When this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia announced the Notable book lists for their annual award celebrating the best in Australian Children’s literature, there were a number of titles from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creators in the list. As part of our NAIDOC celebrations I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight these books.
The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough
It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them. As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret, a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.
The River by Sally Morgan, with illustrations by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr
The River takes the reader on a journey of what their eyes can see and their ears can hear. See green ants crawling, hear frogs croaking, a goanna running, a fish splashing… Sally Morgan’s beautiful words and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s sensitive artwork combine to make this a unique, distinctive children’s picture book with global appeal. Johnny infuses his illustrations with his fine-art aesthetic and his traditional motifs to bring each page to vivid life.
Sea Country by Aunty Patsy Cameron, with illustrations by Lisa Kennedy
Aunty Patsy Cameron generously shares the stories and traditions from her family’s seasonal island life in Tasmania. With evocative text and stunning illustrations, “Sea Country” lets the reader know when to pick ripe wild cherries, when the moon (mutton) birds fly home and how the nautilus shells smell like the deepest oceans.
Sharing by Aunty Fay Muir & Sue Lawson, with illustrations by Leanne Mulgo Watson
A tender, thoughtful story – a gentle reminder of all the ways sharing makes us stronger. Part of the Our Place series which introduces children to culture. This is how we share, how we care for Country, how we care for each other.
Picture Book of the Year
Common Wealth by Gregg Dreise
All that I’m wishing, is that you take a moment to listen… A slam poetry persuasive and powerful vision of unity by Gregg Dreise. Passionate, yet peaceful, Common Wealth is a compelling plea for a future of truth, togetherness and respect for our nation’s deep history.
Day Break by Amy McQuire, with illustrations by Matt Chun
Day Break is the story of a family making their way back to Country on January 26. We see the strength they draw from being together, and from sharing stories as they move through a shifting landscape. The story refocuses the narratives around ‘Australia Day’ on Indigenous survival and resistance, and in doing so honours the past while looking to the future. Confronting yet truthful, painful yet full of hope, Day Break is a crucial story that will open up a conversation on truth-telling for the next generation.
Eve Pownall Award (for Information Books)
The First Scientists: Deadly Inventions and Innovations from Australia’s First Peoples by Corey Tutt, with illustrations by Blak Douglas
Have you ever wondered what the stars can tell us? Did you know the seasons can be predicted just by looking at subtle changes in nature? Maybe you have wondered about the origins of glue or if forensic science is possible without a crime scene investigation. Australia’s First peoples have the longest continuing culture on Earth and their innovation will amaze you as you leaf through the pages of this book, learning fascinating facts and discovering the answers to life’s questions. In consultation with communities, Corey tells us of many deadly feats, from bush medicine to bush trackers, that are today considered ‘science’, and introduces us to many amazing scientists, both past and present. The breadth of ‘sciences’ is incredible with six main chapters covering astronomy, engineering, forensic science, chemistry, land management and ecology. The first scientists passed on the lessons of the land, sea and sky to the future scientists of today through stories, song and dance, and many of these lessons are now shared in this book.
Heroes, Rebels and Innovators by Karen Wyld, with illustrations by Jaelyn Biumaiwai
Be inspired and amazed by these incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander icons! With colourful artwork and evocative writing, this book tells stories every Australian should know. Powerful and exciting, here are seven inspiring stories about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from history.
Kunyi by Kunyi June Anne McInerney
Kunyi June Anne McInerney was just four years old when she and three of her siblings were taken from their family to the Oodnadatta Children’s Home in South Australia in the 1960s. Through an extraordinary collection of over 60 paintings, accompanied by stories, Kunyi presents a rare chronicle of what life was like for her and the other Children’s Home kids who became her family. Her paintings are a healing trove of memories that reveal the loneliness, fear and courage of the Stolen Generation children who were torn from family and loved ones. From bible lessons to sucking bone marrow and collecting bush fruits, the escapades, adventures and sorrows of the children are painted with warmth, humour and unflinching honesty. Kunyi’s story is one of healing and reconciliation. She is telling it so that the lives of the children at Oodnadatta Children’s Home will not be forgotten. This is a collection of tender and honest stories that will educate children on our nation’s history and remind adult readers of the real impact of the Stolen Generations.
Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest by Diane Lucas & Ben Tyler, with illustrations by Emma Long
From the author of the Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu comes this rich and fascinating book bringing together First Nations Australian knowledge and history with Western science. The first of a proposed series of three titles, with the two possible future titles to focus on the rock country and floodplains.
Wiradjuri Country by Larry Brandy
The Wiradjuri are the people of the three bila (rivers) and their nguram-bang (Country) is the second largest in Australia. Come with Uncle Larry Brandy on an enlightening journey through his Country’s rivers, woodlands, grasslands and rocky outcrops, as well as the murri-yang (sky world).
If I’ve missed any of this year’s books please let me know, and enjoy reading!