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.
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.
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+.
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.
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 !!
Unfortunately this one didn’t arrive in time for Christmas but that’s no reason to hesitate in getting a copy ready for later in the year. This is a really cute rhyming story taking its cue from Clement Moore’s famous poem. Peppa and George like all small children are very excited about Christmas but it looks like there’s more to do than decorate and wait. Santa has a problem – his sleigh lights are broken and that’s going to make it really difficult to navigate around the world. Luckily Peppa has a great idea – her toy unicorn with its magical light up horn will be just the thing! Whew!! Christmas is saved and of course there’s celebrations in store for everyone – though Daddy Pig is rather bemused to look out the window on Christmas morning to see Santa delivering back Peppa’s unicorn.
Peppa Pig: Peppa Loves Easter
16 February 2021
On the other hand, this one has arrived in plenty of time for Easter. I don’t know about you but we have decided that our selection of Easter themed picture books is pretty tired and at times downright dreary so this will be a very popular addition. For little people in your circle – or for a gift for a first Easter – it will be just perfect!
This is truly adorable and if I were still working with little ones would definitely be inspired by the wonderful Easter egg-stravaganza Miss Rabbit organises for Peppa’s playgroup. Following a trail of clues the children decorate their own Easter cupcakes, make a card, decorate their own egg cup, walk through a field of pretty flowers and finally arrive to find lots of fluffy little chicks running around just waiting to be petted. All throughout this fun game the children are wondering where Miss Rabbit can be – after all she is the one who has organised all this for them. Among all the little chicks is a giant Easter egg – what could possibly be in it? A lovely surprise for the playgroup of course!
Both these titles have the delightful sparkly covers that are so enticing for little readers and both just beg to be read aloud.
Highly recommended for your tinies from around toddler upwards.
Well didn’t I feel so special when the lovely Bloomsbury Australia folk sent me these – knowing full well my HP obsession! And they will make the most highly-sought after Christmas gifts for any PotterHead in your circle too!!
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: MinaLima edition
Even the Kid (not a HP fan – where have I failed???) thinks this is just superb! It’s the Philosopher’s Stone as you’ve never seen it before with simply stunning papercraft embellishments throughout as well as stylish bordered pages, full colour illustrations and arguably the most handsome binding I’ve ever encountered.
My able assistant agreed to show you just a couple of the enchanting surprises. First the entry to the Grynffindor common room – swing the Fat Lady’s portrait out to reveal the interior of the cosy room we all wish we could visit.
Next up this amazing fold out of Diagon Alley – have you got your sickles and galleons ready to spend? Just tap the right brick – away you go!
I suppose you could buy it for a child of your acquaintance – but really I think it will be we adults who will revel in this the most!
Christmas at Hogwarts: a movie scrapbook – Warner Bros
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
RRP: A$29.99 NZ $32.99
Another perfect Christmas gift filled with not only glorious stills from the movies including Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts, in The Burrow and the holiday spent in Grimmauld Place but with the most delightful inserts of various kinds: stickers, bookmarks, sketch designs of costumes, concept illustrations as well as other insights.
There are reflections from both the actors and film makers along with special informational pieces on decorating and festive traditions in the magical sphere. Christmas as celebrated by the witches and wizards we’ve come to love like family is a bright and beautiful experience and it would be a very hard-to-please recipient who wouldn’t treasure this for their HP collection.
Needless to say these are staying right on my HP shelf which is fast becoming fuller and fuller – and very likely will continue to do so!!!
But do rush out and buy these for someone you love – trust me, they will be so filled with joy! Thank you again to the lovely Sonia from Bloomsbury who knows me so well!! What a fabulous gift with which to end a year of reviewing for this wonderful publishing company!!
PS – I’m already planning our Harry Potter Night event for the start of Term 1 2021! Let the magic continue to sparkle!
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.
Wishing all the lovely peeps who either read my blog regularly or pop in occasionally a wonderful and safe festive season. The Kid and I are now both on holidays after a pretty monumental year all round and are thankful to have some time to recharge. I am about to start my best and last job ever in the New Year as Head of Library at a wonderful school and the Kid goes into year 9.
The Kid gave up horse riding but started Navy Cadets and is loving it – especially after the weekend break-up camp she just had! Winning the Best Costume on Friday’s fun night for her Morticia was just one highlight with canoeing and water park play as well as her first formal navy dinner. Next year she wants to have a go at drama classes as well so suffice to say that in the past four years her self-confidence has soared. She read her first ever novel – and got the Overall Academic Award at the end of school celebration.
We’re off to NSW tomorrow to spend Christmas with family – please help us pray for everyone’s safety in the terrible fires not only in the Blue Mtns where we will be but all over our beautiful country.
I’m taking books with me (of course!) but won’t be posting reviews until we get back at the end of the month at least.
Thanks for visiting this last blog post of this decade – and I look forward to bringing you more reviews next year!
As the weeks go rushing past and in no time it will be time to hang the stockings we all seem to go into a kind of frenzy of ‘what to get for..?’.
There are some very cute new books for little people which would make great stocking stuffers:
Peppa’s Christmas Jumper Day
Yep, we’ve all been there – when the kid says ‘I need this (outfit) for tomorrow.’ I’ve had to make rush Virgin Mary costumes and Captain Cook complete with tricorn so I feel the pain.
When Peppa announces that the next day is Christmas jumper day at playgroup there’s a scramble for the box in the attic to retrieve last year’s jumpers. The problem is that Peppa and George have grown through the year and their jumpers no longer fit them. George can wear Peppa’s but what will Peppa wear?
Luckily Daddy Pig is one inventive and creative papa and saves the day with flair…and glitter!
Tiny tots would love this colourful board book with its familiar characters and not only does it make it a great gift for your child but 10% of the RRP will be donated to Save the Children – win win! Highly recommended for babies to preschool age.
The Lonely Christmas Tree – Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
What an exquisite little jewel of a book! Inspired by ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas children will love the story of the last lonely tree on the hillside who finds happiness at Christmas and finally is surrounded by love.
The illustrations are just truly beautiful and many children will recognise the ‘rhythm’ of this text if they have heard the original inspiration.
The underlying message about loneliness and the joy of being together with friends is very timely for the festive season and I believe that young readers will rejoice that the little tree is no longer alone.
Highly recommended for reader from around 5 years upwards.
I’m Ready for Christmas – Jedda Robaard
This is the introduction to a gorgeous new series of colourful board books especially for Australian children and celebrating the special events in a little person’s life. I love the idea behind this series which is to bridge the gap between early concept books (ABC, numbers etc) and standard picture books. What is even more attractive is the truly Australian flavour throughout.
The days are getting warmer and longer.
Cicadas are buzzing in the trees.
Like all of us little Miss Wombat knows that this means that Christmas is close and the preparations including making 3 x great-grandmother’s pudding and wrapping gifts combine with reflection on all that has happened throughout the year.
Naturally the book concludes with a beautiful family feast.
I’m Ready for Preschool – Jedda Robaard
And following hard on the heels of Christmas hundreds of little ones will be getting ready for preschool/prep/kindy which is both exciting and a little anxiety-making at the same time.
I’m trying something new soon. Something new and exciting . . .
Little Koala is a little bit nervous about starting preschool but like so many others is having quite a bit of fun testing out his backpack, water bottle and hat. And once he’s taken that first big step into the room and starts playing with new friends all his worries disappear.
Once again so many littlies will readily identify with this simple but effective story and they will see themselves as they too prepare for their first big leap into the wider world.
Stay posted for the next two in the series, coming in March 2020 – Easter and New Baby.
The perfect double for a little pre-preschooler of your acquaintance or if your school has an early childhood centre attached – a great addition to the shelves.