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1950s Australia Children’s books


I learnt to read very early, and was soon addicted to books and reading. I don’t remember many individual books, but here are a few.

I loved Leslie Rees’ books about native animals. My brother, 5 years older, and more interested in life on the farm, owned ‘Digit Dick on the Great Barrier Reef.’ I loved this tale of the boy as big as your big toe, who lived in a matchbox. Later I discovered ‘Shy the Platypus’, ‘Kurri Kurri the Kookaburra’, and ‘The Gecko who lost his Tail.’ There were other titles, but I don’t have particular memories of them.

Of course, I knew ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’, but where I lived in country Queensland, there were no banksias. So I never fully related to the ‘big bad banksia men.’ But we did have gum blossom babies and also the goannas and snakes. And my brother had a ‘Coles Funny Picture Book’ which I read from cover to cover.

I never read about Blinky Bill, or the Magic Pudding. We were miles from a library, and books were too expensive for everyday purchases. But I did acquire copies of ‘Peter Pan’ and “Alice in Wonderland’. My little school had a copy of Enid Blyton’s ‘The Magic Faraway Tree.’ And every week, there were new adventures on the radio of Ruth Park’s ‘Muddle-headed Wombat and his Friends.’

As I grew older, my reading expanded, to include both Australian and overseas books. ‘Seven Little Australians’ and its sequels, written by Ethel Turner; ‘Nora of Billabong’ also with sequels, by Mary Grant Bruce, which I now realise was very racist in its description of First Nations people. ‘Pollyanna’ and her friends lived in America, as did ‘Katy’; while “Anne of Green Gables’ in Canada attended a school with one teacher, just like me.

I loved the books which introduced me to some of the stories told to First Nation Children, by K Langloh Parker. And I still own a very special book, ‘Good luck to the Rider’ by Joan Phipson. Did she ever publish more stories?

I’m sure there are other books I could add to this list, like some of the simpler Charles Dickens’ publications. But somehow, I did not relate to them as much as I did to tales about Australian children.

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