Kids’ Lit: a plethora of possums, potoroos and pigs

Last week I promised to blog about contemporary kids’ books that I thought might become classics, that might be read by our children’s children in the (hopefully!) distant future.  Mem Fox is almost always the first children’s author mentioned in this type of discussion and, while my kids do love Possum Magic, we all think that some of her other books are more charming.  We particularly love the ones that have been illustrated by Kerry Argent, who is a fantastic illustrator.  So Wombat Divine, about a little wombat desperate for a role in the annual nativity play, is our favourite Fox, followed closely by Sleepy Bears, another Fox/Argent collaboration.  And I can’t move on from Mem Fox without mentioning Where is the Green Sheep? which both my girls loved from the time they were about 10 months old and knew by heart before they were 2. 

Now back to Kerry Argent.  She also illustrated Margaret Wild’s Miss Lily’s Fabulous Pink Feather Boa, which is about the quest of the last Potoroo in Australia to find some friends, which she does with the help of a feather boa belonging to a crocodile.  It might sound a bit loopy but it’s a beautiful book.

Edward the Emu and its sequel Edwina the Emu have been solid favourites in our house.   Edward and Edwina’s escapades, coupled with the rollicking rhyme, mean these books get pulled off the shelf time and time again.  And Rod Clements’ pictures of an emu in a ballet tutu, or an emu standing on a lion’s head, are great fun.

What else?  Kisses for Daddy by Fraces Watts and David Legge is a gorgeous book and made my husband realise that his daughter’s preference for goodnight kisses from Mummy instead of Daddy was obviously a common phenomenon.  Part of the game of reading the book is finding the different animals cleverly hidden in what are, to my mind, some of the most stunning pictures I’ve seen in a children’s book.

Moving away from books by Australian authors, the two consistent stayers in our home are the Maisy books – which I can’t quite see the charm in but my children love nevertheless – and the Olivia books, about a pig who, while she might dream of being a ballerina just like most little girls, is anything but a traditional little girl.

I’m sure I’ve missed lots of fantastic books.  Let me know which ones you and your children love and find yourself returning to again and again.


  1. Anita Fredericks

    I thoroughly agree with your comments about Mem Fox as well as the Edward the Emu series. Other favourites in our household are the Felicity Wishes series by Emma Thomson – classic fairy magic for little girls. And then the Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz collaborations – “Commotion in the Ocean”, “Rumble in the Jungle” … – are fun and firm favourites. And a more recent discovery for us is Rod Campbell whose flap books, “Dear Zoo” and “Oh Dear!” and definite winners for my younger son. As is Pamela Allen’s “Who Sank the Boat?” I love story time with the kids – thank you for some new ideas of different books to seek out!

  2. Dear Zoo is a good one – I remember each of the girls getting that book out of the library many times when they were a bit younger. I have tried several times to get them interested in Pamela Allen because I think her books are great but I’ve had limited success. And David Wojtowycz is a new one for me – I’ll check him out next time we’re at the library. Thanks for the ideas.

  3. Trin

    Well I said I would have a think and come back and say. Yes all of the above are fantastic books, some of our modern favourites won’t necessarily all become classics but we love them just the same.
    *Olivia; I can relate to it just as much as the kids.
    *Guess How Much I love You; beautiful message and fun as it always ends up with actions as well as reading.
    *Charlie & Lola; again we can all relate to these stories and both children seem to love them and have a laugh.
    * I Love My Little Story Book by Anita Jeram; My daughter loved this, beautifully illustrated and it’s all about what you can do with a story book and the places you can go to when you are reading a book.
    *Spot; My son loves this it’s so easy that he can pretend to read the story himself a great pre reading skill.
    I am sure I will think of others as the day goes on; happy reading!

    • We’ve all loved Spot in this house too Trin – I used to wonder if it was just because the books have lift-the-flaps but now I think that the simplicity of the illustrations appeals to little minds because it’s easy for them to identify the characters in the story.

      I haven’t heard of I Love My Little Story Book but I’m going to track down a copy for the girls because it sounds like just the sort of thing they’d like. And Charlie and Lola – I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with those books, the kids love them but Lola can be a bit too cute at times, especially if you have to read more than one of them in a sitting. And do brothers as good as Charlie really exist!

      I also realised that I forgot to mention Beatrix Potter in my blog 2 weeks ago when I was talking about books that I loved as a child, and that my children also love. We have the whole collection and I have to say, reading them now as an adult, that it’s not all cuddly bunnies; old Beatrix could be quite quite gruesome when she chose in some of the lesser known books. Cats rolled up in pastry by rats for their dinner, bunnies having their heads shot off and all sorts of other not so childish treats!

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