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Pig the Elf

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

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.

One Small Donkey

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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.

illuminature

illuminature

illuminature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

illuminature

Rachel Williams

Carnovsky

Wide-Eyed, 2016

64pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9781847808868

“Nature never stops.  With every tick of the clock, an animal wakes up and goes in search of food. The sky might be dark when the creature first stirs; night-time is ruled by the nocturnal animals.  During the light of day diurnal animals like to hunt.  And as the world welcomes dawn, or bids farewell to the day at dusk, crepuscular creatures appear.”

And in this most amazing book the reader gets to discover what’s out and about at the various times of the planet’s rotation.  Firstly you select a destination from amongst ten different habitats which include such diversity as the Simpson Desert, the Weddell and Ross Seas of Antarctica, the rainforest of the Congo, the Andes Mountains, even the Ganges River basin. From the observation deck what appears to be a jumble of colour slowly exposes itself as the outlines of a number of creatures, but when you then use the special multi-coloured lens which is supplied, and peer through the different colours a whole new world emerges! The red lens exposes the daytime creatures, the blue lens those who prefer a darker environment while the green lens illuminates the plant life of the region.  Then to make the experience even better, there is a double-page spread that identifies each creature with some brief information about it.  There are 180 different creatures to discover throughout the book, 18 for each region!

This is not a ready reference book packed full of information about the world’s habitats and their inhabitants. There are countless other resources that do that.  This is an introduction to the boundless wonders of nature, its diversity and difference that reveals itself with the passage of time and which will leave the reader with a feeling of awe and perhaps a greater awareness of just what might be living in or dependent on the environment as they go stomping through it.  It truly does illuminate Nature.

Have a sneak peek at what’s on offer for The Simpson Desert.  (image from Let Them Be Small)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Or check out the YouTube trailer…

Worm Loves Worm

Worm Loves Worm

Worm Loves Worm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worm Loves Worm

J.J.  Austrian

Mike Curato

Balzer & Bray, 2016

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

9780062386335

Worm loves Worm.  So they decide to get married.  It shouldn’t be a problem but suddenly all their minibeast friends chip in. “You’ll need someone to marry you. That’s how it’s always been done.”  You’ll need a best man, bridesmaids, rings, a band… and so on and so on, because “that’s how it’s always been done.”  Worm and Worm agree to each suggestion hoping that after they acquiesce they can get married but no… there is always something else.

So when they are told that they need to have a bride and groom, worms being hermaphrodites, they have no trouble with being either or both – but that isn’t how it’s always been done.  Will they ever just celebrate their love by getting married???

This is a charming book that, on the surface, is just a story about two worms wanting to get married because they love each other, and that, to a four-year-old is a natural thing to do.  It is just a celebration of love.  For those in different circumstances or a little bit older there is a sub-text of marriage equality and things can change – they don’t always have to be because they have always been.  It’s enough to love each other without all the other trappings; it’s about inclusion and equality and showing affection regardless of any traditional views and values that have been imposed on a natural state of mind. That’s what little ones understand and accept – intolerance is something they learn.

Choosing worms as the main characters is a masterstroke because there are no physical differences between worms – there is nothing to say which is female and therefore the bride or male and therefore the groom. So the central message of love being the key ingredient and the rest of the elements of a wedding just being seasoning remains the central theme.  

Perhaps some of our politicians  and those who influence them should read this and get to the core of what really matters.

A great addition to a school library collection that allows children to see their own family structure in a story, to show others that there are all sorts of family structures,  and to explain marriage equality to those unfamiliar with the concept.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

 

Lift the Flap Friends

Lift the Flap Friends

Lift the Flap Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift the Flap Friends

Dinosaurs
9781408864166

Fairy
9781408964159

Peter Allen

Bloomsbury, 2016

16pp., board books, RRP $A12.99

Dennis introduces to his dinosaur friends and the places they live, what they like to eat and other simple facts while Angel and her fairy friends show what goes on in the fairy garden through bright pictures and intriguing lift-the-flaps  which will appeal to the very young and help them understand that books, stories and reading contain lots of fun and interest.

Two new publications perfect for the toddler’s Christmas stocking.