Cobweb Christmas – The Tradition of Tinsel

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

Cobweb Christmas

Cobweb Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cobweb Christmas- The Tradition of Tinsel

Shirley Climo

Jane Manning

HarperCollins, 2001

32pp., hbk.,

9780060290337

 

Tante is so little she has to stand on a stool to climb into bed and so old she can’t count all the Christmases she has seen.  She lived at the edge of a pine forest in Germany in a tiny cottage with her canary, her cat and her dog.  Beside the cottage was a barn with a donkey, a goat, a rooster and a hen – so she had all she needed.

Usually Tante wasn’t too fussed about having a spic and span house but at Christmas time when the days were short and the nights long, she cleaned her house from top to bottom and corner to corner sweeping even the tiniest cobwebs and their inhabitants from the rafters.  She would chop down the best Christmas tree she could find and decorated it with sugar cookies and gingerbread and put special presents under it for her animals.  She invited the village children in to see her tree and share its goodies – there was something for everyone including her animals, except the spiders who had all been swept out the door.

But still Tante wasn’t really happy – all her life she had heard about the marvellous things that happened on Christmas Eve like animals talking or bees humming carols. So she sat down to wait for the Christmas magic but soon fell asleep so she never knew whether it happened or not.  She certainly did not hear tiny little voices begging to be let in out of the cold – but Kriss Kringle did so he opened the door a crack and in went all the spiders who had been swept outside.

And the next morning Tante woke to find that Christmas magic had really happened…

Based on an old European folktale, Shirley Climo and Jane Manning have brought this story to the 21st century in a superb retelling with charming illustrations.  Tinsel – originally shiny strands of brass or copper – has been part of traditional Christmas decorations since the end of the 19th century as people tried to bring light and sparkle into their homes at a dark time of the year in the northern hemisphere.  Anyone who has seen a cobweb dipped in dew in the early morning and gleaming as the sun catches it can easily make the connection between the spiders’ work and the sparkly loops of foil we use today.

This is a story worth tracking down to add to your Christmas collection – well-written and adding just a bit more to the story of this special time it will be one to read every Christmas Countdown.

Penguin’s Christmas Wish

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Penguin's Christmas Wish

Penguin’s Christmas Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin’s Christmas Wish

Salina Yoon

Bloomsbury, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781681191553

Pumpkin really wanted a Christmas tree this Christmas but there are no trees on the ice where penguins live.  But Penguin had an idea and after loading up the sled and going on a long journey with little brother Pumpkin, his friend Bootsy and Grandpa, they found themselves in the middle of a forest where Pinecone had grown into a magnificent tree.  The penguins decorated Pinecone with all the trimmings they had brought on the sled and it was so beautiful that Penguin wanted to share it with everyone.

 

That night a storm blew up and a blizzard shrouded the tree and the landscape.  In the morning there was nothing to be seen. Penguin is very sad but Grandpa tells him Christmas is about love not presents and decorations.  So Penguin goes off into the snow and shares what he has learned. And when the snow begins to melt, he finds that wishes do come true. 

The sixth in this series about Penguin, this is a charming story for young readers about family and friendship and sharing and finding magic in unexpected places.  The simple shapes, bold colours, and thick, black outlines that are distinctive of Yoon’s illustrations will appeal to young readers in their simplicity, and while the penguins all look the same she has given each a distinctive feature so littlies can distinguish them and know who’s who. And Penguin’s ingenious Christmas presents will help them understand that gifts don’t have to come in rich wrapping and cost a lot of money.  Perhaps they will use their imaginations and give those they love some really personal, unique gifts too. 

The Little Drummer Boy

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The Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Drummer Boy

Bruce Whatley

Random House, 2011

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781864719925

When she was a little girl, Annie’s grandfather carved the little drummer boy from the leg of an old oak table left on the street, painted it carefully and wrapped it up in paper and twine.  Right from the start Annie loved it and it always had pride of place at the top of the Christmas tree.  Year after year, no matter where she was, it would look down like the guardian angel of Christmas.  Even when she had her own children and they had children, the little drummer boy was there at the top no matter how many other decorations were added.  Even when he was getting a little faded, Annie put it down to his being loved and loved him more.

But there came a day when there was no Christmas tree and no Annie…

This is a beautiful, touching story of the enduring nature of love and Christmas traditions, traditions that bind families together across time and place at this time of the year.  Even my own son, now 42, was horrified that I was contemplating not putting up a tree even though his family would not be able to visit this year.  He needed to know that what has been familiar to him for 42 years would still continue anyway.

As well as being a charming story, it is also a time to explore the unique things that each child’s family does at this time, the things that have endured over time and those things that they will pass on to their own children.  It even offers scope to look at the origins of some of the things that we, as a society, do each year and speculate on whether we will ever lose those northern winter images and customs that persist and why they have such deep roots in such a summer society anyway.

In the meantime enjoy my favourite version of my favourite Christmas song from my favourite group

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

Bruce Hale

Guy Francis

Harper, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780062374523

At Theodore Roosterfish Elementary School,  Clark the Shark loves everything about Christmas – the decorations, the cookies and the carols.  But when Miss Inkydink announces that this year there will be a Secret Santa and he gets to pick a name from the hat so everyone eventually gets a present he is even more excited.  Clark thinks the best thing about Christmas is getting presents.  

But Clark doesn’t like secrets and so he spends his time trying to discover who has picked his name, totally forgetting that he is supposed to buy a present for his friend.  So when there is just one day left and he has spent all his money, he has to part with his favourite comic book even though he doesn’t even know if Benny likes comics.  Everyone else seems to have put a lot of thought into what they have given…

This is an exuberant tale that will resonate with those who have been around littlies who are so excited about the getting and still have to learn about the giving.  The illustrations with their colour, movement and detail help build the feeling of excitement and because it has a happy ending there’s room for a chat about what Christmas should really be about.  

This is the fifth in the series about Clark and will appeal to young children who enjoy something a little different from the usual Christmas story.

There is Something Weird in Santa’s Beard

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There is Something Weird in Santa's Beard

There is Something Weird in Santa’s Beard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is Something Weird in Santa’s Beard

Chrissie Krebs

Random House Australia, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143780861

Santa has a sweet tooth,

he loves bits of cake

He’s glad to sample any treat

that Mrs Claus will bake.

So it’s no wonder that he gobbles up all the sweet treats that are left for him as he makes his way around the homes on that special night of  the year.  Biscuits, fruit mince pies, soft drink, crisps, candy canes, bubble gum – he enjoys them all.  But when he finally gets home he is so tired that he goes to sleep without having a bath or brushing his teeth, and because it has been such an exhausting journey he sleeps for days and weeks and months!  And when he finally does wake up there is a nasty strange beast growing in his beard – one that defies all Santa’s methods for getting rid of it until the reindeer have an idea…

This is a funny, clever story-in-rhyme that will appeal to children who like the fact that gross and dirty things can shock adults and make them shudder as their imaginations run wild.  And if it can happen to Santa because he is too tired/lazy/not interested in having a wash then…

A new title by an upcoming author from Victoria that will fit into your Christmas Countdown well.

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

All I want for Christmas is Rain

All I want for Christmas is Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

Cori Brooke

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925059717

It is a sight so familiar to many Australian children.  Brown, cracked, dried earth as far as the eye can see, and even if it could see further, the landscape wouldn’t change. Drought.  The farmer’s curse is this sunburnt country where it can be a long time between drinks for the land and paddocks are empty as livestock is trucked off to the saleyards because it costs more to feed them than they are worth. 

It takes its toll on farmers and their families and in a desperate bid to change things, Jane takes the long shiny train into her nearest town because Santa is coming and he is the one person who can grant children’s wishes.  Standing in the queue in the hot sun, patiently waiting her turn, Jane has only one request from Santa.  “My wish is for rain.”

Set against a backdrop of the most stunning and powerful illustrations that depict the desolation of the Australian landscape in drought, this story-in-rhyme brings alive the reality of summer and Christmas for so many and gives the reader pause to think about what life can be like at this time for our country cousins and what are the true gifts that we can hope for.  While we cling to the English traditions of our ancestors with snow-clad scenes, hot dinners and Santas in red furry suits, there are those who see an entirely different side to this festive time that may not be so joyful. An excellent opportunity for the children to express their interpretation of an Australian Christmas in art and perhaps a change from the more traditional pictures and crafts.

I wish it had been available in 2002 when the news was dominated by the dreadful drought gripping so much of the country and my library’s focus was on gathering gifts for the children of Charleville. It would have been the perfect starter to show the people behind the landscapes of the news in a way that spoke directly to my students.  But, in the meantime, it’s winging its way to Wales to show some children there what Christmas can be like for the children here.

 Another worthy addition to Australia: Story Country.

Gifts for Charlevile

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

 

One Small Donkey

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

One Small Donkey

One Small Donkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Small Donkey

Dandi Daley Mackall

Martina Alvarez Miguens

Tommy Nelson, 2016

32pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

9780718082475

One small donkey

Hunting for a blade of grass

Sees big horses full of power and might

Prancing proudly as they pass.

This is the story of The Nativity told from the perspective of Joseph’s donkey,  Despite its apparent smallness and insignificance, the donkey still played a massive role in this event that continues to be celebrated around the world.  Though the donkey wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest of all the animals, he had an important job all the same. 

Told in rhyme, this is a way to explain the story behind all the Christmas hype to the very young so they begin to understand what is really being recognised at this time.  With its bright pictures and strong message that even the smallest of us has a role to play, it will appeal to parents who want their child to begin to know this enduring story and the common symbols associated with it including the angels, shepherds and the birth in the manger.

As an extra treat to start the season here’s a childhood favourite from Bing Crosby …

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth

Animasaurus

Animasaurus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth 

Tracey Turner

Harriet Russell

Bloomsbury, 2016

96pp. hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781408884850

While we are all familiar with the incredible dinosaurs, icthyosaurs and pterosaurs that inhabited our planet long before we did, this book focuses on the other megafauna that was here before humans evolved, tracing their evolution from the ancient to its modern counterpart.  

From the gigantopithecus to the orangutan, the dunkleosteus to the bull shark, the quetzalcaotlus to the wandering albatross, the reader can see the transition from the unknown to the more familiar.  Uncluttered interpretations of the ancient creatures based on what has been learned from fossils are compared to photos of the modern relatives making the transition even clearer.  Each double spread has a habitat map and some basic facts as well as tidbits of interesting information to encourage the reader to learn more, perhaps even trace the lineage of their own favourite creature.  There is a timeline, a glossary and an index at the back which not only help with navigating the book but also serve as an introduction to the features of a non fiction book for younger readers.

We know books about dinosaurs only linger on the shelf for a short time before being borrowed by an enthusiastic reader – this book will lead them into a whole new world of exploration.

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Janet A. Holmes

Jonathan Bentley

Little Hare Books, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760124229

High above a bright yellow kite soars in the bright blue sky and as it dips and dives, flits and flies with its tail feathers flying it catches the eye of Daisy.  Intrigued she follows its string to see who is flying such a magnificent thing.  Up the hill, down the hill and across the field she finds William in a big house on the edge of town.  As she watches longingly through the fence, he invites her in and teaches her how to fly it. But then she does the unthinkable – she runs away with the kite all the way back to her house.  Knowing she has done the wrong thing she hides it and doesn’t fly it – but where is the joy in a kite sitting on top of a wardrobe instead of soaring through the sky?  At last she cannot stand it and she just has to fly the kite – but William sees her and just walks away.  Again the kite is placed on the top of the wardrobe but the next day, Daisy takes it down again…

Sometimes little people are just so tempted by someone else’s things that they just have to take them, even though, like Daisy, they know it is wrong to do so.  And with Christmas coming on and lots of children having lots of things to show off, there are going to be a lot of children fighting temptation.  Thus this is a timely story about wanting, needing, guilt and honesty which has a heart-warming ending that  lends itself to all sorts of discussions in the home and in the classroom.  

The visual contrast, both physically and metaphorically, of the bright yellow kite against the deep blue sky, juxtaposes Daisy and William’s positions and Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations add much to the text with   their movement and colour.

This is a charming story about friendship and forgiveness and the dilemma of whether a thing is more important than a friend.  

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snot Chocolate

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin Books, 2016

165pp, pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143309222

The blurb reads, “Stop your mum picking her nose, read the secret diary of a dog, catch a bus and then let it go, discover how one slice of toast can make you the most popular person in school, start wearing a crown and give up eating pig-nostril gruel, use a wrecking ball to defeat a bully, show your big sister the very scary secret in your wardrobe, unleash the awesome power of chips, live in a house that gets wiped clean more often than a bottom.”

But there is so much more to this collection of short stories from a master storyteller who seamlessly switches between the poignancy of Two weeks with the Queen, the gaiety of Toad Rage and the seriousness and sincerity of the Once series. Gleitzman himself says, “Nine stories, and I’ve made them different lengths because different parents have different ideas about how long a person should be allowed to read before turning the lights out.”

With a title designed to attract that reader who loves to makes sure parents and teachers have a stomach-churning moment when they see it, nevertheless there are serious undertones to each as the central character of each tries to grapple with a big problem affecting family or friends using a thought process and logic that are particular to that age group.  Creativity is alive and well in children – until the formality and seriousness of school try to quell it.

Along with Give Peas a Chance and Pizza Cake, these stories which give the author “a break from the stiff neck and stiff brain you sometimes get writing book-length stories” might seem a long way from the stories Gleitzman commonly crafts and which he is so valued for, but as he says, he would” hate to forget that in stories a laugh can have a teardrop as a very close neighbour.”  However, despite the sombre notes this is a collection that will keep those newly independent readers, particularly boys, reading and help them transition to the next phase of their reading journey – which will probably be a Gleitzman novel – as they show that even short stories with wicked titles can have great, credible characters and a depth of plot that makes reading so worthwhile.  

Parents,  teachers and teacher librarians are blessed to have such a gifted writer as Gleitzman on their side.

Read what Morris Gleitzman has to say on the value of short stories.