Monday, November 18, 2013

My Top 10 Indigenous-authored Books by Anita Heiss

It’s always difficult to do a ‘best of’ list, but when push comes to shove, we all know we have favourites.

As part of IndigRead in May, I pulled together ten of my favourite Indigenous-authored children’s books in the last few years and am delighted to now introduce them to Reading for Australia's audience of readers in Australia and around the world.

If you click the links, you can read why I love them so much. This list is in order of publication date:

1. My Home Broome by Tamzyne and Bronwyn Houston (Magabala Books, 2012)

My Home Broome explains the six seasons of the region, the meaning and history of the ‘Shinju-Matsuri’, some local Yawuru bush-tucker names, that the bush fruit yaminyarri are one of the greatest sources of Vitamin C in the world, and that Broome once had it’s own dinosaur, the meat-eating Megalosaurus broomensis!

Read my full review here.

2. Two Mates by Melanie Prewett, illustrated by Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books, 2012 )

A kids' picture book that could be read as a story of Reconciliation (with mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people) is Two Mates, written by Melanie Prewett and illustrated by Maggie Prewett.   Based on the true story of two friends - Jack (Indigenous) and Raf  (non-Indigenous) and how their mateship plays out in their coastal town of Broome.

Read my full review here.

3.  Dingo's Tree written and illustrated by Gladys Milroy and Jill Milroy (Magabala Books, 2012)

The story of Dingo and his friends Moon, Magpie, Wombat and Little Tree (who becomes Walking Tree) presents an engaging and colourful environmental story for kids. Its about the effect of mining on the landscape; where poles replace trees, where mining cuts scars so deep into Country they will never heal, where raindrops are tears and where the living creatures have to work together to survive.

Read my full review here.

4. Once there was a Boy written and illustrated by Dub Leffler (Magabala Books, 2011)

This is possibly the most beautiful book I have had the pleasure of holding and reading this year.  Read my full review here.

5. Shake a Leg by Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod (Allen & Unwin, 2011)

Boori Monty Pryor is a stellar storyteller.

I’ve seen him in action wowing young people and adults alike at schools, libraries, community events and major literary festivals. There’s no surprise at all that his most recent book Shake A Leg – with lively illustrations by the talented Jan Ormerod – was named the 2011 Winner (Children’s Fiction) in the prestigious Prime Minister’s Awards.

Read my full review here.

6. From Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody (One Day Hill, 2011)

We have a new national anthem, yes, we do. We don’t need a referendum on it, just accept it as given. Trust me. It’s called From Little Things Big Things Grow and it’s about the Gurindji Wave Hill walk-off in 1966 – a fight over wages and conditions that ended in a battle for land rights. It’s about the proud Gurindji people and their stand against the might of the cattle baron, Lord Vestey.

Read my full review here  and learn more about this book at the publisher's page here.

7. The Old Frangipani Tree at Flying Fish Point by Trina Saffioti and illustrated by Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books, 2009)

This is by far one of the loveliest stories I’ve read in a long time, starting with the brightly coloured and illustrated cover by Maggie Prewitt.

Read my full review here.

8. Wandihnu and the Old Dugong by Elizabeth and Wandihnu Wymarra (Magabala Books, 2007)

Wandihnu and the Old Dugong is a valuable resource as it’s a positive story about Aboriginal and Torres Strait identity in the 21st century.  We follow young city-born Wandihnu on a journey back to her roots on the island of Badu in the western part of the Torres Strait. Wandihnu learns language – or so she should – and there in lies the lesson of this tale.

Read my full review here.

9. Bilby and the Bushfire by Joanne Crawford and illustrated by Grace Fielding (Magabala Books, 2007)

This is a very Australian book with wattle bushes, spinifex grass, eucalyptus trees, and all the birds, insects, reptiles and animals that go into make the bush environment. Of course in that community is also the koala, wombat and platypus as well.

10. Papunya School Book of Country and History by staff and students of Papunya School with Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle (Allen and Unwin, 2002)

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again, this multi-award winning book that is a history, art, storybook needs to be in every household and every library (local and school) in the country!

Find out more about this book here.

If these books look appealing to you, why not ask your local library to order them in? And your kid’s school library as well. They are also fantastic teaching resources. Finally, if you’re like me and give books instead of crappy toys for presents, then you can order these titles direct from their publishers or from Booktopia!

My Top 10 Indigenous-authored Books was first published at Read Watch Play in May 2013 for IndigRead, a celebration of Indigenous writing and cultures.

About the Author 

 Dr Anita Heiss is the author of non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women's fiction, poetry, social commentary and travel articles. She is the bestselling author of Not Meeting Mr Right and Avoiding Mr Right, both published by Bantam Australia. 

Anita has won four Deadly Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Literature, for her novels including Manhattan Dreaming and Paris Dreaming and for the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature. She is a regular guest at writers' festivals and travels internationally performing her work and lecturing on Indigenous literature. Anita is an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador and a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales. 

Anita is Patron of the Alliance of Girls' Schools of Australia and an Adjunct Professor at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS. She is an Advocate for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and divides her time between writing, public speaking, MC'ing, and as a workshop facilitator. 

Anita's most recently released book is Am I Black Enough for You? She is currently working on a chat-show for television.   Anita suggests that advanced readers aged 10 to 13 would like these books by Indigenous writers:

The Chainsaw File by Bruce Pascoe
Demon Guards the School Yard by The Students of La Perouse Public School with Anita Heiss
Jali Boy by Ricky Macour
My Girragundji by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor

Anita’s show reel:
Anita’s website:


  1. Would any older readers like these books?

    1. I would think so - picture books are not just for kids...many older readers just say they're for their kids so they have an excuse to buy them. I still revisit the picture books I've always loved....

  2. Thanks, Anita. I really enjoyed discovering these books. Having lived outside Australia for 18 of the last 21 years, most of these books are new to me.

    And I agree that "From Little Things Big Things Grow" would be an awesome anthem...I get a little teary when I hear Paul Kelly tell the story of Vincent Lingiari.