An Aussie Night Before Christmas (10th Anniversary edition)
Scholastic Press, 2015
Twas the night before Christmas; there wasn’t a sound.
Not a possum was stirring; no-one was around.
We’d left on the table some tucker and beer,
Hoping that Santa Claus soon would be here…
So begins this iconic salute to Christmas in Australia drawing on the familiar sights and sounds of a night that is usually so hot and it’s hard to sleep because it’s still daylight outside, never mind ‘dreams of pavlova’ dancing around heads. And when there’s a ruckus outside that needs to be investigated, who would be surprised that it’s Santa in a rusty ute pulled by eight mighty kangaroos? Kangaroos called Kylie, Kirsty, Shazza and Shane, Kipper and Skipper, Bazza and Wayne?
There are many stories that put the Aussie spin on Christmas, but this is such a rollicking good yarn, funny and engaging that it’s no wonder this is a 10th anniversary edition and it is popping up all over the Internet in full, although the YouTube version loses some of its charm with the American accent and the change from ‘beer’ to ‘root beer’. Australian Santas drink real beer!
Accompanied by the distinctive illustrations of Kilmeny Niland, this is the perfect story to read to the little ones before they settle down, and the perfect story to end our Christmas Countdown for 2015.
An Aussie Day Before Christmas
32pp., hbk., RRP $A15.99
‘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.
Clarion Books, 2013
48pp., hbk., RRP $A33.99
Christmas time means it is time for the popular perennial performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker based on the original story by E. T. A. Hoffman and budding ballerina Tallulah is very excited as she has won a role as one of the mice. She is convinced she will be the best mouse ever and practises very diligently, turning down social invitations and inviting everyone she knows. Even when she discovers the role is more about scurrying around wriggling her paws rather than doing eye-catching ballet moves, she doesn’t get discouraged,
But on the night things don’t go according to her plan, and her performance is not what she dreamed it would be, so she scuttles off and hides, too ashamed to face even her family. And when the ballet master, Clara and the Sugar Plum fairy come looking for her she is sure her future as a ballerina is over before it gets started…
This is a story that will appeal to all those who aspire to being the Sugar Plum Fairy one day with its gentle but realistic storyline and charming watercolour illustrations. For those who are familiar with the story of The Nutcracker it takes on a new dimension and for those for whom this is new, not only will it help explain the prevalence of nutcracker decorations in stores at this time but it will also lead to one of the classic Christmas time stories, and perhaps even a performance of the ballet!
Worth tracking down for the ballerina who likes to read!
The Princess and the Christmas Rescue
Nosy Crow, 2017
32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99
Kept in her beautiful palace at the top of the world by parents who fear for her safety because of what lives in the surrounding forest, Princess Eliza is lonely But even though she is stuck inside all day with no one to play with, she is resourceful and she figures out how to make almost anything with a few bits of wood and some string — including her own toys! But her parents think that her mechanical inclinations aren’t suited to a princess, and tell her she’d be better off devoting her time to searching for a friend.
But not being allowed to go out into the world makes that a tricky thing, and even drawing on her fairytales doesn’t help – the gingerbread man skedaddles, the frog she kisses doesn’t turn into a prince and even dangling her long hair out the window brings no visitors. But as she sits at the window she smells smoke drifting over the trees and is determined to find out who is making it and she slips out into the forest. As a huge shaggy shape looms up out of the snow she is frightened but it turns out to be a friendly deer who carries to his master’s house where she finds elves who are overworked and despondent because Santa has the flu and they’re unlikely to finish all the orders before Christmas Eve.
But Eliza knows just what to do – at last all that time spent with paper and paperclips, scissors and glue comes in very handy… but can she save Christmas?
Recommended by A Mighty Girl for being a story that empowers girls and encourages them to be “smart, confident and courageous” this certainly meets these criteria. From defying her parents and going into the forest, demonstrating her inventive intelligence in an elves-and-shoemaker kind of way to save Christmas and yet still keeping her feet on the ground (sort of), this is a story that will appeal to girls everywhere and help take the sting from the word ‘princess’ that it has acquired over the last decade or so. Being clever, imaginative and inventive is not restricted to boys! And it could well be the springboard for kickstarting some problem-solving as Makerspaces need new life breathed into them at the beginning of 2018. Students could brainstorm the other sorts of problems that Santa might encounter as he tries to meet everyone’s requests and then they could invent something to solve them.
A joyful, fun story that will be a permanent part of my Christmas Countdown.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star
24pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…
So many of a certain generation recall this traditional rhyme from yesteryear and marvelled at how much one old lady could fit in her stomach. Even the somewhat brutal ending didn’t faze us because it was inevitable. Now Victorian author P. Crumble has taken this rhyme and built it into a series of hilarious editions that are so much fun for younger readers, encouraging them to read and recite them just for the delight of the words on their tongue and the pictures on their eyes.
So this one, newly released with 3D pictures and glasses, which features the old lady getting very greedy about Christmas, will be the perfect addition to Miss 6’s Santa Sack. And I’m so glad that even though she swallowed Santa Claus (to wild applause) there is a happy ending.
Rudolph Shines Again
Robert L. May
Antonio Javier Caparo
Little Simon, 2015
It’s a dark and snowy Christmas Eve so once again Santa wants Rudolph to lead the way for the sleigh as his nose shines bold and bright.
But the other reindeer are jealous and not content with just laughing at Rudolph and calling him names, they are really mean and make him carry the heaviest loads, even using him as the ball when they played football!
Rudolph is so sad and whinges and whines so much that the light on his nose goes out! With no reason to stay to help and full of self-pity, he leaves the comparative safety of the North Pole for somewhere where he is unknown and unrecognised. And there he meets some rabbits whose babies are lost in the forest and at the mercy of foxes and wolves. Completely forgetting his own troubles, Rudolph promises to find them – but can he do it without his shiny nose to light the way? Of course he does and with the rescue comes a realisation that is brighter than any nose could be!
Written in 1954, this is the sequel to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but unlike the original which May wrote to entertain children as part of a department store promotion, this one has a stronger message about there always being someone worse off than you, perhaps inspired by his family circumstances as his wife died from cancer as he worked on the original. While not necessarily the time for an in-depth discussion, nevertheless young children will feel Rudolph’s pain at being bullied and might think about the feelings of others that they tease. They will also draw encouragement from Rudolph being able to get things in perspective and go back to face his tormentors knowing that he is strong and has a lot to offer.
This new release is stunning with its beautiful artwork bringing another dimension to the story, also told in rhyme, and making a special duo of books for the Christmas Countdown.
The Little Christmas Elf
Nikki Shannon Smith
Little Golden Books, 2011
24pp., hbk., RRP $A4.99
At last Nina was old enough to join the team of elves at the worktable of Santa’s toyshop. Her task is to make a teddy bear but she is so meticulous it is unlikely that she will get it done in time – and she doesn’t. She is still sewing when Santa comes by to load up his sleigh and as all the other elves load their toys on to it, she is very despondent. But Santa tells her not to give up and so she perseveres, alone in the toyshop after all the others have gone. Resigned to it not being given to a child till the following year, she heads for bed when suddenly Santa reappears at the door…
A charming story about perseverance and resilience that will be a lovely bedtime story for the younger readers. The illustrations are very appealing and this will become a favourite of the Christmas Countdown.
The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas
Hodder Children’s, 2014
32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99
It’s Christmas Eve and when the Tooth Fairy gets a message from Robin Redbreast that Little Tim Tucker has lost a tooth, it puts an end to her hopes and plans for an early night at home. Outside a winter’s gale is blasting and she is tossed every which way, ending up lost. But in the distance she hears a strange sound and into sight comes Santa and his sleigh. He rescues her but that is not the end of her adventures… will Little Tim Tucker wake up to a nice surprise or will he be disappointed.
Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are such an integral part of the early lives of children the world over so to have two of the three team up and help each other has to be a good combination that will appeal to our very young children. Working together, Santa and the Tooth Fairy show that all sorts of problems can be overcome – each has skills and that special something that when put together as a team can solve all sorts of dilemmas.
Bright glossy pictures, imaginative layout and rhyme and rhythm move the story along making an original and intriguing adventure story that will delight as the Christmas Countdown continues.
One Christmas Eve
Black Dog, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
“One Christmas Eve, Grandpa puts on his best shirt, Bella passes him his favourite hat, and they wave goodbye to Gran. Together they walk along the tape measure streets and roundabout corners until there, before them, is Luna Park.
When Bella visits Luna Park on Christmas Eve with Grandpa, he hands her a single silver coin to use on a ride. Bella enjoys the excitement of the roller-coaster, the squeals from the ghost train ride and the laughter from the giggle palace, but she is drawn to the sparkling carousel and it’s here she spends her precious coin.
This is a nostalgic, charming story of Christmas in the less-hectic times of 1968 that will arouse memories with many as they share it with their children and grandchildren in this Christmas Countdown. Reminiscing about Christmas in a time that wasn’t so dominated by big, bold, bright and brassy -spent my 1968 Christmas coming to terms with the heat of Port Moresby – and just taking the time to enjoy the simple things. And regardless of the season, who hasn’t dreamed of a magical, mystical ride on one of the beautiful carousel horses and Fenton’s beautiful text and Crosby-Fairall’s stunning illustrations are a perfect match as we soar high above the clouds and discover the magic that is there. The power of imagination and dreams transcends all timeframes and generations.
One Christmas Eve was the focus of the Melbourne and Brisbane Myer Christmas windows for 2016 and these are now in Ballarat for 2017. Lucky are those in a position to go to see them!