There is no doubt that beautifully written and illustrated books are the perfect way to capture a child’s imagination and interest. When it comes to learning about Australia, books can bring the history alive and transport them easily to another place and time.
There is no shortage of material to create fascinating books for kids with Australian themes. Colourful characters, legendary exploits, inspiring moments and stunning landscapes – Australia has it all!
A well-constructed book is a great way to show kids that history doesn’t have to be boring. Luckily, we have many talented Australian authors and illustrators who create brilliant books featuring Australian history and content, and plenty of publishers who get behind them to publish them.
These authors throw their heart and soul into planning, plotting and researching for months and even years on end and join with illustrators who help lift the stories off the page, producing treasured books that kids love to read and teachers and educators value as resources in the classroom.
Historical writing for kids is certainly taking on a multi-faceted approach. Whether it’s straight historical non-fiction, or a true story that inspires a work of ’faction’, authors and publishers are using lively and engaging writing styles, catchy titles, clever design and appealing illustrations to encouraging kids to explore and learn.
Here are just some recent examples of fresh new books and different approaches to bringing Australian history and stories to life.
Jesse Blackadder is an award-winning author who has written two children’s ‘faction’ stories inspired by real-life events. In her most recent book Paraku: The Desert Brumby, Jesse has written a wonderful and touching story about a twelve year old girl, Rachel, who travelled with her father to the Kimberleys in Western Australia to capture wild brumbies for a prominent horse trainer and Shiek in Dubai. This moving story is based around the true story of the Kimberley brumbies and their journey to Dubai and follows Rachel as she experiences the difficulties and emotions surrounding these events. Jesse’s book is not only based on a captivating true Australian story, she captures the breath-taking beauty of this remote part of Australia.
Andrew Plant is a Melbourne based author and illustrator who usually focuses on books with a zoological bent. His latest book however is a stunning picture book telling the moving story of Australian soldiers who fought and died capturing the village of Viller-Bretonneux from the Germans. It is a book of historical events simply told but complemented by exceptional illustrations to perfectly capture the sense of hope and the magnitude and impact of war in a way children can relate to. He has used over 60 colour paintings to create a totally accessible non-fiction text for children and a valuable resource for teachers.
Author Tania McCartney has created the Riley travelogue book series that features interesting characters that allow kids to travel around Australia (and the world) without leaving home. In Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo the focus is on Canberra. The book uses photographs of iconic Canberra landmarks – both black and white and colour – to follow the journey as Riley encounters a jumpy kangaroo, frantically searching for something she’s lost. This book is a clever way for kids to have their own ‘jumpy’ Australian adventure around Canberra starting on the lawns of where else but Parliament House.
The Australian Bushrangers series by librarian and historical researcher, Jane Smith, detail the colourful lives of six of Australia’s most famous and notorious bushrangers of the gold rush era. Jane has used meticulous research and primary sources to create simply written historical non-fiction to bring the exploits of these Australian legends to life and debunk some of the myths along the way. When it comes to these legendary lads, the truth is amazing enough!
For example, Moonlite was a well‐connected lay preacher who turned to a life of crime and callously betrayed a friend. Thunderbolt was a "gentleman" who apparently abhorred violence but thought nothing of robbing people at gunpoint and only never killed anyone because he was a terrible shot!
These are just some examples of the quality of books by Australian authors and illustrators featuring Australian themes. Books like these provide a great source of inspiration for kids to learn and understand our unique and wonderful country and a valuable support to parents and teachers.
Redgum Book Club provides a fresh offering in the children’s book market by promoting a mix of high quality products including books with strong Australian content and current popular titles.You can find out more about Redgum Book Club, or register your school’s interest in their catalogue, by visiting their website or Facebook page.