Picture Books - Australian Feed

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen

Tea and Sugar ChristmasNational Library of Australia, Canberra, 2014

Hardback, 36 pages

ISBN: 978-0-6422-7863-0

Suggested reading age: 5+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

This is the story of a train that travels once a week across the desert carrying goods to remote and isolated communities.  It has the feeling of a steampunk fantasy - a train that is a travelling shop, complete with livestock and a slaughter van? - but is based on fact.  From 1915 - 1996, the Tea and Sugar train travelled once a week from Port Augusta, SA to Kalgoorlie, WA.  

Children will love the story of Kathleen who is waiting for the train to bring sugar.  The sugar ran out on Sunday and she has to wait four long days for the train to come.   Will it be on time?  Will she see Father Christmas who travels the line once a year, bringing lollies, soft drinks and presents for all the kids on the line?  For kids (and their parents!) who want to know more, there are period photos and maps at the back of the book along with some history about the train.

What's Your Story? by Rose Giannone and Bern Emmerichs

What's Your Story?Berbay Publishing, Vic, 2013

Hardback, 40 pages

ISBN: 978-0-9806-7-1155

Suggested reading age: 6+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ****

I seem to be on a bit of an Australian history kick with the picture books lately.  Not sure if it's luck or by choice but I am enjoying these books that bring Australian history to younger readers.  This one especially with it's theme of everyone having a story and the explanation that even countries have stories.

What's Your Story? introduces young readers to the idea and importance of story and retells the story of Leonard, an orphaned English boy and a young girl, Milba, from the Eora tribe.  I really liked Bern Emmerich's illustrations.  I'm not sure what the style is called but they were fresh and appealing.  My only complaint about this book is that there wasn't a page at the end telling us more about the two main characters and their lives.

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck by Michelle Gillespie and Sonia Martinez

Sam, Grace and the ShipwreckFreemantle Press, Freemantle WA, 2011

Hardback, 32 pages

ISBN: 978-1-9216-9600-8

Suggested reading age: 9+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ****

I'm loving the great children's books I'm finding at our local library that celebrate Australian history.  I don't remember books like these from when I was growing up and they're a welcome addition to the great pantheon of children's literature.  Australian children deserve to have stories that tell of their unique history and culture.

This book is based on a true story of a shipwreck off the south coast of Western Australia in 1876. Michelle Gillespie has managed to make this tale come alive with a beautiful retelling of events and portrayal of the two main characters - 16 year old Grace and stockman Sam.  The story is ably illustrated by the talented Sonia Martinez.

Meet Captain Cook by Rae Murdie and Chris Nixon

Meet Captain Cook

Random House Australia, Milsons Point, 2013

Hardcover, 32 pages

ISBN: 978-0-8579-8017-5

Suggested reading age: 8+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ***

This book is one in a great new series featuring famous Australians who helped create Australia.  I'm really excited that there are such fabulous books available for young Australians to learn about their history.  As a kid I can remember being frustrated by the emphasis in books on the northern hemisphere experience.

In Meet Captain Cook, we learn about the famous explorer's life as well as his epic voyage to discover and map the east coast of New Holland.  Did you know that 58 animals went on the trip along with the rest of the crew and their supplies?

Show Day by Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean

Show DayOmnibus Books, Central Coast, Year

Hardcover, 32 pages

ISBN: 9781862916890

Suggested reading age: 5+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

Show Day beautifully captures the quintessential nature of an Australian country show.  It's the day when all the farmers and their families show their prize animals and enter competitions for the best produce, flowers, cakes, jams and pickles.  As well as the fun of the competitions, there are also rides, games of chance and show bags.  

In this story, Andrew Mclean's beautiful drawings compliment Penny Matthews text as we follow a farm family and their luck at the show.  Will they win biggest pumpkin and what is the girl's most unusual pet?

Louise Builds a Boat by Louise Pfanner

Louise Builds a BoatOrchard Books, New York, 1990

Hardcover, 32 pages

ISBN: 978-0-5310-8488-5

Suggested reading age: 3+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ****

At the end of Louise Builds a House, Louise says she is going to build a boat.  After she ended the first book in this way, author Louise Pfanner thought, "Now I am going to have write a book about building a boat!"  This book was another happy library discovery.  Originally published in the late 1980s, it was republished in 2012 with a note from the author.  This edition was printed in 1990.

I love that this book shows young readers how they can build things and I also love that the main character is a woman.  I am passionate about my girls growing up to believe that they can do anything they set their minds and hearts to.  It's not just boys who love to build things!  And there is a secret code message to decipher as well.