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Classic Australian Children’s Books

If you’re travelling to Australia with your family in tow, it might be a good idea to give the young ones something to distract them on the long flights and long waits that accompany 21st Century travel. What about an Australian children’s book to help them learn more about the place you are about to visit? Whether you’ve got kids of your own or are just young at heart here are eight Australian children’s books considered indispensable in the land down under.

Classic Australian books for children

What follows are the best-loved of the Australian children’s classics, if you grew up in Australia is it likely that you have read at least half of these. We will then leave you with a list of Kid’s picture books perfect for younger readers.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is an iconic series of books published in the early 20th Century by author May Gibbs. Starring two gumnut babies, the series covers their adventures across the Australian bush and their run-ins with the fearsome banksia men. A quintessentially Australian story set in an Australian environment, this series of books is often published together and has been a staple of the Australian bookshelf for just over a century.
Suitable for kids 8 years and older

Additionally while in Sydney you can visit Nutcote, May Gibbs’ former residence, which is now a museum open to the public.

 

The Magic Pudding

The Magic Pudding is another old-fashioned classic of children’s literature, telling the story of a talking pudding named Albert who continually replenishes himself and can never be entirely eaten. With the koala Bunyip Bluegum, the sailor Bill Barnacle and the penguin Sam Sawnoff, this little crew travels around the country, defending their food/friend from attack by the treacherous Pudding Thieves. Available on Prime

Adapted into an animated feature film in 2000, the book itself was actually written and illustrated by the famous Australian painter Norman Lindsay.

Suitable for kids 8 years and older

Like May Gibbs, Lindsay’s former home is also open to the public, serving as a gallery in the picturesque Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney.

Seven Little Australians

Written and set in the late 19th Century, Seven Little Australians is the story of the seven Woolcot children in what was then the outer rural suburbs of Sydney. With a strict yet distant military father and a young ineffectual stepmother, the book’s seven siblings run riot. As their parents struggle to maintain control, the children deal with the ordinary trials of growing up and great tragedy in a story that is as poignant as the day it was written. Available on Audible.
Suitable for kids 8 years and older

Inglewood, the heritage-listed house in which the book was written, still stands in Lindfield today but is unfortunately closed to the public.

Blinky Bill

Perhaps most famous for the 1990s animated television series, Blinky Bill is one of the most well-known series of children’s books in Australia. With a theme of environmental conservation, the series centres Blinky Bill, a mischievous young koala, with a gang of mates including his step-sister Nutsy, Splodge the Kangaroo, Marcia the Marsupial mouse, Flap the Platypus and wise old Mr Wombat, Blinky’s mentor. Available on Prime

While Dorothy Wall lived in Sydney, there is, unfortunately, no open house or museum dedicated to her and her work. But the National Library of Australia has the original Blinky Bill books as part of its digital collection; you can read them at for free via this link

Suitable for kids 8 years and older

 

Have you seen our favourite books set in Sydney for adults?

The Muddle-Headed Wombat

The Muddle-Headed Wombat is, unsurprisingly, about a particularly muddle-headed wombat, known simply as Wombat, and his idiosyncratic friends; a kind and no-nonsense mouse and a narcissistic and neurotic tabby cat. Known for its iconic and unique use of language, it was originally made for radio during the Second World War. But the Muddle-Headed Wombat met with enough success that it was adapted into literary form through the 60s, 70s and 80s, becoming a common sight in Australian creches and classrooms.
Suitable for kids 7 years and older

The author, Ruth Park, is probably best known for writing the Harp in the South, a much more serious piece of social commentary that has been much acclaimed for its depiction of Sydney working-class life.

My Place

Meant for an audience a little older than the previous books, My Place by Nadia Wheatley charts the history of one particular place in Sydney and the children who inhabit it, from 1988 back past the arrival of the First Fleet two hundred years earlier. The book styles itself as a kind of time machine, with a different set of characters and issues being presented every ten-year increment. A multiple award winner, My Place explores complex themes of immigration, multiculturalism and colonisation and was made into a television series for the ABC in 2008.

Suitable for kids 12 years and older

The Little Refugee

The pictorial autobiography of the famous comedian, author and artist Anh Do, the Little Refugee is the real story of a remarkable and terrifying childhood. Beginning in war-torn Vietnam, the Little Refugee follows a young Anh across the Indian Ocean, past brushes with pirates and to suburban Sydney. Here struggles of a different kind arise, and Anh has to learn how to adapt and thrive in a foreign country.

A companion to, the Happiest Refugee a more comprehensive work aimed at grown-ups, Anh Do’s other works and tour dates can be found here.

Suitable for kids 4-8 years and older

 

Mirror

A contemplative and inventive book by renowned collage illustrator Jeannie Baker, Mirror depicts the life of two boys, one living in Sydney and the other in rural Morocco as they live their daily lives side by side and page by page. While differences in lifestyle, landscape and habits might initially stand out, before long the similarities between the two begin to arise.

An intelligent book that tells a poignant story without words, Mirror encourages us to think about our preconceptions and what it means to be human.

Suitable for kids 5-7 years

Australian Children’s Picture Books

Try to hunt some of these down in your local library or if you prefer on Amazon. We have linked to their amazon page for more details of the title.

Several of these are available on Audible and make great soundtracks for the car.

Where to buy children’s books in Sydney

These books also make great souvenirs for nieces, nephews and grandkids. If you like the idea of taking some home, the following bookshops are your best bet in the inner city area.

  • Dymocks – Head to the lower ground floor for arguably the biggest kids collectin in the CBD
  • Kinokuniya – has a great children’s section with a fantastic view out over the Town Hall and QVB.  
  • Better Read Than Dead – This bookshop in Newtown has an extensive selection of kids books, and the staff are great at helping you pick age-appropriate material if you need assistance.

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Books for kids about australia

About the Author
Nathan Morgan-Hammer is a 25-year-old journalism student currently living in Newcastle, just north of Sydney. Between reading history, socialising with friends and exploring the great outdoors, he likes to write articles that help people better understand the world they live in.

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