Australian Fiction and history book list for kids

Australian History in the Curriculum

The period of history covered in Year 4 -6 in the Australian Curriculum and again as an in depth elective in Year 10.

Here are a few Australian History and Fiction book suggestions you might like to study in your homeschool. Why not choose a novel to use with Any Novel Novel Guide.

General Australian History Books

The Australia Book by Eve Pownell – for younger children. This is a good introduction to the history of Australia. It’s a 32 page picture book which is almost like a timeline.

Our Sunburnt Country by Arthur Baillie – General overview of Australian history Good narrative style. Great for primary and a general high school overview.

One People One Destiny by Mike Spenser – Good high school Australian history text discussing history from a Christian perspective. Includes many first hand accounts.

For first hand online accounts see the Project Gutenberg’s Australian Author’s Page.

Australian History Before 1800

The First Discovery of Australia and New Guinea by G Collingidge (1492 -1606) Published 1906

Captain Cook’s Journal During the First Voyage Round the World by James Cook First hand account

A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson by Watkin Tench 1758 – 1833

Mutiny on Board HM.Ship Bounty by William Bligh Story Version

Bligh’s Narrative of the Mutiny on Board HM.Ship Bounty by William Bligh (first hand accounts) 1789

Children of The Dark People by Frank Dalby Davison(OOP)
I’ve put this here because it is often recommended as a book for traditional aboriginal life before white settlers arrived. We only got half way through this book. The witch doctor was spooky scary and my kids didn’t like it.

Australian Legendary Tales as told to the Piccaninnies by Katherine Langloh Parker
Dreamtime Aboriginal stories as told to Katherine by the Aboriginal people.

Aranda Boy by Rex Ingamells (OOP)
The story of Gurra, an Aranda Aboriginal and the experiences of his own Family Group, during the time of his boyhood and up until the time of his manhood, when white men were establishing and enlarging their cattle stations in the Aranda countries

Stowaway – Karen Hesse
A story of a boy who stows away on the Endeavour headed to the South Pacific and, in doing so, is with Cook when Australia is discovered by the British. Exciting. Ages 8 — 15 yrs

John of Sydney Cove by Doris Chadwick © 1957 (OOP)
John is the son of one of the officials who arrives with Governor Phillip and the First Fleet. John tells of the adventures and discoveries that are made during the first year in Australia. I liked the book but I wouldn’t pay a fortune to get it. Other Titles by this Author are John of the Sirius and John and Nanbaree

My Australian Story – Voyage To Botany Bay by Chrissie Michaels
A French story of a stowaway girl who becomes, Jules, ship’s boy, journeying to Botany Bay and beyond on a voyage of discovery for the glory of France, led by Commander Laperouse.

Escape from Botany Bayby Gerald & Loretta Hausman. The courageous true story of Mary Bryant a first fleet convict who escapes from Sydney in the early days of the penal settlement.

Tom Appleby Convict Boy by Jackie French
At the tender age of eight, chimney sweep Tom Appleby is convicted of stealing and sentenced to deportation to Botany Bay. As one of the members of the First Fleet, he arrives in a country that seemingly has little to offer – or little that the English are used to, anyway. This book has one a CBC book award.

James Ruse: Pioneer Wheat Farmer by Jean Chapman (OOP). The story of a convict farmer who proved had success growing crops in the early colony.

James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific – Charles Shields Children’s biography of this famous world explorer. Australia was only one of his accolades. Ages 7 – I3 yrs.

On Board the Boussole – Christine Edwards
A young French girl , disguised as a boy, sails on the ship of La Perouse in 1785 — I788. They land at Botany Bay before white settlement. Based on truth. Ages 9 —16 yrs.

My Story: Surviving Sydney Cove – Goldie Alexander
A fictional diary based on the story of the youngest convict in the First Fleet. Even though she actually spent most of her incarceration in Norfolk Island, this places her in Sydney. Ages 9 — 15 yrs

Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? – Jean Fritz
The story of King George’s problems with the Americans at the time of the Battle for Independence, problems that led to using Australia as a convict prison. Ages 7 – 13 yrs.

King’s Narrative of the Burke and Wills Expedition

Australian Colonial History From 1800

My Australian Story – The Rum Rebellion -The Diary of David Bellamy, Sydney Town, 1807-1809
David Bellamy is afraid. He fears the strange new land of New South Wales, its inhabitants and its wild creatures. He fears his relatives who have taken him in, and he fears the Governor himself: the swearing, cursing Governor Bligh. And then on Anniversary Day, 26th January, 1808, David and his new friends Kitty and Ralph are on the streets of Sydney Town when the military march on Government House …

Verity of Sydney Town   Ruth C Williams © 1970 (OOP)
At the turn of the 1800 century, in the time of the early settlement of Sydney, Verity Asherton is in the care of Mr and Mrs Flintley while her father is lost at sea. Mrs Flintley wishes for Verity to leave her home, and arranges with the kind-hearted Mr and Mrs Staples to look after Verity at their farm near Parramatta. Verity befriends the Staples son, Humphrey and Britter a convict who is helping Mr Staples as a farm hand. When Mr and Mrs Staples are away visiting their daughter, a gang of bush rangers attack the house. Britter, Humphrey and Verity escape into the bush pursued by the bush rangers. After punching two and throttling another they return to the house to find the kitchen half burnt, and Mr Dillon, Verity’s uncle waiting for them. Mr Dillon takes Verity back to Sydney Town and while staying there her father returns. Review by Robert T Age 13

Margaret Catchpole by Nance Donkin (OOP)
The true story of Margaret Catchpole, a convict who arrived in Port Jackson on a transport ship called The Nile. Governor Macquarie came down to meet the ship and when he saw Margaret, he asked the captain about and her. He said she was a good person, neat and clean, and an excellent cook.The Governor decided to assign her as a cook for Mr Palmer and his wife. Margaret led an outstanding life and earns her freedom.

For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke
Australian classic. First published in 1872. Brutal convict story set in the Tasmanian Penal colonies of 1830s. Ages 14 and up Online Version

Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner (Written 1894) – Australian Classic
A family of children live on a property called Misrule. They are mischievous and their father is strict and uncaring at times but they all love each other fiercely. Australian life in this early colonial days, cattle mustering, picnics, boarding schools etc. Warning a very sad ending. Other Titles by this Author: The Family at Misrule and Little Mother Meg. Suggested Age: 13+

The Switherby Pilgrim – Eleanor Spence (OOP)
This Bethlehem book is a tale of the Australian Bush. Miss Braithwaite knows there is no future in England for the ten orphans she has gathered together in the 1820’s. Her plan is to take up a land grant in Australia. Here we see each child emerge with hope and personal dignity. Ages 9 – 17 yrs

Riding with Thunderbolt by Allan Baillie
Set in Patterson, northern NSW in 1865. Ben Cross runs away from home and ends up being looked after by Fred Ward (the bushranger known as Captain Thunderbolt) and his wife Mary-Anne, who are living on the run. Ben becomes one of Ward’s apprentices and gets into some strife, before discovering that his presumed-dead aunt is still alive and willing to take him in if he will give up the life of crime.

My Australian Story: Banner Bold by Nadia Wheatley
Set in the Ballarat goldfields 1854 – 1860 Rosa and her family immigrate from England and make new friends and experience new adventures and now a conflict is brewing between the miners and the soldiers.

My Australian Story – Plagues and Federation by Vashti Farrer
Australia’s bubonic plague, the Boer War and the lead up to Federation in Australia. Ages 9 —17 yrs

The Eureka Stockade by R Carboni 1855

A Mother’s Offering to her Children by Charlotte Barton First published 1841.
This book is the first children’s book published for Australian children. It’s true stories. Quite gruesome in parts.

Australian Explorers

Trim: the Story of A Brave Seafaring Cat by Mathew Flinders (written by the explorer himself!)

Mathew Flinders by George Finkle (OOP)
A 32 page book with pen and ink illustration.

The Crossing of the Blue Mountains by Alan Boardman (OOP)
A picture book about Wentworth, Blaxland and Lawson crossing the Blue Mountains

The Adventures of Burke and Wills by Frank Clune (OOP)

King’s Narrative of the Burke and Wills Expedition First hand account
A narrative story about the fateful journey of Burke and Will as the travel through the heart of Australia. A moving story – I cried. Worth reading if you can find it.

Following The Equator by Mark Twain

Australia After Federation From 1901

Prime Ministers of Australia by Jill Bruce. Read short biographies on all our prime ministers from Federation to today.

I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall ©1955 (Australian Classic)
Alan Marshall contracted polio as a young boy. This story of his plight, his recovery and how he coped with disability courageously, while growing up in the Australian countryside of the early 1900’s, tells about the bushmen, the farmers, the tellers of tall tales and the rough riders in a way that brings it all to life. Ages 10 – 16 yrs.

We of the Never-Never & The Little Black Princess by Mrs Aeneas Gunn Written 1908 (Australian Classic)
A sad and humorous true story written by Jenni Gunn about the year she spent in the Northern Territory on a an outback homestead in the middle of nowhere. She falls in love with the Never Never and the Never Never people fall in love with her. She writes with wit and in the third person. The ending is sad. The Little Black Princess is the story of one of the aboriginal girls who come to live with her. I often see this sold as a set second hand. Suggested Age: 12 if reading to them. Age 16 -read alone.  Online version here

South: the story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 expedition by E S Shackleton

Australia World War One 1914 -1918

A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey
This book begins at the turn of the 19th century. Bert Facey’s childhood ended when he was eight years old. That’s when his grandmother had to send him away to work for his keep. Growing up in the vast outback of Western Australia, this extraordinary story is about a resilience that will amaze you. Specially adapted for younger readers (but still 152 pages long in smallish print). Ages 10 – 17 yrs

The Gallipoli Story by Patrick Carlyon
This story digs past the myths to explore the lives and choices of men – soldiers, politicians and generals alike – who were caught up in this WWI battle far from home. More documentary than the story of one man. Children’s Book Council of Australia Short-Listed Book. Ages II – 17 yrs.

Soldier Boy by Anthony Hill
The true story of Jim Martin, the youngest Anzac. Jim went to Gallipoli aged 14. His story has been put together from letters he wrote home and the memories of those who knew him. Includes photos from Anzac Cove. Ages 10 – 17 yrs

Our Enemy, My Friend by Jenny Blackman
Set in Adelaide in 1915 Wartime in Australia – German immigrants treated as aliens because of what is happening in the war overseas. Ages 15+

Australia In The Depression – 1930 to 1935

River Murray Mary by Colin Thiele (OOP)
Mary is an eleven year old happy girl who loves nature and her dog. Her father, a WWI soldier settler, now has a fruit farm along the Murray River. Mary, an only child, helps her parents with the daily and seasonal responsibilities of farming.
The family experiences hard times when illness strikes, crops fail, floods come and fruit prices plummet. Mary’s family handles each new challenge with an Australian battler spirit. Their family and community are strong and optimistic.
This short chapter book (9 chapters) has watercolour illustrations from Robert Ingpen. Recommended reading age 7-12

Nights In The Sun by Colin Bowles (Audio Book)
Sam, 14 years old, is being prepared by his father to take over the Sun, the Broome movie theatre, when he retires. It is 1926 and Sam has little interest in such a mundane life. He dreams of being like the cowboys he sees in the movies – he wants to be a hero. Should he become a pearl diver like the Japanese who populate Broome at the time and die so frequently, or a policeman like the father of the girl he wishes he could take out, who boldly stops the inter-racial riots that start between the Japanese, the Philipino luggers and the Chinese? Set in this tough chunk of Asia in Western Australia, amongst the pearl divers and the ocker Aussies who frequent Broome, this is a funny and informative story – I laughed and laughed through it. Note – being a rough place, there are some incidents of coarse language and a few unsavoury comments, fitting with the place and time. Ages 13 – 17 yrs

The Long Walk by Kerry Greenwood
With a depression in 1929, the Wyatt family is barely making ends meet, and when Isabel Wyatt’s mother is diagnosed with TB (tuberculosis) things look dismal. The four children, Isabel, Johnno, Rosie, and Billy are told that they must be separated into homes for children because their mother is unwell. Their father is far away working on the Great Ocean Road, and they have no near relatives. All of a sudden Isabel creates a pretend aunt that they can travel to so as not to be separated. With the help of kind Mrs. Green they start their journey. Along the way they encounter many helpful and some unkind people. After their adventures the children eventually find their father, and the pretend aunt! Review by Robert T Age 13

Our Don Bradman by Peter Allen
A fictional diary set in the 1930s about Billy from Newcastle whose family moves to Sydney for work. The book is set in the time of the building of the Harbour Bridge, the Depression. Billy a cricketer with promise is excited when he gets to meet his hero Don Bradman. Ages I I — 17 yrs

Australia World War Two 1939 -1945

My Australian Story – The Bombing of Darwin by Alan Tucker
Set in WW2 in 1942. A boy begins a peaceful day and then his day ends in war when the Japanese bomb his home town.

Meet the Lees by G E Logue © 1946 (OOP)
This is the first book my mother ever remembers reading. It is a happy book set after the war when times were tough but people were optimistic. The children aren’t perfect but they are fun. It is not a complicated read. Suggested Age: 10+

My Australian Story: Who am I? by Anita Heiss
A story about the Stolen Generation set in 1937. Mary lives with the Burkes, but they’re not her real family. She hasn’t seen her real mum and dad since she was taken away from them five years ago. Everyone tells her to forget about them, but she can’t. She wants to find out why she was taken, and where she really belongs.

A Marathon of Her Own by Irini Savvides – Set in 1956.
Times are tough in Crete, and Sophia’s father has decided to make a fresh start in Melbourne. Sophia struggles to learn English and get used to the strange new customs, but no matter how hard she tries, nobody at school wants to make friends with a foreigner. Then her talent for running starts to make a difference. With Olympic fever gripping Melbourne , Sophia’s courage and determination on is rewarded in unexpected ways.

Snowy by Siobhan McHugh – Set in 1958
Eva Fischer has moved to Cabramurra, the highest town in Australia. Eva feels on top of the world too. Surrounded by people of every nationality, Eva makes new friends and tries strange foreign food – such as pizza. Eva learns to ski and ride, and even learns that being half German isn’t so bad after all. But all around her, momentous things are happening. The Snowy Mountains Scheme is underway, huge dams have been built, tunnels constructed, homes abandoned, people lost…

Australian Modern History

Ballander Boy by Colin Thiele (OOP)
Ten-year-old Danny becomes lost in the bush in the Northern Territory. He is rescued by an Aborigine and spends two days in a tribal camp where he becomes the friend of a young aboriginal boy and learns much about the culture and customs of the Aborigines.

The Girl with No Name – Pat Lowe
One of the best books I have read of the tension between aboriginal and white Australian culture today. Set in the Kimberley (northern WA), Matthew becomes lost while camping and is rescued by an aboriginal girl, out on walkabout with her family. So begins a remarkable friendship. Matthew learns the different way aborigines see life and some of the prejudices white Australians have because of misunderstandings.
Ages 7 – 14 yrs

My Place Sally Morgan ©1987
This is an eye opening story about what it was like to be an aboriginal growing up in the 1960’s. This book traces the family history of an Aboriginal family living in Perth. Sally becomes a Christian in her teens and she is a little surprised to find out that she is Aboriginal because she had been led to believe she was from India. The characters in the story have some very unpleasant things happen to them but the story ultimately brings hope.
I am very glad I read this book. I highly recommend it.

You can purchase it in a children’s version of Sally’s Story and Authur’s Story. The grandmother’s story is quite sad and it is left for the full version.

The Happiest Refugee by Ahn Do

This is an excellent book to read aloud. Funny, sad, scary all in one. Ahn Do and his family are Vietnamese boat people who arrive in Australia in the 1970s. This book will help you understand the struggle new immigrants have. Highly recommended. Age 10+ (If reading aloud) Otherwise 15+.

Australian Animal Stories

Blinky Bill Dorothy Wall Australian classic about a naughty little Koala.

Dot and the Kangaroo by E Pedley online version
Dot gets lost in the bush and the animals help her get back home. She learns to speak with them after eating some magic berries.

The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell ©1958
Thowra was born on a stormy night, a silver foal ready for adventure in the Snowy Mountains! With his wise mother Bel Bel, and the rest of the herd they evade the man, the Brolga a fierce stallion, and many other dangers. Thowra and Storm, Thowra’s half brother, leave the herd and live by themselves gathering herds of their own keeping them in “the secret valley.” After a while Thowra is ready to become “King of the Cascade Brumbies,” and defeats the Brolga in a thrilling battle. Review by Robert T Age 13

Tiger in the Bush by Nan Chancy© 1957 (OOP)
A young girl lives in an isolated part of the Tasmanian wilderness with her parents. One day she sees a Tasmanian Tiger in the bush. Some scientists come for a visit to try to find this rare animal. Suggested Age: 10+

Extreme Weather Events

Hills End by Ivan Southall 
The story is based around seven children who go on a bush walk with their school mistress instead of a town picnic. While they are in the cave a cyclonic storm hits the town and the town is devastated. The children have to work out how they are going to survive until rescue comes their way. The children mature as the story evolves. Although they desperately want to see their parents again, they learn how to shoulder greater responsibility, and they discover how much their parents have protected and provided a safe environment for them. Through team work and facing their fears they manage to grasp each new harrowing challenge that comes their way.

Ash Road by Ivan Southall 
A bushfire is started accidentally by some teenage boys. As it spread the parents go to help fight the fire but the fire turns and the teenage children have to work out what they are going to do as they prepare to fight the fire.

Flash Flood by Colin Thiele (OOP) A short illustrated chapter book is set in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. It is about a family who set up camp on a dry river bed. The family is suddenly in danger as a wall of water comes rushing down the river bed causing flash flooding.