New resource! Added April 2020.
Paul Jennings, Uncanny! Even More Surprising Stories. Ringwood: Puffin, 1988 (reprinted 1999).
Paul Jennings, Undone! More Mad Endings. Ringwood: Puffin, 1993 (reprinted 1999).
Jump into Paul Jennings' unsettling stories for children.
New resource! Added April 2020.
Jenny Wagner, The Nimbin. Melbourne: Nelson, 1978. (Reprinted by Puffin in 2001.)
While on holiday at the beach, Philippa is adopted by a strange little creature who lives in her beach bag.
Ivan Southall, Ash Road. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1965. (Reprinted by Text Publishing, 2013.)
Graham, Harry, and Wallace are enjoying themselves, camping independently for the first time. But when they accidentally start a bushfire, it spreads more rapidly than they could have imagined. Along Ash Road, the adults rush to fight the fire and man the aid centres, leaving the children behind in safety — or what they think is safety, until the fire turns.
In this land of fires and floods, Ash Road remains a relevant text, which can be read in conjunction with Ivan Southall's Hills End or Colin Thiele's February Dragon, as part of a natural disaster unit.
Revised April 2020.
Gary Crew, Quetta. South Melbourne: Lothian, 2002.
---. The Castaways of the Charles Eaton. South Melbourne: Lothian, 2002.
---. The Kraken. South Melbourne: Lothian, 2001.
---. Gothic Hospital. South Melbourne: Lothian, 2001.
---. Strange Objects. Port Melbourne: Heinemann, 1990. (Reprinted by Hatchette Australia, 2003.)
Gary Crew is a prolific and widely popular author of children's fiction, especially notable for works with a supernatural or adventurous bent. This set of lesson plans explores five of Crew's work, including three shipwreck adventures: Quetta, The Castaways of the Charles Eaton, and The Kraken. They also include lessons on two longer works for older readers: Gothic Hospital and Strange Objects.
Michael Panckridge, The Vanishings. Fitzroy: Black Dog Books, 2008.
Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey, Out of the Blue. Sydney: HarperCollins, 2009.
The Vanishings and Out of the Blue are both by Michael Panckridge, a prolific author of children's fiction, best known for his supernaturally tinged sports books.
In the Vanishings, Francesca's life in the vast spaces of the outback and a town so small the train doesn't stop any more is disrupted by the disappearance of her twin sister.
Out of the Blue (co-written with Pam Harvey) traces the effect on a small town when mysterious lights are spotted in the night sky.
Victor Kelleher , Beyond the Dusk. Milsons Point: Random House, 2000.
From significant Australian children's author Victor Kelleher, Beyond the Dusk tells a story from forty years earlier, when the protagonist, Meg, came face to face with a mysterious creature in the bush behind her grandmother's farm.
Particularly apt in this age of increasing extinctions, Beyond the Dusk explores Australia's lost (or perhaps not so lost) megafauna.
Lilith Norman, Climb a Lonely Hill. Sydney: Collins, 1970. (Reprinted by Red Fox, 1995.)
Written by Lilith Norman, a children's librarian, author, and former editor of the NSW School Magazine, Climb a Lonely Hill is one of the classic Australian narratives: two children, lost in the forbidding outback after a car accident, must find their way home. In particular, the children focus on a distant hill, from the top of which they hope to see their way.
Climb a Lonely Hill is an excellent introduction for students to the trope of being lost in an unforgiving landscape, so significant to Australian writing.
Eleanor Spence , Patterson's Track. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1958.
The earliest novel from Australian children's writer Eleanor Spence (whose best-known work, including The October Child and A Candle for Saint Antony, was published two decades later), Patterson's Track is a story of mystery in the Australian bush, as the three Winter children, on what seems to be a very dull holiday, stumble into an old puzzle.
Unlike many bush-focused stories, Patterson's Track is less about the children becoming lost and more about reading, navigating, and experiencing the bush.
Elyne Mitchell, The Silver Brumby. London: Hutchinson, 1958. (Reprinted by HarperCollins, 2012.)
The opening novel in Elyne Mitchell's long-running and dearly beloved series, The Silver Brumby follows Thowra, the magnificent silver stallion who is king of the brumbies, in his struggles against man and rival horses. Alongside 'The Man from Snowy River', The Silver Brumby is on of Australian literature's most seminal high-country stories.
Joan Phipson, The Boundary Riders. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1962.
Joan Phipson was already an established author of children's literature when she published The Boundary Riders in 1962. In The Boundary Riders, three children become lost in the outback after volunteering to ride the fences of their family sheep station.
Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Melbourne: Cheshire, 1967.
Mysterious, open-ended, mystical — in many ways, Picnic at Hanging Rock is a strange choice for an Australian classic. But Australian classic it undoubtedly is. On Valentine's Day in 1900, three boarding-school girls and their teacher wander off during a picnic; only one ever returns.
Betty Roland , The Bush Bandits. Melbourne: Lansdowne, 1966.
Betty Roland is perhaps better known these days as a playwright — her breakthrough work, A Touch of Silk, is still being adapted and performed nearly a century after its debut. But she also wrote children's books, including the four-volume Jamie series, about the misadventures of the titular country boy.
The Bush Bandits, published in 1966, addresses then still-urgent issue of poaching native species. Two young boys find an orphaned koala, and decide to keep him, just for a while, in spite of the strict laws against it. But their decision brings them up against ruthless wildlife poachers.
Nan Chauncy, They Found a Cave. London: Oxford University Press, 1948. (Reprinted by Text Publishing, 2013.)
Nan Chauncy may be Tasmania's best-known children's writer, and this remains, perhaps, her most beloved book. When four English orphans migrate to their Aunt Jandie's farm outside Hobart, all is fun and exploration — until Aunt Janie falls ill, and the tyrannical Pinners take over the children's care.
Mrs Tucker doesn't want to remain in Sunset House, a highly regimented home for the elderly. But when she ups stakes and moved to a dilapidated cottage, she finds another being already in possession: a gnome-like creature called a Njimbin. And neither is willing to share their home, not the old woman who is looking for a new start nor the ancient being who has occupied it for centuries.
James Aldridge, The True Story of Spit MacPhee. Ringwood, Vic: Viking, 1986.
When young Spit MacPhee comes to live with his grandfather, the people of the country town of St Helen fear for his future. Fyfe MacPhee is a crazy old man, and barefoot Spit has to fend for himself along the riverbank where they live. While some people feel that Spit can look after himself, others believe he would be better cared for in a boy’s home and when old Fyfe dies after one of his ‘turns’ a fierce battle to decide Spit’s fate begins.
Felix the Cat is a cartoon character created in the silent film era. His black body, white eyes, and giant grin, coupled with strange situations in which his cartoons place him, combined to make Felix one of the most recognizable cartoon characters next to Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck or Woody Woodpecker. Felix was the first character from animation to be so popular that he drew an audience.
Colin Thiele, Klontarf. Willoughby, NSW: Rigby, 1988.
They said that the old deserted homestead of Klontarf was haunted. Nobody ever went there especially at night. There were stories about ghostly figures wandering around from room to room. It was definitely the last place that matt and terry would have wanted to take refuge but when terry hurt his leg, they had no choice. The frightening events of that night led Matt and Jessica Kemp to search for the truth about the myths and ghost stories surrounding Klontarf.
Colin Thiele, The Sea Caves. Port Melbourne: Lothian, 2000.
Twelve-year-old school friends Sam and Nicholas are exploring the wreck of an old ship near some cliffs. They decide to return the following day to explore some caves which they have discovered nearby. But, once inside the cave, they disturb the roof of unstable rock and find themselves trapped inside. Nobody knows where they are. They have no food or water, and the batteries in their torches are running low...
Norman Lindsay, The Magic Pudding: Being the Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and His Friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1918.
The adventures of two koalas, a penguin, an old sailor and a cantankerous walking, talking pudding that is vulnerable to thieves.
May Gibbs, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1918.
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are two adventurous little gumnut foster brothers who long to see a Human. Snugglepot, the leader, and the gentle Cuddlepie are good friends with Mr Lizard and Little Ragged Blossom and together go on many heroic adventures.
Tim Winton, Blueback. Sydney: Pan, 1997.
"Abel Johnson was ten years old and could never remember a time when he could not dive. His mother said he was a diver before he was born; he floated and swam in the warm ocean inside her for nine months so maybe it came naturally. He had lived by the sea at Longboat Bay all his life. Every day was special. But it all became much more precious the day he first shook hands with old Blueback."
James Roy, Ichabod Hart and the Lighthouse Mystery, St Lucia: UQ Press, 2003.
"This is history told like you've never heard it before, where steam is king, convicts are half-man, half-machine, dirty tricks are simply the way things are done, and almost anything at all can happen."
Ruth Park, Playing Beatie Bow, Melbourne: Nelson, 1980.
"In 1980s Sydney, Abigail Kirk finds herself transported back to the late nineteenth century (Sydney in the 1870s) and becomes embroiled in the extraordinary family life of the Bows. The Bows will not let her return home believing that she is "the stranger" who will preserve the family ‘gift’. This is a time slip adventure written by renowned adult and children’s fiction writer Ruth Park."
Colin Thiele, Storm Boy, Adelaide: Rigby, 1963.
"Storm-Boy lived between the Coorong and the sea. His home was the long, long snout of hill and scrub that curves away southeastwards from the Murray Mouth. A wild strip it is, windswept and tussocky, with the flat shallow water of the South Australian Coorong on one side and the endless slam of the Southern Ocean on the other. They call it Ninety Mile Beach." (extract)
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