Tag Archives: Christmas

Meerkat Christmas – Aura Parker

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Penguin Australia

October 2022

  • ISBN: 9780143777229
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99

Seriously, I’m always so in awe of creators who can do both the text and the illustrations – for someone who yearns to have even a smidgin of creativity it seems a little unfair -haha!

This is another title I shared with numerous classes over the closing weeks of Term 4 – again from Prep upwards to Year 3 and once again it was received with tumultous applause – even the older children loved the rollicking rhymes and the oh-so-cute illustrations.

We all had lots fun talking who had or had not seen meerkats yet (many in my neighbourhood have gone to Australia Zoo), where meerkats live, why does EVERYONE love them so much and imagining other funny antics they might get up to. They totally loved the reveal of the pups pyramid-ing their way to form a Christmas Tree and there was much laughter all round.

And what do I love? I absolutely adore the endpapers (as everyone knows, they are a passion of mine) and I love that the rhyming text flows naturally with rhythmic grace and ease and never sounds forced or discordant (which frankly, annoys me often in books by ‘award winning’ authors whose scansion leaves much to be desired) – this is just fabulous and the top reason for it being such a joy to read aloud!

This is truly an adorable addition to your Christmas bookshelf and for a little person in your circle particularly would make for a beautiful gift under the tree or in their wee stocking.

Highly recommended for small pups from around 4 years to 8 years old.

Christmas Goodies

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Zola and the Christmas Lights – Melina Marchetta/Deb Hudson

Penguin Australia

October 2022

  • ISBN: 9780143777649
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99

For the entirety of the delightful What Zola did On… series, Melina Marchetta consistently delivered such beautiful and meaningful messages to young readers around diversity, community, empathy, friendship and family, all without once becoming preachy or tedious. It truly was joyful to read each new instalment. Now Zola has her very first (and let’s hope, not last) picture book and once again Zola’s story embodies all that made the chapter books so special.

Before school finished up I had the pleasure of sharing this gorgeous book with at least five different classes from Prep to Year 3 and all not only loved it, but also keenly participated in predicting and postulating. It was a highlight of my last few weeks of casual teaching.

Best of all for the very diverse population of children with whom I shared this, there was not one who could not identify with some aspect of this Australian celebration, from my sweet girl who so excitedly told me ‘we have a lantern just like that for Ramadan and my mum wears [that]’ i.e.a hijab, to the ones who could talk earnestly about some people finding it hard to buy groceries, to the ones who had already put up Xmas decorations. We really did have such fun and such richness from it.

Of course the narrative is beautifully illustrated by Deb Hudson, whose work enhanced the chapter books so ably but now explodes into a perfect riot of colour and detail.

It’s not too late to pick up a copy and share with your own little people – and enjoy the talk about what our various celebrations mean to us all.

Highly recommended for readers from 4 years upwards.

Peace on Earth, good will toward all

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Emily Gravett: Meerkat Christmas

Whatever, and however you celebrate I wish you all safe and happy holidays, from me and The Kid. Many thanks to all who follow and bother to read my reviews – which are haphazardly posted at best – and I’m thrilled to see that this year the blog has had well over 10 000 views!!!! Wow!! 2023 marks a decade since I decided to start collating the reviews I was doing in one place ,and began Just So Stories, and there have been many, many changes in my life since then. It looks like my full-time teaching days are over but will still need to keep earning somehow for a while to support The Kid so new adventures await.

Not only do I want to thank you all but also the wonderful authors, illustrators, creators and of course the publicists at various publishing houses who let me play in their world. I have a couple of Christmas reviews to write up and post today, and then about twenty more to catch up on (!!) after the festivities are done.

I do hope your own celebrations are filled with joy – The Kid and I will be in our happy place for three days (very like Kev in that illustration!) and ours will be slow and salty.

Thank You, Teacher from The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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  • Penguin Australia
  • August 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241585566
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

They tell me Xmas is rapidly drawing closer – but what is even closer than that is the end of the school year. Most of us are now mid-term so that dreaded moment of finding a gift for your child’s teacher is nigh, and while, of course we don’t mind endless scented candles, bath bombs, potted succulents and so on, what would be really appreciated is a generous voucher to the nearest bottle shop -ok ok, so maybe not everyone wants that.

If you do have a small person and want to show your grateful thanks to their teacher, this is just the sweetest gift with Eric Carle’s inimitable artwork and some simple text that will resonate. Not having a small person any longer – The Kid is gearing up for her final year of school, and as her teacher is me, it would be quite redundant really – this is a gift for a special friend who just also happens to be one of the most superlative teachers I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

And really – for the small price of $12.99 – you could afford to bung it in with a bottle of something to enjoy as well.

Don’t miss out on getting this – and though I say it makes a lovely gift, it certainly won’t hurt to add it to your library or classroom collection as well. I think the kiddos will love reading it and telling their own teacher what it is they love about her or him.

Plume [#3]: Festival Seeker -Tania McCartney

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Hardie Grant

October 2022

ISBN: 9781741177909

Publisher: Hardie Grant Explore

RRP: $26.99

My apologies for that delay between the fabulous interview with the lovely Tania and my promised review of the newest Plume title – released yesterday – but there was a rather inconvenient technical hitch.

Welcome back Plume! Our intrepid Antarctic traveller extraordinaire is taking readers on another worldwide adventure, this time exploring some of the world’s most colourful festivals, proving that life is not just black-and-white for all penguins!

Little Plume has many friends from many different countries – as one would expect for such a gregarious little fellow, and when he receives an invitation from his Scottish friend to join in a special event, he tries to tempt his penguin comrades to join him. Alas, they are still very set in their penguin ways but that doesn’t deter Plume. He and Ava, of the Albatross Express, spend a year travelling to various countries each month to celebrate with the locals and enjoy the colourful culture of each.

As with the previous Plume exploits there will be some names with which children connect. There will very likely be children who know of, or indeed celebrate, Diwali, Holi or even the Rio Carnival, but I daresay none (nor adults) who have heard of the Up Helly Aa festival from the Shetland Isles or the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea. The inclusion of Easter and Christmas helps even the youngest of readers to relate these lesser known celebrations to those they might encounter in their own lives as a matter of course.

Needless to say Plume’s penguin buddies remain quite obstinate in their reluctance to try anything new – well at least, until it comes to one particular festival that caters exactly to their tastes!

Once again, Tania’s exquisite rendering of sympathetic and engaging text matched with her superlative illustrations will not fail to engage your readers and, as with the earlier Plume books, this is one that sits perfectly not only on personal bookshelves but in classrooms to accompany curriculum units such as those which look at cultural events and festivals (Year 3 HASS) and diversity.

As always, Tania’s work really needs no recommendation, as its superiority speaks volumes for itself, but in any case, I give you my heartiest recommendation for children from Prep upwards (I recently shared Plume: Global Nibbler with a Year 6 and, rather as Plume would with lovely food, they gobbled it up with delight!).

Congratulations Tania on another beautiful creation, and I know I eagerly await Plume’s next outing.

Check out Tania’s Plume Book Birthday post over at Insta – it’s just the cutest!!!

Download Tania’s Plume Festival Seeker colouring page here

Clarice Bean: Think Like an Elf – Lauren Child

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Harper Collins Australia

November 2021

  • ISBN: 9780008470845
  • ISBN 10: 0008470847
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

I am just sorry this one didn’t arrive in time for me to get it read and reviewed before Christmas because it really is a perfect gift to share with a young reader. In her own inimitable manner, Lauren Child, takes us into Clarice’s home and family with side-splitting results as they prepare for a festive season very different to their normal ones. No hundreds of potatoes to peel, nor a house full of people, nor Mum and Dad slumping with exhaustion. This Christmas is going to be QUIET.

For Clarice, who normally looks forward to Christmas so much, this does not feel right, and she is struggling to feel the Xmas spirit as she usually would. Without all the extended family expected for the celebrations, and even her bestie, Betty Moody, going to Japan (!!) for Christmas, no Advent calendar with tiny doors to open, and almost no money in her toadstool/piggy bank to buy presents, things are looking very gloomy and not the least bit tinselly sparkly.

As you would always expect, nothing runs smoothly for the Tuesday family from an issue with selecting the Xmas tree, the accidentally too-large turkey which ends up on the floor before being eaten by Cement, the dog and a random fox (in which no one believes), Clarice, being helpful, but mixing up the airmail parcels and more. All of which makes for all the hilarious mayhem we have come to expect from this talented creator. The interspersing of all the Ruby Redfort references, are just a crack-up of course as Clarice tries to follow the advice and sagacity of her literary hero.

Naturally it won’t matter one jot to your readers if this was on offer when school starts back, when Christmas and New Year are just a memory but equally, if you were buying this for a gift (for next Xmas!) or to add to your store of Xmas stories, just perfect. It is beautifully bound, with the dust-jacket being more Christmassy than the actual binding, but both still delightful, with lovely Christmas tree endpapers. And of course, Lauren’s illustrations throughout, as always, are charming and completely in keeping with the quirkiness of the narrative.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

What do You do to Celebrate? Ashleigh Barton/Martina Heidnezek

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2021

ISBN: 9780733341595
ISBN 10: 0733341594
Imprint: ABC Books AU
List Price: 19.99 AUD

I’m pretty sure that in our current situation when many are feeling despondent or fearful, there are many people who have not felt much like celebrating. Personally, I’m of the opinion that we still have plenty to celebrate at this time of year and have endeavoured to make our own family festive season meaningful for us all.

And just as it is important for us to rejoice at the blessings we do have, whether large or small, it is equally vital for us to impart cross-cultural perspectives to our children.

This picture book is part of a series that focuses on families and their similarities and differences ( What do You Call Your Grandma? What do You Call Your Grandpa?) and offers children insight into how other families around the world celebrate at the end of one year, beginning of another.

Many years ago when I first started teaching (actually in one of my prac blocks) my focus was on this very topic and the Year 2 class I was working with explored the end-of-year traditions of many cultures around the world including gift-givers and New Year traditions. This was a theme I returned to consistently and still to this day. continue to promote wherever possible. With our increasingly multi-cultural society (not to mention the insidious growing swell of intolerance/hate in some quarters) it behoves us to ensure that we do all we can to actively promote inclusive attitudes and behaviours in our kiddos.

With engaging and fun books such as this, it is no hardship to bring these ideas to our audience and I congratulate Ashleigh and Martina on their collaboration which ensures that not only will children be invested in the narrative but keep it in mind.

Highly recommended for small humans from pre-school upwards.

Christmas Always Comes – Jackie French/Bruce Whatley

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460757895
  • ISBN 10: 1460757890
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

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+.

Wishyouwas: The Tiny Guardian of Lost Letters – Alexandra Page. Illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee.

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Bloomsbury

Published02 Nov 2021
FormatPaperback
Edition1st
Extent288
ISBN9781526641915
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books
Dimensions198 x 129 mm
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing

RRP $14.99

Every now and then a book comes along that is just so utterly charming that it nestles straight into your heart immediately. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, you just know it’s a book that will stay with you forever. That’s exactly how I feel about this delightful and heart-warming story which is so very perfect for a Christmas read.

It is 1952 in post-war London and Penny Black (clever!) is feeling quite lonely. After losing her dad in the war, it’s just been Penny and her mum, which can become tricky, as her mother is a pilot flying mail planes. When her mother gets caught up in France due to extreme fog, Penny is sent to stay with her Uncle Frank, a rather taciturn London postmaster, who is far from child-friendly really. Uncle Frank is even grumpier when he discovers that Penny has released a ‘rat’ from the trap in the post office. Of course, the creature is not a rat at all. It is Wishyouwas, a Sorter, and one of a whole crowd of secret little critters who take on big responsibilities in getting mail – especially lost letters- to the rightful recipients.

When Wishyouwas shows Penny the hidden underworld beneath the street of London, where he and his friends live and work, he gets into a lot of trouble from his higher-ups but worse than this, a nasty human called Stanley Scrawl, employed by HM Royal Mail as official rat-catcher is determined to sabotage the little furred mail guardians and, at the same time, provide himself with both kudos and rewards. He really is quite odious and thoroughly deserves to be caught in a rat trap himself!

Any readers from around 8 or 9 years upwards to around 13ish would thoroughly enjoy this book and if you are looking for the perfect book to gift for Christmas or, indeed, to read aloud over the festive season, you should make this a top choice. I, for one, would enjoy more stories of the fluffy little mail guardians should they come along. I highly recommend it to you for either your library or classroom collection or your own personal bookshelves.

Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Unicorn’s Christmas – Rhiannon Fielding/Chris Chatterton

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Penguin Australia

November 2021

  • ISBN: 9780241489901
  • Imprint: Ladybird
  • Format: Board Book

RRP: $14.99

This series of bedtime books has been outrageously popular with little people everywhere – not to mention their adults who are the ones doing those repeated nightly readings! If you’re going to be on a perpetual looping playlist you want to be reading something you enjoy as much as the child, I say!

Now in board book format, even the tiniest reader can enjoy the fun as Little Unicorn helps out Santa Claus one busy Christmas Eve. When one of your team is home in bed – especially, your lead reindeer – the annual gift delivery run is looking to be at risk. But there is only ten minutes left before Little Unicorn has to be in bed. Can Santa’s magic and her effort to lead the team possibly get the job done in time?

With the usual rollicking rhyming text and the deliciously cute illustrations, this will be a super gift for a little human in your circle. Of course, it’s perfectly timed for that always most-difficult night to go to sleep so get your copy ready now. It’s roughly forty days until Xmas will be on our doorsteps so best to be prepared now!

Highly recommended for your smallest readers – I have one in my circle who is just toddling so this is perfect for him! I just love them !!

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