8 amazing Australian children’s books to celebrate Indigenous culture

It’s no secret that I love a book prize – they’re an instant guide to ‘what should I read next?’. Perpetual book prizes are established to address specific criteria – books for certain age groups or genres, illustration, authors representing particular countries and so forth. Speech Pathology Australia has hosted Book of the Year Awards for more than decade and the books shortlisted for the Association’s Awards aim to promote the development of children’s language and literacy skills.

This year, 45 books have been shortlisted by Speech Pathology Australia in four categories – we’re taking a closer look at the books listed in the Indigenous Children category. Books in this category cover issues and experiences relevant to Indigenous readers and include cultural references and ideas linking readers to ‘country’.

I particularly love Our Island, a collaboration between the children of Gununa and authors Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey. The book – a simple exploration of Mornington Island and its environs – was a long time in the making and the story behind its development makes it all the more special. As the authors say, not everyone will get the chance to visit Mornington Island, but the book is a way of sharing a small piece of paradise.

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I also enjoyed the richly illustrated Silly Birds by Gregg Dreise. Through various bird characters, the story examines the Aussie truism that it is hard to soar like an eagle when you are, in fact, surrounded by turkeys.

speech-path-book-awards-1

Two of the shortlisted books are aimed at middle readers – a collection of short stories in The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert by Jukuna Mona Chugana and Pat Lowe, and the return of rugby stars Deadly D and Justice Jones – Rising Star in the latest action-packed adventure by Scott Prince and Dave Hartley.

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Sticking with the sports theme is Paul Seden’s Kick With My Left Foot, a story about an energetic little boy playing footy. In contrast, Alfie’s Big Wish by Dave Hardy is the story of a boy who’s a little lonely in the playground, and wonders why he doesn’t have a friend the same size as him.

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When I was young, I had a special relationship with one of my aunties. She was younger than the others, didn’t have children of her own at that stage, and would allow me all sorts of privileges at her house, including baking elaborate cakes, using calligraphy pens and discussing Flower Fairy books at length. I was reminded of the fun we had when I spotted Emus Under the Bed by Leann J. Edwards. It’s the story of a little girl and her visits with her Aunty Dollo – it’s a sweet and beautifully illustrated story that celebrates extended family relationships.

Emus Under the Bed | APPROVED FRONT COVER (11 March 2014)

Finally, for the youngest readers, Marika Wilson’s Come Count With Me is a delightful introduction to numbers.

The Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year 2015 prize winners will be announced in October – stay tuned!

Come Count with Me | FINAL FRONT COVER (27 May 2014)

Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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