Australians are spoilt for choice when it comes to children’s literature – Aussie authors have been punching above their weight for decades, creating iconic works, and winning literature awards from around the world. From Ivan Southall, Libby Hathorn and Mem Fox; to Bob Graham, Shaun Tan, Sonya Hartnett, Philip Bunting and many more, Australian authors have been capturing funny, beautiful and distinctly Australian stories for and about our children. Here are some latest ones worth celebrating, from both established and emerging authors:
This warm story about a father-and-son uses lively rhymes to introduce big topics to a young audience – being true to yourself, challenging stereotypes, and celebrating differences. Our main character is a young boy with a pink shadow – unlike the rest of his manly relatives, whose shadows are blue. His pink shadow loves ponies and sparkles and things “not for boys”, which worries the boy because he so wants to fit in. One fateful dressup day, everything changed… Scott Stuart wrote this story based on his experiences supporting his young son, who loves the character Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He now actively promotes self-expression and challenges gender stereotypes as an author/illustrator and via Tiktok.
Hello, Jimmy! works on so many different levels – it is a warm story about a father-and-son rediscovering their emotional connection to each other; it is a sensitive portrayal of a family going through separation, and is a good conversation starter about sadness, loneliness, navigating change, and diverse families; and Jimmy the parrot , being a cranky and irrepressible character, makes this a lively read-aloud. Once again, Anna Walker has taken familiar events from daily life, and used her distinctive style to create jewel-like moments brimming with drama and emotion.
What a partnership! Jane Godwin and Alison Lester are successful and beloved authors in their own right; in Sing Me the Summer they have combined their powers to produced a wonderful ode to the seasons. The gentle rhymes and bright pictures celebrate the changing colours and fun activities of different seasons – picnicking on the beach, stomping through fallen leaves, bonfires on cold nights, and playing in lush springtime grass. Also watch out for cameo appearances by beloved characters Noni the Pony, and My Dog Bigsy!
Jackie French knows a lot about wombats, as her bestselling Diary of a Wombat series can attest. The story of Fire Wombat was inspired by a wombat she saw during the devastating 2020 bushfires. In the hot dry countryside, the bush animals can see and sense the encroaching smoke and flames. Led by a small wombat, they eventually find safety in the cool underground tunnels of a wombat burrow. Fire Wombat has vivid imagery and is an ultimately hopeful story about resilience, courage and friendship. It is also a great conversation starter about bushfires and their aftermath.
Our Home, Our Heartbeat celebrates Indigenous achievements across different eras, professions and communities. Adam Briggs, better known as Briggs, is a rapper/comedian/writer/actor from the Yorta Yorta nation. He wrote this story, based on his song “The Children Came Back”, to normalise Indigenous success, inspiring and informing all children of the contribution of Indigenous people to Australia. Like many of great stories, this is one Briggs wished he had when he was growing up. The vibrant illustrations show children doing the things they love, and convey a huge sense of fun and energy.
Bluey is the little Aussie series turned worldwide phenomenon, for all the best reasons. It has been praised for its relatable characters, realistic storylines, and for healthy depictions of emotions, gender identity and parenting behaviours – and last but not least, for being funny and adorable! The Creek is inspired by an episode of the same name. When Dad takes Bluey, Bingo and Mackenzie to the creek to play, they discover that it is a beautiful place with lots to discover and explore. Enjoy the story for itself, or use it to inspire your little ones to enjoy and investigate nature.
They say writing a diary is cathartic and not only serves as a method of practising your writing style but is also helpful to let go of thoughts that may be holding you back. But would you ever be brave enough to publish it for the world to read? That’s just what these six amazing authors have done.
Tales of people‘s lives, careers and families can be joyful, gut wrenching, horrifying and heartwarming. These Australian non-fiction titles encompass all of those. There’s something enticing about being invited to understand someone else’s life through their eyes, and once you have, you never quite think of them the same again.
Sometimes, rather than making you laugh or cry out in surprise, a story will instead leave you wondering about human fragility. In the telling of his own tale, children’s author and screenwriter Paul Jennings demonstrates how seemingly small events can combine into a compelling drama. As if assembling the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, he puts together fragments, memories and anecdotes to reveal the portrait of a complex and weathered soul. Untwisted is revealing, moving and very funny.
Fiona O’Loughlin was raised in the generation of children who were to be seen, but not heard, unless there were guests in the house. Then she’d watch everyone, telling stories, making each other laugh. This was where she discovered the rhythm of stories and the lubrication that alcohol lent the telling. Years later, as a mum of five, Fiona would become one of Australia’s most-loved comedians, performing gigs in New York, Montreal, Singapore, London, Toronto and Edinburgh. Fiona looked like she was living her dream but she was hiding a secret in open sight, using alcoholism as material for her comedy and using comedy as an excuse for her alcoholism.
Truths from an Unreliable Witness is a fiercely honest and wryly funny memoir of melancholy, love, marriage, the loss of love and marriage, homelessness, of hotel rooms strewn with empty mini-bar bottles of vodka, of waking from a two-week coma, of putrid drug dens and using a jungle to confront yourself. It is about hitting rock bottom and then realising you are only halfway down. Ultimately, it’s about hanging on to your last straw of sanity and finding laughter in the darkest of times. You may want to sit down for this.
Corey White was a golden child. He knew this because his father would hit his mother and his sisters but not him. And his mother adored him so much she let him drop out of primary school. After losing his father to jail and his mother to heroin, though, he became a target for cruelty and dysfunction in foster homes. A scholarship to a prestigious boarding school lifted him out of foster care and awakened a love of learning and reading for him, but this was soon overwhelmed by a crushing depression and drug addiction. Through it all, he kept thinking, sometimes hoping, sometimes fearing, that he was destined for something bigger. Would he find salvation in the halls of a university, or a poetically grimy crack den, or through love? Or would the golden glow that had been in him since childhood ultimately fade, leaving only darkness and ruin? The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory is a memoir of trauma and survival that will break your heart and then show you how to rebuild it. It is a powerful, lyrical and darkly funny debut from one of Australia’s brightest young comedians.
Paul Hogan first appeared on our screens in 1971 as a ‘tap dancing knife thrower’ on channel 9’s New Faces. The then father of four and Sydney Harbour Bridge rigger from Granville did it as a dare, but when the network’s switchboard lit up, he was invited back. So popular was he with viewers, Hogan became a regular on Mike Willesee’s A Current Affair. The rest, as they say, is history. In collaboration with his business partner and best friend John Cornell (who played his sidekick, Strop), he went on to become one of Australia’s favourite TV comedians. His hugely popular comedy shows and appearances in unforgettable and ground-breaking ads for cigarettes, beer and tourism, came to personify Australia and Australians here and overseas, helping to change the perception of who we are as people and as a nation. Then, in 1986, Crocodile Dundee, the movie he conceived, co-wrote and starred in, became an international smash, grossing more than a billion dollars in today’s money and earning its star an Oscar nomination. Despite the fact Hoges claimed to be ‘retired’, many more movies followed. But even as his star rose ever higher, he always expected someone to grab him by the arm and say, ‘What are you doing here? You’re just a bloody rigger!’ The Tap Dancing Knife Thrower is a funny and candid account of the astonishing life of ‘one lucky bastard’, as Hoges describes himself. Full of countless stories never previously shared and told in the comedian’s inimitable, funny and self-deprecating style, The Tap Dancing Knife Thrower is Paul Hogan’s story told his way – ‘without the boring bits’.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and society has existed on this continent for millennia. It is a culture that manifests as the ultimate example of resilience, strength and beauty. It is also a culture that has consistently been led by its women. My Tidda, My Sister shares the experiences of many Indigenous women and girls, brought together by author and host of the Tiddas 4 Tiddas podcast Marlee Silva. The voices of First Nation women that Marlee weaves through the book provide a rebuttal to the idea that ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’. For non-Indigenous women, it demonstrates the diversity of what success can look like and offers insight into the lives of their Indigenous sisters and peers. Featuring colourful artwork by Goreng Goreng artist Rachael Sarra, this book is a celebration of the Indigenous female experience through truth-telling. Some stories are heart-warming, others shine a light on the terrible realities for many Australian Indigenous women, both in the past and today. But what they all share is the ability to inspire and empower, creating a sisterhood that all Australian women can be part of.
Created in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, I Know This to Be True is an uplifting new series inspired by his legacy. Extraordinary figures from diverse backgrounds answer the same questions, sharing their compelling stories, guiding ideals, and insightful wisdom. The result is a collection brimming with messages of leadership, courage, compassion, and hope. These books offer encouragement and guidance to future leaders, and anyone hoping to make a positive impact on the world.
Waleed Aly is an Australian broadcaster, journalist, academic and musician. As co-host of The Project, a daily primetime television news and current affairs programme, he is one Australia’s leading commentators on national and international issues. Reflecting on his childhood, career and values, he discusses the importance of taking risks, standing by your beliefs and above all, being honest. Self-deprecating and empathetic, his words offer hope and guidance to anyone struggling to find their way and all who champion equality.