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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!

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.

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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.

 

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

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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

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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 …

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Rhonda Gowler Greene

Daniel Kirk

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408881668

Over by the dirt pile all the heavy machinery is lined up ready for another hard days’ work on the construction site.   Bulldozers, diggers, loaders, graders – they are all there in this charming counting rhyme that will hold appeal for preschoolers.  Using onomatopoeia and lots of movement, little ones will be encouraged to join in as the machines work and don’t stop till night falls and it is time to rest.  They will love counting each of the baby machines and anticipating how many there will be next.

Each machine has a mama or papa surrounded by all the little ones learning what to do, a pictorial metaphor for our own little ones as they, too, are dependent on their parents as role models.  “Children learn what they live” is so well demonstrated! Readers will enjoy thinking about the job each machine does and how they all have a special task to do while they work together to get the job done. They can examine the specialist role of each machine and how it is specially designed for its role and perhaps start laying the foundations of an engineering interest.

Bright, colourful and charming, this will fit very well in the Santa sack!

Edward the Emu (mini-book)

Edward the Emu

Edward the Emu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward the Emu

Sheena Knowles

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2016

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

9781460753514

Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,

There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do,

And compared to the seals that lived right next door,

Well being an emu was frankly a bore.

And so Edward decides he will be a seal, and when that doesn’t work out he thinks he would like to be a lion, and then a python until it becomes clear that when you are an emu, that really is the best thing to be.  

Companion to Edwina the Emu and perfectly illustrated by Rod Clement, this is always the go-to book to kickstart a fun storytime and a discussion about being yourself, and that we all have special attributes that make us unique, different but just as important as anyone else. Nearly 30 years since its original publication it sits solidly in the realm of Australian classics for children and now, reprinted in mini-book format so it is the perfect size for little hands, its popularity will peak again.

A must-have in every child’s library.

First Day at Bug School

First Day at Bug School

First Day at Bug School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day at Bug School

Sam Lloyd

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408868805

 

At the bottom of the garden
where no one really sees,
a secret school is hidden
amongst the grass and weeds.

And it is the first day of school for all the little bugs that live in the garden.  Spiders have to learn the pitfalls to avoid like climbing up waterspouts, crickets need to know their new song for the summer, ladybirds have to learn to count spots and all of the other things that go with the first day of school, under the watchful, caring eye of Miss Bumblebee.

With a new school year just over the horizon for many of our pre-schoolers this is a delightful story in rhyme that will help them allay their nerves and they start the what-ifs  and their anxiety begins to build.  The illustrations show each bug as a friendly individual (even the spiders) and the idea that school is fun threads its way through helping to quell questions and nerves.

One to add to your preschool collection to be shared as the term moves on – the children might even like to think of a favourite bug and decide what it is they would have to learn.  Would a centipede have to know how to tie shoelaces? 

Was Not Me

Was Not Me

Was Not Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was Not Me

Shannon Horsfall

HarperCollins 2016

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

9781460752463

When there is a big mess in the house, Not Me is the cause.  When the bathroom is flooded after battles fought with tough pirates, Not Me is responsible.  When the garden is trashed because masses of monkeys have been chased away, it’s Not Me’s fault.  And when the bed breaks because it’s been used by a circus tumbler, Not Me has done it again.

This is a funny and familiar story about a little boy and his invisible twin brother Not Me whom he holds accountable whenever something that is done that makes his mum cross.  Young readers will resonate with its invisible friend theme but they will also like the ending which exposes the real culprit. As well as the rhyming text which invites the reader to join in with “Not ME”, the pictures cleverly incorporate the leg of Not Me running off to the next page to cause some more mischief and inviting us to tag along.  And although we don’t see mum looking cross and cranky, we do see the little boy looking very sheepish and remorseful and you just know that he will own up to the devilment because mums ALWAYS know!

A charming debut story for this new author-illustrator.