Tag Archives: Christmas stories

The Night Before Christmas – Clement Clarke Moore/illustrated by Richard Johnson

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On the 12th day…

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780552569880

Published: 03/11/2014

Imprint: Picture Corgi

Extent: 32 pages

RRP $16.99

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It would seem likely from the account of Moore’s famous poem’s origins that he would never have imagined that, almost 200 years after writing it, that it would be arguably the best known of Christmas stories/verse. Originally entitled A Visit from St Nicholas, this enduring testament of love for one’s family, was first published when a friend of the Moore family heard of it from the Moore children, copied it and sent it to a publisher. It not only set in metaphorical cement the images we now hold about Santa Claus but also gave his magical reindeer names which everyone can recite off at the drop of a hat (well, can’t you?!).

Now Richard Johnson has brought his award-winning style to a new edition with such beautiful ‘soft focus’ style illustrations, that we could almost believe we were dreaming that we too saw St Nick, as Small and I read it for our ‘last day before Christmas’ story.

This picture book is the perfect way to introduce this classic poem to a new audience with the illustrations being wonderfully timeless in their depiction of interiors and fashions.

This new edition is a must for your library shelves (and home shelves) in my opinion, for surely, no Christmas is complete without it’s retelling as the magic swirls in the air and little ones expectantly lay out their Santa sacks (pillowslips, stockings!) and leave out treats for the jolly old elf and his clever reindeer.

And so I come to the end of my Christmas countdown – Small and I have loved sharing our reading with you all.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

The Last of the Spirits – Chris Priestley

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Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781408854136
Australian Pub.: November 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Imprint: Bloomsbury Child
Subject: Children’s and Young Adult

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RRP $21.99

Yes, this is a ‘Christmas’ book but it’s not the last in my countdown. This one arrived today and when Small and I went to the pool for an hour or so this afternoon, because I didn’t want to get in the water today, I grabbed the first book off the pile – and read it within an hour.

So after that subtle recommendation, let’s explore some more. I am not familiar with Chris Priestley’s work – no doubt, because the supernatural/paranormal genre is not one for which I usually opt. But reading a little of his bio, it seems this ‘master of the macabre’ loves nothing better than to take a traditional Gothic horror story and put a complete new twist on it.

And this he has done with A Christmas Carol. I really like Dickens: but I’m not an Egghead knowing all there is to know about every book, and while I like A Christmas Carol it has never been my favourite, and I had completely forgotten about the two ‘wild’ children hidden underneath the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Ignorance and Want – these two feral children become the focus of this side stepping of the original story, taking the reader into the dark and disturbing world of Dickens’ London.

Written in a style that will totally captivate those young readers who relish a bit of spookiness, this story is new, fresh and engaging while completely retaining the pervading message of the original novel.

I’m giving this a big thumbs up and will definitely be promoting it to Middle School next year – creepy but not horrific, matter of fact but not graphic (about the dire circumstances of London’s poor) and totally resolved in a satisfactory manner.

I’d be grabbing this one for your library shelves – readers around 11 to 15 would love it I believe – it’s a brilliant segue into hardcore Dickens!

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The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas – Heath McKenzie

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On the 11th day…

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Black Dog Books

First published 2006

ISBN 1921167319

RRP (per Riverbend Books) $12.99 as a 2009 published board book edition

Lucky enough to have a signed copy of this one – which has been a favourite for years. Heath McKenzie brings his own unique illustrative style to a different take on the old standard.

Small does enjoy this version – but possibly mostly because of my crazed out-of-breath reading of it, which seems to fit the illustrations! – she does find the possums a tad evil looking as they maniacally play their video games. I rather like the ‘Eight flies feasting’ because, after all, what is Christmas (and summer) in Australia without the wretched things.

Check out Heath’s website here.

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

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On the 10th day ……

applesauce

ISBN: 9780733322495
Australian Pub.: November 2008
Illustrated By: Stephen Michael King
Publisher: ABC BOOKS
Imprint: ABC KIDS 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

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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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The Down-Under 12 Days of Christmas – Michael Salmon

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On the 8th day of Christmas…….

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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.

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The Christmas Book – Dick Bruna

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On the 6th day of Christmas…

9781921288814

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.

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Snow – Walter de la Mare. Illustrated by Carolina Rabei

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On the 5th day of Christmas…

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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.

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