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New picture books published by State Library delight Queensland families

Mischief-making animals leap onto the shelves at Queensland public libraries as part of First 5 Forever.



In 2020, State Library of Queensland published the brand new Stories for Little Queenslanders series of 12 picture books for children 0-5 years as part of the First 5 Forever early literacy initiative.

The uniquely Queensland books showcase local connections, settings, characters and stories and include a story about a cow’s hapless journey down a flooded Brisbane River and an alphabet book featuring echidnas exercising in Emerald.

The books were created by 21 authors and illustrators with a connection to Queensland, many who hail from across the state, including creatives from regional Queensland and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

They include much-loved children’s authors Pamela Rushby and Samantha Wheeler, illustrators Sophie Beer and Simon Howe, and first-time children’s book authors and illustrators Emma Cracknell, Janet Turner and Eunice Day (winner of State Library's 2020 black&write! Fellowship).

The Stories for Little Queenslanders series promotes early literacy and was created to inspire a love of reading. The books help Queensland children develop a sense of identity, connection and belonging through their quirky local settings and fun characters which reflect the diversity of families in Queensland.

Copies were distributed to Queensland’s network of more than 320 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres, with audio books and ebooks also available on the First 5 Forever website

The project represents a publishing first for State Library and a significant investment in telling Queensland stories while supporting emerging and established authors and illustrators. 

Stories for Little Queenslanders aligns with the Creative Together 2020–2030: A 10-year Roadmap for arts, culture and creativity in Queensland priority to share our stories and celebrate our storytellers.

Stories for Little Queenslanders books

  • Hotel for bees, written by Alison McLennan (Albany Creek, Qld) and illustrated by Erin Dunne (The Range, Qld)
  • In the deep end, written and illustrated by Charlie Thomson (Boonah, Qld)
  • Is this your egg?, written by Ella Kris (Thursday Island, Qld) and illustrated by Emma Cracknell (Bundamba, Qld)
  • Koalas like to …, written by Shae Millward (Torquay, Qld) and illustrated by Brent Wilson (Birkdale, Qld)
  • My people, written by Billie-Jean Taylor (Gordonvale, Qld) and illustrated by Shaylah Dodd 
  • Once I munched a mango, written by Samantha Wheeler (Chandler, Qld) and illustrated by Shannon Horsfall (Bellara, Qld) 
  • One remarkable reef, written by Kellie Byrnes (Buderim, Qld) and illustrated by Rachel Tribout (Auchenflower, Qld)
  • Shoosh!, written and illustrated by Simon Howe (Preston, Vic)
  • The coloured echidna, written and illustrated by Eunice Day (Blackwater, Qld)
  • The cow that swam out to sea, written by Pamela Rushby (Seventeen Mile Rocks, Qld) and illustrated by Nicola Hooper (Shailer Park, Qld)
  • The little Queenslanders’ alphabet book, written by Sally Scudamore (Goondiwindi, Qld, currently residing in the UK) and illustrated by Sophie Beer (Annerley, Qld)
  • Up and down on a rainy day by Kathryn Apel (Mount Tom, Qld) illustrated by Janet Turner (Upper Mount Gravatt, Qld)


When and where

Ongoing from December 2020.


Key stats

  • 12 original picture books
  • 21 authors and illustrators with a strong connection to Queensland
  • Copies distributed to a network of more than 320 Queensland public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres
  • 5,312 ebook downloads (from January to September 2021)
  • 3,488 audiobook plays (to September 2021)


Arts Queensland investment 

The Queensland Government provides $5 million per annum ongoing funding to First 5 Forever to provide strong early literacy foundations for Queensland children aged 0-5 years.

First 5 Forever is coordinated by State Library and delivered in partnership with local government. It is delivered through a network of more than 320 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres (IKCs).

First 5 Forever provides tools and resources to help parents and caregivers support their child’s early literacy development. Free Baby Play, Story Time and Rhyme Time sessions for families are available online or at public libraries and a range of free resources is available online.

Since First 5 Forever launched in 2015, over 4.2 million attendances have been reported (as at 30 June 2020) at early literacy sessions in libraries and over 600,000 attendances at outreach events across Queensland.



  • Statewide reach - Families can find these Queensland stories in every public library and Indigenous Knowledge Centre in Queensland, with copies distributed to Queensland’s network of more than 320 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres, with audio books and ebooks also available on the First 5 Forever website

Early Childhood (part of the Department of Education) acquired 300 sets of the twelve Stories for Little Queenslanders titles for distribution to selected kindergarten programs in regional, rural and remote Queensland.  

  • Community engagement activities - Story Stations were produced for State Library by Brisbane-based arts company Dead Puppet Society. Families enjoyed the audio book recordings by visiting the Story Stations at State Library throughout the 2020 – 2021 Summer Holiday Fun program. .

Queensland singer songwriter Nadia Sunde composed original songs as part of Songs for Little Queenslanders. These were  performed at State Library as part of its Summer Holiday Fun free programming, and enjoyed online with Bedtime Stories for Little Queenslanders on 13 and 20 January 2021.

With COVID impacting public library face to face programming, the Stories for Little Queenslanders titles have been significant in supporting online library programming such as online storytime sessions. 

  • Employment and career development opportunities: The project generated employment and development opportunities for Queensland’s creative sector, with the selected authors and illustrators working with professional publishers and editors throughout 2020. 



Learnings and reflections

The program had an exceptionally positive reaction from public libraries, with the books being used not only to promote the wider First 5 Forever program, but also library collections, Queensland authors and First Nations languages.   

Libraries have reported high loans for the 12 titles. For example, Gympie Libraries had eight of the titles in their top 20 picture books in 2021.  

Councils such as Mackay and Cairns have used the illustrations from the books to create popular illustrated story walks for families in local parks through grant funding received from State Library.

Story creators have also been linked to their local libraries and have been active in promoting First 5 Forever and the Stories for Little Queenslanders through outreach and library events. For example, Cairns City Library hosted First Nations author Eunice Day to share her book in a special storytelling session.

“Sharing stories from birth has a positive impact that lasts a lifetime, and these locally inspired stories, rhymes and illustrations are an absolute delight to share with little ones.”

“We are proud to invest in telling Queensland stories, and supporting authors and illustrators.”  State Librarian and CEO, Vicki McDonald AM


What next?

Now part of the collections at Queensland public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres, the Stories for Little Queenslanders book series will continue to delight new generations of little Queenslanders and their families. State Library is also planning a follow up campaign to take place in 2022 to connect newborn parents with Queensland stories and their local public library.

Is this your egg? by Ella Kris and illustrated by Emma Cracknell was awarded the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Authored Children’s Book Award by the Speech Pathology Australia in 2021.



Find out more

Stories for Little Queenslanders website 


All images courtesy State Library of Queensland.