Australia is the smallest continent. It is the only continent that is also a country. Because it is located entirely in the Southern Hemisphere, it is often referred to as “Down-Under”.
A map of Australia shows that all of its major cities are located along the coasts, primarily in Eastern Australia. Nine out of ten Australians live in cities. The countryside outside the cities and suburbs is referred to as the “Bush”, while only the central desert interior is designated the “Outback”.
The first inhabitants of Australia were Indigenous peoples, living in traditional ways for thousands of years. Scientists believe these first Australians migrated from Africa via Asia using land bridges created during the last ice age. The arrival of Europeans 300 years ago changed Australia. Aboriginal population and culture declined as European numbers grew.
Australia today is highly multicultural, particularly in the Northwestern regions. Aboriginal groups have reclaimed some of their lands, and many live on reservations or in cities. Many Aboriginal people are dedicated to preserving their language and culture.
The three titles chosen to represent Australia capture the magnificence of the land and the diversity of its people. Readers will discover some of the major features of Australia including its cities, people, plants, and animals. First published when she was eleven years old, Porter’s The Outback, introduces the continent through poetry. Stories from the Billabong introduces legends of the Aboriginal people and invites inquiry into the past and folklore of this island continent. In D is for Down Under readers experience both humorous rhyme and highly accessible encyclopedic information. They’ll also find out why Australia is referred to as “Down Under”. Alphabet books like this one are a treasure trove of information.
The Pacific Islands, sometimes called Australasia or Oceania, are not part of part of any continent (continents are defined as continuous dry land masses), but this group of over 20,000 islands is a source of literature. Included in this group are the larger island countries of New Zealand, New Guinea, and Fiji, as well as the Hawaiian islands. Over 19 million people live in the Pacific islands, almost as many as Australia’s 2011 population of 22.32 million. The lush forests, sandy beaches, and dramatic mountain peaks are home to diverse people and many thriving indigenous cultures.
Although literature from and about the Pacific Islands is somewhat limited, New Zealand authors, in particular, offer an ever-increasing selection of stories, legends, and poetry.
The additional reading selections include two titles set in the Pacific Islands. Selafina and Fishing with Spider Webs provide readers a glimpse Pacific island life. Other additional reading selections also complement the recommended titles included in the Micro-library. They give readers opportunities to further explore Aboriginal culture, the unique landscape, and the lives of contemporary Australian children.