Jackie and Bruce are always a formidable team, and their picture books are always memorable and en pointe despite the setting, theme or plot. In this instance, while the narrative reflects a period past – one of many tough times in Australian history, when drought, lack of finances, insecurity over livelihood and home and challenges rise up to face ordinary people – the intent and message does not deviate from today’s uncertainties for many families.
After two years of increasingly worrying social circumstances, many are feeling the strain which is imposing on relationships, family bonds, workplaces and financial security (not wealth). It is hard to focus on the true meaning of life, and indeed the spirit of Christmas – and I do not refer to that in a religious sense – when you are afraid you won’t meet your next mortgage or rent payment or be able to buy groceries let alone gifts.
I don’t think I am alone when I think that for many children the wonder and magic of Christmas has diminished in our times, but I also believe that it is children who, more often than not, ‘get’ the message and import of what is meant by the Christmas spirit. I truly think that the majority of kiddos have an innate sense of generosity and also ‘fairness’ – that it is not fair for some to have much and others to have little. And that latter, in itself, is a relative concept.
For Joey and Ellie, in the drought of 1932, droving cattle with so little in the way of resources and what must be so sickeningly worrying for their parents, Christmas is still a special time. Ellie is old enough to realise that perhaps Christmas won’t happen as it should in normal circumstances but Joey has all the confidence of one who knows the secret of magic. And so it comes to pass, that the children meet with Bill Darcy, someone who has long ignored Christmas as often happens after tragic personal loss, and while by today’s often extravagant terms, their shared Christmas is modest, it is still a triumph of spirit and giving.
This, of course, is a must for any collection and will make its way to your list of top Christmas titles to share with your little folk, or to gift to small people in your circle. Another splendid offering from this remarkable pair of creators – to whom I wish a very Merry Christmas, with many thanks for all that you give us, as educators, and the children we teach.
Highly recommended for littlest ones upwards 5 years+.
It’s been a rather hectic time the past month or so. A new school, a new job always presents its challenges and a special kind of tiredness but in this – dare I say – year of unprecedented circumstances, perhaps even moreso. While I’ve done a fair bit of reading after crawling into bed exhausted each night, weekends have been so full that time to write reviews has been at a premium. Now I’m ready to rock and roll again and so I’m kicking off with a swag of Christmas books, both new and older – most for your little peeps but one for the discerning grown-ups as well.
Christmas Tales – William McInnes
OCT 27, 2020 | 9780733644733 | RRP $32.99
No doubt you know William for his extensive acting career but if you haven’t had the joy of reading any of his books why not make a start with this one? Of course, I am a little biased given our shared Redcliffe connection as well as the fact that I’ve had the joy of meeting him several times but he really is a supremely acute observer and hilarious raconteur which makes his memoir writing just delicious.
I can’t help it if I’m a boring conservative dag, but I love Christmas, always have and hopefully always will. Whatever brand of faith you fly under, even if you proclaim you don’t have one, Christmas is a time of generosity, good citizenship and decency.
This is a collection of anecdotes about celebrating Christmas as a child, a young man and now an older adult with many references to our home town but also peeks into other settings. All are laced with William’s own brand of quintessentially laconic larrikin humour and his unfailing ability to pinpoint the kernel of hilarity in each situation. Naturally I particularly loved the many insights into Christmas times in Redcliffe past but the acerbity is not confined to these.
Anyone with a fancy for some light and witty reading will love this – Australian readers will recognise many of the ‘types’ in characters and situations described but I would also suggest that if you have overseas friends to whom you gift, this would make a truly epic present. Of course, buying oneself a treat is always completely justified as well. For whatever reason, this is one to put on your ‘must read’ list.
Get in the hammock or deck chair or simply sprawl on a beach towel beside the sea (can’t go past Moreton Bay!) and soak up the happiness.
Highly recommended for anyone with a sense of humour – or those who need to acquire one!
Slinky Malinki’s Christmas 1 2 3 – Lynley Dodd
Even the Kid still loves Slinky Malinki the adorable scamp of a cat – possibly because our Whiskers closely resembles him!
For the little ones beginning their wondrous journey of books this delightful counting book in board format will make an excellent stocking stuffer.
We put our tree up over the weekend and because it hasn’t had an airing for two years we wondered how the cats would react, especially the kitten – so far, so good! But Slinky of course has other ideas. Tiny readers will delight in watching this rascally cat work his way up the tree pouncing on ornaments. Spotting the ornaments on the full illustration of the tree will add some fun for those a little older.
It goes without saying that Dame Lynley’s delightful illustrations will provide much enjoyment for both small and big people sharing the book.
Highly recommended for tiny humans from 0-5 years old.
The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit – Emma Thompson
Imprint: Warne ISBN: 9780241427279
First published 2013 and this edition 2018
The joy that is Peter Rabbit continues over a hundred years since his original creation by Beatrix Potter – witness the huge success of the recent movies. Emma Thompson, award-winning acress and screenwriter, has taken up the challenge of continuing the legacy left us by B.P. in the most charming way.
‘Rabbits are always very uppity during the Christmas season, and Peter Rabbit was no exception.’
We all know Peter has a talent for mischief and when he pairs up with his cousin Benjamin, even more so! But we also know he is essentially a very kind little bunny and when the pair make a new friend, William the turkey, they are shocked to find out that the bird is intended for Mr MacGregor’s Christmas dinner. Of course, they are not going to let that happen!
Emma Thompson’s continuation of Peter’s adventures is a loving tribute to the style of the original books and the delightful illustrations by Eleanor Taylor likewise reflect the charm of those of Beatrix Potter. A beautiful hardback edition with both dust jacket and binding so superb it’s hard to decide which I like best – and the most adorable endpapers, this is one to make a little person very happy indeed.
If you are searching for a special gift for a newly independent reader this is one that will be treasured and re-visited with great love.
Highly recommended for readers from around 4 years to 8 years old.
What Do You Wish For? – Jane Godwin & Anna Walker
Imprint: Picture Puffin
Originally published in 2015 and then re-issued in softcover some years later this is book which begs to be brought out each Christmas and perhaps, this year, more than ever. Read here for Jane’s own reflections on the inspiration for the book and her thoughts about gratitude.
Ruby loves the magic of Christmas – the fun and the lights, the presents and the baking and of course, Christmas wishes. But while the other children in the street are busily writing their wishes for the special wishing tree, Ruby decides to write down all the things that make Christmas truly magical. As we know, and try to impart to our little people, the true meaning of the festive season goes well beyond the fripperies and fun.
To encourage your readers to think more deeply about the real spirit of Christmas, definitely add this one to your list.
Highly recommended for readers from around 6 years upwards.
The First Christmas – illustrated by Jess Racklyeft
Being in a Christian school my library team and I feel it is particularly important to have a collection that reflects the spirituality that imbues our whole curriculum. This year we had commented that many of our books for little people were very tired-looking and certainly lacked engaging appeal – and had decided that a goal for next year is to improve this situation.
This absolutely charming picture book captures the essence of wonder and amazement that is the Nativity and is definitely one we will be promoting in our re-vamped collection. Retold simply and celebrating the true spirit of Christmas as well as the hope and joy brought to the world over 2 000 years ago, this is a modern classic which should be standard fare for any library collection as well as home bookshelves.
There are stunning double spreads as well as smaller illustrations all emphasising the idea of family at the heart of this event – a notion that surely continues today and particularly this year when so many families have struggled with separations and disappointments.
Needless to say, I suggest this is a must for your gift or order list and a book to which readers will return again and again.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love brought to me………
Random House Australia
Look who’s back in town! Just in time for Christmas as well! Christmas in Australia – concerts, carols, cooking, cricket, crafts and community.
Lulu Bell and her family are preparing for Christmas along with their friends and neighbours. One really exciting event is the school concert and parents are busy making costumes and props with real community spirit. Lulu and her brother and sister help their mum to make and bake lovely gifts for the teachers and are planning their letters to Santa.
Amidst all the happy busyness there is some sadness though as Lulu’s friends, Olivia and Jo, have lost their cat and are completely distraught. It’s a dangerous world out there for a little cat on its own.
The real joy of the Lulu Bell books is the sense of love and warmth and strong community ties that binds the characters together and coupled with that is the opportunity for young readers to learn. In this case, something of Dutch customs and language (through Olivia and Jo’s family), the dangers of scrub ticks for domestic pets and ‘how to’ do things – in this book, making costumes, decorations and cooking delicious recipes.
Thankfully, there is a very happy resolution for all and the Shelly Beach folk are able to celebrate their Christmas with true joy and gratitude. This series is one of those endearing ones that will find favour over and over again.
This one is going straight to Small’s Christmas parcel so she can enjoy another adventure from the animal hospital and Lulu.
Highly recommended for young readers of around 6 years and up.
As a wonderful bonus, Lulu Bell’s bunting is attached here as a PDF or you might like to access the activities page here and visit the book’s page here.
Coming up very soon, a Q&A with the delightful Belinda Murrell – stay tuned for that one!
But I KNOW you want more! Thanks to wonderful Random House Australia, Just So Stories has THREE copies of Lulu Bell and The Christmas Elf to give away – so you can also give the joy of Lulu this Christmas (if only to yourself!). Winners will be selected by a Random Christmas elf ****(leave a comment on the post)**** – please supply an email address for contact so that your book can be posted you, in time for the reindeer to deliver.