Celebrating Classic Australian Picture Books

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email.This week’s issue is written by Natasha Frost, a reporter based in Melbourne.

Last weekend, I hosted a baby shower for a friend whose little boy is due sometime in April. She and her husband are South African migrants, and I have joked for months that they like Australians so much that they have made one to come and live with them.

The baby, who will be an Australian citizen from birth, will start his cultural education early: Among the gifts, which included a platypus-patterned onesie and an electric nail trimmer, were three children’s books that are classics of an Australian childhood. (He will have to make his own way to “Bluey.”)

To be sure, Australian children read many of the same picture books that are treasured elsewhere in the world, like Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” or “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney.

But there are many homegrown titles, often with an Australian theme and setting, that continue to be adored by generations of Australian children — including many who are the first Australians in their family.

Some of these books feature the country’s distinctive wildlife: In “Possum Magic,” by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas, a young possum named Hush is suddenly struck by bush magic — and rendered invisible. “Koala Lou,” also by Ms. Fox, tells the story of a young koala wrestling with the arrival of a new sibling. And in “Edward the Emu,” by Sheena Knowles, an emu who has tired of the zoo tries on life as a seal, a lion and a snake.

Wombats also make appearances in a plethora of titles, including “Wombat Stew,” by Marcia K. Vaughan, in which no wombats are hurt, as well as “Diary of a Wombat,” by Jackie French. (It is, as you’d expect, a day-by-day telling of life as a wombat.)

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