Blog,  Book Reviews,  Books - Australia,  Books - History,  Books - Picture

Our Sunburnt Country – Land Of The Dreamtime

Collage sunburnt chp 1 vs 2One of the pleasures of blog writing is ‘meeting’ people I would otherwise have never ‘met’. I particularly love when readers email me and we end up striking up a friendship as Sherelle, a regular commenter and emailer from Queensland and I have. When Sherelle emailed me with a request for “ideas for complementary activities/worksheets to go with Our Sunburnt Country – Arthur Baillie,” I was keen to assist and offered to organise a booklist of complementary picture/chapter books. Our Sunburnt Country is one of our favourite core books of Australian history, it covers Australian History from pre-European contact through till the end of World War 2(see pg 7). I have chosen a selection of recommended picture and chapter books for each chapter and have also included books about the history of the Catholic Church in Australia where possible as Sherelle is Catholic, target age for the picture/chapter books is 11-6 years.


The first chapter of Our Sunburnt Country is ‘The Land of the Dreamtime,’ focusing on pre-European contact. When selecting books for this chapter I chose to not include any books focusing on dreamtime stories as they are easier to source. Too, as dreamtime stories vary around Australia I thought it best for readers to source stories from their own local nation/s, check ABCs of Aboriginal Picture Book authors to assist in finding dreamtime books from your own locality. Instead I’ve searched for books highlighting the peoples and their culture.

On the main I’ve tried to find in print or recently in print books, though some are out of print (OOP)



Hands down our favourite author for picture books focused on pre-European contact is Percy Trezise from Far North Queensland. All of Percy Trezise’ books are brilliant and our personal favourites are the ‘Journey of the Great Lake’ series. The series is set around Cape York and follows the adventures of three young children who are blown away from their family on a raft and have to journey back home through many tribal lands. In some lands they encounter help, in other lands danger. I’ve been unable to ascertain as to whether the series was finished before the author’s death in 2005.



Home of the Kadimakara People – Percy Trezise

Jadianta, his sister Lande and little brother Jalmor are fishing one day when a storm blows their walpa out into Balanorga, the great lake. After many days a gentler wind blows them onto the western shore and from they begin their long journey back to their people.



The Dingo People help Jadianta, Lande and Jalmor by leading them to the river, at the river a crocodile rears up and takes one of the Dingo children. Jadianta, Lande and Jalmor survive and arrive in the land of the Magpie Goose.



land magpie


Land of the Magpie Goose People – Percy Trezise

As the children continue their travels through the land of the Magpie Goose People, they face giant goannas and marsupial lions.



In the land of the Emu People the children face a new threat; Jadianta and Jalmor need to rescue their sister Lande from the clutches of the dangerous Snake Men.



land snake


 Land of the Snake People – Percy Trezise
The boys assist Lande, the two Emu girls and Wongabel of the Woomera people escape from the Snake Men but now need to safely cross the Pungalunga lands. The Emu people have warned them that the Pungalunga people are cannibals, so Jadianta makes a bullroarer to scare them off.


land - kangaroo

Land of the Kangaroo People – Percy Trezise

Jadianta, Lande and Jalmor, are helping Wongabel to reach her home tribe, the Woomera people, but they have to pass through the Land of the Kangaroo People who are cannibals. And they are being pursued by the Snake Men. After resting on an island to avoid a hunting group of Kangaroo people the children continue on. A Kadaicha Man saves the children from the pursuing Snake Men and Wongabel is returned to her people.



land brolga

Land of the Brolga People – Percy Trezise

The three children stay with the Brolga People for a time, resting and playing games before taking up their journey once more. They travel through the Land of the Barramundi People and pass the great, red sandstone mountain called Narabullgan which was made by Goorialla the Rainbow Serpent. They make camp for the night and a huge Wanambi snake attacks but Jadianta spears it just in time.


There are many more Percy Trezise books that focus on this time period, some we’ve enjoyed are: The Magic Firesticks, GidjThe Cave Painters, Lasca and Her Pups, The QuinkinsTurramulli the Giant Quinkin, The Giant Devil-Dingo, and Quinkin Mountain.

Check out descriptions for these at Aussie Book Threads.
sunburnt chp 1 yd dingo

Yellow Dog Dingo – Barbara Ker Wilson (OOP)

A cyclone devastates an ‘island’ and it’s food supply, the people set out with their ‘dogs’ in search of a new land, arriving in Australia. A possible story of how the First People’s came to Australia.


sunburnt chp 1 murrawee


You and Me Murrawee – Kerri Hashmi

We glimpse through the eyes of a young girl camping on the river with her family, how life would have been two hundred years ago. Written in poetry form, ‘We walk this same brown earth – you and me, Murrawee …’


Haven’t Read – Possibles

If you do source these please let me know what you think.

sunburnt chp 1 dream chDjomi Dream Child? – Christopher Fry

Djomi Dream Child is the folk tale story of a little aboriginal spirit child whose grandfather dreams of an island where she can find her real life parents. So she places herself on a giant coneshell and floats downstream towards the coast of Maningrida, past the sacred Dreaming waterhole called Djomi. It is in this sacred place that her destiny lays, and where all her dreams would become reality. 


sunburnt chp 1 eagle


Eagles Nest – Warlawurru Manngutjarra & June Walkutjukurr Richards

A man is out hunting with his two wives and his brother. They find an eagle’s nest and he climbs up to get the eagle babies. His brother runs off with the wives, leaving him stranded in a tree.


sunburnt chp 1 child


The Dream – Beryl Harp
A dream sends young Badja and Laladari on a quest to find Bami. Climb on the great misty wings of the Wind Man and find out where this dream journey takes them.



sunburnt chp 1 kupi


Kupi-kupi and the Girl – Daphne Punytjina Burton

A  young girl who spends her time chasing willy-willies. One day, the Kupi-Kupi spirits her away to a waterhole, where she is guarded by a giant watersnake. Her bold rescue by a witchdoctor returns her to her family.



sunburnt chp 1 kuyi


Kuiyku Mabaigal Waii and Sobai – Aidan Laza

A man can’t be recognised as a warrior until he survives a battle with a native enemy.




sunburnt chp 1 mark

The Mark of the Wagarl – Lorna Little
The story of how a little boy dared to question the wisdom of his elders and why he received the Sacred Water Snake for his totem.



There are other excellent Indigenous chapter books I could have shared with this chapter as many feature traditional Aboriginal life. I’ve been in a quandary as whether to group all the Indigenous chapter books as a collective or to sprinkle them throughout the ‘chapters’ as they occur chronologically, I’ve decided on the later.

Haven’t Read – Possibles

Suggest you pre-read, if you do source please let me know what you think.

sunburnt 2 discovery shipwrecks

Shipwrecks, Sailors & 60000 Years: Pre-1788 – Jackie French

In 1493 the Pope gave Portugal the half of the world that included eastern Australia. By 1770 the Dutch had claimed the western, northern and southern coastlines of the continent-and Cook claimed the east coast for the British in 1770. But unlike the Europeans who claimed New Holland as their own, many nations of Indigenous people had already been living there for tens of thousands of years …


sunburnt chp 1 first voyage


First Voyage – Alan Baillie
Before the pyramids are built, before the Ice Age comes and goes, and before Neanderthals become extinct, the Yam tribe live in peace on Bird Island. But the Crocodile tribe have other ideas …The ferocious Crocodile warriors have already killed Bent Beak’s pa, and now they seem determined to take out his whole tribe. The only way to survive is to flee the island. But where will they go? As the Yam tribe brave the perils of the sea, will they survive the voyage into the unknown, and what awaits them just over the horizon?


sunburnt chp 1 dingo

Dingo: the Dog who Conquered a Continent – Jackie French

This tells the story of how a young boy and a dog from an island to the north of Australia get blown off course while in a canoe and end up in northern Australia where they learn to survive in this strange new land.  The story is told in alternate chapters from the point of view of the boy, Loa and of the Dog.


sunburnt chp 1 boundaries

Walking the Boundaries – Jackie French
Martin lives in the city with his mum. He’s come to walk the boundaries of the farm that’s been in his family for generations. Up in the gorge Martin meets Meg from almost a century ago and Wullamudulla from thousands of years in the past. Despite their differences they discover that they’re all on the same journey …and that walking the boundaries means more than following lines on a map.



sunburnt chp 1 children dark


Children of the Dark People – Frank Davy Davidson (OOP)

I’ve seen recommended as a book about traditional indigenous life before pre-European contact.




Related Posts:

3 Indigenous Children’s Books for Anzac Day

ABCs of Aboriginal Picture Book Authors

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  • Sherelle

    OK, now I feel guilty! Way too much effort has gone into this! Some fantastic-looking recommendations. We shall enjoy getting stuck in. Cheers.

    • Erin

      Don’t feel guilty at all, it was a pleasure! Some of this knowledge was already in my head, some I needed to research. I actually appreciated the impetus to finally get going with this project I’ve long wanted to do. Enjoy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *