This is a page in progress with ideas for living books, related to Australia in some way, that we’ve used. I’ll link to any reviews I’ve written and give a recommended age or an Ambleside Online year if you’re looking for Australian substitutes.
The March of Mother Duck by Colin Thiele – lovely book based on a true story; age 3 and up. Out of print.
Emu by Claire Saxby – age 4 to 6 years
Magpie Island by Colin Thiele – AO Year 1 or 2
Radio Rescue by Jane Jolly; Illustrated by Robert Ingpen – ages 5-10 yrs
John of the Sirius by Doris Chadwick – I read this and its sequel below aloud. Good for children aged 7 and up. Newly reprinted.
John of Sydney Town by Doris Chadwick
Monarch of the Western Skies by C.K. Thompson – age 8 and up
Warrigal the Warrior by C.K. Thompson – great read aloud for all ages
All About Captain Cook by Armstrong Sperry
A Little Bush Maid by Mary Grant Bruce – the first in a beloved series of books. We used this one as a substitute for American Tall Tales in Year 3 and the others as free reads from around age 9. They are the sort of stories that grow with the reader
Bush Stories by Amy Mack – AO year 3
James Ruse: Pioneer Wheat Farmer (1760 – 1808) by Jean Chapman; A fairly short story we’ve used in AO Year 4 & suitable for any age
The Bush Boys by James Tierney – AO free reads, age 9 and up; there are number of books in the series; bush skills, camping, along with adventure
Stowaway by Karen Hesse – AO Year 4 read aloud
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
The Little Black Princess by Mrs Aeneas Gunn – free read; about age 9 years. Pre-view first. We used a ‘school version’ which was slightly edited. Published in 1905 & available free online
The Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell – age 10 & up or younger
Come Danger, Come Darkness by Ruth Park – set in Norfolk Island, mid 1800’s
Karrawingi the Emu by Leslie Rees – age 9 or 10
Biggles in Australia by W.E. Johns – Biggles & Co. defeat a conspiracy of dangerous agitators in the Australian outback. Age 10 and up
Doctor Hunger & Captain Thirst by Meredith Hooper – AO Year 5; excellent book on early Australian explorers
Margaret Catchpole (1762-1819) by Nance Donkin, AO Year 5
River Rivals by Ian Mudie, AO Year 5
The Singing Wire: The Story of the Overland Telegraph by Eve Pownall, AO year 5
The Switherby Pilgrims by Eleanor Spence – AO Year 5 Term 1 (1800 – 1840)
Jamberro Road – the sequel to the above book & set five years later
Verity of Sydney Town by Ruth C. Williams – AO Year 5 Term 1
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai – AO Year 6, Immigration
Walkabout by James Vance Marshall – read aloud for all ages or AO Year 6
Sun on the Stubble by Colin Thiele – AO Year 6 but I recommend it be read aloud & slightly edited; great family read aloud.
I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall – AO Year 6 but recommend read aloud & some editing or leave it until mid highschool
Golden Fiddles by Mary Grant Bruce – AO Year 6
To the Wild Sky by Ivan Southall
February Dragon by Colin Thiele – this is about a bushfire someone carelessly started. Preview for sensitive children – my son thought it was too sad when he was about 12 or 13
A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey – recommend read aloud; excellent book
The Great Trek by Ion L. Idries (1940) – A well-written, historically accurate and exciting story based on the diary of Frank Jardine who with his younger brother led an expedition from Rockhampton to Somerset on the Cape York Peninsular in 1864. Geography, History & best suited for ages 11 to 14 years.
We of the Never-Never (1908) by Mrs Aeneas Gunn – I used this as a read aloud with my older children and in Year 11 with my youngest for Australian Literature.
The Bight by Colin Thiele – AO Year 8 Geography, Term 1 (in place of the book AO uses on Columbus)
Captain Cook by Alistair MacLean – about ages 13/14 & up. MacLean is a great author for teenage boys.
My Love Must Wait: the Story of Matthew Flinders by Ernestine Hill – Excellent writing! AO Year 9
or age 14 and up. History, geography, biography.
Flynn of the Inland by Ion L. Idriess – AO Year 10, Biography
Pastures of the Blue Crane by H. F. Brinsmead – about age 15 and up
All the Green Year by Don Charlwood – AO Year 10 or read aloud for younger ages
Robbery Under Arms by Ralph Boldrewood – AO Year 10; great boy book
My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin – fits in AO Year 10; how not to treat a man…the heroine needed a good kick in the pants, but I liked how Franklin wrote this.
Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington/Nugi Garimara – Year 11 (Aboriginal Studies)
My Place by Sally Morgan – mature readers or read aloud & discuss. There is a Young People’s edition but I haven’t read it. (Aboriginal Studies)
Currency Lass by Margaret Reeson – lovely account of a young Christian woman born in Australia and growing up in the convict colony of Sydney. My girls read this book and the one below when they were in their mid-teens. Update: used this in Ambleside Online Year 9 with my youngest.
Certain Lives by Margaret Reeson – the story of three generations of Australian women; AO Years 10 and 11.
I Find Australia by William Hatfield – AO Year 10 or 11; Geography
Generations of Men by Judith Wright – it’s been awhile since I read this but it deals with the author’s ancestors, early settlers in Australia. Wright was also a poet and it shows in her writing which is lyrical & lovely. My eldest daughter read it when she was around 16 years of age.
The Golden Quest by A.C.V. Bligh – a narrative of the pioneer days in the north and west of Australia. A good book for boys about “Roaring days of the West Australian Gold Rushes & life in the pearling industry.” AO Year 10 or 11; geography
* The following are for mature readers – upper highschool & beyond as they contain adult themes *
For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke – brutal but realistic. Fits AO Year 10 chronologically but I\’d leave it for a more mature reader.
The Secret River by Kate Grenville – I’m not recommending this book at all, even though the writing is very good for the most part, as it has some very dark material, but am putting it here as it’s used in some schools in their curriculum for upper high school. There is a study guide here that will give an idea of some of the contents.
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute – set during and after WW2 (Year 11)
On the Beach by Nevil Shute – a post-nuclear scenario set in southern Australia (scroll down the page)
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman – post WWI; check review as it contains some profanity; historical fiction
The Rowland Sinclair series of crime novels by Sulari Gentill are a great way to pick up some 1930’s Australian history:
The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland – set sometime around the Great Depression or just afterwards
The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin & Anne Spudvilas (scroll down page for review) – a lovely picture book based on the biography, ‘Mao’s Last Dancer.’
The Hole in the Hill by Ruth Park – set in New Zealand; around age 10 and under
Little Brother by Allan Baillie (Cambodia) AO Year 6
In Search of the Castaways by Jules Verne (also known as Captain Grant’s Children) set in South America, Australia and New Zealand
Ten Fingers for God by Dorothy Clarke Wilson – medical missionary biography; AO Year 7 – as a devotional & as a book set in Asia (India)
The Small Woman by Alan Burgess – exceptional biography of Gladys Aylward, missionary to China for twenty years. 20th Century; age 12 or 13 years and up
By Searching by Isobel Kuhn – autobiography of the author’s girlhood & the lead up to missionary work in China. Age 14 years & up; AO Year 10. Other books include, Ascent to the Tribes, Nests Above the Abyss, and others.
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang – Cultural Revolution seen through the eyes of a young girl. For ages 13/14 years and up
Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh – a golden age detective novel by one of the ‘Queens of Crime.’ A Kiwi author, this story is one of a few she set in New Zealand. Age 14/15 yrs & up.
Mao Tse-Tung and His China by Albert Marrin – we’ve used a few other books by this author (e.g. Stalin) and they are good. Mao we used for the study of the 20th Century/ AO Year 11; suitable for around ages 15 and up
Life & Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – AO Year 11; 20th Century
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister – Three women at the heart of twentieth century China
Killing Fields, Living Fields by Don Cormack – adult or pre-read for late high school. Poignant, exceptional writing, and as you would expect, horrific in places, but it is ultimately a story of hope and rising up from the ashes.(Cambodia)
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (Cambodia) Graphic in places. Pre-read!!
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck – set in China & scheduled in Year 9 of AO Year; one of my girls read it in Year 11/12 but it’s very raw & I suggest a preview first.
The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki – a Japanese literary classic set between 1936 & 1941 that has an unusual and very interesting perspective on the times. Mature content; would suit an upper high school student studying Modern History, AmblesideOnline Year 12 or Asian studies.