Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle – Glenda Millard/Stephen Michael King


On the 10th day ……


ISBN: 9780733322495
Australian Pub.: November 2008
Illustrated By: Stephen Michael King
Publisher: ABC BOOKS
Subject: Picture books

RRP $24.95

This is one of my favourite Christmas books ever but strangely I didn’t own a copy myself – until I spotted it at the local newsagent on sale a couple of days ago.

In this country of ours where so often natural disasters can come swiftly and with a great vengeance this beautiful story resonates and gives hope to the youngest of readers.

One little pig, thinking about the loss of her beautiful surroundings after the ravages of drought and bushfire, is so sad and despairing, not just for herself but for her humans, Joe and Marigold. How can they possibly have Christmas when all around them is scarred and bare and black?

But Applesauce had reckoned without the giving nature of good friends and family – and the joy that both the simplest of things and the most miraculous can bring.

Beautifully written and illustrated likewise this is a sublime example of both the true Christmas spirit and the true Australian spirit.

You can find some teaching notes on this and other books which were shortlisted in the CBC 2009 Awards here.

Queen Victoria’s Christmas – Jackie French & Bruce Whatley


On the 9th day………

queen victorias christmas

Harper Collins

Imprint: Angus & Robertson


Picking up such a delightful Christmas book to add to my collection for just $7.99 (hardback) was a pretty special moment today.

Jackie French takes children on a wonderful rhyming explanation of how the Christmas Tree, as we know it, first came into fashion in the royal household of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The illustrations from Bruce Whatley are amusing and add so much depth to the story.

When a huge fir tree is delivered to the palace, the royal children and pets are all quite bemused. They are all shut outside the parlour while mysterious noises and interesting smells are detected. Then all is revealed! A magnificent decorated tree with piles of presents heaped underneath – magical!

There was that tree.

But what a tree!

Candles flickered,

Tinsel glittered,

Balls of gold and apples red,

Men made out of gingerbread,

And an angel right up high

Just like it could really fly.

Prince Albert brought the tradition of the tree being central to the family Christmas to England and the Empire, as well as quickly picking up other Christmas celebrations being created at that time – crackers, Christmas cards, big puddings, special cakes and gathering round the tree to exchange presents.

A truly gorgeous history lesson for children aged around 5 and up – as one would expect from this talented pair.

Find teaching notes here.


The Down-Under 12 Days of Christmas – Michael Salmon


On the 8th day of Christmas…….


Ford St Publishing

SBN: 9781921665592 (hardocover), 9781921665608 (paperback)
Extent: 32 pages
Format: Trade hardcover and paperback
Price: AUD $19.95 (hardcover) $12.95 (paperback)
Category: Xmas story, poetry
Age guide: 3+

When Santa lands in the outback, Christmas deliveries are not quite the same as in the Northern Hemisphere! While Santa checks the list – twice!- his kangaroo and koala helpers try hard to help him get all the gifts to their recipients. Skiing snakes and surfing sharks, dancing dingos and leaping lizards are all part of the colourful fun of this book.

Small and I love this version of the traditional song and  try very hard to remember ALL the verses.

Don’t leave this one off your Xmas favourites list. Ford St Publishing also have a terrific activity book to accompany it.

And a big shout out to Michael as he does some recuperating – mwuahhh! From Small and I.


The Icicle Illuminarium –  N J Gemmell



ISBN: 9780857985675

Published: 01/10/2014

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 336 pages

RRP $16.99

Continuing the story of the off-the-wall crazy but courageous Caddy kids – Kick, Bert, Scruff and Pin, the Icicle Illuminarium takes up the story after Dad has returned safely but beset with illness from his war stint in the jungles. And joy of joys, their faithful dingo dog Bucket is back as well!

But when Dad is sent away to recuperate, the children are devastated – until a clue from their favourite butler leads them to hope that perhaps their mother is also still alive.

Following a string of clues, the intrepid bush kids set off on a madcap adventure, but are unaware that the strange Lady Adora has other plans in mind for them. Kidnapped and captive in the ‘coldest, loneliest and most falling-down place’ in England, this quartet is undeterred and determined as always. Receiving help from unexpected sources and willing Bucket to help Uncle Basti to find them, the Caddy kids once again prove their resourcefulness and indomitable spirit.

If you are looking for a book to grab your readers around 9-12 this might just fit the bill – don’t forget to pick up the first in the series The Kensington Reptilarium (which I reviewed in October 2013) as well!  These books would also be a good fit for literature circles for Upper Primary students so do keep that in mind as well.

A fast-moving adventure story with some definitely kooky characters and some strong family and personal values, this is one for the readers looking for something out of the ordinary!

Letters from Father Christmas – J. R. R. Tolkien


On the 7th day of Christmas…….

The Father Christmas Letters – J. R. R. Tolkien

Collins Children’s Books



My two little granddaughters have just written their letters to Santa and lo and behold! Received a letter each back with a photo of a special elf and a little present from Santa enclosed, so it seemed an apt time to bring out one of my favourite Christmas books to share with Small.

First published posthumously in 1976 [The Father Christmas Letters], this is a selection of some of the letters that Tolkien’s sons received over a period of some twenty odd years, one each Christmas. Each letter, either written purportedly by Father Christmas himself or his Elf-secretary, tell some of the adventures and mishaps from the North Pole home and workshop of every child’s favourite. Perhaps the most entertaining of the anecdotes are those of the North Polar Bear, an endearing character much prone to mischief and misadventure.

This edition is the one presented as facsimile letters and envelopes accompanied by the wonderful original illustrated copies.

Always an exciting read – especially opening each envelope to reveal the next letter – this has been a staple of my Christmas shared reading for many years.


Tashi and the Wicked Magician: and other stories – Anna Feinberg and Barbara Feinberg/Pictures by Geoff Kelly & Kim Gamble



ISBN: 9781743315088
Australian Pub.: October 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Picture books
Suitable for ages: 5-8

I have discovered over the past twenty years, most of those as a teacher-librarian, that everyone loves this heroic and clever little figure, who comes from far away. Tashi’s adventures have entranced readers, both boys and girls, from his very first appearance and this latest instalment will prove every bit as enchanting.

Tashi’s gift as a storyteller is only rivalled by that of his creators and this lovely hardbacked collection of five stories would make a wonderful gift – but will also be a hot favourite in any primary school library. I have seen the toughest and most advanced readers excitedly scoop up new Tashi books with a nonchalant disclaimer ‘I loved these when I was younger Miss’ – then take them home and devour them!

In this collection Tashi and his friends deal with a nefarious wandering magician (though there is some doubt as to whether saving the greedy Baron’s treasures is a worthy cause), have a narrow escape in a dangerous house fire, thoroughly rout some thieving rare orchid snatchers and finally, as told on the fun camping trip with his ‘adopted’ family, Jack & Co, a story that demonstrates Tashi’s resourcefulness and courage in the face of a rather wily dragon.

The Tashi books, including this one, offer children and teachers to explore themes of friendship, bravery, loyalty, ethical problem solving, teamwork and more. There is a richness in the stories that can springboard into many follow on activities including exploring other cultures and countries.

Learn more about the creators here and enjoy some fun Tashi activities here.

By the way, if anyone has ever seen a toy Tashi figure, I’d love to know about it!


365 Days of Wonder – R. J. Palacio



ISBN: 9780552572712

Published: 03/11/2014

Imprint: Corgi Childrens

Extent: 432 pages

RRP: $19.99

For the many fans of Wonder – my ‘tiramisu’ book! – comes this delightful companion volume. You will no doubt remember Mr Browne’s technique of using precepts with his classes and in the introduction to the book ‘Mr Browne’ explains his reasons behind this approach.

Divided into months, each ‘chapter’ has some words of wisdom, anecdotes, stories or email exchanges from Mr Browne and then a precept or quote for each day of the month.

I have only read about half of the book – why you might ask? Because I want to savour the surprise of each new day next year, when I intend to have this book on my desk and invite students and teachers to share in the joy.

It includes thoughts from authors and other personalities including John Lennon, Roald Dahl, Popeye, Anne Frank, Louisa May Alcott, Martin Luther King Jr and many many others. The Popeye one is a quote I have used time and time again on personal profiles etc – ‘I y’am what I y’am’ – which delighted me!

This will be a book to treasure and keep for many – and will be enjoyed by not only those who love ‘Wonder’ but those who are as yet unfamiliar with that amazing novel.

Forget the ‘chicken soup’ stuff  – this one is truly inspirational for both young readers and adults alike.

We carry within us the wonders we seek around us

Sir Thomas Browne

The Christmas Book – Dick Bruna


On the 6th day of Christmas…


Title: Christmas Book, The
Author: Bruna, Dick
Category: Kids
ISBN: 9781921288814
Dimensions: 160 x 291 mm
Price: $19.95
Imprint: Picture Books
Format: Hardback
Publication Date: 01 Dec 2014

About forty years ago the first books I bought my firstborn child were Dick Bruna’s – Miffy, Poppy Pig and I Can Count. So how excited was I to win a copy of The Christmas Book from my friend The Book Chook !

Last night after taking Small to see some Christmas Lights and particularly the magnificent display and ‘festival’ at the Sandgate Uniting Church , it seemed most fitting that our bedtime story should be the story of Christmas as told by Bruna.

With a simplified but engaging text and Bruna’s signature illustrative style, this is such a charming book – and timeless. First published in 1964, there is no doubt it is just as appealing to today’s audience as those of fifty years ago.

Share the joy and reason for the season with a little one you know with this beautiful book and

if you have not yet done so explore the Miffy site via the hyperlink and Dick Bruna House here.


Snow – Walter de la Mare. Illustrated by Carolina Rabei


On the 5th day of Christmas…


ISBN: 9780571312191
Australian Pub.: November 2014
Publisher: Faber
Imprint: Faber Child Trade
Suitable for ages: 4-6

RRP $24.99

This stunning presentation of de la Mare’s poem is a triumph. Rabei’s illustrations using a limited palette of colours to accentuate the crisp white of the snow are just beautiful and take the classic poem from being simply about the wonder of a  snowy winter to a celebration of a northern hemisphere Christmas.

The text is sparingly scattered throughout the book which has a combination of styles from full double page spreads to snap-shot style story boards, and the reader can follow a family’s preparations for a cosy Christmas.

There is a quiet beauty to this poem and in this format is all the more accessible to a new generation.

No breath of wind,

No gleam of sun –

Still the white snow

Whirls softly down –

Small and I really enjoyed sharing this, loving the sound of the language but also ‘telling’ the story through the  illustrations.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to conjure up enough snow to make a snowman but at least we can vicariously do so as well as toboggan, run through the woods with the puppy and trace the  feathery frost on the windows.

Highly recommended for young readers from around 4 up. I just really adore the almost minimalist design of this book – truly beautiful!

Find out more about Walter de la Mare here.