If there’s one thing better than curling up in your favourite nook with a page-turner of a book, it’d be gushing about your latest read with your closest friends. As JD Salinger’s protagonist says in The Catcher in the Rye, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much though.”
With the idea of promoting good books, good reading and good conversations, we’ve decided to start a Peppermint Book Club. In this special edition, we’re looking at the books for young ones (and the young at heart) on the Wilderness Society shortlists for the Environment Award for Children’s Literature and Karajia Prize for Children’s Literature.
Aiming to cultivate a love of nature through reading, the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature is the longest-running award of its kind in the world, currently in its 29th year. The Karajia Prize for Children’s Literature, established in 2022, honours children’s books written by First Nations authors with a connection to Country.
2023 ENVIRONMENT AWARD FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
Sunny the Shark by Remy Lai
This adorable graphic novel series introduces readers to the wonders of the natural world, the perils of climate change and what they can do to protect their animal pals, as Sunny the Shark is prevented from hunting when a plastic ring is caught around her fin.
Dear Greta by Yvette Poshoglian
Assigned Greta Thunberg as her fictional pen pal, a young girl faces the trials and tribulations of the school year and finds the strength to stand up for what she believes in by asking, “What would Greta do?”
Tyenna: Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones by Julie Hunt And Terry Whitebeach
Part of the Through My Eyes series which pays tribute to the courage and resilience of children in disaster situations, this is a thrilling and suspenseful novel about one girl’s experience in the terrifying 2019 Tasmanian bushfires.
Berani by Michelle Kadarusman
This moving middle-grade novel masterfully spins together three distinct perspectives to tell the story of Ginger Juice, a captive orangutan, in this powerful tale of activism and animal rights, choices and consequences.
We Are Australians by Duncan Smith and Nicole Godwin, illustrated by Jandamarra Cadd
Co-authored by Nicole Godwin and Wiradjuri man Duncan Smith OAM, with artwork by Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Warung descendent Jandamarra Cadd, this timely book explores what it truly means to be an Australian citizen, reflecting on the history and role of First Nations peoples.
The ABC Kids Guide to Loving the Planet by Jaclyn Crupi, illustrated by Cheryl Orsini
A gentle and charming picture book that inspires children to love the planet both conceptually and in practice, this guide shows kids a variety of ways, both big and small, to care for the world around them and make a difference, from recycling to planting native gardens and flowers for bees.
On the Trail of the Plains-Wanderer: A Precious Australian Bird by Rohan Cleave, illustrated by Julian Teh
Discover the true story of one of Australia’s most critically endangered bird species – the wonderful, one-of-a-kind plains-wanderer! Learn many fascinating facts about the species scientists rank as “Australia’s most important bird” (and the fourth most important bird in the world) and the people providing hope for its future.
Australia’s Endangered Bush Creatures by Myke Mollard
Myke Mollard’s illuminating illustrations and engaging text introduce kids to 134 of Australia’s most endangered animals. From A-list icons to unknown treasures, each creature is delicately presented – who they are, what their deal is and how humankind is unbalancing their unique ecosystems.
Say NO to Plastic! by Ned and Shane Heaton, illustrated by Tamzin Barber
Child CEO, eco-entrepreneur and now author Ned Heaton wrote this book with his father to educate and empower kids on the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans and what they can do about it with the message that even the smallest voice can make a difference.
The Tree at Number 43 by Jess McGeachin
This heartwarming and inspirational story – about determination, conservation and the magic of nature (and grandads) – follows a little boy and his grandpa as they fight to protect a little patch of jungle in a noisy, grey city.
Looking After Country with Fire by Victor Steffensen, illustrated by Sandra Steffensen
A powerful picture book for five to 10-year-olds that tells the story of Australia’s ecosystems through Indigenous fire management, exploring how First Nations peoples have listened and responded to the land and made friends with fire over thousands of years and showing a respectful way forward for future generations to help manage our landscapes.
A Shorebird Flying Adventure by Jackie Kerin and Milly Formby
Strap in for a flying adventure filled with fun facts that follows the amazing journeys of Australia’s migratory shorebirds to the Arctic tundra and back! The book mirrors Milly Formby’s real-life quest as she flies her microlight aircraft around Australia to raise awareness for endangered shorebirds and their precious wetland habitats.
KIND by Jess McGeachin
A playful exercise in polyptoton, this beautiful picture book is a celebration of living things of many kinds – and the kindness we can show them as we wander through the world, from the tiniest beetle to the most majestic whale.
2023 KARAJIA AWARD FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
The Heartbeat of the Land by Cathy Freeman and Coral Vass, illustrated by Tannya Harricks
Australian icon Cathy Freeman partners with award-winning children’s author Coral Vass to tell the inspirational story of a young Cathy running barefoot every day across her country, listening to the heartbeat of the land and planting the seeds of change.
Our Dreaming by Kirli Saunders, illustrated by Dub Leffler
Award-winning storytellers, Gunai woman Kirli Saunders and Bigambul man Dub Leffler, share tales of Dreaming and Country through the journey of mother and puggle echidna. A gentle introduction to Gundungurra language and the diversity within First Nations communities and culture.
Ninni Yabini by Cheryl Kickett-Tucker, illustrated by Tyrown Waigana
Written in Noongar and English, this delightful picture book from Wadjuk Noongar author Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker is a celebration of family and belonging. As Mother and Father Swan are busy rebuilding their nest after a storm, their baby Ninni Yabini wanders off and gets lost. Luckily his namesake – the evening star – comes out to guide him home.
The Dunggiirr Brothers and the Caring Song of the Whale by Aunty Shaa Smith with Yandaarra
A beautiful picture book from the Yandaarra Caring for Country community group, led by Gumbaynggirr elder Aunty Shaa Smith, The Dunggiirr Brothers and the Caring Song of the Whale shares the stories of the Gumbaynggirr people and their Country, the mid-north NSW coast.
Come Together by Isaiah Firebrace, illustrated by Jaelyn Biumaiwai
Proud Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara man Isaiah Firebrace teams up with Mununjali and Fijian illustrator Jaelyn Biumaiwai to create this charming contemporary children’s book which introduces kids to foundational First Nations knowledge, covering 20 key topics from Isaiah’s life and culture from the importance of Elders to the Dreaming.
Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth by Melissa Greenwood
A beautiful and lyrical picture book for new babies across Australia about the connection between mothers, babies and Miimi Marraal (or Mother Earth) from Gumbaynggirr artist Melissa Greenwood of mother-daughter art and design label Miimi and Jiinda.
Open Your Heart to Country by Jasmine Seymour
Told in English and Dharug, Open Your Heart to Country is a beautiful picture book from Dharug woman and award-winning author/illustrator Jasmine Seymour. A story of welcome, belonging and re-connection to Country, this book invites readers to reflect on the importance of place, not only for First Nations peoples but for everyone.