Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kids love Stories - and Dogs! by Meredith Costain

Big skies, red earth – this is the Pilbara region in Western Australia. Last year I visited Warralong, a tiny Aboriginal community 170 kilometres inland from Port Hedland, with a group of writers and illustrators.

The school at Warralong is a hive of activity filled with colour, artwork . . . and books! English is a second language for the students here, and many of the books in the school are written in their own language, Nyangumarta.

I based our writing activities on something we all had in common – a love of dogs. Everyone in the community owns at least one dog – there are black dogs, brown dogs, stripy dogs, fighty dogs – and I have two: a kelpie cross and a red heeler. I showed the kids pictures of my dogs, Molly and Jack, then told them stories about them, and how I’d used some of the funny things they did in the books I’ve written. They told me stories about their own dogs – Yukurru in their language.

We wrote poems and drew pictures about dogs. We wrote and performed a rap called ‘Naughty Dogs’ with lots of action words and sound effects, including howling at the moon: AAARRROOO!

Stories are important to people all over the world. They’re a great way to share knowledge and information. They can cheer you up when you’re feeling down, help you to realise other people are going through similar situations or experiencing similar emotions, or make you think deeply about something in a different way.

But the ones I love the best have a dog (or two) in them!

About the Author

Meredith lives in an old house with a large garden and a menagerie of pets, which frequently manage to wrangle their way into her stories and poems. Her books include Dog Squad, Disaster Chef, the Year in Girl Hell series, novelisations of the TV show Dance Academy, and Doodledum Dancing. Visit her website (and meet her dogs!) at

‘I’ve always been a reader. You could say I devoured books rather than read them, often under the bedclothes by torchlight, with a pillow stuffed against the door so my parents wouldn’t know I was still awake. I read up in our haystack, on long car trips, and on the school bus. My favourite authors when I was 10–13 were Noel Streatfeild, Ivan Southall and Rosemary Sutcliffe, but I basically read anything I could get my hands on, from Little Women and Pastures of the Blue Crane to Great Expectations. I’ve never stopped!

Lately I’ve been reading The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner, Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood, and My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg.'

Check these out!

Books by indigenous authors and illustrators or with indigenous characters or themes:

Graphic Novels

Shake a Leg by Boori Monty Pryor, illustrated by Jan Ormerod (Allen & Unwin)


The Binna Binna Man by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor (Allen & Unwin)
The Barrumbi Kids by Leonie Norrington (Scholastic)
The Burnt Stick by Anthony Hill, illustrated by Mark Sofilas (Penguin)
Crow Country by Kate Constable (Allen & Unwin)
Find Me a River by Bronwyn Blake (Lothian)
Gracey by James Moloney (UQP)
Dougy by James Moloney (UQP)
Meet Poppy by Gabrielle Wang (Penguin)
My Australian Story: Who Am I? The Diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937 by Anita Heiss (Scholastic)
My Girragundji by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor (Allen & Unwin)
My Place by Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press)
Nanberry: Black Brother White by Jackie French (HarperCollins)
Yirra and her Deadly Dog Demon by Anita Heiss and the kids of La Perouse Public School (ABC Books)

Picture Books

Two Mates by Melanie Prewett / illustrated by Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books)
Once There Was a Boy by Dub Leffler (Magabala Books)
Papunya School Book of Country and History by staff and students of Papunya School with Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle (Allen and Unwin)
My Island Home by Neil Murray, illustrated by children from Papunya & Galiwinku and Peter Hudson (One Day Hill)
Tjarany Roughtail by Gracie Greene (Magabala)

You can find more great books by following these links:

The Yarning Strong series:

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