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Fancy Pants

Fancy Pants

Fancy Pants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fancy Pants

Kelly Hibbert

Amanda Graham

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90

9780994385352

Once a year the Outback Dance is held near Bunyip’s Bluff

Where animals in fancy pants arrive to strut their stuff…

Dingo loves to dance under the desert’s night sky but he doesn’t have any fancy pants -just his regular coat and while he pretends not to care, deep down he really does.  

Meanwhile all the other outback creatures are preparing for the big night, although not without some difficulty.  Poor Emu is more suited to scarves – pants are not her thing while Bilby’s britches are still on the line and Kangaroo falls over in his and tears a big hole in them!  Wombat seems to have gained some weight since the last dance, Koala has too many choices and makes a big mess and poor Cockatoo is just bamboozled about how a bird can fit into pants!  Only Frill-Neck Lizard seems comfortable, looking like something straight from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!

But eventually everyone gets themselves sorted, meeting together near Wombat’s place – and then Dingo turns up in just his coat.  At first the animals are concerned for their safety but then when he says that his coat is all he has, Kangaroo breaks the hush that has fallen…

February 16 is World Read Aloud Day and what better way to celebrate than with a rollicking, rhyming yarn that will not only entertain young readers with its humour and bright pictures, but will also allow them to hear the sounds and rhythms of our language and join in the delight that stories give.  

Who hasn’t had the dilemma of what to wear to a party and then found that their choice doesn’t work – it’s too small, it’s in the wash, it has a scratchy tag, it’s ripped, it’s just not right somehow?  And who has felt awkward and awful  about not having a costume when everyone else is in fancy dress? Not only will young readers resonate with the situations in this story but it will also help think about Dingo and how he might be feeling and how they might respond if this was one of their friends.  Would they poke fun, making him feel more miserable than he already is, or is there a better way?  And what if they were Dingo with no fancy pants to wear?  Would they decide to stay home or wrap themselves in a cloak of resilience and go anyway?  

Team it with the 1988 classic Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi and Ron Barrett and have them design their own fancy dress for the story by giving them “paper doll” cutouts that they have to dress, encouraging them to think about size and structure and fit. Talk about why humans wear clothing, why our clothes are so different, national costumes, fashion, and a host of other related topics.  

While illustrator Amanda Graham has many books under her belt, this is the first work of an experienced primary school teacher and to another teacher’s eye it reflects so much of what we know attracts youngsters to the printed word including a strong underlying theme that opens up lots of discussions that will help children think beyond the words and pictures on the page.  A book that will be read again and again and which enables a new pathway to be explored each time.

This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Banjo Paterson

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642278982

The final verse of one of Australia’s most iconic poems reads…

And down by Kosciuszko, where the pine-clad ridges raise

Their torn and ragged battlements on high,

Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze

At midnight in the clear and frosty sky,

And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway

To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,

The man from Snowy River is a household word today,

And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

But what is also “a household word today” is the name of the man who wrote those words – A. B. (Banjo) Paterson.

In this brand new book, written and illustrated especially for younger readers, Tania McCartney and Christina Booth tell the story of a man whose legacy of stories of life in the Australian bush told in rich, evocative language and distinctive rhyme and rhythm lives on more than 150 years since his birth. 

Born on February 17 1864 and named Andrew Barton Paterson he was known to his family and friends as Barty, the eldest of seven children in a typical rural Australian family of the time.  He grew up with a deep love of horses, particularly one called Banjo, and even when he moved to the city to attend high school and later become a journalist and a war correspondent, he never lost his love of the bush.

There is more than a hint of truth in the words of Clancy of the Overflow…

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,

And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city

Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all…

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy

Like to take a turn at droving, where the seasons come and go…

But the focus of this book is not Paterson’s poems but his life, particularly that of his childhood and the influences and circumstances that shaped him, his writing and his subsequent place in our literature, history and hearts. Tania has drawn on a plethora of rich research material, much of it held in the National Library of Australia, to present this story so that even this year’s Kindy kids who may well be learning the words of Waltzing Matilda for the very first time, can be inspired to not only know about the person who wrote them but also to see that they weren’t created overnight by a grown-up who just decided to write them,. Instead it was the stuff of the poet’s childhood and the things he learned as he grew up that made him able to write so richly, and maybe they can acknowledge their own talents and build on them. Perhaps, even at their young age they are good at words or drawing or making things and they can follow that passion now – they don’t have to wait to be a grown-up.

“Even children in early education need to be exposed to inspiring and life-altering stories of real life people that once so deeply affected–and continue to do so–our lives, our history and where we are going.” (McCartney, 2017)

What sets this book apart from others on the same topic and with a similar audience is the parallel visual storyline that accompanies it in Christina’s watercolour illustrations.  These are not just mere depictions of Paterson’s life that add a visual element to the words – these add extra layers to the words by showing kids of the 21st century playing in the backyard and doing the modern-day equivalent of what Banjo would have done in his time. Drawing on their own childhoods (and that of nearly every other child in the world), McCartney and Booth went back to the world of dress-ups, role-play and story-telling, further underlining the concept that this is as much a story of the reader’s life and dreams as it is that of Paterson’s.  Immediately there is a connection not just between prose and illustration but also between creators and reader, a connection that is vital to engage the mind and the imagination and the what-if.  (You can read more of the thinking behind the illustrations here.)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The first collaboration between McCartney and Booth was This is Captain Cook and I venture to say that this will be as well-received and as successful. As well as the factual material and excerpts from poems that are included at the back (as is common with books published by the National Library), Tania is currently running a virtual launch of the book on her blog where the backstory of the book’s creation is being told.  Day 6 includes links to some great resources as well as comprehensive teachers’ notes linked to the K-3 Australian Curriculum  There is also a free real-life launch at the NLA in Canberra on February 11  or for those not near the national capital you can join Tania on Periscope on Friday 17 February at 1pm AEDST, where she will be chatting about the book live from the National Library, and showing various priceless Banjo Paterson items, along with original artwork by Christina Booth!

 

And, as an added extra, for those of you are fans of Paterson and his work there is the Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival in Orange, NSW from February 16-26, 2017 or you can visit his childhood home.

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.

All I Want for Christmas is You

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All I Want for Christmas Is You

All I Want for Christmas Is You

All I Want for Christmas Is You

Mariah Carey

Colleen Madden

Doubleday, 2015

32pp., hbk.

9780399551390

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!

 

 

 

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

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The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

Michael Keane

Michael Garland

Regency Kids, 2015

40pp., hbk.

9781621573982

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Night Before Christmas

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The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Before Christmas

Clement Clarke Moore

Helen Magisson

New Frontier, 2016

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

9781925059700

 

Since early in the 19th century when the poem was first written, reading The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve has become a ritual for families around the world.  So iconic has it become that many of the rituals that we continue to associate with this special period originated within its lines, including the fact that Santa arrives on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

No Christmas Countdown collection would be complete without at least one version of this poem so this new one, beautifully interpreted in pictures by French-Australian illustrator Helen Magisson is the perfect addition.  

Like many homes at this time, excitement abounds and getting the grandies off to sleep on that night of nights is tricky.  But they have learned over the years, that after we have put the special magic key out for Santa and checked the sky one last time that we then sit together and share this classic as the bedtime tradition.  They are quite happy to snuggle down and close their eyes and pretend they are sleeping (even though they are secretly staying awake to listen for hooves on our tin roof) and in no time at all they are.

So, if you want to start such a routine and don’t have a version of this in your collection, or are looking for a new one, this is the pick of those I’ve seen this year. 

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!

Five Little Elves

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Five Little Elves

Five Little Elves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Little Elves

Dan Yaccarino

HarperFestival, 2016

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

9780062253385

 

Five little elves sitting on a sled,

The first one said, “Where’s the man in red?”

With the concept of Elf on a Shelf gaining such ground in the homes of those with little people – the perfect spy for Santa – this timely release of this traditional rhyme in board book format is a perfect addition to the Christmas stocking of the very young.  With its rhyme and rhythm and bold, bright illustrations it is definitely one for sharing over and over, helping even the tiniest ones start to learn the nuances of our language and the joy of story. At the same time, being a board book, it is sturdy enough to be placed in those tiny hands and survive the explorations that they and teeth will make.

Board books are an ideal way to introduce children to the love of reading as having heard the story in a safe, loving relationship, their format allows them to be handled and sucked and chewed as the little one begins to exercise their own power over the story. Even though they might not yet be able to read the words for themselves, may even be too young to join familiar rhymes and stories, being able to handle and manipulate the book itself is a huge step in that early reading journey.

Many publishers have  produced board books for Christmas – some are familiar stories reproduced such as the charming Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell; some feature characters like Elmer, Clifford and Maisy with whom the children are already familiar; others like That’s Not My Elf offer a textural element while others like Dear Santa are just new stories published in a format that will appeal. Whatever their foundation, each serves the very real purpose of enchanting very young children with the pleasure that comes from sharing a story, one that speaks to them of the best time of the year and offers delight and satisfaction.

A friend (an expert in children’s reading and literature) Kerry Neary, who has been known to wander shopping centres at Christmas time to give board books to the young children he sees in an endeavour to start their love of reading as early as he can, has compiled a collection of well-loved stories in board book form. At least one of them should find their way into the stocking of a toddler you know this Christmas. These are all available from Book Depository as well as bookstores but he emphasises it is only a selection, rather than a definitive collection.  To Kerry, to me and to all  those with a passion for having children love reading from the get-go, any book popped into the stocking and shared is a bonus.

bb17 bb16 bb15 bb14
bb13 bb12 bb11 bb10
bb9 bb8 bb7 bb6
bb5 bb4 bb3 bb2
bb1 bb18 bb19 bb20

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.