Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas is Coming…


And it would always be incomplete without The Nutcracker.

Two beautiful new books celebrate 200 years since the first publication of Hoffman’s story and the exquisite 1954 rendition of the ballet from George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet.

The Nutcracker – Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen


Walker Books

ISBN: 9781922244550
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $39.99
New Zealand RRP: $44.99

Hoffman’s original German publication has rarely been translated in full to English but this new bicentennial edition celebrates that first publication ably translated by Anthea Bell.

Of course Hoffman’s story remains timeless and is arguably most famous for being the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s much-loved ballet, performed all over the world and especially as part of the traditional Christmas festivities.

For me the real highlight of this volume is it’s continuation of the Illustrated Children’s Classics series, with the absolutely superb illustrations of [Australian] Robert Ingpen.

I know that many have their favourites in this series – mine: Treasure Island and The Jungle Book – but the exquisitely detailed artwork ensure this will be a sought after volume for those who both love the story, Ingpen’s magnificent work and of course the ballet.

If you are looking for a special gift for a lover of any of these, this is the book for you.

If you are especially seeking the perfect present for a ballet lover then make sure you also buy the next book in this review.

The Nutcracker – The New York City Ballet: Illustrated by Valeria Docampo


Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |

ISBN 9781471161162 |

November 2016

List Price

AU$ 24.99

NZ$ 28.99

The NYC Ballet is well known both for bringing the story of ballet to young readers and for its outstanding production of The Nutcracker. The company’s performance of this ballet is considered the penultimate around the world. In 1948 George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirsten founded the company and Balanchine’s ‘quintessential’ production of The Nutcracker remains the benchmark for all others.

The storyline follows the choreography of the ballet and the illustrations are based on the actual sets and costumes of the production. For young (or old) readers this will be a virtual attendance at the performance so loved by so many.

For all the ballet dancers or those who love the ballet, this would make a beautiful Christmas present.

Now that school holidays have arrived, I will be spending time catching up with piles and piles of review books. Some will be posted during the holidays, others scheduled for the new school year.

In the meantime, I wish you all and your families a safe and super festive season, from me and mine.



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


On the 12th day…

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780552569880

Published: 03/11/2014

Imprint: Picture Corgi

Extent: 32 pages

RRP $16.99


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


Allen & Unwin Australia

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


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!


The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas – Heath McKenzie


On the 11th day…


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.

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.


Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book – Diane Muldrow



On the 4th day of Christmas………..

Random House Australia

  • ISBN:9780553497359

Published: 01/10/2014

Imprint: Golden Books

Extent: 96 pages



So far my reviews of the current crop of Christmas books have focused on those for children. Here’s one that would make a splendid gift for a festively frazzled friend!

Taking illustrations from Little Golden Books of the past (and who didn’t have a whole shelf of them as little kid! What was your favourite?) and a wide variety of the most well known illustrators of LGB, handy precepts for making it through the silly season are offered up with tongue-in-cheek humour.

Advice on the food, the gifts, the celebrations, the traffic, the weight gain and more is cleverly matched with illustrations from many LGB – each with its title and details captioned. The illustrators include Eloise Wilkin, Richard Scarry Florence Sarah Winship and  J.P. Miller.

This is a fun gift for someone in your life who needs a bit of a ‘pep up’ during this sometimes stressful time of year, particularly if they relish the ‘retro’ look or a gift for a teacher, carer or similar. It would also make a nice conversation piece for your coffee table when you have guests with whom you struggle for small talk ;-).

Enjoy this – it’s certainly a bit of a giggle!


Just Right for Christmas – Birdie Black & Rosalind Beardshaw


On the 3rd Day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

An amazing mouse! and a very sweet book……..

Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9780857631367
Australian Pub.: November 2014
Imprint: Nosy Crow


RRP $12.99

“Waste Not, Want Not” is a maxim well-known to those of us raised by parents who themselves grew up in the Depression years. And it’s a principle with just as much import in our modern disposal consumer-driven society.

When a king buys a length of sumptuous red velvet to have a cloak made for his daughter’s Christmas present, it is not just the Princess who receives a beautiful present. After each character has ‘snipped and sewed’ to make a special gift, beginning with the palace seamstress, the leftover scraps of fabric are put outside the back door, where another character comes along and is thrilled with the unexpected bounty.  As Milly (mouse) finds the last tiny scrap of red fabric, she knows it is just enough to make little Billy a cosy scarf for Christmas.

Proving that one person’s trash is another’s treasure, the one swath of fabric makes five Christmas presents for some very happy recipients.

As a delightful contrast to our fine Australian Christmas books, this is typically English with snow, holly, badgers, squirrels, thatched roofs and smoking chimneys. It would make a super comparison text for young children exploring customs, climate and culture, broadening their view of the world in a simple, gentle story.


Lulu Bell and the Christmas Elf – Belinda Murrell


On the first day of Christmas, my true love brought to me………

Random House Australia

November 2014

RRP $12.99

ISBN 978857982254


Look who’s back in town! Just in time for Christmas as well! Christmas in Australia – concerts, carols, cooking, cricket, crafts and community.

Lulu Bell and her family are preparing for Christmas along with their friends and neighbours. One really exciting event is the school concert and parents are busy making costumes and props with real community spirit. Lulu and her brother and sister help their mum to make and bake lovely gifts for the teachers and are planning their letters to Santa.

Amidst all the happy busyness there is some sadness though as Lulu’s friends, Olivia and Jo, have lost their cat and are completely distraught. It’s a dangerous world out there for a little cat on its own.

The real joy of the Lulu Bell books is the sense of love and warmth and strong community ties that binds the characters together and coupled with that is the opportunity for young readers to learn. In this case, something of Dutch customs and language (through Olivia and Jo’s family), the dangers of scrub ticks for domestic pets and ‘how to’ do things – in this book, making costumes, decorations and cooking delicious recipes.

Thankfully, there is a very happy resolution for all and the  Shelly Beach folk are able to celebrate their Christmas with true joy and gratitude.  This series is one of those endearing ones that will find favour over and over again.

This one is going straight to Small’s Christmas parcel so she can enjoy another adventure from the animal hospital and Lulu.

Highly recommended for young readers of around 6 years and up.

As a wonderful bonus, Lulu Bell’s bunting is attached here as a PDF or you might like to access the activities page here and visit the book’s page here.

Coming up very soon, a Q&A with the delightful Belinda Murrell – stay tuned for that one!

But I KNOW you want more! Thanks to wonderful Random House Australia, Just So Stories has THREE copies of Lulu Bell and The Christmas Elf to give away – so you can also give the joy of Lulu this Christmas (if only to yourself!). Winners will be selected by a Random Christmas elf ****(leave a comment on the post)**** – please supply an email address for contact so that your book can be posted you, in time for the reindeer to deliver.

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Bubbay: a Christmas Adventure – Josie Wowolla Boyle/Fern Martins



  • Published :Oct 2012
  • Pages: 48
  • ISBN: 9781921248726
  • Ages :Lower primary
  • Format: Hard Cover

Teaching notes can be found here.


With themes about loneliness/friendship/hope and Christmas, this is a timely book as we get closer to Christmas..

Bush magic is always special and when it comes at Christmas time, it’s even more special. Bubbay is a little boy who lives alone in the desert, looking after his herd of goats. The only human with whom he has contact is Mrs Timms. He swaps goats’ milk for eggs and while he is generally happy in his own company there are times when he does get lonely so he always enjoys his visits with Mrs Timms.

This Christmas Eve is different though. Bubbay feels sad when he thinks about everyone else getting ready for festive celebrations in their homes – and suddenly, more than anything, he wishes he had a Christmas tree, presents, a home and a family.

Imagine his surprise when a streak of shimmering light swoops down from the sky before him and a little Christmas tree appears. Even more surprising is that the tree talks to him! It tells him that if he can find five very special items for decorations on its branches, he will have a very special Christmas!

A stone, a feather, an egg and a seed might not be too difficult to find – but a shell? In the desert?

How will he ever manage such a task?

Suddenly, the glow of his own little fire reveals old grandmother Gubarlee appearing to the sound of tapsticks and singing.  Throughout the rest of the magical Christmas Eve Gubarlee guides Bubbay to find each of the special decorations – and they finish just in time for sunrise.

As the desert dawn floods the landscape with light, Bubbay sees Mrs Timms approaching, her arms wide open, inviting him to come and be her own little boy.  Truly this is a very special Christmas for both these characters, finding comfort, company and love in each other’s presence.

A lovely and gentle tale about reaching out to others in the real and the spiritual worlds, lavishly illustrated with vibrant colours depicting the desert and it’s animal inhabitants.

Highly recommended for Lower/Middle Primary children.