Indigenous Australian Picture Books

June 1, 2016

Books / Picture Books

Indigenous Australian Picture Books Each year between May 27th and June 3rd, National Reconciliation Week is observed here in Australia. It is a time to celebrate this country’s rich Indigenous history and to reflect upon the relationship between Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Indigenous Australian culture is the oldest continuous culture on Earth. Stretching back at least 50,000 years, it is a culture filled with amazing stories.
Here are some of our favourite Indigenous picture books.

This post may contain the names of Indigenous people who have since passed away.

Indigenous Picture Books Kookoo Kookaburra by Gregg Dreise

“Kindness is like a boomerang- if you throw it often, it comes back often.”
Kookoo the kookaburra is the best storyteller in the bush.
He loves sitting in his gum tree and waiting for the other animals to do something silly.
He then turns that something silly into a funny story without being unkind.
The bush creatures loved listening to Kookoo’s entertaining stories. One day he can’t find inspiration from any of the bush creatures’ antics. So he decides to make fun of their differences.
As Kookoo forgets the difference between laughing WITH people and laughing AT people, he loses his audiences and his friends. His own laughter echoes unhappily through the bush and he feels sad. Luckily, Kookoo’s kindness returns, like a boomerang, and his funny stories and laughter again fill the bush.

This is a beautiful story about celebrating and respecting difference and being kind. Always.
The illustrations of Gregg Dreise are simply stunning. He is a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Yuwalayaay people and the story was inspired by stories of his parents who “fed a lot more children than the eight they had.”
This book is
the second in a series of three based around Indigenous morality tales.

Indigenous Picture Books Mad Magpie by Gregg Dreise

This is a great book to begin discussions with kids around strategies they can use to manage anger.
Guluu is a magpie who struggles to contain his anger.
A gang of butcher birds take advantage of this weakness and tease him mercilessly, knowing they’ll get a reaction from him.
‘Look at the river. It rages through the mountains and over the waterfalls, but then it calms down. So can you,’ advises Old Dinewah, the emu.
The next time he gets teased, Guluu reflects on these words and as the anger rises he uses a new strategy.
He sings, drowning out the incessant teasing of the butcher birds.

As with the two previous books in this series, the artwork is outstanding.

Indigenous Picture Books ABC Dreaming by Warren Brim

This is a unique and vibrant alphabet book that introduces children to Indigenous art and the flora and fauna of North Queensland’s rainforests. (B is for Barramundi, C is for Cassowary, Z is for Zamia Palm.)
It features Warren’s bright, hand-coloured linoprints and acrylic paintings.
The author grew up in Kuranda near Cairns- one of my fave parts of Oz.
I love how it reminds me of travels through this special place.
Warren is from the Djabugay people and his artwork is based on the Dreaming stories passed on to him by his family.

Indigenous Picture Books The Eagle Inside by Jack Manning Bancroft and Bronwyn Bancroft

Containing a powerful message, every spread in this book is a visual delight.
Jimmy the Honeyeater is off to his first day at flying school.
He is smaller than the other birds, he sips nectar instead of eating worms, he is different. Cockatoo chooses him as an easy target.
Jimmy is alone and plagued with self-doubt about being able to match it with the bigger birds. Eagle takes him under his wing (Pun! Sorry!) and helps Jimmy to realise that being small and different isn’t necessarily a weakness.
Eagle gives Jimmy his place on the starting line of the training course and the little Honeyeater realises that being different is a strength.
Sometimes we all need to remember that we are Honeyeaters armed with the hearts of Eagles.

This story also highlights the importance of having a mentor.
Someone to be our cheerleader. Someone to help us overcome our insecurities and self-doubt. Jack Manning Bancroft started AIME Mentoring
as a 19-year-old. It’s programs support Indigenous students through high school and into uni and employment. Purchasing a copy of this book through the AIME shop brings the day closer where Indigenous kids finish school at the same rate as all other Aussie kids.

Indigenous Picture Books W is for Wombat by Bronwyn Bancroft

An alphabet board book featuring Bronwyn Bancroft’s iconic paintings.
A Must-Have for any young Aussie’s board book collection.

(I couldn’t find W is for Wombat on Booktopia. Here is a companion title by the same author.)

Indigenous Picture Books Back in the 80s, Scholastic Australia published a series of Dreaming stories, told by community Elders and illustrated by students from various Indigenous communities around Australia.
There are 8 books in the series and I vividly recall them being a part of the storytelling of my childhood.
They contain important Dreaming stories and play an important role in passing these stories onto future generations.
This series has been re-printed and is still widely available.
Some of the titles include: Dunbi the Owl, How the Kangaroos got Their Tails, The Bat and the Crocodile and How the Birds got Their Colours.

Many thanks to Magabala Books who sent me the first three books featured for review purposes. Magabala are Australia’s oldest Indigenous publishing house. They are a not-for-profit dedicated to preserving and celebrating Indigenous culture.

When I purchase my books, I use Booktopia. Their prices are competitive and their delivery is prompt. The images of each book will take you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. As a Booktopia Affiliate, purchases clicked through from my blog result in a small commission. You do not pay any extra for your books! Commission is used to maintain Oh Creative Day and a portion of commissions made is donated to the Touched By Olivia Foundation. Happy Reading!

  • Since I’ve read the story of the Magpie on Sam’s blog, I’m wondering about those birds… Love love your selection, very colorful. You have to show me your collection when I’m in Sydney! Ludmila would be wow and wow ! xx cathy

  • I think I need to take Mad Magpie out and read it out loud in the park at the end of the street prior to the season! Indigenous art is beautiful. We have When The Snake Bites The Sun here.