Narrative Non-Fiction Books for Young Readers: Australian Animals

I\’m always on the look out for good narrative non-fiction books for children. I really like some of the Australian Natural History picture books that are available now that combine factual content within a story. I’ve previously written about one of these books, ‘Emu‘ written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne, that is very good. The same author and illustrator have collaborated in Big Red Kangaroo.



The illustrations in this book are large and were created with charcoal and digital media, capturing the dry, hostile beauty of inland Australia. The narrative storyline is accompanied by a section in italics on the opposite page that gives more information in factual form. The book was published in 2013 and has 29 fully illustrated pages. Recommended for Primary School aged children but an interested younger child would enjoy it, too.



Another book about Australian native animals by author Claire Saxby is Dingo. This book is illustrated by Tannya Harricks and though at first I wasn’t that enamoured with her style, it grew on me as I looked at it more closely. The illustrations were created with oil paint in loose, broad brush strokes. This gives Dingo a very different feel to the Big Red Kangaroo. It has a lighter, softer background and the storyline is simpler with less narrative and larger writing.

Dingo has the same format and page numbers as Emu and the Big Red Kangaroo and was published in 2018. Three or four year olds and up would like this.


Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell; illustrated by Mark Jackson (2011) has a very similar format to the books above with lovely bright illustrations that evoke the Pilbara region of Western Australia – deep, rusty reds and brilliant sky blues. I’ve included some links below about this endangered Australian mammal.
This is a lovely book for younger children to pour over and observe closely as the illustrator includes many other creatures in the background.
The narrative is excellent and has a literary quality with a broader vocabulary than the books above.


Bilby – WWF-Australia – WWF-Australia

The Greater Bilby – Bush Heritage Australia

About Bilbies – Save the Bilby Fund

If you’re looking for some Australian Natural History books for the younger years I would recommend any of these publications. Some children aren’t ready for chapter books (such as those written by C.K. Thompson). These pictorial but realistic non-fiction books are a great way to start introducing them to Australian animals.

9 thoughts on “Narrative Non-Fiction Books for Young Readers: Australian Animals

  1. Hi Mudpuddle, yes, they are a marsupial mammal but they're different from other marsupials – they have a second placenta which doesn't work as well so they have very short pregnancies. They look like a cross between a rabbit & a rat & have long ears. We have a related animal called a bandicoot here and they have short ears. The bilby is Australia's version of the Easter Bunny. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Towards an Australian Charlotte Mason Curriculum | journey & destination

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