‘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.
Christmas in Australia – time for families to get together and of, course, the perfect family photo for posterity. But getting everyone together at the same time is not as easy as it sounds.
This is an hilarious, rollicking tune, probably known to every Australian school student, brought to life in picture book format through the talents of Mitch Vane. As families gather together as the big day draws closer, no doubt its scenarios will be played out in real life in many backyards and children will be heard singing the song.
A must-have in any Christmas collection and for sending overseas to those who want to know about a summer Christmas as well.
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 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.
Written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffmann as Nussknacker und Mausekönig, The Nutcracker is another classic iconic story of the Christmas season.
The story of Maria Stahlbaum, her care of the nutcracker after it is broken by her brother and her adventures that happen when it comes alive at midnight including the battles with the Mouse King has been told in many interpretations over the years, including in dance after Tchaikovsky put it to music.
This version, retold by Emma Goldhawk and lavishly illustrated by Lisa Evans, is an abridged version of the original that is perfect for introducing young readers to the story. Its large, embossed, pages draw the reader into to the world of toys that Maria is transported to, especially the Land of Sweets where every little girl’s dream of being the Sugar Plum Fairy begin.
If you are planning to introduce your little ones to the ballet through the Australian Ballet’s Storytime Ballet (which I can recommend from personal experience) this is the perfect introduction to the story.
It is more than 20 years since Mariah Carey wrote and released the song in 1994 but it wasn’t until December 2015, that he song peaked at 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it its highest peak since its original release. Now it is one of the most iconic tunes of the season.
So it seems fitting that it become a picture book with bright. bold pictures, all the lyrics and a special twist at the end that makes it particularly suitable for young readers although the clues are there in the pictures from the beginning. The little girl’s wish is clear for the astute to find because she manages to drop her hint into every part of the Christmas preparations. Making cookies and decorations, hanging stockings, even out playing in the snow she clings to her dream. Then, amidst all the presents for all the family, there is one special gift … one that so many little ones wish for!!!
This is an interpretation that will make this a favourite in your family too – and you will have an earworm for the rest of the day!
Van Amsterdam the baker was well known for his honesty as well as for his fine Saint Nicholas cookies, which were made of gingerbread and iced just as people imagine St Nicholas to look like. When his made the cookies he weighed his ingredients meticulously and always gave his customers exactly what they paid for — not more, and not less. They were very happy and Van Amsterdam was very successful.
But one day a mysterious old woman in a black shawl came into the shop and demanded that Van Amsterdam give her thirteen biscuits because that was how many were in a ‘baker’s dozen’. Van Amsterdam refused so the old woman left without her cookies but as she left she told Van Amsterdam “Fall again, mount again, learn how to count again.”
From that day, business went downhill and Van Amsterdam was left almost penniless and with no customers. Then one night he is visited by St Nicholas in a dream and he learns a lesson about being generous.
This is a retelling of an old tale that goes back into history with the first recorded version being noted in 1896. Accompanied by exquisite illustrations it brings yet another legend associated with Christmas to life and underscores the need to be unselfish at this time. It includes a recipe for St Nicholas cookies and a Readers Theatre script
The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas
The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas
Regency Kids, 2015
On a day long ago began NORAD’s tradition-
Tracking Santa’s red sleigh on his once-a-year mission.
Using radar and satellites – fighter jets too!
Reporting on Santa, wherever he flew.
But one Christmas Eve a blizzard rolls in and so Santa leaves the North Pole early much to the dismay of NORAD who weren’t prepared for the unscheduled start. And as the green blip disappears off the radar screen and there is no sign of Santa or his reindeer, panic ensues. A four star general and the Commander-in-Chief order the fighter jets into the air and every last piece of technology the US Air Force has is set to searching for Santa.
Eventually he is found buried deep in a snow drift but now it is too late to get all the presents to the children in the traditional way of reindeer and sleigh, so once again the bigwigs put their heads together and come up with a most audacious plan that involves NATO and other US allies, battleships, cruisers, submarines, helicopters, C-17s, trucks and tanks and every other sort of transport available to the military. And for those places where “The children love Santa, but the leaders say no”, there are Special Ops, Navy SEALS and tough Army Rangers.
Will their mission succeed? Will they get to all the children of the world in time?
Dedicated to the children whose parents “allow us to live in a world where we have the freedom to believe in Santa Claus” this is a very different story for Christmas, one that acknowledges those who serve by showing them in a less-that-traditional setting. NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) is a joint United States and Canadian military organisation and for over 60 years it has tracked Santa’s flight each December 24. Children can watch where he is by going to the website or downloading an app so they know when they have to get into bed after their tour of the local Christmas lights as more than 1500 people trace his every movement through 47 radar installations in Northern Canada and Alaska, alerting them to when Santa actually leaves the North Pole, and satellites at about 22,000 miles above the Earth with infrared sensors, which see the heat coming off of Rudolph’s nose. In addition, there high-speed digital SantaCams set up around the world to catch a glimpse of him passing by the different cities.
Written in the vein of The Night Before Christmas this is one that even older children will enjoy. While predominantly American and with several pages of explanations at the end, nevertheless it will resonate particularly with children whose family members are in the services.
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!
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.