Children’s literature provides a fascinating and important insight into Australian society and culture. What we read influences how our imagination is shaped and how we perceive the world. The combination of stories and illustrations stimulates the mind, and provides a bond between author, reader and listener. Stories let children experience humour, suspense, joy, comfort and sadness. But on a darker side, they can also reinforce prejudice and social norms.
The significance of children’s literature in helping us to understand ourselves is one of the reasons the National Library places such importance on building our collection of Australian children’s books. In identifying these we have been assisted by the work of the two great bibliographers of Australian children’s literature, Marcie Muir and Dr Kerry White. They produced the definitive three volume work Australian children’s books : a bibliography, with Marcie Muir compiling volume 1 covering the period 1774-1972 and Dr Kerry White compiling volumes 2 and 3 covering the period 1973-2000.
Several years ago, the Library was fortunate to acquire a large collection of children’s books from the family of Marcie Muir. The Library is now delighted to announce that this collection has been greatly enhanced by the acquisition of books from Dr Kerry White. Dr White is an academic who tutored and lectured in Australian literature and children's books at the University of Wollongong until 1989 when she left to concentrate on bibliography and writing. Dr White is also compiler of The Source, an online subject guide to children's books, short stories, traditional literature and poetry from around the world with an emphasis on Australian and New Zealand literature.
The books acquired by the Library from Dr White were published in Australia, written by Australian authors, or are about Australia and supported her work in compiling the bibliography and as a book reviewer.
Many of the books provided additional copies of items already held by the Library. However there were more than 600 titles not previously held by the Library. These included some items that had not been received on legal deposit, some small press publications, an interesting sample of colouring books and activity books, and overseas editions of Australian authors. The latter are most welcome as although we try to identify the works of Australian authors published overseas, this is very difficult to achieve comprehensively. It is quite enlightening to see where Australian children’s books are being published, distributed and translated as an indication of the reach of Australian culture. It would make an interesting research project to compare adult and children’s authors in this regard.
The following are just a few examples of interesting titles from the Kerry White Collection not previously held by the Library:
The shikker co-la cows / by Andy Small and Ben Redlich, published by Dung Beetle Productions
Halley's comet returns to Coonabarabran / illustrations by Bronwyn Edwards; story by Anna Lee, published by the Warrumbungle Tourist Association (a reminder of the not-so-spectacular visit by the comet in 1986
Nanangka / by Yvonne Winer ; illustrated by Marianne Yamaguchi, published by Margaret Hamilton Books
Chỉ có trái tim / David Caswell & David Phú An Chiêm , published by Bamboo Printing (a translation into Vietnamese of their novel Only the heart about a Vietnamese refugee family and their migration to Australia)
Koala bears and kangaroos / illustrations by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata, published in Tokyo by Zokeisha Publications
Records for the entire collection can be viewed in our online catalogue.
Bibliophiles such as Dr White are a great boon to the Library and over the years we have benefited enormously from the many items acquired from these passionate souls. From a single book, to a large collection, in traditional print or a digital file, all are equally important to the Library as we seek to preserve Australia’s past and look forward to our future.