Tag Archives: Bruce Whatley

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+.

Dippy and the Dinosaurs (Dippy the Diprotodon, #2) – Jackie French & Bruce Whatley. Concept by Ben Smith Whatley.

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Harper Collins Australia

February 2020

ISBN: 9781460754092

ISBN 10: 1460754093

RRP 24.99 AUD

We’ve all been in love with Jackie’s wombats for years and now she and Bruce Whatley have provided us with another fabulous ‘wombat’ character to cherish.  Dippy made his first appearance last year and thoroughly delighted all his young readers. This BIG boisterous and happy diprotodont like his modern counterpart is uniquely Australian and eminently loveable.

Dippy’s new adventure follows his digging of a big hole – in fact a huge hole! – which serves as a super slide into a whole new landscape filled with strange and wonderful gigantic animals. Australia’s megafauna shows off in all its fascinating wonder as Dippy plays and flies and swims with his new friends. And just as all young ‘uns need to after such exuberance a refreshing rest is required by this young and curious creature.

Described as ‘deceptively simple’ this does indeed provide a portal to adventure and confidence for any little human.

Highly recommended for littlies from around 2 years upwards.

One Tree – Christopher Cheng & Bruce Whatley

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Penguin Random House

9780143786733

April 2, 2019

Puffin

 

RRP: $24.99

Once Grandfather lived at the top of a mountain next to the tallest tree. Even down in the village market his house was a landmark for all to see but as the land changed so did Grandfather’s life. In those days he told stories to his family and was very happy. Now he lives in a city apartment block with his family and a loving grandchild and his stories are silenced, his eyes are sad he mourns the loss of his traditional past.  Down in the market, the apartment is indistinguishable from its neighbours. It is just one more dwelling among thousands with not a sign of green nature anywhere.

Then one day the small grandchild finds a tiny seedling triumphantly sprouting betweens cracks in the hard surface of the market and, wanting to rescue and protect it, takes it home because “Grandfather will know what to do.”

As that small tree defies odds and continues to grow under the care of grandfather and grandson, another is added and then another until their apartment balcony is filled with green and even from the market it is easy to see their home. Neighbours are enchanted by the greenery and soon begin to add their own trees on balconies until finally almost the entire neighbourhood of bleak barren buildings is transformed into an oasis in a busy city.

This is a beautiful narrative of love, family, resilience and nature. One senses that there could be a very personal back story to this new book and Bruce Whatley’s stunning illustrations capture perfectly the sense of Chinese culture in a linocut style.

This is a splendid picture book which I would predict will be firmly and rightfully placed in award lists in the coming year.

Highly recommended for young readers from around six years upwards.

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Queen Victoria’s Christmas – Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

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On the 9th day………

queen victorias christmas

Harper Collins

Imprint: Angus & Robertson

2012

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.

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