Cuddling up with your little one for a story is a magical time for them. Books act as portals to new experiences, helping kids develop an appreciation for the world around them and the people they coexist with.
Children develop their sense of identity and perceptions of others from an early age. One recent Australian study suggests that books with diverse characters and storylines “can be a powerful tool for extending children’s knowledge and understandings of themselves and others who may be different culturally, socially or historically”.
And yet relatively few children’s books include the voices and stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – a gap Broome-based publisher Magabala Books is addressing head on. Yawuru and Warumungu woman Melena Cole-Manolis, a publishing cadet at Magabala, says it’s important for Australia’s First Nations people to share their stories in this format. Here, she tells us about five children’s books no reading corner should be without.
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Written and illustrated by students from Laverton, Menzies and Tjuntjuntjara remote community schools in WA as part of the Spinifex Writing Camp, Hello, Hello was published by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation in 2020. It follows a family as they walk home on a very dark, creepy night. It’s a suspenseful and mysterious story that is fun to read. The spooky chalk illustrations only enhance these feelings. I love that this story was written by children, for children, and I hope that the experience of being involved in its creation will encourage them to continue to tell stories, whether by written word or not. I also enjoyed the accompanying song you can listen to via the QR code on the book. I’d recommend it for children aged six and up.
This non-fiction children’s picture book, published by Hardie Grant, tells the true story of Vincent Lingiari and the Wave Hill walk-off. Co-authored by Thomas Mayor and Vincent Lingiari’s granddaughter Rosie Smiler, and equipped with beautiful illustrations by Samantha Campbell, the importance of this story lies in the significant impact the event had on the rights of First Nations people in Australia. This retelling is a great way for all students to learn about this important historical event.
Stolen Girl is an emotional story about a girl who was taken from her mother and forced to live on a mission. While at the mission, she never stops dreaming about being reunited with her family. Written by Trina Saffioti, this story – combined with its heartfelt illustrations by Norma MacDonald – touches on the traumatic experiences First Nations people endured as part of the Stolen Generation. This story is a great way to introduce children to the darker parts of Australia’s history.
Written by Edith Wright and illustrated by Charmaine Ledden-Lewis, Charlie’s Swim was published by Magabala Books earlier this year. It’s based on the true story of the author’s uncle Charlie D’Antoine, who was working inside a flying boat when Broome was attacked by Japanese fighter planes on March 3, 1942. Charlie saw a woman and child struggling in the water and without hesitation jumped in to rescue them. This story about courage and selflessness is filled with illustrations that reflect the vivid colours of the Kimberley and bring forth memories of home for me.
Little Bird’s Day is a picture book filled with gentle words and outstanding illustrations. The book tells the story of a little bird from the moment it sings the world alive to the time it begins dreaming of flying among the stars. Sally Morgan’s beautiful but simple words and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s distinctive Arnhem Land illustrations bring together this wonderful and soothing storytelling experience suitable for all ages.