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Children's Books - Books about Australian Indigenous Peoples

AUSTRAL ED Contact Details:
a division of gleebooks
PO Box 486
NSW 2037

Phone: 61 2 9660 2333
Fax: 61 2 9660 3597

ABN  87 000 357 317

March 2014 Update

An updated version of this list with covers is now available on the new website, now called Gleebooks Education

Over the years a large number of books have been published about the Indigenous  peoples of Australia.  Many of these now seem very outdated in their attitudes.  This is a list of the personal recommendations of Mandy Clarke and Kate Shepherd; most are fairly recent and many of them are written by Indigenous Australians, giving us insights into their culture and thoughts not previously possible.  We shall continually update the list, but contact us if you would like more suggestions in any particular areas.   It is great to see that so many older books have now been reprinted.          

The books listed are for primary and secondary levels.  Please take the recommended age levels as a rough guide.   Titles newly included in this list are marked •

Please Note   All prices are in Australian dollars and include the 10% GST tax.   However this GST does not apply to exports from Australia.

If you would like to order any of the books listed, send orders to Austral Ed by mail or fax or email   Payment can be made by direct bank transfer or bank cheques in Australian dollars or by Credit card, especially for private purchases.   Freight is sent by the most economical method within Australia or overseas, depending on urgency. 

Recommended by Kate Shepherd and Mandy Clarke


Picture Books

Bronwyn Bancroft

Why I Love Australia hardback l9781921894053 $24.95
Indigenous author and artist Bronwyn Bancroft celebrates the wonderfully varied Australian landscape in her bold and distinctive style, accompanied by minimal poetic text. We travel from coral reefs to waves pounding beaches, the lights of the city to the star-filled desert sky, through plummeting gorges and craggy snowy mountains, over crusted salt pans and the roofs of suburban homes. On every page an Aboriginal Elder with a smoking coolamon (wooden bowl) is the host to each of the landscapes depicted. We learn about the smoking ceremony at the end of the book. (4 - 6 years). MC

Kangaroo and Crocodile: My Big Book of Australian Animals hardback (larger format) 9781921714252 $24.95
Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words hardback (larger format) 9781921272585 $24.95  pb (larger format) 9781921541674 $16.95   These books are not actually big books, but are a larger format than normal picture book size. This is a great format for displaying the colourful and detailed illustrations painted in the traditional indigenous style. The text is very simple, with just a few words per page. In the last few pages, there is a glossary of words used in the book. (3-6 years) MC

Albert Barunga, transcription by Stephen Muecke, illustrations by Julie Dowling
About this little Devil and this little Fella  pb 9781875641420  $14.95    
This deliciously scary story was one of many stories told by Albert Barunga and recorded and transcribed by Stephen Muecke.  The result is a wonderfully exuberant, rhythmic, traditional story which just has to be read aloud, with actions if possible.   (6 – 8 years)  KS

Cherbourg State School & Budburra Books

The following books have been published by Budburra Books which is an Indigenous community, non-profit organisation in South West Queensland.  So far they have published 12 beautifully produced picture books and 5 films.  “In 2008, the Cherbourg State School implemented a 'Strong and Smart' Early Years Literacy Project, engaging students and community members in the production of books, art and films, by drawing on the cultural strengths, historical ties and artistic skills in the community. This project has evolved into Budburra Books … which encourages a love of learning and literacy, and cultivates pride in local Indigenous culture.”  MC

Chris Sarra & illustrated by the children of Cherbourg State School 

• Dingoes are not Dogs pb 9780987134806  $24.00

A pack of boisterous young dingoes welcome Winston the black Labrador to join in their fun and games at the waterhole one hot afternoon. At the end there are Things to Talk About, a Glossary and A Note from the Author. Themes of friendship, tolerance, acceptance. (4-7 years) MC

Budburra Books & illustrated by the children from Cherbourg Community & Cherbourg Yidding artists

• Budburra’s Garden pb 9780987134813  $24.00

Tired and hungry, with his tummy rumbling, Sammy eats his way through Budburra’s colourful, nutritious garden. The message is: eat a rainbow every day! At the end there is information about Bush Tucker, discussion points, healthy eating tips and 6 easy recipes (salad, fruit salad, wraps and smoothies). (4-7 years) MC

Cherbourg State School 

• Budburra’s Alphabet pb 9780980589382  $24.00

One letter per page, with upper and lower case, and just a few words on full-page artwork: Tt Two tiny turtles; Oo Outrageous orange owls. The whole alphabet runs along the bottom of each page with a little budburra (echidna) sitting over the relevant letter. A short Glossary at the end.  (4-7 years) MC

Cherbourg State School 

• Counting pb 9780980589344  $24.00

Created by Milbi Class.Count from one snake, through three boomerangs, eight goannas and on to ten feet in this simple, colourful picture book. (3 – 5 years) MC

Cherbourg State School

Where is Nana?  pb 9780980589399  $24.00

This is a book about positional words: outside, inside, over, under, with, behind, etc, which are explored in words and pictures while we search for Nana. (4-7 years) MC

Cherbourg State School 

• My Body  pb 9780980589320  $24.00

Created by Guluin Pre-Prep Class A very simple book with photos of real kids with just two words: ‘my knee’, ‘my mouth’, ‘my shoulders’, etc. Colourful artwork frames the photo panels. (3-5 years) MC

Robyn Langton & illustrated by Cherbourg Artists 

• Catching Blueys  pb 9780980589375 $24.00

Blueys, also known as crawfish, crayfish or freshwater lobster, are delicious but tricky to catch by hand as they have such big claws. Young Mim is very brave and skillful and the whole family has a big feed when she and her brother bring home seven blueys after a day at the waterhole. (5-8 years) MC

Cherbourg State School 

• Can You Find…..  pb 9780980589351 $24.00

Created by Googuhou Class. This is a look-and-find book with a difference! Unusual and clever. In each photo a real child is positioned in front of an original artwork on a wall and they are clothed and painted so they are camouflaged, becoming part of the painting. There are lots of other things to spot as well. (4-8 years) MC

Cherbourg State School

• Cherbourg Seasons pb 9780980589313  $24.00

The pictures of the seasons in this book were produced by the children of Budburra, Milbi and Gooroonu Classes at Cherbourg State School. The children discussed the seasons and different things that happen in them and then painted their ideas. Peter and Geoff from Ratartat cut out parts of each painting and built them into the pictures. On the page opposite each picture are brief comments about what each season is like and the different activities that the kids do, followed by a photo of one of the elders and what they got up to when they were young. There is a glossary at the end, information about the artwork, and a hand-drawn map of Cherbourg. This would be a great class project! (4-7 years) MC

Cherbourg State School

• Walking Through Cherbourg pb 9780980589337  $24.00

Created and illustrated by the students of Budjar Class at Cherbourg State School. The repetitive, rhyming text throughout the book asks the questions “Walking through Cherbourg, what do you see? Can you hear a noise? What could it be?”, followed by a noise such as “thump crack thump crack”. Over the page there’s a painting of a wallaby accompanied by the answer. “Over there! A wallaby looking for his tea.”. Or a horse, a kookaburra, a dingo…. Finally, “It is my Nana calling me for tea!”. Colourful illustrations adorn this simple picture book. (3-5/6 years) MC

Cherbourg State School

• The Ration Shed pb 9780980589368  $24.00

This picture book gives an overview of the history of Cherbourg. It was established in 1904 as the Barambah Aboriginal Settlement and many Aboriginal people were forced to live there in dormitories or camps. Every aspect of their lives was controlled by the Government, including the provision of small amounts of food called rations. People would have to queue for hours at the Ration Shed to collect their food, which was very different from the traditional bush tucker that was hunted and gathered from the land – kangaroo, wallaby, echidna, goanna, snake, fish, native fruits, plant roots, seeds and leaves. Instead, tea, sugar, rice, salt, sago, tapioca, split peas, green peas, porridge, flour and meat were given out on certain days but would run out before the week was over, leaving people hungry. If they wanted to leave the settlement to hunt or gather bush tucker they had to get a permit; without a permit they would be jailed or sent far away from their family to another settlement. In 1960, the first Cherbourg Aboriginal Council was appointed, and in 1967 Aboriginal people were counted in the Census for the first time.  The Ration Shed was closed in 1968 and is now the Ration Shed Museum in the centre of Cherbourg. As Nan Sandra says, “….now it is a place that gives food for thought”.  At the end of the book are personal stories from a few people who lived at the Settlement, a very informative Timeline, a Glossary and a hand-drawn map. Black and white drawings and photographs, all with painted borders. (7-10/11 years) MC

Cherbourg State School

Mundagarra pb 9780980589306  $24.00

Based on a story told by artist and storyteller Aunty Venus Rabbitt and illustrated by Karbul Class at Cherbourg State School. This is the story of the day Aunty Venus took the class to her favourite waterhole. She showed them many interesting things, like the best spot to catch fish, and told of how she learned to talk to the rocks and water and show them respect. She told of the day Mundagarra, the Rainbow Serpent, appeared in the waterhole before her and saved her from a teenage boy with a gun and a big King Brown snake. The children learned they should not be too afraid of creatures like Mundagarra or the spirits of the rocks and water – if you show them respect they will look after you. Black and white illustrations throughout. (5-8 years) MC

Joanne Crawford & Grace Fielding (illus)

A Home for Bilby  pb 9781875641918  $18.95

This engaging story takes us through various habitats for animals in the Australian outback as Kangaroo, Wombat, Koala and Emu look for a new home for their new friend Bilby. Beautiful illustrations in a traditional Aboriginal style.   (4 – 8 years)   KS

Kylie Dunstan
Collecting Colour     pb 9780734411181  $16.99
This is a wonderfully vibrant book.  Rose lives in the Top End in the Northern Territory.  One day she goes with her best friend Olive, Olive’s mother, Karrang, and Olive’s aunty to collect pandanus leaves, stringy bark and colour for dyeing to make beautiful-coloured baskets, mats and bags from the leaves in the traditional way of the Indigenous peoples.  It’s a day when the girls learn so much about the intricacies of collecting the right pandanus leaves and how to find the pink berries and the yellow roots for the colour.  It is a complicated and skilled process, but there is so much sharing and warmth as they do their collecting, and this continues as they sit for days under the banyan tree making their colourful baskets and weavings.  The illustrations are strongly influenced by Aboriginal art but they are also strikingly original, especially in the design of the colourful pages and the use of collage.  The text is simple but also very informative.   (6 – 13 years)   KS

• Same, but little bit diff’rent hardback 9781921136603 $27.99  

In this book Normie explains to his city friend how things are similar but a little bit diff’rent in the place where he comes from up at the very top of Australia.  There when it rains he plays outside, his mum weaves baskets from plants, and he goes out bush to collect paint for his father who is an artist.  The book gives us an insight into how the life of an Indigenous boy in northern Australia is the same really but just a little diff’rent.   (4 – 6 years)  KS

Mark Greenwood
Jandamarra illustrated by Terry Denton hardback 9781742375700 $29.99
This is a very important picture book telling the remarkable story of the Aboriginal warrior Jandamarra who led his people against the station owners and Police who were encroaching further and further on the land of the Bunuba people in the rugged Kimberley region of north-west Australia. In the late 1890s, Jandamarra worked for some time for white settlers and also the Police but then as more and more of his people were captured in chains, he turned and led his people in a guerrilla like resistance against the intruders. His ability to disappear into the many caves and crevices of the country round Windjana Gorge became legendary and even when wounded, he managed to escape numerous times leading to the belief that he had magical powers.  When he was killed he was only 24. Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton have worked closely with the Elders of the Bunuba people in telling this story. We are very used to seeing Terry Denton’s distinctive illustrations used for comic effect and so it is fascinating to see how effectively his illustrations tell this tragic story of Jandamara’s life and show us the rugged Kimberley country.  It is very pleasing that this story about a legendary Indigenous hero, so well known in the Kimberley and in Western Australia, will now be known by children and adults throughout Australia (7 – 12 years). KS
See the Non-fiction section below for two other books on Jandamarra’s life.

Andy Griffiths (edited by)
The Naked Boy and the Crocodile: Stories from remote Indigenous communities pb  9781742610573 $16.99   
This book is the result of visits to remote communities by Andy Griffiths and other members of the Australian Book Industry supporting the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.  These are stories written and illustrated by the students, describing their activities such as playing with friends, riding motorbikes, hunting for emu eggs and wild pigs, playing football, collecting berries, and a story about a crocodile with a preference for eating naked people.  The books were produced in sessions of 90 minutes or less by students for whom English is often a second or third language.  All proceeds go the Indigenous Literacy Fund, which was set up to help get desperately-needed books and literacy resources into remote Indigenous communities in Australia.    (8 – 11 years)   KS

Kerri Hashmi
You and Me, Murrawee  illustrated by Felicity Marshall  pb 9780140564990 $14.95   
A beautifully illustrated picture book which shows a young white girl camping on the banks of the River Murray with her family and, through her eyes, the life of a young Aboriginal girl, Murrawee, two hundred years earlier, before the white settlers came.  KS

Paul Ishiguchi
• Yearning to Go Home illus by John Rotumah & Tracey Duroux  hardback 9780646468044  $24.95
When Ahthun finds himself stranded in a place where he is a stranger, he is taken in by a tribal elder and, over time, learns the ways of the people. He becomes a storyteller of great wisdom, knowledge and foresight, speaking of the challenges to come and the rewards of accepting change. This opens the hearts and the minds of the people, giving them hope for a better future. The illustrations are excellent, the message positive and there is a list of questions to initiate discussion. (7-12 years)   MC

Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
The Two-Hearted Numbat  pb 9781921888007  $16.95
A numbat is a small native creature which unfortunately is now fairly rare.  Numbat had two hearts; one that was like a feather, soft and kind-hearted, and the other like a stone, strong and tough, making Numbat feel very strong and brave.  However Numbat was concerned that he didn’t know which heart was his true self.  He seeks help from an Elder Numbat who tells him that both hearts are his true self; he is both kind-hearted and strong and brave.  The illustrations are brilliantly coloured and strikingly beautiful.  This is an original story told in a traditional way.  (5 – 8 years)  KS

Rhoda Lalara & Alfred Lalara (illus) & Alice Durilla (illus)

When We Go Walkabout  hardback 9781743314562   $24.99

When we go walkabout, what do we see? A frill-necked lizard on a big rock, a wallaby hopping through the scrub, a stingray in the lagoon, a crocodile hiding in the river! The text of this strikingly illustrated book is in English and Anindilyakwa, an ancient Indigenous language that is still spoken today by the Warnindilyakwa people of Groote Eylandt, which is in the Gulf of Carpentaria about 640 kilometres from Darwin. The different animals that live on Groote Eylandt are also totems for the different clans that have cultural ties to the land. There is a double page spread of biographical information about the author and artists at the end of the book. (4-7 years)  MC

Alison Lester
Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo pb 9780733621055 $16.99   
A simple but vibrant introduction to Aboriginal life and the tropical seasons in the north of Australia.  The book shows the activities that Ernie and his six Aboriginal friends like to do best during the very different seasons of the year.   (5 – 10 years)   KS

An Aboriginal Story series compiled by Pamela Lofts (was previously called Dreamtime series)  pb $16.99 each  

A collection of picture books of very simply-told traditional Aboriginal stories illustrated and told by Aboriginal people.  Very appealing for younger readers.  (5 - 9 years)

The Bat & the Crocodile  9781865046273        
Dunbi the Owl 9781865046266
The Echidna & the Shade Tree 9781865046228        
How the Birds got their Colours    9781865046242  Also a Big Book 9781741699678   $39.99

How the Kangaroos got their Tails 9781865046259  Also a Big Book 9781741699692  $39.99
The Kangaroo & the Porpoise 9781865046297
Warnayarra - The Rainbow Snake 9781865046235  Also a Big Book 9781741699685 $39.99  
When the Snake bites the Sun 9781865046280  Also a Big Book 9781741699708  $39.99                KS

Pat Lowe
Jimmy and Pat Meet the Queen illustrated by Jimmy Pike  pb 9781876332068  $12.95    
A funny, satirical book which is a wonderful introduction to Land Rights and how it looks from an Aboriginal perspective.  Jimmy is amazed when he is told that Walmajarri land is Vacant Crown Land and therefore really belongs to the Queen. The Queen accepts Jimmy’s and Pat’s invitation to visit so that she can show her ownership by pointing out all the waterholes, and she arrives with corgis in tow and dressed in jodhpurs for the hunt (though they hunt for pussy cats, not foxes).   Just the right amount of tongue in cheek irreverence.   (9 years up)   KS

Mary Malbunka

When I Was Little Like You  pb 9781741142563 $16.95   
These are Mary Malbunka’s memories, in both word and illustration, of her life as a child at Papunya in Central Australia in the 1960s.  The children went to school but it was when they went bush that they learnt about plants, animals, country and their Dreaming stories.  (7 - 13 years)  KS

Arone Raymond Meeks
Enora and the Black Crane  pb 9781921248023  $22.95
Striking ochre and black-and-white illustrations in a traditional style vividly bring to life this dreaming story told and illustrated by Aboriginal artist Arone Raymond Meeks.  Originally published in 1991, this edition was published in 2009.  (5 - 10 years)  KS

Ros Moriarty

• Ten Scared Fish illustrated by Balarinji pb 9781742379128  $12.99

Bold colourful illustrations in an Indigenous style give much vitality to this simple counting book which begins with 1 turtle by the waterhole and ends in the sea where 10 fish are scared by a big shark.  For preschoolers.

• Kangaroos Hop by Ros Moriarty illustrated by Balarinji  pb 9781742379159 $12.99

Similarly Kangaroos Hop uses bold colours and a traditional Indigenous style to illustrate the simple text describing how birds fly, echidnas shuffle, goannas climb and frogs jump on the river bank where the big fat crocodile is sleeping.  Preschoolers will enjoy the repetition and rhythm of the appealing text with its accumulating rhythmic climax.  (3 – 6 years)   KS

Neil Murray
•  My Island Home  pb + CD 9780987313928  $24.95

This lovely picture book for all ages depicts the lyrics of the iconic Australian song written by Neil Murray and first recorded by The Warumpi Band. The artwork is a mix of vibrant paintings by kids from Papunya and Echo Island and landscapes by Peter Hudson. A percentage of the profits from the sale of this book will go to Ian Thorpe’s Fountain For Youth. (5+ years)  MC

Leonie Norrington  
Look See, Look at Me!  illustrated by Dee Huxley  hardback 9781741758832  $24.99
A very simple text describes the exuberance and pride of a three year old who describes all the things he can now do.  Delightful free-flowing illustrations by Dee Huxley show families and life in northern indigenous communities.   KS
You and Me: Our Place illus by Dee Huxley pb 9781876288846  $14.99
Through stories told by Uncle Tobias, we get a sense of the “old days” when Aboriginal peoples hunted, fished and told stories in this northern part of Australia where the river and mangroves meet the sea.  However, life is very different for the two young Aboriginal boys who are at ease in the old and new cultures.   KS     

May O’Brien
The Bawoo Stories illustrated by Angela Leaney and Sue Wyatt   pb 9781921361159  $26.95 
This new edition contains in one volume the four traditional Aboriginal stories, Barn-Barn Barlala, the Bush trickster, Kangaroos who wanted to be People,            How Crows became Black and Why the Emu Can’t Fly.   They were told so that some Aboriginal children would come to understand their land, their people and their beginnings.  These are lively traditional tales of the Wongutha people of Western Australia.    (7 – 10 years)   KS

Papunya School Publishing Committee

Papunya School Book of Country & History  pb 9781865085258  $16.95    

The history of the Papunya region in the centre of Australia is shown in this book through the eyes of the staff and students.  It is wonderfully refreshing to read an account from the Aboriginal viewpoint in such an innovative collage format, vibrant with drawings, paintings, maps and painted photographs.  (9 years up)   KS

Melanie Prewett

• Two Mates illustrated by Maggie Prewett pb 9781921248450  $17.95

Raf and Jack are mates and do everything together.  They live in Broome and the lively illustrations show them swimming together, riding Raf’s quad bike and fishing for salmon.  It is a surprise when we see the last illustration in the book of the two boys going along a bush path hat Raf is in a wheelchair while Jack is walking.  A brief section at the end of the book shows photographs of the two boys and their families and explains that Raf has spina bifida but it doesn’t stop him and Jack from being best mates.  (6 – 9 years)   KS

Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod
Shake A Leg  hardback 9781741758900  $24.99
Boori Monty Prior is a dancer and a storyteller and he has succeeded in sharing some of his lively enthusiasm when he performs with school groups in this vibrant picture book.  When three young boys go into a pizza shop they are amazed that the man making the pizzas is an Aboriginal man who then proceeds to tell them about pizzas and also Aboriginal stories and song and dance.  Jan Ormerod’s striking illustrations add life and colour to this joyous celebration of food, dance and cultural understanding.  (6 – 12 years)  KS

Bob Randal and Melanie Hogan
Nyuntu Ninti (What you should know)  hardback 9780733320491  $27.95  pb 9780733328503  $14.99  

Bob Randall comes from the desert region of Central Australia around Uluru.  In simple terms he describes the culture of his people and the absolute importance of the land and wildlife to his people.  The spiritual significance of these words is given extra meaning through the use of black-and-white photos showing Aboriginal people hunting, playing and gathered together in the early 1900s, and also through modern-day coloured photographs showing the land at Uluru today.  (7 – 14 years)   KS

Robert Roennfeldt

Tiddalick the Frog who Caused a Flood   pb 9780140503494 $14.95
The popular story of Tiddalick the greedy frog who was so thirsty that he drank up all the rivers and billabongs in the land. The other animals worked out that in order to get the water they needed to make Tiddalick laugh. (4 – 8 years) KS

Elaine Russell
A is for Aunty  pb 9780733308727  $14.99  
 Elaine Russell’s vibrant, colourful illustrations show us the life she remembers as a child living on a mission in northern New South Wales.   With each letter in this alphabet book there is a short text which gives us vivid images of events such as racing Billycarts, of being chased by Emus or of picking Quandongs.      (7 - 12 years)  KS

Kim Scott retold by, et al

Noongar Mambara Bakitj pb  9781742582955 $24.95  

This is an old story retold by Kim Scott, Lomas Roberts and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project, with artwork by Geoffrey Woods and Anthony Roberts.   The story involves a young man who follows a kangaroo track deep into the old peoples’ country.  Along the way he meets some spirit people “mambara” and they fight with boomerangs until the young man realizes that he is a magic person and is able to defeat the “mambara”.  The illustrations are striking, with black outlines against a bright, ochre-coloured desert background.  However, it is the text which I found the most interesting.  As well as the descriptive retelling of the story in English, it is also told in Old Noongar (the Aboriginal language from South-West Western Australia), and under each of these words is the literal English translation.  It is fascinating to see how the sentences are structured, and the stark simplicity of the story in the Aboriginal version compared with the longer, more detailed and descriptive retelling in English.  A CD retelling the story in both English and Noongar is available on the website:  Understanding how this story came to be retold and work-shopped in community meetings is also fascinating and is described in detail at the end of the book.  There is also a Glossary of Noongar words and their meanings.   (9 years up)  KS

The Snake and the Boy by Azmen Sebastian  pb 9781921248245  $12.95
It is very surprising that the author was only 12 years old when he wrote the story and painted the illustrations for this strikingly unusual story.  It describes a young boy swinging upside down on the bars in a playground when a green tree snake slides across and makes off with the apple he has left on the ground.  The boy has no idea what has happened to his apple!  The illustrations are bold in their composition and use of colour.  (5 – 10 years)  KS

Rosemary Sullivan
Tom Tom illustrated by Dee Huxley pb 9781921504105  $14.95
Tom Tom is a small Aboriginal boy living with his many brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts in the Top End of the Northern Territory.  He goes to kindergarten and loves to swim in the waterhole with his cousins, brothers and sisters.  The text is very simply written but, with the evocative illustrations, gives a vivid picture of his busy and happy life in his Aboriginal community.    (4 – 6 years)  KS


Nan Chauncy

Tangara  pb 9780702236105  $19.95

A moving time-slip story set in Tasmania.  It is regarded as a classic and is part-fantasy, part history and  through the friendship of two girls reveals terrible secrets of the relations between early settlers and the Indigenous peoples.   (11 – 15 years)   KS

Kate Constable

Crow Country pb 9781742373959   $15.99

This is a gripping time-slip adventure.  Sadie isn’t thrilled when her mother drags her from Melbourne to live in the country town of Boort, but things get interesting when she has a strange encounter with Crow. Although the bird speaks in riddles, Sadie comes to understand that it is she who holds the key to a past mystery, and when she is repeatedly spun back through time to witness a terrible crime, things start to fall into place. Set against a backdrop of prejudice and past injustices, and steeped in Indigenous lore, this is also a story about family and friendships. (11-14 year olds) MC

Jackie French
Walking the Boundaries  pb 9780207200434 $14.95  
Using a time-slip device, the novel tries to give an understanding of modern times and of the extraordinarily long history of Aboriginal culture in Australia.  Characters from three different periods of time come to life, making an absorbing story.    (8 - 15)   KS

Nanberry: Black Brother White pb 9780732290221 $16.99

This historical novel, based on true events, starts in 1788 as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established.  Surgeon John White defies convention when he adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy who he manages to save from smallpox. He raises Nanberry alongside his white son, Andrew.  The story is told from five quite different points of view in short, dated chapters, giving the reader personal perspectives of life in this period. There are informative Author’s Notes at the end of the book. (11-15 year olds) MC

• Dingo: the Dog who Conquered a Continent  pb 9780732293116 $14.99  

This is the story of how dingoes may have come thousands of years ago to Australia.  It tells the story of how a young boy and a dog from an island to the north of Australia get blown off course while in a canoe and end up in northern Australia where they learn to survive in this strange new land.  The story is told in alternate chapters from the point of view of the boy, Loa, and of the Dog,   (9 – 15 years) KS

Phillip Gwynne
Deadly Unna?  pb 9780141300498 $19.95   
A perceptive and highly entertaining book describing the growing friendship between Blacky, a white teenager, and Dumby Red, an Aboriginal young man from out of town, and how it is affected by the narrowness and pervasive racism of a country town. Winner of the 1999 CBC Book of the Year Award.    (13 years up) 
Nukkin Ya  pb  9780141309439  $19.95
An absorbing sequel.  When Blacky falls for Dumby’s cousin it seems that the whole town has objections to them going out together.  (13 years up)  KS

Anthony Hill
The Burnt Stick  illustrated by Mark Sofilas   pb 9780140369298  $16.95   
This is the fictional story of a boy, John Jagamarra, who was forcibly taken from his Aboriginal mother.  This happened to many Aboriginal children of lighter skin colour earlier this century.    (7 – 11 years)   KS

Two Hands Together  by Diana Kidd    pb 9780141307480 $17.99
The growing friendship between Lily and Ella is marred by the disapproval of Lily’s father, much to Ella’s confusion.  How could it be that her father doesn’t like this warm and friendly Aboriginal family?  This is a well-told, sensitive story which is also a positive statement for reconciliation between two cultures.   (7 – 10 years)   KS

Meme McDonald and Boori Pryor
The Flytrap by Meme McDonald  pb 9781865086088  $14.95
Nancy said she would bring a venus fly trap to school because she knew it would please her teacher, but now she is very worried because she doesn’t actually have one.  Each day she becomes more worried as she puts off telling her teacher the truth. Through the stories of her mother and Aboriginal stepfather, she gains the courage to tell the truth and to share a special story with her class.   (7 – 10 years)
My Girragundji  pb 9781864488180  $14.95   
A vivid story about a young Aboriginal boy growing up between two worlds.  His fears of the bad spirits about the house at night and of the bullies at school are lessened when he finds a spirit friend in a little tree frog.   Inspired by the childhood memories of Boori Pryor.                (8 - 11 years)
The Binna Binna Man pb 9781865080710  $15.95 
A sequel to My Girragundji, in which the narrator is now older.  This very moving story captures the cadences of Aboriginal speech and at the same time reveals some of the deep problems facing Aboriginal people today as they struggle to gain the strength from their traditions to withstand the pressures of drugs, and to be strong in the face of losing so many of their young people.     (9 - 14 years) 
Njunjul the Sun pb  9781865086415 $16.95 
The young boy is now sixteen years old and he leaves his close-knit Aboriginal family up north to stay with his uncle Garth and his white girlfriend in the big city of Sydney.  He has been in some trouble with the police and this is a chance to sort himself out and to get rid of the feeling that he is no good.  The book has some very funny and exhilarating moments.    (13 years up) 
Love Like Water by Meme McDonald pb  9781741756388 $19.99
This book gives an insight into the lives of two young people with very different backgrounds who meet up in Alice Springs, a town in the centre of Australia.  Cathy comes from a white family living on an outback station, while J.J is a young Aboriginal DJ.  They are very attracted to each other but at times the baggage that they bring to the relationship builds huge barriers to their friendship.  Even more problematic are the pressures and racism of the society in Alice Springs, contributing huge complexities and difficulties.  I found it a very moving portrayal; at times harrowing, heartbreaking, even offensive, but always engrossing.  The characters are young people in their early twenties living very independent lives and so it is a book for Senior students.   (16 years up)   KS

James Moloney
Dougy   pb  9780702237065 $19.95    
The story examines racial tensions in a small country town in Queensland.  It is an uncompromising but realistic story.   

Gracey pb  9780702237072 $19.95   
The story is continued, however the emphasis here is on Gracie, Dougy's sister, who is a talented athlete and moves to a school in the city.  Life is not easy for her as she strives to come to terms with her Aboriginality.  
The last in the series is Angela  pb  9780702237089  $19.95 who was Gracie’s closest friend in school.    (11 – 17 years)  KS

Sally Morgan, Ambelin, Blaze and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

• Charlie Burr and the Three Stolen Dollars illustrated by Matt Ottley pb 9781921714047  $14.95  

A lively funny story about Charlie and how his life became even more complicated when he was given a dingo pup as a pet.  Charlie needs money to pay back his mum and he needs to work out a way of keeping a dog with very sharp teeth and a habit of creating havoc wherever he goes.   This is the first story in a series featuring an Aboriginal family living in outback Western Australia.   (8 – 11 years)

Also • Charlie Burr and the Great Shed Invasion # 2 pb 9781921714054  $14.95

• Charlie Burr and the Cockroach Disaster # 3  pb 9781921714863  $14.95    KS

Leonie Norrington
Crocodile Jack illustrated by Terry Denton  pb 9780143305958 $12.95  (one of the very popular Aussie Bites)
Jack’s big brother Tom has asked him to go fishing!  But Jack knows that you should never go fishing when there might be crocs around, but then again he doesn’t want to miss this chance of pleasing his big brother.  Jack is given the job of lookout for crocodiles while Tom and his friend do the fishing.  We learn lots about the habits of crocodiles in the Top End, and also about fishing, Nana Clare’s knowledge of the bush and crocs, as well as her sympathetic understanding of her very close family.  The story has excitement but also gives us insight in to Jack’s family and living with crocs in the Top End.   (8 – 10 years)
The Barrumbi Kids  pb  9781862914964 $17.99  
Dale and Tomias are best mates.  One boy is Aboriginal and the other is white but they were both brought up in the same outback country in the Northern Territory.  This book has many adventures and it also explores the cultures of both boys and their love for their country.  (9 - 13 years) 
The Spirit of Barrumbi  pb  9781862915527 $17.99  
This is the sequel to the Barrumbi Kids and although it still has lots of fun and adventure, there is also a much more serious side as Norrington touches on the importance of the Law and of Country and of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs.  It is a very enjoyable story which succeeds in giving the reader an idea of some of the complexities of Aboriginal law and culture.             (9 – 14 years)
Leaving Barrumbi pb  9781862916272  $17.99   When Dale and Tomias leave Barrumbi and go to Leichhardt Secondary School, Dale has problems while Tomias takes everything in his stride.    (10 – 14 years)   KS

Gabrielle Wang
Meet Poppy (Book 1) illustrated by Lucia Masciullo pb 9780143305323  $14.95
Set in 1864, Poppy is an Aboriginal girl living on a Mission near Echuca.  However, Poppy hates the mission and the school, especially when her brother runs away to find their fortune on the goldfields.   Poppy decides to run away, disguised as a boy, to join her brother.  Three other books in the series complete Poppy’s adventures.   The books are easy to read and contain interesting historical information.   
Poppy at Summerhill Book 2  9780143305330
Poppy and the Thief Book 3  9780143305347
Poppy Comes Home  Book 4  9780143305354           pb $14.95 each title                     (9 – 11 years)  KS


James Vance Marshall retold by

Stories from the Billabong illus by Francis Firebrace   pb  9781847801241  $19.95
These stories have been retold by James Vance Marshall but both he and Francis Firebrace, an Aboriginal storyteller as well as an illustrator, acknowledge the storytellers from the Yorta-Yorta people as the sources for these ten traditional stories.  These are very appealing stories and most of them involve animals.  We learn what made the frog croak, why the kangaroo has a pouch, why the platypus is so unusual and how the crocodile got it scales.  At the end of each story there is a short description of the animals in the story.  There is also a Glossary and two pages illustrating Aboriginal symbols and their meanings.  This is an excellent collection of stories, well-told and strikingly illustrated.  The additional information makes it a very useful book.  ((7 – 13 years)   KS

Sally Morgan
Flying Emu  pb 9781921720642  $19.95
This is a new version of Sally Morgan’s first published children’s book.  It contains twenty entertaining and witty stories about animals and birds, spirits, the sun and the moon.  The stories are not traditional stories – they are Sally’s own stories, but they do have a folk-tale feel about them.  The illustrations are brightly coloured and striking.  (7 – 11 years)   KS

Stradbroke Dreamtime illus by Bronwyn Bancroft   pb    9780207198656 $29.95  
This is a beautifully illustrated collection of tales combining stories from Oodgeroo's childhood on Stradbroke Island in Queensland with traditional dreamtime stories.   (9 years up)   KS

Archie Roach & Ruby Hunter, illustrated by Ruby Hunter

• Butcher Paper Texta Black Board and Chalk: A Songbook by Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach pb 9780992439705  $19.99   Due June 2014

The book contains a selection of simply written children’s songs which talk about the country and the life that these Indigenous children lead in their Aboriginal communities in Northern Queensland. The songs were written when Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach and their band visited 12 Aboriginal communities in the Cape York Peninsula in 1997.  Ruby Hunter’s paintings add life and colour to this book of songs.   The songs have simple words and rhythm and they reflect what the children did or thought was important in each community. Unfortunately this new edition does not contain a CD of the songs. (Originally published in 2011, this new edition is due June 2014)  (6 to 11 years.)  KS



Jill McDougall
Anna the Goanna and other Poems  illus by Jenny Taylor  pb  9780855756161 $19.95   
A vibrant collection of poems which have been inspired by the author’s experiences teaching in remote Aboriginal communities.  As well as lively poems that children will enjoy, the book and its often humorous illustrations offer an insight into the everyday life of children who live in remote Aboriginal communities.               (8 - 15 years)   KS

Pat Torres
Jalygurr   pb  9780731616220 $9.95  
These very simple and rhythmic animal rhymes are written in English and Yawaru.  They have been adapted from Kimberley Aboriginal folk stories and children find them great fun.   (6 - 9 years)   KS


Jack Davis
Honey Spot   pb  9780868191638   $14.95
This is an engaging play about Peggy, the daughter of a forestry ranger, and her friendship with Tim, an Aboriginal boy.  However, Peggy’s father objects to the friendship and to Tim and his family helping Peggy work on a dance for her ballet exam.   Jack Davis is Australia’s best known Indigenous dramatist and this play contains some warm, funny, touching scenes and has some memorable characters.  (9 – 11 years)   KS

Autobiography and Biography

Ian Abdulla 

• As I Grew Older pb 9781921504693 $14.99  (reprinted Jan 2014)

It is great to see a reprint of this very distinctive picture book. Through his own paintings and text, Ian Abdulla gives a vivid picture of an Aboriginal family living on the River Murray in the 1950s.  Times were tough and the children got extra money by bringing home sheep’s heads from the slaughterhouse, but there was also a lot of fun shown when they went to a rodeo, caught Murray cod and other bush tucker.  His naïve-style paintings capture the life of those times and also the beauty of the River Murray. This edition contains a map and a new, revised Afterword by art historian and curator John Kean.  (7-10 years). KS

Cathy Freeman
Born to Run  pb  9780143302384  $17.95
This is the engaging story of Cathy Freeman’s childhood and how she had a dream that she would win Olympic Gold and how that dream came true at the Sydney 2000 Olympic games in the 400 metres.   Cathy writes in a chatty way about her family and the things she loved to do but also about the discipline and very hard work that was necessary to become a champion.   Many photographs are included.      (8  - 13 years)   KS

Sally Morgan
My Place  pb  9780949206312  $24.95   
This is a moving account of the author's quest to discover her Aboriginal background, which was kept hidden for many years.  The book has been extremely popular since its publication in 1987.  (15 years up)
Also My Place for Younger Readers is available in a three part adaptation: 
Sally's Story pb 9780949206787   
Arthur Corunna's Story pb 9780949206770 
Mother and Daughter  pb  9780949206794            $14.95  each.   (9 – 12 years)   KS

Doris Pilkington/Nugi Garimara
Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence  pb  9780702233555  $19.95  
Set in 1931, this is the moving story of three Aboriginal girls who were taken from their mothers as part of government policy of the time.  They escaped from the Moore River Settlement and walked over 1,600 kilometres through desert country, following the rabbit-proof fence to return to their families.   The story has been made into a highly acclaimed film, also called Rabbit-Proof Fence.   (12 years up)  KS

Boori (Monty) Pryor with Meme McDonald
Maybe Tomorrow  pb  9781742372440  $24.99   
This is an updated revised version (2010) of Boori’s autobiography, first published in 1998.  It is an absorbing story of Boori Pryor’s life from the Aboriginal fringe camps of his birth, to the basketball court, to the DJ console and now to performance and storytelling at schools and other venues around Australia.  Told with humour and compassion.  Very moving.  (14 years up)  KS

Playground: Listening to Stories from Country and Inside the Heart  compiled by Nadia Wheatley  hardback 9781742370972  $39.99  Illustration and design by Ken Searle
This is an exceptional book, innovative in both its design and its concept.  It contains stories from many Elders, both past and present, who tell their life stories and also their reminiscences of getting bush tucker, going fishing, taking part in ceremony, playing games and just having fun.  There are also contemporary stories from twenty secondary-school students.  The title is taken from the words of one of the Torres Strait people who says, “We use the bush as our school and as our playground.”  It is an anthology of true stories about childhood compiled from a wide range of memoirs and oral histories.  Nadia Wheatley worked with Dr Jackie Huggins, who acted as Indigenous Consultant to the book.  In his design of the book, Ken Searle has incorporated old and new photographs, maps, paintings and his own beautiful illustrations of Aboriginal life and of the natural world.  There are short notes of the life of the Contributors and also a bibliography, glossary and index.    (11 years up)   KS


Trish Albert
First Australians:  Plenty Stories   
This series was published in collaboration with the National Museum of Australia in 2009.  The series provides a very up-to-date and interesting account of what is happening in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia today.  Certain books also describe aspects of their history and culture as well as give information about outstanding Aboriginal Australians. Well set out and designed with many engaging photos and illustrations.  A glossary and index.    Middle Primary level.   (8 – 10 years)   KS
Following are the titles available.

Celebrating Survival Day pb 9780731274086  $15.95

Discovering Aboriginal Australia pb 9780731274093  $15.95

Fighting for Rights  pb 9780731274055 $15.95

Indigenous Sporting Greats  pb 9780731274079 $15.95

Kaisiana’s Journey to Torres Strait  pb 9780731274062 $15.95

Keeping Strong through Art pb 9780731274048 $15.95

Special Objects  pb 9780731274352 $15.95

Travelling Yamani              pb 9780731274116  $15.95 


Stan Breedon
Growing Up at Uluru  pb 9781740210478   $14.95
Stunning photographs and very simple text bring to life the lives of four young children who live at Uluru in the red desert country of Central Australia.   (5 – 8 years)   KS

Laklak Burarrwanga and family

•  Welcome to My Country pb 9781743313961 $19.00

This is the story of Laklak Burarrwanga and her family and also of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land.  It describes Laklak’s life and how her people moved back to their Country, in Arnhem Land.  The book is divided into sections describing the seasons, how they change and what food can be collected or hunted at that time.  The story of Laklak’s life is told intermittently with this factual information about the land.  Also interspersed throughout the book are traditional stories.  All of these relate and combine to give us a much greater understanding.  The story of Laklak’s life has a very personal touch and it reads as though she is chatting to us.  However there is also a huge amount of information about kinship (which is always very complicated) and bush foods and natural farming. The many photographs, a detailed map, Yolngu word list, summary of the seasons and an Index are all helpful.   (14 years up)

Pat Lowe with Jimmy Pike
You call it desert - we used to live there    pb  9781921248115  $39.95   
In a marvellous collaboration, Pat Lowe's photographs interact with Jimmy Pike's striking paintings to make us see the desert landscape with new insight.  Pat Lowe describes with great simplicity what Jimmy Pike has told her about the way his family and community used to live in the Great Sandy Desert.   The book has just been reprinted – it used to be called Jilji.      (10 years up)   KS

John Nicholson

Kimberley Warrior: The Story of Jandamarra. pb   9781863738613  $16.99
The story of this remarkable Aboriginal warrior has also been told for children in the True Stories series. In the late 1890s, Jandamarra led the resistance of the Bunuba people against the invasion of their lands by white pastoralists. It is a gripping but also tragic story of an Aboriginal warrior caught between two worlds. Beautifully illustrated in black and white by John Nicholson. (9 – 14 years)
Songlines and Stone Axes: Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia  hardback 9781741750027 $29.95     John Nicholson describes the amazing network of trade and ceremonial exchange between Aboriginal peoples that existed long before Europeans came to Australia.  Items of particular value that were carried sometimes over thousand of kilometres and exchanged were pearl shell from the Kimberley in WA, greenstone axeheads, belts made of human hair, outriggers for canoes, songs and dances, ochre, feathers and cloaks made of possum skin.  The illustrations are beautifully detailed and extremely informative.  (11 – 15 years)  KS

Our World: Bardi Jaawi: Life at Ardiyooloon  by One Arm Point Remote Community School  hardback   9781921248238  $29.95
Ardiyooloon (One Arm Point) is a remote coastal community in Western Australia, north of Broome, and is home to the Bardi Jaawi people, who have lived in the area for thousands of years. The children of One Arm Point Remote Community School have made this book about their lives and culture, and it is a fascinating mix of traditional stories, cultural history, knowledge about fishing and bush tucker, and practical advice on how to make such things as boomerangs and bough shelters and how to treat snake bite. The book abounds with photos and artwork, and Bardi words with their English meanings are sprinkled around the borders of each page. A pronunciation guide appears at the beginning of the book, along with an acknowledgement of the important role the Elders have played in keeping the traditional culture and language alive. (9-12 years). MC

Banjo Woorunmurra and Howard Peterson
Jandamarra and the Bunubu Resistance pb  9781921248320   $24.95
The remarkable story of the resistance of Jandamarra and the Bunubu people to the invasion of their lands by white settlers in the north west Kimberley region of Western Australia. Set in the late 1890s, Jandamara at first worked as a black tracker with the Police against his own Aboriginal people the Bunuba people. However as he saw more and more of his own people captured, he fought against the police and at the age of 21 he led a guerrilla like resistance against the pastoralists who were steadily taking over Bunuba lands. He is believed to have spiritual powers because of his ability to survive grievous wounds and disappear like a bird but by the age of 24 he had been killed. Banjo Woorunmurra is the Aboriginal custodian of the story.  Well illustrated with photos of the region.   (14 years up) KS


What is Aboriginal Art? by Margo Birnberg pb 9781876622664 $14.99
This succinct guide to Aboriginal art outlines the history and cultural significance of Indigenous rock art, bark painting, carvings and sculpture as well as the many styles of modern paintings. The significance of many of the paintings and also the meaning of some of the codes or symbols is explained, giving us some idea of the stories that the paintings tell. There are many photographs of the artworks themselves and often the artists are shown as they paint. This is an excellent introduction to the vibrant and changing world of Australian Indigenous art. (11 years up) KS

Christine Nicholls
Art – History - Place  pb   9781876288433 $14.95
A simply written introduction to Aboriginal art today, which explores the traditions and history which have shaped its development.  Some of the icons used in indigenous paintings are explained and the book is illustrated with many paintings and other forms of art by Aboriginal artists in Australia. 
Art - Land - Story  pb   9781876288419   $14.95 is written in a similar format.  It looks at how the traditions of the Dreaming stories and of the Land have influenced Aboriginal Art.  (10 years up)  KS

Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale ed
The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture  hardback 9780195506495  $99.95
A comprehensive study at adult level of Aboriginal art and culture.   KS


KS  Kate Shepherd

MC Mandy Clarke


If you would like to order any of these books, please send orders to Austral Ed by email to      All prices are in Australian dollars.  For additional lists of recommended books and newsletters from Austral Ed, visit our website


© Kate Shepherd 2010.