are anthropomorphised to extend the alphabet into scenes familiar to many young Australians. Echidnas feature on the ‘A’ page, and the list at the end identifies them as ‘anteaters’, providing the opportunity to talk about animals being named by their activity as well as having a scientific name. A zebra does appear on the ‘z’ page, but it is in a zoo, opening the discussion about native and other animals. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

 

Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos: An Australian Alphabet, David Ridyard ill Doreen Gristwood Scholastic 2013 ISBN: 9781742838724

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

The Down-Under 12 Days of Christmas by Michael Salmon

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
three wet galahs,
two snakes on skis,
and a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me,

three wet galahs,

two snakes on skis,

and a kookaburra in a gum tree.

Christmas has arrived Down-under, and everything has an Aussie flavour. Instead of gold rings and lords, there are five kangaroos and it’s lizards who are doing the leaping. And mighty hot work it is too. Can you trust the crocodiles who look like they are sleeping? Each opening has a new day of Christmas and then vignettes of the previous days. Final pages postcard Santa’s movements across the festive season, and include a black line master colouring sheet. Along the bottom of each opening, characters prepare for Christmas Day. Illustrations are alight with Michael Salmon’s distinctive humour and absurdity.

Christmas in Australia is a different experience to Christmas in the northern hemisphere, but we are steeped in the traditions, music and icons of a cold celebration. Salmon’s The Down-under 12 Days of Christmas takes a known song and makes it uniquely Australian. The images are full of Australian animals pursuing Australian summer activities (except of course those skiing snakes … ). There is plenty of fun and humour to engage young children. Recommended for junior primary readers.

The Down-under 12 Days of Christmas, Michael Salmon Ford St Publishing 2012 ISBN: 9781921665592

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com