Books about Australia for an 11-12 year old
August 25, 2017 1:25 PM   Subscribe

One of my kids gets to go to Australia next year thanks to a kind relative. This same relative wants kiddo to prepare for the trip by reading about Australia. What books would be good for the kid that age to read? I'm looking for recommendations for non-fiction about Australia (or portions thereof) as well as fiction set in Australia. Kid is 11, will turn 12 relatively soon, and reads at least a couple grade levels ahead.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country was entertaining and also taught me a lot, but I haven't read it in a while so you might want to check for propriety levels
posted by rmless at 1:31 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Tomorrow When the War Began was THE series to read when I was that age. While it's fiction about an invasion in Australia, it's very widely considered a classic for teens there.
posted by teststrip at 1:34 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]


The Rabbits is, technically, a picture book but it's a mature picture book allegory about Australian colonialism and it's gorgeous.

The Road from Coorain might be a little high reading level? But I would have eaten it up at that age, so try it out.
posted by theweasel at 1:36 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Peter Carey's The True History of the Kelly Gang is a great fictionalised account of Ned Kelly. Won the Booker Prize too. It's been years since I read it but I can't think of any content that might be too adult for 12 year old, even if the language might test them a bit.
posted by churlishmeg at 1:52 PM on August 25


My recollection of the Bryson book is that he spends quite a bit of time on all the things in Australia that are poisonous and can kill you. So it might be too alarming? But my recollections are fuzzy.
posted by puddledork at 2:44 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta is a classic but ***spoiler alert*** does involve a character who commits suicide. Up to you if you think kiddo could handle that...

Seconding Tomorrow when the war began
posted by EatMyHat at 3:40 PM on August 25


Journey to the Red Rock. I had an uncle who taught for while in Australia, and he sent me this book.
posted by chocolatetiara at 4:42 PM on August 25


I think the Bryson book on Australia would be perfect. It's an adventure story, and the descriptions of all the creatures that are extravagantly poisonous are thrilling. There's the occasional four-letter word but there's also a LOT about the country's history and it's uneasy relationship with its Aboriginal people. The book is fun to read so it shouldn't feel like too much of a chore for him.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:07 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Deadly, Unna by Phillip Gwynne is an excellent YA novel with non/aboriginal teen characters that I've taught to 13 year olds. It has football (national obsession), friendship, adolescent concerns and small town racism. It's also a film.

A book that is below the age you outline, but taught to 12 year olds here for its themes about land and pre/colonial history is Jackie French's Walking The Boundaries

As others have said, John Marsden's Tomorrow, When The War Began is a very popular series amongst YA readers.

Other books that I think are really great for Aussie knowledge are: Hugh Edwards' Island of Angry Ghosts and Gary Crew's Strange Objects (both cover the suspenseful marooning of mutineers from the Batavia, the subsequent murderers left ashore the remote western Australian coast in the 17thC,) and the incredible The Lost Diamonds of Killiekrankie (Tasmanian fact/fiction of colonial rule and the past of the remote islands as prisons etc)

Crew has collaborated several times with Shaun Tan, and I second reading their picture book The Rabbits. It's a sophisticated entry into post colonial concepts. If you read it, look out for the thoughtful rabbit in each plate, the rabbit that wonders if this colonial project is right, perhaps.

Rabbit Proof Fence is a film based on Doris Pilkington Garima's autobiography, a very readable and important book.

Kids love Tim Winton's Lockie Leonard series is popular with twelve year olds, surfing grommet culture and humour.

What about poetry? So much artistic expression spirals out from the poets of the late 19thC.

These have resonated through our, ok mostly whitefella, Arts world. Household known poems and short stories in Australia are from the Bulletin's publication of Bush poets school during the Federation era -

Henry Lawson - short story 'The Driver's Wife' (much represented in film, theatre, visual arts and responsive texts that counter the masculine emphasis too) kind of a must read really
Eg Leah Purcell took out Book of the Year in NSW for her play re-imagining of the story with aboriginal characters present.
Also read Barbara Baynton's contemporary of Lawson retold Lawson's tale from a more feminist point of view The Chosen Vessel. She also countered the still popular valorisation of the hobo traveller of Waltzing Matilda into a nerve wracking intrusion into isolated, unprotected women in colonial expansion.

AB Patterson ('the man from snowy river' we learned by heart in school) is good for that kind of context. The key take away is tha despite our predominantly urban demographics, we are still enamoured with remote landscapes and stories.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:26 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Beyond The Black Stump, A Town Like Alice and The Far Country by Nevil Shute.
posted by Rash at 9:27 PM on August 25


He or she might like Pastures of the Blue Crane. Goodreads.
posted by paduasoy at 10:31 AM on August 26


Just a warning, A Town Like Alice has a crucifixion in it.

A Fortunate Life by Albert Facey, and I Can Jump Puddles are both good memoirs of growing up in old Australia.

My Place by Sally Morgan is a good intro to Indigenous Australia and the stolen generation.

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do is a memoir of growing up as a Vietnamese-Australian.

Of all the recommendations in this thread so far (including two of mine) it's worth noting that most speak of a version of Australia that's now pretty much gone - the white dominated colonial settler country. That's not to censure the commentators, more to flag that there are comparatively fewer books published about the experiences of non-Anglo immigrants, refugees and Indigenous people, nor about urban life. The picture your son gets from reading is only part of the picture
posted by girlgenius at 4:13 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Well as an Australian I think Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country was actually quite bad and not representative (but I am not a fan of his anyway) and probably not really a book for 11-12 year olds.

Of all the recommendations in this thread so far (including two of mine) it's worth noting that most speak of a version of Australia that's now pretty much gone - the white dominated colonial settler country. That's not to censure the commentators, more to flag that there are comparatively fewer books published about the experiences of non-Anglo immigrants, refugees and Indigenous people, nor about urban life. The picture your son gets from reading is only part of the picture

Very much this. Australia is a very multicultural, very urbanised country. The idea that we all live in 'the outback' is not correct (and never really was). The world of Neville Shute is like saying a 12 year old interested in contemporary US should read books written and set in the 1950s. Books such as the Anh Do book recommended above will be more relevant. So it depends if you want 'classics' of a white anglo 'bush' Australia or contemporary Australia.
posted by Megami at 2:59 AM on August 27


Reading for what? "To prepare" is pretty vague and not really helpful. Is this a city based visit, or country? What are the child's interests, or what does he/she want to do/see while here? Summer or winter (guessing July/August, which is winter here)?

My kids are well beyond that age, so I can't offer specific advice with knowing a bit more.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:13 AM on August 27


I loved Playing Beatie Bow at that age, about a girl from contemporary Sydney who time-travels back to colonial times. Also February Dragon (bushfires!), Hating Alison Ashley (school & friendship) and anything about bushrangers. But that was a while ago now, so might not appeal to Kids These Days - worth a check just in case!

Jasper Jones is a popular teen book, with a movie to go with it. It's set in the 60s (written in this century though) and deals with racism & family secrets, including child abuse. Not sure if it's age-appropriate, but it's written to be relevant to current issues.

Seconding Lockie Leonard & anything Shaun Tan has been involved in.
posted by harriet vane at 7:26 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Depends on the kid whether they'd like Jaclyn Moriarty, or if her Ashbury High books are too much for that age. I really enjoyed Feeling Sorry for Celia, the Year of Secret Assignments, and The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie* (YMMV on whether a murder plot or losing your mind is good or bad in a book).

*Titles vary by country, these are the ones I read, in the US.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:35 PM on September 4


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