Christmas Stocking Fillers: 14 Australian children's classic books

Being married to an Australian means we have been collecting children’s books from Down-Under ever since our first visit as parents. They are books that either my husband grew up with or have become classics in the last few years, and are some of the most beloved by cousins and friends’ children, and have been the best gifts from Auntie & Uncle, Cousins, Grandma & Grandad and friends alike.

As every Christmas, including this one, my kids get books in their stockings, I thought I would share some of the books we have for those of you who are still looking for bits and pieces to complete your own children’s Christmas stockings.

Some of the most beloved authors amongst the youngest generation appear to be Mem Fox, Alison Lester and Yvonne Morrison, so anything by them is guaranteed to be a huge hit with the littlies, but there are also other authors who have proven to be able to captivate my munchkins' hearts, especially as many Aussie authors seem to have a passion for animals, much like our children.

So here are some of our current favourites:

Are we There Yet? – Alison Lester

The actual story of a family who take on a 3-month journey around Australia on a camper-van to visit the most iconic corners of this breathtaking country. My personal favourite spot: The Twelve Apostles that changes from year to year due to sea erosion. The story ends with a ‘Are we there yet?’ from children that after all the exciting adventures are quite keen to return back home to their pets and grandparents.

Where is the Green Sheep? – Mem Fox

My son read this while he first was at nursery and pretty much has stayed with us as a firm favourite. Perfect for kids who are starting to learn their colours, this repetitive and fun book will also make it fun for them to memorise the pages as they read over and over, which they will probably end up doing.

Koala Lou – Mem Fox

This is the story of a koala who, as the only child, had all of his mummy’s love … until more koala siblings arrived and Koala Lou decides to participate in the Bush Olympics to recoup mum’s attention. Koala Lou did not win but he got mum to give him the much needed reassurance: ‘Koala Lou I do love you. I always have and I always will’.

The Magic Hat – Mem Fox

The magic hat moves around and spins and sits on different people’s head to turn them into different animals. Finally the wizard arrives and takes the hat away rescuing everyone back into their original human bodies. Fun and repetitive, with a surprise factor where the child can try and remember what comes next at the turn of the page and learn about rhyming words.

Possum Magic – Mem Fox

Hush and Grandma Poss live in the Australian bush. Grandma Poss has magic powers and does all sorts of fun things to other animals. With Hush though, she turns him invisible - to keep her safe from snakes. Hush wants to remember what she looked like and Grand Poss tours Australia with her to find the (human) foods that will make her visible again.

The Cocky who cried Dingo – Yvonne Morrison

The Australian equivalent of The Boy who cried Wolf, impersonated by a Cockatoo, fun and filled with rhymings.

My Aussie Dad – Yvonne Morrison

Many if us have embarrassing dads. Or so we think J This book is about the different stereotypes of Australian dads – something most Australian kids will be able to relate to.

Give me a Home among the Gum Trees – Bob Brown (aka Captain Rock) & Wally Johnson

Based on the lyrics of one of the most iconic Aussie songs that was initially submitted in a contest organised to find the new anthem of the country. It was also later picked up by John Williamson who made it a hugely popular country-ish song. It celebrates all things of life in the Australian bush.

Uno’s Garden – Graeme Base

This is a beautiful story, and one of my personal favourites, about how humans turned a lush and fertile forest filled with exotic animals into a grey sterile city, and abandoned it once all had flora and fauna had been destroyed because they didn’t enjoy living there anymore. Future generations managed to restore and build in perfect balance for humans and other living things could to enjoy together. All but one animal, which they could only hope to see one day again. Sadly enough, something our children might experience in the flesh one day.

Wombat Stew – Marcis K. Vaughan and Pamela Lofts

One clever dingo caught a wombat and in his excitement, he spent a long time dancing and singing around the cooking pot. In doing so, he attracted the attention of the poor wombat’s friends who came to the rescue and tricked the dingo into poisoning his own cooking.

Silly Galah! – Janeen Brian

Rhyming fun while kids learn all about the Australian animals, from the better known koalas, kangaroos, platypuses and crocodiles, to the more exotic ones like Kookaburras, Quokkas, Frill-necked Lizards and Bilbys … oh, yes! And Galahs – a pretty type of pink Cockatoo.

Mulga Bill’s Bicycle – A.B. Paterson

Having been written in 1896, this is now a much-loved Australian classic that tells the story of Mulga Bill who decides to try the new method of transportation at that time – the bicycle. Unfortunately for him he turns out to be not as good as he had first decided he would be and after a spectacular crash in a creek, he settles for his more reliable horse. Lots of rhyming if your child is at that stage where they are learning their rhyming words and expressions.

The Wonky Donkey – Craig Smith

Not really a book written by an Australian, but a Kiwi who also created music to be played along with the book, but in any case, much loved by Aussie kids too for its playful way with words and repetition. Get to discover who the spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey is as you turn the pages of this fun book.

Baby Wombat’s Week – Jackie French

A spin-off of the original The Diary of a Wombat. The story takes us through baby wombat’s week day by day, as he makes friends with a human baby while he and his mum look for the perfect home.

 

More recently I have also learnt about Pamela Allen who has some really lovely reviews, so I will be happy to report back after our next trip Down Under, together with any future additions to our ever growing collection. 

Meanwhile, do any of the Aussie mums have any further suggestions to add?

Marissa xx

How to decorate a kids play room

We moved from our beloved Dubai Marina into a new villa in the summer and decided to have a dedicated playroom for the children to play at their own content, where they could read books, play for hours and that would give them the right environment to be creative when doing their arts and crafts. It is almost complete now, but it is one of those rooms that a lot of times parents do not really know how to tackle and just ends up being a room with lots toys in it.

After recently seeing the fabulous work that Karen Wandrag of Design K had done at a friend's house, I could not resist asking her if she would agree on writing a piece for the blog on how to decorate a children's playroom. So these were Karen's suggestions:

 

A designated space in your home that kids can call their own is the ultimate enjoyment for a playroom. From the toys, to the unlimited supply of interactive games and supplies, the playroom is a sanctuary for kids!

You can definitely go all out with the design, as there are so many amazing design inspirations, however if you follow a few basic steps, by including the standard items required you can really design the most beautiful play area which are functional as well as practical.

Things to consider when planning a kid’s playroom:

  1. Firstly, create designated areas in the room:

Open Floor Area: Provide an area where they can spread out toys, roll around and have fun. Place an area carpet in this area and house larger toys adjacent in a closet where there is easy access.

Reading Area: This area can consist of a small table, chairs next to bookshelves, puzzles and other ‘quiet’ time activities. Quiet areas should have an area for colouring, craft projects or other activities that requires children to sit down.

Play Area: This area can be adjacent to the open floor space area. Small push toys and noisy activities should have toy baskets close by in which kids can access on their own.

2. I believe in starting off with neutral colours and then adding some colour with accent pieces and accessories, which always provides a more elegant, yet playful design. By coordinate matching colours to area rugs and window treatments will pull the play area together beautifully. A specific theme can also be selected and designed accordingly. The walls can be painted creatively and one wall can be done in a beautiful wall paper, so many options….

3. Sufficient storage is a must, as this will prevent the area from becoming messy easily.

4. There are so many creative design ideas, which won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and combined creatively will make a huge difference on the final room design. The colour selection and the furniture layout is also an important factor to keep in mind. Space planning is important, as this enhances the flow of the room.

For instance, the beautiful black writing board shaped as a house is such a stunning piece, which adds a beautiful feature on the wall and has practical use, and not expensive to produce.

Even a normal open storage box from IKEA can be transformed into a beautiful wall feature.

This is so easy to do by only adding yellow washi tape around it shaped as a house. Wooden storage boxes can be made with graphic stickers with castor wheels, which is movable and practical. These type of pieces really adds something unique to a space.

To add something even more special to either girl or boy’s playrooms teepee tents and the latest craze, wooden frame houses, always bring a magical element to the room. This is where the kids can just escape into their own little cocoon, to read and relax. These can be accessorised as much as you want. Garlands are an inexpensive accessory that add something playful and colourful into the room.

These beautiful kitchen areas can also be used in a playroom to provide hours of pretend play.

And you want to add some totally innovative items, how about an indoor swing or a wall climbing ladder (perhaps add a large cushion below for safety).

 

Thank you so much Karen for sharing your clever tips!!!

Karen is not just a specialist interior designer for children's spaces but also a photographer and an artist. Do visit her website Design K for more on her fabulous work!