Okay, I’ll bite. My friend, Judith Ridge, has put together a wonderful list of 15 Australian Picture Books Everyone Should Read, in reposte to the SMH entry which left children’s books completely out in the cold. So typical! So what would you consider would answer this opportunity to explore our cultural experience through our picture books, and also our children’s and young adult texts. I would find it so hard to limit to just 15, but I am willing to have a go.
So Judith, I will see your 15 beautiful texts, with which I totally agree, and raise you some! These are not intended to be in chronological order but are aimed at getting your thinking caps on. My favourites may not be yours, and I am happy to have a discussion about it!
A wonderful discussion of identity and friendship, with Ron Brook’s beautiful illustrations. A companion text for the HSC Area of Study of Belonging (with apologies to those systemic linguistics shuddering at the thought) or a gentle and thoughtful look at the concept of the other, it remains a favourite in my household and one my cousins are all requesting I buy for their small fry starting the reading journey.
Ana Zamorano’s Let’s eat! Norwood, S. Aust. : Omnibus Books, 1996.
This beautiful book is illustrated by Julie Vivas, and I was incredibly privileged to watch part of that process happen. It is also a picture book that is not entrenched in the Anglo-Celtic family environment. The author’s Spanish heritage informs her view of family and food, and it is wonderful text both for a cosy family read and a classroom launch pad of food and cultural heritage.
Annaliese Porter’s The outback Broome, W.A. : Magabala Books, 2005.
With illustrations by Bronwyn Bancroft, this is a wonderful insight into that part of Australia that most of us think we are a part of, but very few of us go to visit, let alone live in. The outback is very much part of the ethos of being Australian, and a big selling point overseas, but most of us only see it on the news or in documentaries.
Liz Lofthouse’s Ziba came on a boat, Camberwell, Vic. : Penguin/Viking, 2007
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen, this picture book is a disturbingly pertinent book for our time, and one which could be used in classrooms across a wide spectrum of years. It is definitely NOT a cosy fireside read, and given recent events, may well precipitate nightmares. For me, it, like Refugees, The Rabbits and Home and Away, should be mandatory reading for all of us as we watch the unfolding tragedy of refugees seeking a safe haven from a comfortable vantage point.