Awesome Australian Animals

Australia is home to some unique and truly delightful animals that I would so love to encounter in the wild. Today’s post looks at three of them; two of the stories are by the well-known Australian children’s book author, Mem Fox. Mem has a comprehensive author’s website here. Her life’s passion is children’s literacy! Possum Magic was her second book, published in 83 and she has since gone on to write 33 more.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas

Our two possum protagonists have the endearing names of Hush and Grandma Poss. Now Grandma Poss is a whizz at bush magic and and devises a pièce de résistance, a magic that makes Hush invisible. Unseen, Hush gets into all sorts of fun and loves all that invisibility offers, like safety from snakes and sliding down kangaroo backs!

One day Hush decides she wants to be able to see herself again and asks Grandma to reverse the magic, but despite looking through all her magic books, Grandma Poss is stumped. All she remembers is it has something to do with human food, so off they set on what becomes a tour of the famous cuisine of some of Australia’s most well-known cities. The first attempts were failures, but a vegemite sandwich in north Australia brings Hush’s tail back into visibility. Perth pavlova results in the appearance of legs and body, while a final stop and some lamington in Tasmania seals the deal! The final page shows a map of the culinary tour and a glossary of the dishes. Mem bursts into rhyme a few times in the story, otherwise the words are simple and flowing and easy for children to follow. The illustrations are charming: grandma Poss in pinny and pumps cycling around Australia with Hush on her back…. The story is a delight in itself but would be a huge asset to any classroom teacher wanting to introduce Australia to his/her students. This book makes me want to hop straight on a plane to Sydney and then into the bush!

Mem talks about the inspiration for Possum Magic here.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox, illustrated by Pamela Lofts

Read this book and then tell me you haven’t fallen in love with koalas. This story tackles the common feeling of not enough motherly love to go round. When Koala Lou is born EVERYONE loves her, but none as much as her Mom who reminds of the fact 100 times a day. But the inevitable happens and siblings arrive and Koala Lou wishes her mother would repeat those words. So she comes up with a plan. She will compete in the bush Olympics. Winning her event will surely assure her mother’s love (sound familiar?). Well despite all her training, Koala Lou comes in second to her rival and she runs off into the bush and cries her eyes out. Once night has fallen she creeps home and into a certain person’s warm arms and longed-for refrain!  Once again, it is the simplicity that strikes me in the appeal of this story, one that every kid can relate too.

Wombat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

This fun journey into the Australian outback is written in rhyme, with an excellent meter, making it a joy to read aloud. Six woolly wombats go on a walkabout, and a passing ravenous dingo dingo decides this lunch is too good to miss. One by one, a wombat strays from the others intrigued by all that one can see in the bush (golden wattle, kookaburras, gum trees, a billabong – all explained in a glossary).  Suddenly Jen and Jack realize the others are no longer following. Hiding by the trail, they spy the dingo with a large sack that’s squirming on his back.  The two, worried about their four playmates, come up with a cunning pit plan to thwart the hungry canine. Four thankful wombats escape and six happy wombats walk back home two by two for tea. The illustrations are in warm colours, focusing on flora and fauna. Since the wooly wombats look pretty similar, Blackall has given each Wombat its own accessory (paper hat, string skirt…) to give them some individuality. 2-5 year olds will enjoy the rhyming text and the round wooly wombats!

# 86-88 in the There’s a Book Read to Me Picture Book Challenge

Status of these Three Species

Koala – While not officially endangered, this species has seen its population decrease by 90% in the last decade!

Leadbeater’s Possum – Discovered not to be extinct in 1961, as previously feared. They are only found in the Victorian central highlands, in old forest areas that are being logged. These possums nest in tree hollows, and these are only found in old trees.

Wombat – The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is one of the world’s most endangered species.

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10 Responses to Awesome Australian Animals

  1. Enjoyed your selection of books on the Austrailian animals. They are great examples of antropomorphic books. They are fun, educational and have imporant messages kids can easily relate to. I especially love Koalas, but know little about wombats. It’s a shame they are the most endangered of the species. Great post!

    • Joanna says:

      Pat, you are so right. Mem is especially gifted at anthropomorphic children’s books. She has a really lyrical gift with her pen and knows just want young kids will relate to. Thank you.

  2. Despite my usual shying away from rhyming texts, Wombat Walkabout is the one that most appeals to me, though they all sound like fun ways to introduce the “land down under” to kids.

    Thanks for not only reviewing the books, but giving us information on the species as well. That sets your blog apart from others who review picture books, and I appreciate it.

    • Joanna says:

      Beth, I hear you on rhyming text, but actually both these authors have a poetic gift. Thank you for your thoughts. I am myself enjoying learning more about each of these animals. Somehow for me it enhances the stories.

  3. I love Australia – I think I’ve seen a few possums when my hosts (who happen to be my former university students in the Philippines) brought be to Blue Mountain and Hunter Valley while I was in Sydney July of last year – but then again, I could be wrong. I also have an affinity for Australian authors (Graeme Base, Jeannie Baker, Jan Ormerod, etc) – so it’s a little surprising that I haven’t heard of Mem Fox yet. Hmm, I’d have to check out these books then from the library. 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      Lucky you! It’s the only continent I haven’t been too, despite friends in OZ and NZ! Of course you are a wee bit nearer than I! I’m pretty certain you’ll like Mem Fox’s books and she has a fascinating background too.

  4. What a great idea, Joanna, to showcase these thematic books, which younger readers will love.

    BTW, I wasn’t sure how else to let you know I’ve left an answer to your question on my blog about Goodreads’ opportunities for pre-published authors, so here it is:

    Although you’re correct that most opportunities are for published authors or those under contract (author Sheila Dalton is scheduled to be on Bird’s-eye View Nov. 3 talking about how to do a Goodreads giveaway), it’s still a great place for pre-published authors to introduce themselves via reviews, discussion groups and forums to readers, our target audience. Hope this helps!

    • Joanna says:

      Michelle, thanks for dropping by my blog.

      Also, thanks so much for posting your reply to my question here as well as your blog. It really does help, and I can see I need to look at possibly transferring some of my blog reviews to Goodreads, as well looking into the discussion groups etc.

  5. Diane says:

    Oh my! Forgive me for turning my nose up at the first book. Possums are classed as a pest here in New Zealand and carry bovine tuberculosis. (Click on Wikipedia to read more.) I did chuckle however at the mention of Pavlova, its a known fact that much of what is born or originate in New Zealand, Australians love to class as theirs. (see Wikipedia on pavlova, my favourite desert!)
    I love Koalas and have held some, they are everything cute and cuddly and kids will adore this book you have reviewed here.
    Although I wouldn’t attempt a lyrical text, I do love reading text of rhym, another cute story as you say Joanna to introduce the young to Wombats and everything Australian.
    Love to hear more.

    • Joanna says:

      Haha, while I actually do remember that Pavlova hails from New Zealand, I was not aware that possums are classed as a pest in NZ, so thanks for the information. As I understand it, the majority of possum subspecies are not endangered!

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