Christmas Collectibles

One NightA plethora of picture books about Christmas are published each year. Some are froth and bubble, as unsatisfying as cheap tinsel. Others are excellent, and should be shared with children and families in the lead-up to Christmas Day or join the collections of  avid Christmas book collectors.

Some standouts for 2014 that are already available are One Night by Penny Matthews and Stephen Michael King (Omnibus Books, Scholastic) and The Christmas Rose by Wendy Blaxland and Lucy Hennessy (Walker Books Australia). One Night is an Australian retelling of the birth of Jesus. Stephen Michael King’s illustrations illuminate this miraculous event. The Christmas Rose is a beautiful piece of art and writing which tells the story of a girl who follows the shepherds and the star to the stable to give the Saviour a gift.

Christmas Rose

 

A fun Australiana addition to Christmas this year is Colin Buchanan, Greg Champion and Glenn Singleton’s Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle (Scholastic). It comes with a bonus CD. Effervescent musician and writer, Buchanan, is accumulating a significant body of work for children. Seek him out.

Some older titles for Christmas book collectors and aficionados that are worth a look if you haven’t already come across them are –

Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King (who also illustrated One Night), a very Australian story which achieved the distinction of being a CBCA shortlisted book, rare for a ‘seasonal’ book.

The ABC Book of Christmas is distinctive because it features art by Australian illustrators, including Stephen Michael King (the king of Australian Christmas illustration), Ann James, Judith Rossell, Wayne Harris, Greg Rogers and Anna Walker.

Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan, is a very funny account of the birth of Jesus, told from the grumpy innkeeper’s point of view. For those scratching their heads for Christmas play ideas, this book can easily be adapted as a performance or readers’ theatre. The Nativity Play by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen would also be helpful to read during the festive season. And Mem Fox and Kerry Argent continue the nativity play theme with the Australian contemporary classic, Wombat Divine.

jesus' christmas partyA Christmas Story by eminent UK illustrator, Brian Wildsmith, tells the Christmas story from the point of view of a girl and donkey. Other high-quality picture books told from animals’ perspectives are On This Special Night by Claire Freedman and Simon Mendez; and the original, humorous, The Lion, the Unicorn and Me by esteemed author Jeanette Winterson, illustrated by Rosalind MacCurrach.

British artist, Christian Birmingham has illustrated some sumptuous Christmas books including The Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol. P.J. Lynch has also illustrated Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol exquisitely.

A Small Miracle by Peter Collington was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and is a contemporary Christmas parable.

Newbery medal winner, Kate DiCamillo has crafted a profoundly moving story of a girl who cares for a stranger at Christmas time in Great Joy. It is superbly illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

And The Tale of the Three Trees, retold by Angela Elwell Hunt and illustrated by Tim Jonke, beautifully combines the Christmas and Easter stories.

Tale of the Three Trees

Five Faves for the Festive Season

Make that, FIVE SIX FAVES FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON

It’s that time of the year when making wise gift choices can be as bewildering as wiring up your home with fairy lights. Nearly every title I review for kids is deserving of a place on the book shelf. Here are some extras worth stocking up on (pardon the pun).

How to make small things with VMFirst off the rank – a personal favourite because it does what it sets out to do – inspire, educate and entertain, How to Make small things with Violet Mackerel, Walker Books Australia. You might be familiar with a young girl named Violet Mackerel. She is the delectable creation of Anna Branford and Sarah Davis and an ardent lover of small things. Complementing the

Violet Mackerals small things by Gypsee Powell Dec 2013 (5)

heavenly Violet Mackerel series, How to make small things includes some of Violet’s favourite and most adorable small things with step-by-easy-step instructions, photographs and more of Davis’s gorgeous illustrations. Overflowing with exquisite detail and categorised into small things to wear, use and to give, young missies in particular will simply adore these crafty projects. As proof they really are doable, my Miss 8 recently road-tested a few projects for herself and her friends with triumphant success. I especially love the ‘thinking outside the square’ notations which encourage wonderful, unlimited creativity.

Clementine's Walk Clementine’s Walk by Annie White, one of two recent releases from New Frontier Publishing, October 2013.This is a fun, free-following story in verse about a dog named Clementine who is desperate to go on a walk with someone. But her family are too busy to pay her any attention, a common demise for 3 – 6 year olds. Beguiling pictures and a big-hearted storyline will make you smile.

Matilda saves Santa Claus Matilda Saves Santa Claus by Alex Field and Sophie Norsa, New Frontier Publishing, November 2013. It wouldn’t be Christmas without some sort of Christmas mystery and dilemma (insert wink). Matilda Saves Santa Claus awakens the magic of the season with endearing water colour illustrations and a warm tale about Matilda mouse who faces a lonely, treeless Christmas until she meets Rudolf who has caught himself in a spot of bother. With Matilda’s help, Santa is able to push through and deliver Matilda, her Christmas wish. Charming for the very young and lovers of Santa, like me.

 Fortunately, the milk…by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell, Bloomsbury Books, September 2013. What happens when Mum’s away, Dad’s in charge and there’s no milk left for breakfast? Sounds like a potentially perilous adventure waiting to happen. And that’s exactly what takes place when Dad ventures out to replenish supplies. This page turning, illustrated chapter book will have 6 – 10 year olds laughing all the way to the corner shop and back. But will Dad ever make it back home with the milk? Slightly ridiculous. Instantly likeable.

Australia's Greatest People and their Achievements Australia’s Greatest People and their Achievements, by Linsay Knight, Random House Australia Children’s November 2013. Ever wonder about the people who make our nation great? Who they are? Or what have they achieved and why it is so important? Author Linsay Knight says, ‘Greatness…is about achievements and success, but it’s also about characters, perseverance and uniqueness.’ Knight offers us an enticing, colourful compilation of Aussie greats. Aimed for primary aged readers, this comprehensive collection of notable Australians covers a multitude of fields including science, sport, business, art, literature and social justice. Most are people you’ll recognise. Some will be vague names and memories come to new life. Even Phar Lap is mentioned. The clear, concise, colour-coded layout promotes ease of use and is packed with interesting facts and figures making it a reference book the whole family can visit repeatedly, because ‘every country needs its heroes and we must follow them.’ – Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop.

Dear Father ChristmasMore Christmas sparkle for 4 – 8 year olds from Walker Books UK in a neat picture book package is Dear Father Christmas by Alan Derant and Vanessa Cabban. This epistolary styled story reveals Holly’s pre-Christmas conversation with Father Christmas or someone she believes to be him and is best cherished with younger children through shared reading. Swimming in charm, it tackles all the big questions about Father Christmas including; what the elves actually do; how FC gets down chimneys with a stomach that size, and what Erol the Lead Elf really looks like. Festive fun with pop-up letters from Santa , and a special little keepsake surprise that is sure to generate glitter smiles.

So whether it’s fact or fiction you’re after this Christmas, big kids or little kids you are trying to please, look no further than between the pages of a good book like these to satisfy. I just wish I had time to list more and bigger stockings to stuff them in.

Apple sauce imagesBefore I depart on a short silly season sabbatical I suddenly realise that it’s been almost a year since I began banging on about books here at Boomerang. And what a year it’s been! Hope you all made it through somehow and had more moments to treasure than despise. I think I did. I am thus reminded of one of the first reviews I posted. Here it is again. If you haven’t read this Christmas picture book, Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle before, delay no longer. For the love of Christmas – Enjoy!

 

A festive feast

I couldn’t resist taking a break from my Christmas duties to squeeze this post in. At this time of year, there’s a veritable sleigh-load of children’s Christmas books on offer; exciting new titles and plenty of old chestnuts too. Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle is one of the latter, which if not already part of your Christmas hamper, is destined to become so.

Brimming with rural Aussie flavour, this CBCA short-listed picture book is a sensitive juxtaposition of a pig, ironically named Applesauce, who feels hopelessly bereft after a bushfire sweeps away life as she knew it in her valley. Unable to come to terms with the loss, she succumbs to abject depression, certain there will be no Christmas this year for her and her beloved Joe and Marigold; the people she shares her life with.

Sage Owl consoles Applesauce, advising her that ‘Christmas comes from the heart’ not from what you have or have not got. But surrounded by such a bleak, scarred world, Applesauce is unable to feel anything but glum.

Meanwhile, others from the neighbouring bush are making their way through the empty landscape to see Joe and Marigold. We are still not sure why, although a glimpse at the book’s cover gives us a clue. The arrivals of the Shepard family and Marigold’s three slightly eccentric looking, elderly aunties all go unnoticed by Applesauce, that is until, she is finally introduced to Joe and Marigold’s new baby.

Suddenly, all that was miserable and desolate becomes cheery and meaningful. Cockatoos swirl like snowflakes. New red leaves blaze like fairy lights in the fierce sunlight, and it is amongst these simple and symbolic celebrations of new life that Applesauce lets ‘Christmas fill her heart again’.

Author Glenda Millard
Author Glenda Millard

From the first line, award-winning author, Glenda Millard, draws us almost imperceptibly into Applesauce’s pining for better days; days before drought and bushfire desecrated her world. Even without the exquisite illustrations of Stephen Michael King, Millard’s descriptions are deliciously seasoned with enough sensory detail to enable the reader to smell and feel the arid emptiness of the land; ‘night fell as dark as burnt toast’ is one image that lingers on long after being read and is thoughtfully followed by a text-less spread of night, star flecked sky.

King’s illustrations compliment the poignant text perfectly; never impinging on the tale, always filling each page with delicate, imaginative colour. I adore King’s quirky illustrative style and sense of fancy.  Both work well to retell a tale as old as Christmas itself. Adults sharing this picture book with young children will recognise the clever parallels to the nativity story. Young readers will enjoy the gorgeous imagery, magically told tale and simple yet strong Christmas message. Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle is guaranteed to fill your heart with the spirit of Christmas.

Recommended for pre-school age (3) and above.