Free Diving by Lorrae Coffin and Bronwyn Houston

Do you know much about the history of Australia’s pearling industry? In the late nineteenth century, many of Western Australia’s Indigenous were forced to dive for pearl shell under terrible conditions. This story is a tribute to these men and women who risked their lives for the pearl lugger owners.


Free diving by Lorrae Coffin and Bronwyn Houston is a lyrical narrative that takes the reader on a journey out to sea and on board a pearl lugger. A pearl lugger was the name given to the large vessels that were used to go out to sea to collect pearl shell. This industry, which has brought a lot of money to Australia is still a part of the economy today – visit Broome to see the many pearl shops up there – but under much better circumstances for the divers.

Older readers will be entranced by the colour of the land and the sea. They will feel scared and worried as the main character dives beneath the waves and yearns for his home. The prose entices the reader to ask questions about where they are, why they are diving with just a rope and why is pearl so precious?

This story really allows the reader to see the past injustices of society and how many people were treated so terribly just for the sake of money.

Brown Houston’s illustrations add more emotion to the story. We feel the gentleness of the ocean breeze, the warmth of the sunshine, the quietness of the moon. But we also see the fear the young man feels, we see the worry he holds within but also the freedom he feels when under the water.

Although I have read a little bit about the history of the Pearling industry from my visit to Broome this book gave me more insight into the dark side of it and how something so beautiful can hold a sad story.

Read this book with your children – it is a beautiful tale. The song at the end may inspire you to pull out your guitar and have a sing along too.

So what can you do after you have read this book?  

  • Explore the pearling industry. Compare the past and the present. Indigenous people had their own methods of finding pearl shell long before the Europeans came along.
  • Are there currently any injustices in the jewellery industry? Explore the concepts of fair-trade and worker’s rights.
  • Sing the song together – it is a beautiful tribute and there is no better way to learn about a story than through song.
  • Explore the art of Bronwyn Houston and the techniques used in this story.
  • Stand up for human rights. Keep an eye out for those around you and make sure that everyone is being treated equally. Be more mindful of what you buy to ensure that people aren’t being mistreated just for a final product.
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Animals in my garden by Bronwyn Houston

Have you ever wanted to be a biologist?

Have you ever wondered how they count all those animals in the wild?

Counting animals is great fun – and predicting the whole amount of animals in a pride, nest or swarm isn’t easy work when they don’t sit still for too long.

Animals in my garden by Bronwyn Houston is a great start for those budding scientists – and they only need to be able to count to ten!

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The animals in this garden are all Australian animals and many of these animals we actually do see in our garden – we haven’t seen a snake yet but I’m sure they are around from time to time.

We loved counting the animals on each page and talking about the different places they were in the garden and the activity they were up to.

As a board book published by Magabala Books this is a colourful story for younger readers as not only are they listening to words, they are also learning about counting and Australian animals.

We also loved comparing this book to the original story by Bronwyn Houston – Counting Aussie animals in my backyard. By comparing the two books we were able to look at how the animals were placed differently, discuss why there were different adjectives and verbs and also wonder about which book would suit different readers.

Browyn Houston’s illustrations are detailed with texture, patterns and bright colours – just looking at them alone is a great joy!

Animals in my Garden is a wonderful addition to any little readers library!

So what else can you do?

  • Create your own version of Animals in my garden by going outside and finding different animals that reside on your balcony, backyard or nearby park!

By helping your child explore the local environment you are showing them that they are not the only living thing around. When we realise that other living things also live near us we should be more aware of how everything we do impacts others.

When you create your own book you are not only helping your child to learn how to count but also count animals that are moving around in front of them. It doesn’t always have to be animals – insects are abundant in any open space so see what you can find!

  • Have a go at creating your own illustrations too using the techniques Bronwyn Houston has used.
  • Share your new book out loud to others – by creating something that others apart from the creator sees gives it more meaning and may inspire more creations!

Books that have Indigenous links

The Legend of Moonie Jarl

Walking with the seasons in Kakadu

Colours of Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft.

Thirst

WELCOME TO COUNTRY by Aunty Joy Murphy

At the Zoo I see

Our Island

Say Yes

Mrs White and the Red Desert

Crabbing with Dad

On the way to Nana’s

Stories for Simon

Animals in my Garden by Bronwyn Houston

Mad Magpie by Gregg Dreise

Shapes of Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft 

Waterlilies by Diane Lucas

Shallow in the Deep End by the Tiwi College Alalinguwi Jarrakarlinga

Kookoo Kookaburra by Gregg Dreise

Once there was a boy by Dub Leffler

We all sleep by Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Sally Morgan

My Country by Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Sally Morgan

At the Zoo I see

Big Fella Rain

Deep Diving