An Aussie Night Before Christmas




 An Aussie Night Before Christmas

An Aussie Night Before Christmas











An Aussie Night Before Christmas (10th Anniversary edition)

Yvonne Morrison

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic Press, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A18.99



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.

The Jolly Christmas Postman




The Jolly Christmas Postman

The Jolly Christmas Postman











The Jolly Christmas Postman

Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Puffin, 2021

62pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


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. 

Spot’s Hide and Seek: A Pop-Up Book

Spot's Hide and Seek: A Pop-Up Book

Spot’s Hide and Seek: A Pop-Up Book











Spot’s Hide and Seek: A Pop-Up Book

Eric Hill

Puffin, 2023

8pp., board book, RRP $A16.99


 Over 40 years ago, in 1980, Eric Hill’s Where’s Spot? was the first ever lift-the-flap book – and his ground-breaking innovation continues to delight and surprise readers with interactive fun. Translated into over 60 languages and  selling over 65 million books worldwide,  Spot has now been a trusted character in early learning for generations.

In this new adventure Spot and his friends  Steve, Helen and Tom are playing hide-and-seek and little learners will enjoy lifting the flaps to discover who is hiding where. The interactivity shows them that there is so much fun to be found in print books, while parents recall happy memories of their own discoveries with the ageless little dog.  

No little learner’s library is complete without this series.

Edward the Emu 35th Anniversary Edition

Edward the Emu

Edward the Emu











Edward the Emu 35th Anniversary Edition

Sheena Knowles

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,

There was nowhere to go and 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 is going to be someone else entirely – he tries swimming with the seals, he spends a day lounging with the lions, and even slithers with the snakes – before realising that perhaps the thing he is best at is being himself.

This is an Australian children’s classic, first published 35 years ago, and one shared with so many classes and children in my care ever since.  The children always respond so well because apart from the storyline, its rhyme and rhythm and its glorious illustrations, it is one of the best stories ever for helping our young people understand that who they are and being that is enough.  And their turn to shine will come, even if the spotlight is on someone else right now.  Certainly, when I include a copy of it in a storybook cushion, parents buy it because they remember it as an integral part of their childhood story journey.

And there is even more fun if it is teamed with  Edwina the Emu, the sequel which follows Edward’s journey but with a focus on his mate who is also trying to find her identity.


Edwina the Emu

Edwina the Emu

These two stories are classic Australian children’s literature at its best – there is a message of being comfortable and confident about who you are but it is subtle and embedded first and foremost in an entertaining engaging story which has to be the primary focus of any author. No wonder they have stood the test of time and are still around to delight yet another generation.

Peter Rabbit: The Bedtime Bunny Hunt

Peter Rabbit: The Bedtime Bunny Hunt

Peter Rabbit: The Bedtime Bunny Hunt











Peter Rabbit: The Bedtime Bunny Hunt

Beatrix Potter

Puffin, 2023

24pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Peter Rabbit and his sisters have had a fun day playing outside, and now it’s time to go to sleep. But as everyone gets ready to say goodnight, Peter realises he’s missing something very important – his snuggly toy bunny has disappeared!

Will he be able to find it in time before bed?

For more than 120 years, the adventures of Peter Rabbit have been delighting generations of young readers, and now this is a new story in an interactive lift-the-flap format for another new batch of readers to enjoy.  Ever since Eric Hill invented the lift-the-flap format with Where’s Spot? over 40 years ago, it has become a go-to way of having young children actively engage with the text showing them the delights that both stories and print can offer.  So this charming adventure that has Peter searching for a number of things is sure to please, as well as introducing them to this timeless character. They will enjoy predicting whether what he is searching for is behind the flap, using their knowledge of what is likely to be there to confirm their suggestions.  What is most likely to be in the cake tin or in the bathroom drawer?

Finding the fun in the story, sharing it with someone who loves them, using the cues and clues to predict what is going to happen – these are all those essential early reading behaviours that are going to set our youngest ones up for success as readers and so the more of these sorts of books and experiences they can have, the better.  Another must-have character that every child needs to meet, and see on their bookshelves.  

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Lunch

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Lunch

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Lunch











The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Lunch

Eric Carle

Puffin, 2023

12pp., board book., RRP $A16.99



Remember that very hungry caterpillar that hatched from the egg lying on a leaf when the sun came up one Sunday morning? And then through the week he ate his way through an assortment of healthy fruit until on Saturday he pigged out on an array of goodies?  And then, that night had a stomach ache? 

Well, he’s back!  This time in a series of books that focus on the various meals of the day, in this case lunch.  Each day he has something different, with an emphasis on its colour but while there is the odd treat like a chocolate cookie, he shuns the sticky blue lollipops completely. And of course he finishes with a feast, but this time is is a multicoloured fruit salad!  

The emphasis on healthy choices permeates all four books, but each has a different focus – The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Breakfast has a counting theme; The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Dinner is about shapes; The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Snacks introduces opposites while The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Australian Feast is all about what special things a little one might take to a picnic on an Australian beach.  

The VHC has been a constant for generations of children for over 50 years and now another generation can delight in his continuing adventures and learn so much at the same time. 

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy











Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

Lynley Dodd

Puffin, 2023

36pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


Long, long ago in 2008 when I first began to review books for littlies, one of the first I wrote was this…

Remember this … “Out of the gate and off for a walk went Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy …” and by the time you got to the end of the book he had been joined by his mates Hercules Morse (as big as a horse; Bottomley Potts (covered in spots); Muffin McLay (like a bundle of hay); Bitzer Maloney (all skinny and bony); and Schnitzel von Krumm (with a very low tum). How proud and posh they were until they met …  Almost every child born in New Zealand or Australia in the last 25 years knows what happens next! Who could bring down such a bold band of brothers?

Children love the sound of the rhythmic and rhyming language and the repetition of the characters on each page which make it a perfect read-aloud  as your listeners will be joining in and eagerly anticipating who will join this canine crew., as well as enjoying the pictures which work with the text perfectly, as they should.

There are few children’s books that can celebrate their 25th anniversary, and even though it may make some of us feel really old, we must congratulate Lynley Dodd on this incredible achievement. Hairy Maclary is a timeless character, and I know from personal experience that he is just as popular with today’s littlies as he was with their parents.

And now that little scruffy Skye terrier is 40!!! 

First published in 1983, not only does he have his own entry in the official New Zealand History Nga korero a ipurangi o Aotearoa but he and his friends have their own statue in Tauranga (which regular readers of this blog will know that I chose to visit instead of going to Hobbiton.)


And befitting one of superior age and influence, this new release is an upsized edition all ready to entrance a whole new generation of readers – beginning their friendship with Hairy and all his friends through many adventures, as they enjoy one of the most iconic series for young readers ever written.  

When I wrote that first review, my son (with whom I shared the original) was sharing it with his Miss 2.  It is likely that by the time the next anniversary edition is released, she will be sharing it with her own children.  Four generations and counting… 


Mulga Bill’s Bicycle: 50th Anniversary Edition

Mulga Bills Bicycle

Mulga Bills Bicycle











Mulga Bill’s Bicycle: 50th Anniversary Edition

A. B. (Banjo) Paterson

Kilmeny Niland, Deborah Niland

HarperCollins, 2023

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


Twas Mulga Bill from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze’

He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;

He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen’

He hurried of to town and bought a shining new machine…”

But despite his boasting that “there’s none can ride like me”,  he finds getting on the penny-farthing difficult enough and that riding is nothing like he anticipated…

This is one of Banjo Paterson’s classics, an hilarious tale of misadventure, that was first brought to life for young readers by the illustrations of sisters Kilmeny and Deborah Niland in 1973 and has remained a favourite on library shelves for 50 years, often being the introduction to other works by Paterson for those same young readers. While Paterson’s words tell the story of Mulga Bill’s crazy ride, it is the action and expressions that have been captured in the illustrations that ensure the reader is totally immersed in the story, invested in the inevitable outcome – can anyone survive such an out-of-control ride?

While bicycles have certainly changed since this poem was first published in 1896, perhaps sparking an investigation into how they, or even transport and travel itself has evolved since then, Bill’s embracing the new technology remains the same for many.  There are always going to be the early adopters and the late bloomers and students might like to consider which they are and the pros and cons of each approach. Some have suggested that in the era that the poem was written, the “safety bicycle” would have been more common that the penny-farthing and that perhaps the illustrators used poetic licence with Paterson’s words to create something more appealing, opening opportunities to discuss whether it is okay to do this, or to rearrange historical events or geographical places and so forth to make a story more engaging.  Should the fiction have precedence over the facts? Some students may even have examples they can share as authors acknowledge their fiddling with the facts in many historical stories. 

Or they might just enjoy this 50th anniversary edition for the fun and laughter it evokes!  

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Picture Book

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Picture Book

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Picture Book











The Tale of Peter Rabbit Picture Book

Beatrix Potter

Warne, 2023

32pp., boar book., RRP $A16.99


In 1902 publishers Frederick Warne & Co. took a punt on publishing a children’s book that had been privately printed but rejected by other publishers.  

Not only were the stories of Peter Rabbit and the infamous Mr McGregor’s garden were available to children around the world, but also their iconic format of small books with white covers, glossy pages and lots of white space around the pictures and text.  In 2022, a new edition with a splendid gold cover was released to mark the 120th anniversary of that first publication, and now it is available in board book format so little hands can read it for themselves, over and over. .  

As with the 2022 edition, this is the original tale with Peter at his most adventurous, cheekiest and lovable self as he wriggles into Mr. McGregor’s garden, with Beatrix Potter’s original text and her beautifully engaging illustrations.

When it was first released, creator Beatrix Potter patented a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and followed it almost immediately with a Peter Rabbit board game. becoming one of the first to introduce broader merchandise to accompany the core product and thus Peter has featured on a range of goods for both children and adults, including toys, dishes, foods, clothing, and movies, thus establishing his familiarity and popularity with succeeding generations.  

If you, or someone you know, is establishing a library of must-have children’s classics, then this is an essential. And having whet the appetite, continue to share the joy with the others in her repertoire

Book 1: The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)
Book 2: The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903)
Book 3: The Tailor of Gloucester (1903)
Book 4: The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904)
Book 5: The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904)
Book 6: The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (1905)
Book 7: The Tale of The Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905)
Book 8: The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (1906)
Book 9: The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906)
Book 10: The Story of Miss Moppet (1906)
Book 11: The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907)
Book 12: The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908)
Book 13: The Tale of Samuel Whiskers (1908)
Book 14: The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909)
Book 15: The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909)
Book 16: The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse (1910)
Book 17: The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911)
Book 18: The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912)
Book 19: The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913)
Book 20: Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes (1917)
Book 21: The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918) 
Book 22: Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes (1922)
Book 23: The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930)

And don’t forget the recently-discovered Book 24 – The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots.

Few children’s stories have withstood the test of time and generations for 120 years, and so that in itself is testament to the quality of the story, its illustrations and its popularity.  It truly deserves the tag of “classic”. 

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear












Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Lindsay Mattick

Sophie Blackall

Little Brown, 2015

56pp., hbk



Cole asks his mother for a bedtime story – a true one about a bear.  And it just so happens that Lindsay Mattick is the great-great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, a Canadian vet who, in 1914, was conscripted to join the war effort to look after the soldiers’ horses. On his way to the training ground far from his native Winnipeg, the train pulls into a station and Harry spies a baby bear on a rope held by a trapper who is unlikely to raise him and love him as Harry did all animals.  After a lot of thought, twenty dollars changes hands and Harry finds himself back on the train with the bear cub and a lot of curious mates and one astonished colonel.  But the bear whom Harry has named Winnie after his home town, wins over the troops and she soon establishes herself as the regiment’s mascot. 

Winnie travels with the soldiers to England, but when it is time for them to embark for France, Harry knows Winnie can not go.  So he leaves Winnie at The London Zoo where she is loved by hundreds of children including a certain little boy named Christopher Robin Milne – and from there a whole other story begins.

2016 winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children, this is a charming story that has that intimacy of a story shared between mother and child. Beautifully illustrated by Sophie Blackall with meticulously researched details in muted watercolour and ink colours which reflect the mood and emotions, it also contains photos of Harry with Winnie and other memorabilia that demonstrate the authenticity of the tale.    The conversations between the narrator and her son which are interspersed throughout the story not only add to its reality but also make it more than just a non-fiction recount.  With its undertones of A. A. Milne’s writing, and the final pages that trace the lineage of Harry Colebourne to Cole, this is a very personal account that is as engaging as it is interesting. Because she is telling the story to her own young son, there are several occasions where she chooses her words very carefully so he will not be upset and this then makes it suitable as a read-aloud for even the youngest of listeners. 

One of many stories published to coincide with  the centenary of World War 1 continues, there are many stories commemorating the contribution that a whole range of creatures made to the conflict, but this one with its direct ties to the beloved character of Winnie-the-Pooh which all children know, is one that will linger in the mind for a long time.  

You could also trace Winnie’s story with Christopher Robin from the time he first appeared in A A. Milne’s anthology, When We Were Very Young, as a poem called Teddy Bear …

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.

Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: “If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?”
He thought: “It really isn’t fair
To grudge one exercise and air.”For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
“Is quite” (he said) “as fat as me!”
Then, with a still more moving sigh,
“I mean” (he said) “as fat as I!

Now Teddy, as was only right,
Slept in the ottoman at night,
And with him crowded in as well
More animals than I can tell;
Not only these, but books and things,
Such as a kind relation brings –
Old tales of “Once upon a time,”
And history retold in rhyme.

One night it happened that he took
A peep at an old picture-book,
Wherein he came across by chance
The picture of a King of France
(A stoutish man) and, down below,
These words: “King Louis So and So,
Nicknamed ‘The Handsome!'” There he sat,
And (think of it!) the man was fat!

Our bear rejoiced like anything
To read about this famous King,
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” There he sat,
And certainly the man was fat.
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” Not a doubt
The man was definitely stout.
Why then, a bear (for all his tub )
Might yet be named “The Handsome Cub!”

“Might yet be named.” Or did he mean
That years ago he “might have been”?
For now he felt a slight misgiving:
“Is Louis So and So still living?
Fashions in beauty have a way
Of altering from day to day.
Is ‘Handsome Louis’ with us yet?
Unfortunately I forget.
Next morning (nose to window pane)

The doubt occurred to him again.
One question hammered in his head:
“Is he alive or is he dead?”
Thus, nose to pane, he pondered; but
The lattice window, loosely shut,
Swung open. With one startled “Oh!”
Our Teddy disappeared below.”

There happened to be passing by
A plump man with a twinkling eye,
Who, seeing Teddy in the street,
Raised him politely to his feet,
And murmured kindly in his ear
Soft words of comfort and of cheer:
“Well, well!” “Allow me!” “Not at all.”
“Tut-tut! A very nasty fall.”

Our Teddy answered not a word;
It’s doubtful if he even heard.
Our bear could only look and look:
The stout man in the picture-book!
That ‘handsome’ King – could this be he,
This man of adiposity?
“Impossible,” he thought. “But still,
No harm in asking. Yes I will!”

“Are you,” he said, “by any chance
His Majesty the King of France?”
The other answered, “I am that,”
Bowed stiffly, and removed his hat;
Then said, “Excuse me,” with an air,
“But is it Mr Edward Bear?”
And Teddy, bending very low,
Replied politely, “Even so!”

They stood beneath the

window there,
The King and Mr Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that….
Then said His Majesty, “Well, well,
I must get on,” and rang the bell.
“Your bear, I think,” he smiled. “Good-day!”
And turned, and went upon his way.

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about –
He’s proud of being short and stout.

Or listen to this 1929 sound recording by the Dominion Gramophone Company in which Milne reads the third chapter of his classic, “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle,” or the movie A Bear Named Winnie with Stephen Fry and Michael Fassender. 
Of all the stories written about teddy bears over the generations, the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear are arguably the most enduring and to discover that Winne was real, and had a life and following long before Disney discovered it, will delight both young and not-so-young.  A must-have book for any fan. 
Originally published February 16, 2016
Updated February 2023