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 still available nearly 20 years since it was first published.
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.
‘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.
The Jolly Postman has a busy day ahead. It’s Christmas Eve in Fairy-Tale Land and there’s plenty of post for him to deliver! There’s a card for Baby Bear, a game appropriately called ‘Beware’ for Red Riding Hood from Mr Wolf, a get-well jigsaw for Humpty Dumpty and many more! But, can he deliver it all by Christmas?
In 1986 we were introduced to The Jolly Postman, who delivered the mail around Fairy-Tale Land and tucked into tiny envelopes were actual letters like a letter of apology for the three bears from Goldilocks, a postcard from Jack for the giant, and a solicitor’s letter on behalf of Little Red Riding-Hood for the wolf who ate grandma. Five year later we were treated to the Christmas version and more than 30 years on this is still delighting a new generation as they eagerly await both Christmas and perhaps the postman bringing something special for them. As well as introducing them to the concept of printed cards and letters and so forth, disappearing so rapidly in these days of digital communication that Australia Post is cutting back to every-other-day delivery, it offers opportunities for them to create something special for their favourite character from the world of stories. In fact, the book has been so popular, that a quick internet search brings up many suggestions for activities that will keep little ones occupied during those times when parents are so busy.
A Christmas classic that deserves its place in any collection.
Each year as our youngest readers anticipate all the excitement of THE day, there are times when parents just need to sit them down and share a story so they can all regroup and regather. And so they are blessed with a plethora of story books featuring favourite and familiar characters. This year’s selection is stellar with stories from four of the most sought-after series for young children – Peppa Pig, Peter Rabbit, the Very Hungry Caterpillar and the wonderful 10 Minutes to Bed series. Three of them – Peppa Pig, Very Hungry Caterpillar and 10 Minutes are interactive with flaps to lift and surprises to discover while Peter Rabbit is yet another charming story of his adventures.
Those looking for a special gift to engage their little ones and encourage the joy of being able to return to the fun again and again so they can tell themselves the story, are blessed with this superb collection.
It is more than 10 years since a generation of newly-independent readers, predominantly girls, were introduced to Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones, a highly opinionated independent student as a boarder at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies. Since then she has gone on to have so many more adventures in her books, , a movie and even her own web presence.
Now she is back in a new story that focuses on Christmas at the boarding school but with decorations disappearing and the shelves of local stores empty of the usual Christmas treats, clearly there is mischief afoot and a mystery to be solved. And who better to tackle it than Alice and her friends?
This could be an amazing gift for the young reader because for those who already know Alice-Miranda it’s a seasonal story that will reunite them with their hero, and for those who are reading her story for the first time it opens up a world of new reading for the summer holidays and coming year. Over the years, Jacquie Harvey has introduced readers to a number of great characters like Clementine Rose, Kensy and Max and, more recently, Willa and her dog Woof, all in series so the reader gets to know the characters, resonate with their adventures and anticipate the next one so if I were starting 2024 in a school library she would be the first in my Focus on Authors feature. There is something for everyone across the school.
For many, Christmas brings to mind images of decorated trees twinkling with lights; a jolly, fat man in a red suit bringing gifts; family seated around a table eating turkey and trimmings and…
But there are as many choices to make about how Christmas can be celebrated as there are families in the world, and this amazing book brings together many of them in a unique way that encourages the young reader to pick and choose their own adventure through this time.
Written in rhyme, each double spread has a different focus on the general commonalities of the season such as the advent calendar, decorating the tree, Santa’s workshop, or choosing gifts and then there are a multitude of things that the child can choose, either those that are familiar or maybe making up a different story. For example, would they send a Christmas card with a picture of La Befana or a pohutukawa tree, a “snowman” made of sand or 13 mischievous “Yule Lads”? Similarly, what might be on their Christmas menu? Indeed, when would they have it?
A peek inside…
Apart from being an entertaining way to get the child to engage with the book, it is also an opportunity to show them that there are many ways to celebrate, and that what might be familiar to them may be foreign to the family next-door. But there is no right way or only way. They might even like to think about the things that other families do that they would like to try, and consider which of the things their family does that they will share with their own children in years to come.
This is the latest in this series which is celebrating its 21st birthday, one that has endured because the young reader can return to it time and time again and have a new, unique experience each time as they not only learn to make choices and decisions but have the power to do so..
Bluey and Christmas – can there be a better combination to put together into an interactive book for a surefire winner for a Christmas gift that will not only entertain but will educate at the same time?
Christmas in Australia is very different to the Christmas so often featured in children’s books and other entertainment at this time of the year, and so all the things that are familiar to our kids are featured in double-paged interactive spreads that encourage the young reader to engage with them. Time in the pool, putting up the tree, playing backyard cricket, relaxing at the beach – each has its place with items to find in the pictures ensuring little ones continue to develop their visual acuity as they look at the details in the illustrations.
A peek inside
Then if the days to wait seem too long. offer them Bluey’s Christmas Craft so brains and fingers are engaged in making and doing all sorts of Christmassy things that can become their contribution to the celebrations. Step-by=step guides offer all sorts of things that can be made from candy cane bunting to designing their own Christmas rashie to building an entire gnome village.
Leo LOVES Christmas. And this Christmas needs to be absolutely perfect, because it’s the first one without Mum. Only it all keeps going wrong!
The fairylights are in a tangle The Christmas cards aren’t finished The tree isn’t decorated And the Christmas cakes have all been destroyed!
Soon Leo decides he’s had enough – he makes a heartfelt wish that it would all GO AWAY. But, then when he wakes up on what SHOULD be Christmas Day – it’s gone!! All of Christmas! But Leo isn’t going to let it escape that easily . . . So Leo sets out on a mission to undo his wish and get Christmas back.
With a premise that will sadly resonate with some of our students and who just wish they could sleep through this festive family time, this is a story that might provide a little relief in those long days where every emotion and activity is tinged with the sense of loss.
Written for independent readers who enjoy funny stories by actor and comedian Matt Lucas, this is unique in that there are QR codes to scan so the reader can listen to the songs included as the story progresses. (For those without the technology, all the lyrics are included at the end of the book.) It is also liberally illustrated so the thickness of the book shouldn’t daunt young readers,
Definitely a story of being careful about what you wish for but one that might add some joy to a tricky time.
Every year in December
Christmas lights go up ’round here.
I wait up late till it’s darker
to see them in the moonlight.
While Christmas for many is all about Santa Claus and cold, wintry days, in Australia it signals the beginning of the long summer holidays and all the fun of those. So many children’s stories focus on that northern hemisphere experience that it is refreshing to share one that has an Australian focus and features all the things that are familiar to our families. So while there are the traditional things like trees and lights and food, the illustrations give them a very Aussie flavour, staying up late to see the lights as darkness falls, swinging on the clothesline, running through the sprinkler, trying to hear yourself over the cicadas’ song, even those pesky mossies that come to spoil the fun.
Something for little ones to relate to when the winter stuff is so foreign, and something to spark conversations about why the two versions of Christmas are so different, even why we still do so much of that northern stuff as we recreate snow-covered pine trees and and other cold-climate fantasies.
Welcome to the most magical night of the year! Santa’s house is a hive of activity As the elves prepare for all the festivity.
Reading the letters is a very big task Have you been good? Santa will ask.
Santa’s workshop is bursting with toys All sorts of treasures for girls and for boys.
This is a magical book for young children as it unwraps like a present to form a large mat picture that takes the reader on a journey from Santa’s workshop to their own living room! Each fold reveals more of the story and builds the anticipation making it something special that they will return to again and again because even without the words they will be able to tell themselves the story.