HomeBooks by AgeAges 0-3Great Australian Books For Children

Great Australian Books For Children

Working in a Washington, DC children’s book store regularly reminds me that I am not, in fact, an American. It’s not really because people sometimes ask me if I am from Boston (please come back cute Australian accent!), but rather because of the books people request as childhood classics. I know now  that no home in the US is without a copy of Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, and there’s probably more than one copy, as it is a baby shower gift staple. So anyone looking for some new ideas, or any fellow Australians now residing overseas desperately trying to remember great books to keep up your child’s heritage, here is my Great Australian Books for Children list:

Possum Magic

by Mem Fox (Author), Julie Vivas (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Voyager Books (September 15, 1991)

Synopsis: Grandma Poss uses her best bush magic to make Hush invisible. But when Hush longs to be able to see herself again, the two possums must make their way across Australia to find the magic food that will make Hush visible once more. Another treat from Mem Fox that is sure to be treasured. The whimsical illustrations are a wonderful complement.–Children’s Book Review Service

Comments: I love my audio unabridged version of Possum Magic, narrated by Mem Fox, herself.

Koala Lou

by Mem Fox (Author), Pamela Lofts (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Voyager Books (February 28, 1994)

Synopsis: When Koala Lou’s mother becomes so busy that she forgets to tell her firstborn how much she loves her, Koala Lou enters the Bush Olympics, intending to win an event and her mother’s love all at one time. “A first-rate choice for bedtime, story hour, or reading aloud.”–The Horn Book

Edwina the Emu

by Sheena Knowles (Author), Rod Clement (Illustrator)

Reading level: Baby-Preschool

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: HarperTrophy (April 25, 1997)

Synopsis: In this sequel to the popular Edward the Emu, Edward and his mate Edwina are the proud parents of ten little emu eggs. “Don’t get depressed. I’ll find a job, you stay on the nest,” says Edwina to her stunned mate. And so Edwina sets out to find a job in this lighthearted offering from down under. Rhythmic, rhyming verse by Sheena Knowles and hilarious illustrations by Rod Clement make this an entertaining picture book that is sure to find a place in the hearts of readers everywhere.

The Magic Pudding

by Norman Lindsay (Illustrator), Philip Pullman (Introduction)

Reading level:
Ages 9-12

Hardcover: 184 pages

Publisher: NYR Children’s Collection (June 30, 2004)

Synopsis: The Magic Pudding is a pie, except when it’s something else, like a steak, or a jam donut, or an apple dumpling, or whatever its owner wants it to be. And it never runs out. No matter how many slices you cut, there’s always something left over. It’s magic.

But the Magic Pudding is also alive. It walks and it talks and it’s got a personality like no other. A meaner, sulkier, snider, snarlinger Pudding you’ve never met.

So Bunyip Bluegum (the koala bear) finds out when he joins Barnacle Bill (the sailor) and Sam Sawnoff (the penguin bold) as members of the Noble Society of Pudding Owners, whose “members are required to wander along the roads, indulgin’ in conversation, song and story, and eatin’ at regular intervals from the Pudding.” Wild and woolly, funny and outrageously fun, The Magic Pudding stands somewhere between Alice in Wonderland and The Stinky Cheese Man as one of the craziest books ever written for young readers.

Comments: The illustrations have left a permanent indentation in my memory – after reading over the synopsis, I think I am going to have to read this again, VERY SOON!

The complete adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

by May Gibbs

Reading level: Ages 8-12

Paperback: 225 pages

Publisher: Collins/Angus and Robertson; Revised edition (1990)

Synopsis: The gumnuts, creatures of the Australian bush, share a series of adventures in this fantasy which shows them looking out for each other while trying to evade the humans.

Comments: A real ‘Aussie’ classic.

Mr. McGee

by Pamela Allen

Reading Level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Puffin; New Ed edition (1 Dec 1989)

Synopsis: Mr McGee does not live in a house, but under a tree. One day, he finds an apple under his tree and when he eats it, strange things happen to him. Winner of the Australia Picture Book of the Year Award two years running, the author has also written “Who Sank the Boat?” and “Bertie and the Bear”.

Comments: The whole Mr. McGee series is very funny!

Waddle Giggle Gargle

by Pamela Allen

Reading Level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Puffin / Penguin (1996)

Synopsis: Grandpa, Grandma and Jonathan live together in a little blue house, near a tall green tree. Sitting in the tree is a magpie who shouts waddle giggle gargle paddle poodle. She is determined to protect her nest, and the family must protect themselves from this swooping bird.

Comments: A great story for anyone who had to, or has to, survive dive-bombing magpies.

The Pear in the Pear Tree

by Pamela Allen

Reading Level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Puffin Books (September 27, 2001)

Synopsis: A delightful and original Pamela Allen book to share with the very young. John and Jane went out walking and look up to see a juicy pear. Thus begins the captivating story of their quest to pick a pear from the pear tree..

Herbert and Harry

by Pamela Allen

Reading Level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Penguin Group Australia (2000)

Synopsis: Herbert and Harry are two brothers who live and work together. One day, they discover a great treasure! What will this bring for Herbert and Harry? Here is another story to share from this award-winning author.

Comments: A story about greed, with an important moral to share.

Mr. Archimedes’ Bath

by Pamela Allen

Reading level: Ages 2-6

Paperback: 28 pages

Publisher: Puffin Books (January 27, 1994)

Synopsis: Every time Mr Archimedes has a bath with his friends, the water overflows. Somebody must be putting extra water in the bath. Is it Kangaroo? Or is it Goat or Wombat? Whoever it is, Mr Archimedes is going to find out.

Comments: An early science book.

Who Sank the boat?

by Pamela Allen

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (April 16, 1996)

Synopsis: Beside the sea, there once lived a cow, a donkey, a sheep, a pig, and a tiny little mouse. One warm, sunny morning–for no particular reason–they decided to go for a row in the bay. Do you know who sank the boat?

Comments: Another early science book.

Bertie and the Bear

by Pamela Allen

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (March 23, 1984)

Synopsis: A bear chases Bertie; a group of people chase the bear; and soon music and harmony exist.

I wish I Had a Pirate Suit

by Pamela Allen

Reading level: Ages 3-7

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Puffin (March 1, 1993)

Synopsis: Peter has a pirate suit and all the power to go with it, while his younger brother has to serve as the crew on their imaginary pirate ship.

Inside Mary Elizabeth’s House

by Pamela Allen

Reading level: Ages 3-7

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Viking Australia (November 30, 2000)

Synopsis: Mary Elizabeth has a monster at her house, but her classmates don’t believe her. One night she invites them all home to dinner and they realise that Mary Elizabeth was telling the truth.

Magic Boomerang

by Mark Greenwood (Author), Frane Lessac (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Artbeat Publishers (January 18, 1994)

Synopsis: Greetings Dear Cody, the letter began, I hope you have fun with this old boomerang. It has amazing Powers so legends here say. It will always come back if you throw it away.

Comments: A beautiful Aussie story with wonderful illustrations.


by Alison Lester

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 40 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books (September 27, 1993)

Synopsis: A vivid introduction to animals from all parts of the world, portraying them in their specialized environments with intricately detailed pictures. Invites the reader to imagine what it would be like to live in various locations, such as a house, a jungle, and an icecap, and meet the animals that live there.

Comments: It’s a fabulous book no home should be without.

Pete the Sheep-Sheep

by Jackie French

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Clarion Books; 1 edition (September 12, 2005)

Synopsis: Shaun is the new sheep shearer in Shaggy Gully. Since shearing is such hard work, all the other shearers have sheep dogs to help them. But not Shaun. His partner is Pete . . . a sheep- sheep!

Pete has a polite way of rounding up his charges, and Shaun is an expert shearer. The sheep are thrilled with this unconventional new team, but the other shearers—Ratso, Big Bob, and Bungo—are not. Luckily, Pete has a few ideas under his hat that are sure to please everyone.

Bruce Whatley’s spirited illustrations bring to life Jackie French’s zany characters in this hilarious tribute to individuality and the working sheep.

Comments: Very funny.

Diary of a Wombat

by Jackie French (Author), Bruce Whatley (Illustrator)

Reading level: 3 – 7

Hardcover: 32 Pages

Publisher: Clarion Books; 1 edition (August 18, 2003)

Synopsis: Award–winning author Jackie French’s love of wombats comes alive in this cheeky observation of Mothball’s life, while Bruce Whatley’s captivating illustrations of Mothball’s antics shows just how entertaining and endearing wombats are to humans.

Wombat Stew

by Marcia K. Vaughan (Author), Pamela Lofts (Author)

Reading Level: Ages 4 – 8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Australia (2005)

Synopsis: One day, on the banks of a billabong, a very clever dingo caught a wombat and decided to make gooey, brewy, yummy, chewy, wombat stew! However, when Wombat’s friends decide to help, things go very wrong for Dingo.

Comments: Wombat Stew is actually a song – the music can be found at the back of the book.


by Gary Fleming

Reading Level: Ages 4 – 8

Paperback: 48 pages

Publisher: Weldon Kids (1995)

Synopsis: Amongst our forests and woodlands there are untouched pockets where time stands still. This is a story of one such place and the creatures that dwell in its valley.

Comments: A beautiful story with fantastic pictures – is a longer story and requires patience.

Where the Forest Meets the Sea

by Jeannie Baker (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 0-7

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Greenwillow (May 16, 1988)

Synopsis: ‘My father says there has been a rain forest here for over a hundred million years’.’

A boy and his father travel in their boat, ‘Time Machine’ to a stretch of beach beside a primordial tropical rain forest. As the boy walks among the trees he imagines the forest as it might have been in the past. Dinosaurs emerge, barely perceptible, from a tangle of trunks and vines; the faint outlines of an aboriginal child melt into a background of trees and in the final haunting scene the unspoiled vista readershave toured is overlaid with translucent images of civilisation.

Comments: No words just thought-provoking pictures – very topical now with preserving forests and natural areas of beauty: another book everyone should have.


by Jeannie Baker (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 0 – 7

Library Binding: 32 pages

Publisher: Greenwillow (April 26, 1991)

Synopsis: “The effect human beings have on the landscape around them is the theme of Baker’s most recent tour de force….The artist’s multimedia collage constructions are, as ever, fascinating in their realistic detail and powerfully convey the dramatic message..”–Horn Book.

A very special thanks to fellow Aussie, Jill Browne, a former kindergarten teacher, for helping me remember such great Australian books and for contributing to the comments!

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  • Hi,

    I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys 8 and up, that kids hate to put down. My web site is at http://www.maxbooks.9k.com and my Books for Boys blog is at http://booksandboys.blogspot.com
    Ranked by Accelerated Reader

    Max Elliot Anderson

    August 11, 2008
  • This is a great list! I’d love to help you expand it some more, if you ever get time. So many wonderful books here.

    January 27, 2009
  • Hi, Book Chook!

    I would love that. Lets talk, I need to re-visit my Aussie classics.

    January 27, 2009

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