A small koala trying to get her mum’s attention, an emu pretending to be someone else, stirring stories about the king of the brumbies and some loyal friends outwitting a “very clever” dingo …
We’re celebrating Australian authors at Better Reading and Better Reading Kids, and our thoughts have turned to some of our favourite Australian animal stories for kids.
Recently we posted part one of this list: classic, and more recent, tales about Australian animals changing people’s lives.
Here’s part two: some of our favourite imaginative stories featuring Australian animal characters.
Which books would you add to this list?
The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill – a visitor to this website, Alan J Wright, recently posted a comment that “When my grade two teacher read ‘The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill’ all those years ago, I was hooked. I still have my copy of this classic Australian story and the writing of Dorothy Wall stands the test of time.” We agree! (Although one of us did find herself ‘editing’ a few of the scarier bits while reading the book aloud to some young family members recently.)
The Muddle-Headed Wombat – Another classic. These delightful stories of friendship and adventure starring big-hearted and lovable Wombat repay many re-readings (Ruth Park’s plays on words are great fun to read aloud)! Park based the stories on the characters she created for an ABC radio series which was broadcast from the 1940s till 1970.
The Silver Brumby series – These chapter books, the first of which was published in 1958, have been fond favourites for a couple of generations of readers because of their suspenseful stories, stunning descriptions – and horses! They focus on the magnificent silver stallion Thowra, king of the brumbies. There is conflict between the horse characters, danger posed by humans who hunt the brumbies, and tests of survival such as blizzards and droughts …
Possum Magic – This story of Grandma Poss and Hush and their journey around Australia is one of the best-loved and most charming imaginative tales featuring Australian animals, ever. Originally, though, Mem Fox conceived it as a story about mice! Her Publisher asked her to rewrite her original manuscript, making it even more ‘Australian’ than it was and changing the mice to a cuddly Australian animal.
One Woolly Wombat – Count to 14 with a series of animals doing extraordinary things: kangaroos dancing, koalas sipping tea with lamingtons, kookaburras writing with fountain pens… Illustrator Kerry Argent worked on this classic bestseller while she was still in art school! She also illustrated three other books on this list, and was the Art Director at Omnibus Books for many years. So we have to credit her with fostering our love of Australian animal picture books more than any other individual!
Edward the Emu – Edward’s bored of being an emu and decides to try being something else. The upbeat rhyming text and very funny illustrations in this book are absolute winners. Just thinking about it makes us smile.
Wombat Divine – Kangaroos and koalas might be the most recognised Australian animals, but wombats seem to have it when it comes to kids’ books! Here’s another gorgeous wombat story, this time with a Christmas theme: which part in the nativity play is just perfect for a sleepy wombat?
Koala Lou – With highly detailed koala and bush illustrations by Pamela Lofts, this is a universal story of a child feeling left out, trying to prove herself and gain attention, and finding in the end that love is unconditional.
Wombat Went a Walking – One of a popular series of picture books featuring Lachlan Creagh’s illustrations of wombat and a whole gang of other Australian animals, most of which are set to the tune of popular songs (this one is based on ‘Frog Went a Courting’). Kids just seem to gravitate to Creagh’s illustrations!
Ruby Roars! – Enormous fun to read (and roar) aloud, this picture book turns Tassie devils into appealing, family characters. Little Ruby wants to be scary, but none of the noises she makes frighten her friends. Ruby’s determined though … with very satisfying results.
Wombat Stew – This picture book has delightful illustrations, a theme of friendship, and fabulous suspense to engage young readers. A very clever dingo catches a wombat and decides to make yummy wombat stew. Each of wombat’s friends suggests an ingredient to add to the stew (mud, feathers, flies, gumnuts …). Will they ultimately trick dingo into letting wombat go?
Hop Up, Wriggle Over! – This one is quite new, and features a very unusual – and boisterous – family of nine different little Australian animals going about their daily activities and making lots of noise! The text is made up of single exclamations and action phrases, while the lovely illustrations tell us all about what the little animals are doing.