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An Aussie Day Before Christmas

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic, 2008

32pp., hbk., RRP $A15.99

9781741690972

‘Twas the day before Christmas
And in his beach shack,
Santa was snoozing,
Flat out on his back.

‘Shake a leg, love,’
Sheila Claus said.
‘Time to get ready
For the big night ahead.’

There is much to do before Santa makes his once-a-year flight…chooks to feed, breakfast to have, a walk with his missus, the news to read, pressies to wrap and the ‘roos to sort out. “The koalas won’t help me, they’re too flamin’ slow.” 

Putting iconic Australian sayings and slang to the familiar rhythm of the Clement C. Moore poem, Kilmeny Niland uses her artistic talent to portray a DownUnder day before Christmas through stunning illustrations that capture a very different picture of Santa than the traditional one our children are so familiar with.  

Before sharing it, children might like to speculate on what it is that Aussie Santa does in preparation – perhaps a surf, perhaps a nap, perhaps prawns and a beer – whatever they predict they will delight in Niland’s interpretation that might dispel their snowy North Pole images forever. And a must for any collection of Australian Christmas stories you might be sending to children overseas.

Emily’s Bush Christmas

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Emily's Bush Christmas

Emily’s Bush Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily’s Bush Christmas

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2015

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780732286934

It’s Christmas Day in Shaggy Gully and all the animals are doing the things they do best – the kangaroos are bouncing, the echidnas are prickly, the emus are peckish, koalas are relaxing and the bats and wombats are just hanging about.  The Shaggy Gully chorus are sharing their Christmas carols  – the cockatoos and kookaburras are giving it their all while Emily tries to keep in tune with her tuba.  Suddenly the ambiance is shattered by a ghastly groan coming up from the creek.

“ooooogggggghhhhhh! I’m mad and I’m mean! I’m the BUNYIP ooooogggggghhhhhh!.”

In response, Emily Emu’s tuba echoes the same ghastly sound! The bunyip’s’ moan makes her tuba groan. But Emily decides that everyone, including bunyips, should be happy at Christmas and so she sets about trying to change the bunyip’s mood.  But no matter what she and her friends do, the bunyip stays mad and mean!  Until he discovers Emily’s tuba…

You just know that a Christmas story from Jackie French and Bruce Whatley is going to be Australian and it’s going to be good.  And so it is with this tale which is uniquely Australian and which will bring a smile to the face of little ones (and bunyips.) They will love to see what their favourite creatures get up to in the bush on this special day – even Ringo the Dingo is there – as Jackie always weaves a wonderful story that is worth reading over and over, especially if you play them this sound clip so they can hear the sound of the tuba and why it is so perfect for a bunyip!  

This team always produces the best – and this is no exception.

Little Dog and the Christmas Wish

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Little Dog and the Christmas Wish

Little Dog and the Christmas Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Dog and the Christmas Wish

Corinne Fenton

Robin Cowcher

Black Dog Books, 2014

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

9781742032368

Little Dog and Jonathan are the best of friends.  But trouble strikes when a massive thunderstorm hits while Jonathan and his mother go shopping on Christmas Eve leaving Little Dog at home, alone.  Even though he does not like thunder and lightning, Little Dog need to protect Jonathan so he squeezes under the gate to find him.  

At first the smells and sights are familiar but it is not long before Little Dog is in new territory.  But even so and even though the thunderstorm is still raging, he continues on  his search.  When he sees the open door of the baker’s cart he jumps in and the old Clydesdale clip clops along, taking Little Dog into town where everything, everywhere and everyone is strange.  As hard as he looks he cannot find Jonathan. And still the rain and thunder and lightning continue. Even when he finds shelter and the busker invites him to go home with him, Little Dog knows he needs to find Jonathan. And so his search continues…

This is a most poignant story about that special bond between a dog and its human friend that will resonate with every child and adult who has one.  There is something about the loyalty and love that is so strong. Set in Melbourne in the 1950s, it is nostalgic, even sentimental, as the soft palette, watercolour illustrations take the reader back into a gentler, slower time where Christmas is not so frenetic.  Illustrator Robin Cowcher was shortlisted for the CBCA Crichton Award for New Illustrators in 2015.

In 2014 this book was the focus of the Christmas window display in Myer, Melbourne, the 60th anniversary of this much loved, Melbourne tradition, a rare honour afforded to only the best of books! (And the author’s new book, One Christmas Eve, is the focus of the 2016 windows.)

Something a little different, a little more like the Christmas stories of yesteryear for the Christmas Countdown.

Credit: Kids' Book Review

Credit: Kids’ Book Review

 

 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Robert L. May

Antonio Javier Caparo,

Little Simon, 2014

40pp., hbk.

9781442474956

Santa is in trouble.  A fog as thick as white soda fizz as enveloped the night and he is really worried that he is not going to be able to deliver his gifts for the children on time.  He and his reindeer will have to fly low and slow guided only by streetlamps and houses as the stars and the moon have vanished.  This works okay until midnight but when most lights are extinguished by then he is literally in the dark.

Through dark street and houses old Santa did poorly.

He now picked the presents more slowly, less surely.

He really was worried! For what could he do

If folks started waking before he was through?

And then he finds himself in the bedroom of a little reindeer – one who has been teased and ostracised by his brothers and sisters because of his glowing red nose – and suddenly Santa had a solution to his problem!

And, you,” he told Rudolph, may yet save the day!

Your shining bright nose, son, can show us the way!”

 Told in a rhythm that mimics Clement Clark Moore’s The Night Before Christmas this is a wonderful story that tells the story behind the familiar song that our children all seem to know so well.  It is the original story created in 1939 as a cost-saving measure for a department store chain that gave away colouring books at Christmas and which was eventually translated into the familiar song by the author’s brother -in-law in 1949, becoming an instant and enduring hit.

Superbly illustrated with stunning reality, colour and texture, it is a perfect bedtime read as that night comes closer and closer and little ones are starting to get excited.  Told as much from the perspective of Rudolph as from Santa, it opens up lots of opportunity for discussing teasing, emotions and feelings and even how being different can be a good thing.  As one who had the trifecta of red hair, freckles and glasses at a time when Shirley Temple lookalikes were prized, I can relate to that concept.  

A Christmas classic that needs to be in every Countdown collection!

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

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The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

Kim Michelle Toft

Silkim Books, 2007

hbk 9780975839041

pbk 9780975839034

 

Take the traditional Christmas song, add the most magnificent creatures of the world’s oceans, include important information about those creatures and immerse the whole in the beautiful painted silk artworks of Kim Michelle Toft and you have, quite simply, my most favourite Christmas book ever!

Toft has used the words of The Twelve Days of Christmas not only to introduce readers to the dwellers of the deep, but has also built on the tradtional concept of gift-giving at this time to emphasise what a precious present these creatures  are – one that we may not enjoy for much longer if we don’t start to value it now.

“All of the magnificent creatures in this book rely on the ocean for their survival and many were once found in abundance.  This is no longer true.  Modern technology, huge increases in the world’s population and lack of management have resulted in some serious problems.  These problems include over fishing, pollution from poorly treated sewage, effluents from oil spoils, litter and global warmingwhich is contributing to the destruction of coral reefs all around the world.  It is up to nations,  governments and the will of the people to work together to help conserve these incredible gifts from nature.”

Thus, as well as being a stunning visual feast, there is a serious message that can be emphasised, enabling this book to sit well within any sustainability curriculum.  Even though students might not be able to replicate the artworks which are handdrawn with gold gutta on white silk then painted with brushes using silk dyes, the concept itself might inspire a class project of those things in the local region that might disappear if no action to preserve them is taken.

At the end of the book is an amazing poster containing all the creatures mentioned, and some versions have a CD of Toft’s lyrics sung by Lisa Hunt.  What a wonderful song to add to the Christmas repetoire.

Toft always writes and illustrates about her passion – the preservation of ocean life – and you can see all her publications here and as a bonus, here’s a full unit of work for The World that We Want.

She is one who must have a place on your library’s shelves – school or home.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Don't miss the poster!

Don’t miss the poster!

 

Pig the Elf

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Pig the Elf

Pig the Elf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pig the Elf

Aaron Blabey

Scholastic, 2016

24pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760154271

Pig the Elf knows about Christmas – or at least, what he considers the most important part.  So he has written Santa the longest list of things that he wants and, dressed in his elf suit, is determined to stay up and ensure that Santa delivers everything on it.  Even when his friend Trevor begs him to come to bed because he knows Santa doesn’t come till everyone is asleep, Pig refuses and settles down to wait.

Three-thirty comes and at last there is a strange noise – “And who should appear down the chimney with swag, but a portly old gent with a lumpy red bag.”

But it is very clear to Pig that he has been short-changed.  The pile of presents is much smaller than it should be and he shouts at Santa, “HEY! I asked for MORE!” And as Santa heads back to the chimney, Pug nips him on his big red rosy bum – and doesn’t let go!!!

Show a child a book with Pig on the cover and you will have the most excited, engaged, entranced audience as they settle down for another hilarious adventure with this crazy dog who is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s favourite characters of little people.  And this Christmas addition to the series is no different.  With its rhyme, rhythm, humour and slightly risque storyline which resonates with every child who has ever wanted to stay awake to see Santa (or at least hear the reindeer on the roof) but not quite succeeded, Pig the Pug is their hero.  They will demand it again and again and thankfully, it’s one of those stories that will keep the reader amused over and over again too.  

Aaron Blabey, who is now an established favourite with littlies who don’t usually remember the authors of stories, really knows how to craft a tale for this age group that not only entertains over and over and over but teaches them about the joy of picture books where the fun can be repeated just by picking the book up whenever you want to. Australian parents, teachers (and teacher librarians) are so lucky he is one of ours!

And to add to the magic there is an official colouring-in activity waiting to be printed and completed, just perfect for turning into a special Christmas card. 

Miss 5 is going to squeal when she finds this in her Santa Sack!

Christmas in the Barn

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Christmas in the Barn

Christmas in the Barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in the Barn

Margaret Wise Brown

Anna Dewdney

HarperCollins, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062379863

 

First published in 1952, but reprinted with new full-colour illustrations, Christmas in the Barn is a retelling of the Nativity from the perspective of the barn animals.  As dusk comes and night settles, and the animals take up their usual places and positions two people come into the barn and before long, without fuss or fear, Mary gives birth.  The star shines, the shepherds and the Wise Men arrive and the baby is laid in a manger, no crib for a bed.  

Told in rhyme this is a charming retelling of the traditional story that underpins the celebration of Christmas that is quite secular in its interpretation, making it perfect for sharing and explaining what is behind the images and imagery that is common at this time.  

While some schools and communities have bowed to political correctness and taken the story of the Nativity out of the curriculum, I believe that given the widespread celebration of Christmas in Australia, all children should know its origins so they can understand the importance placed on it, just as they should know the stories and understandings behind the commemorations and celebrations of other religions.  Because this version makes no reference to God – indeed neither the people nor the baby are even named because the emphasis is on the warmth, safety and harmony of everyone and everything in the barn – it is perfect for introducing very young children or those unfamiliar with Christmas to the basis of the beliefs of those who celebrate.

 

Cobweb Christmas – The Tradition of Tinsel

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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. 

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

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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.