Aussies – We salute! Reads to enjoy around the barbie

As the mercury level rises and your pool swells with screaming kids, it might be time to reach out for a reason to remember why you love summer, and kids, and Australia! Here is a real mixed swag of reads full of the flavour of Australia Day.

Australians Let Us B B Q!Australian’s Let Us Barbecue! I featured this one just before Christmas but it’s still worth popping on the bonus CD by Colin Buchanan and Greg Champion for that extra dollop of Oz. Along with the iconic illustrations of, Glen Singleton, every bit of Aussie swank and summer backyard tradition have been merged into the tune of our Australian National Anthem. Throw your thongs in the air and enjoy the rousing recital and sing-along. It’s not just all about burnt black snags on the barbie. The lads take us over rugged mountain ranges, across scorching desert plains, around the Rock, through the Whitsundays and back again. I am on that sailboat and in that Kombi thanks to Singleton’s dynamite depictions. An exemplary example of an Aussie summertime that must be experienced by everyone. Quintessentially, unashamedly Aussie.

Scholastic Australia November 2015

The Little Book of Australian Big ThingsNow that everyone’s levels of Aussie-rama are peaking higher than the midday sun, grab The Little Book of Australia’s Big Things by Samone Bos and Alice Oehr. This nifty little hard back features an amazing assortment of Australia’s BIG things from bananas, lobsters and trout to guitars and bushrangers. Fun, informative, and loaded with cheek and colour, this guided-tour-around-Australia-collection has a charming retro feel with dozens of activities, recipes, and pop-out pages for little ones to Big thingscraft their own big things. The dust jacket forms part of the fun too, folding out into a big Australian panoramic scene. Too true! It’s enough to make me want to jump in the Kombi again and track these all down for the heck of it. Highly recommended.

Chirpy Bird imprint of Hardie Grant Egmont 2015

Speaking Bad Nedof bushrangers, check out a really bad story by Dean Lahn. Actually, his picture book, Bad Ned isn’t all that bad – that’s just the subtitle. The bad face, explosively bold text and cartoon-esque styled illustrations are comically quirky and a pleasing parody of a little boy’s imaginative day. Bad boy Ned models himself on the notorious bushranger, Ned Kelly but at the end of the day, his naughtiness becomes unstuck, literally. More entertaining than expected however the sudden ending may require explanation for young readers not familiar with our bush-rangering lore.

Omnibus Books imprint of Scholastic May 2015

ABC DreamingIndigenous author, Warren Brim hails from Far North Queensland, as do I, so it was a marvellous treat experiencing ABC Dreaming. Unlike some learn-the-alphabet books, ABC Dreaming depicts a unique array of Aussie (rainforest) characters, fruits, and flora. The stunning x-ray line, dot artwork paints each subject against a vibrant background that best accentuates its unique features. From Red-eyed green tree frogs, mozzies and nutmeg pigeons to yabbies and xanthorrhoeas (blackboys or grasstrees), this is a beautiful and stimulating way for little Aussies to learn their ABCs.

Magabala Books November 2015

An English Year front cover (800x770)But of course, little Aussies take on all shapes and forms. If you’d like to spend Aussie day appreciating your family’s diversity and background or the culture of others who make up our great society, cast an eye over Tania McCartney’s and Tina Snerling’s latest additions to their Twelve Months in the Life of Kids series. An English Year and A Scottish Year are as good as actually being there. I encourage you to visit this awesome series of picture books that allows Aussie kids better beautiful contact with kids outside their ‘norm’ of experience. Lavishly illustrated, meticulously thought out and superbly accurate, An English Year invites you to experience the English isle, its inhabitants, and rituals without the need of a passport. Better than a bacon buttie. Exploring the highlands and lowlands of Scotland is just as fun as well. You’ll be visiting this one time and time again if nothing more than to practice pronouncing the Celtic mouthfuls of place names, traditional fare and annual events.

A Scottish Year front cover (800x770)Fun and informative. Breezy yet substantial. I have to say, I’m a little bit in love with this series. Potentially so useful in the classroom and home. Of course, if it’s Aussie flavour you’re after, An Aussie Year is the non-fiction picture book choice.

EK Books imprint of Exisle Publishing September 2015

The Big Book of Australian History 2I embrace the digital dexterity of our young generation however confess that I sometimes get a lot more joy from thumbing over pages of facts and images rather than endlessly scrolling and clicking. There’s something so organically satisfying and enriching reading an old tome style encyclopaedia. Renowned history and science writer, Peter Macinnis has created a sensational collection of historic events for primary and high school students in, The Big Book of Australian History that I am delighted to thumb through.

From the time Gondwana broke up to when strangers arrived in the 1600s to our present day milestone-makers, this is a truly superlative treasure trove of highlights, did-you-knows, ancient discoveries and of course stunning images, photographs and maps. As stated by the National Library of Australia, The Big Book of Australian History (shortly to be followed by The Big Book of Indigenous History) ‘is a book to dip into and savour’, an ‘enthusiastic retelling of Australia’s story that is infectious’. Informative text is presented in a non-over whelming way and broken up into logical chapter chunks flowing chronologically from the Dreamtime to modern day, finally entreating readers with the proposition that they are tomorrow’s history makers. Bloody marvellous, if you’ll pardon my Aussie vernacular. But then of course, it is time to salute our Aussieness!

National Library Australia May 2015

Enjoy and Happy Australia Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

Stocking Stuffer Suggestions # 6 – Dim’s Christmas picks

Hold on to your paper hats. Here are some last minute cracking Christmas reads to cram into your kidlets’ stockings, a mere handful of my top picks this year. In no particular order:12 10 front cover

Fantasy

 PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? doesn’t set out to change the world but it does reinforce the magic of believing in all things Christmassy (insert cheeky wink). This action saturated little tale has all the ingredients of a tantalising Christmas mystery, if I do say so myself with sleigh loads of magical mayhem, weird smells, disappearing mail and an evil elf thrown in for good measure. Terrific fun for primary schoolers, by me!

Morris Publishing Australia October 2012

A Boy Called Christmas A Boy Called Christmas by the ineffable Matt Haig with illustrations by Chris Mould however may just save the world or at least the spirit of Christmas. Miika is a mouse who believes in cheese despite the fact he has never seen it. Isn’t that something? He is just one of the several seriously delectable characters in this enchanting Christmas-flavoured book. A Boy Called Christmas combines everything you thought you knA Boy Called Christmas illosew about Santa, mixes it with all the hopes you’ve ever had about Christmas and pats it altogether with facts you’d never dreamed about before. If there is one book you read to your children (or pets or grandparents or self) this holiday season, make sure it’s this one. Touted as an ‘evergreen, immortal Christmas classic’ A Boy Called Christmas will fill your heart with more warmth and wonderment than a jug of eggnog. Perhaps enjoy both together, at the same time. You can’t go wrong. I love everything about this book; the joy, the spirit, the illustrations right down to the sparkly snowy bits on the cover. Higher than highly recommended.

Allen & Unwin November 2015

Classic

The Nights before Christmas The Nights Before Christmas – 24 Classic Stories to Share is a pictorial advent-styled collection of short stories, poems, classic tales, and carols by the likes of The Brothers Grimm, Mark Twain, Hans Christian Anderson and more while, Tony Ross is responsible for page after page of vivid festive illustrations. Overflowing with merriment, sentiment, and fairies, there are plenty of fairies; this compilation is the penultimate way to countdown to Christmas sans sugar! I shared it with my nine-year-old last year and now we are giving it a second airing. She will not abide missing a day’s story or skipping ahead. The lure of what awaits for the next night is half the attraction. A bit like waiting for the man in red himself. Very very special.

Koala Books Scholastic Australia November 2014

The Hush Treasure BookAnother unreal collection and Christmas keepsake is The Hush Treasure Book. Readers can meander in and out of the stories, poems, and pictures of some of Australia’s most well-known and best-loved authors and illustrators whilst listening to the melodic tones of the accompanying CD. The picture book format of this assorted box of literary treasures renders it a collector’s must-have while making it utterly wonderful to share with your children. You can read Joy Lawn’s illuminating review of Hush, here. She made it through Judith Rossell’s incredible Maze Page contained within as did my ten-year-old. Not surprisingly, I did not. I am not a fan of mazes, but I am in love with this book.

Allen & Unwin October 2015

Anthology

Rich and RareI touched on this anthology edited by Paul Collins a couple of months ago; you can revisit it, here. Rich and Rare deserves head of the table status as one of the most comprehensive collections of Australian short stories, poetry and artwork in recent times, and we do produce some cracking good ones. A sensational synergy of individuality so deftly and ably woven together into one fluid volume that it is pure pleasure to read. The likelihood of finding at least one or two of your favourite kids’ authors amongst this collection is above high, such is the calibre of Collins’ round up of talent. Deliciously diverse, thrilling, and thought-provoking Rich and Rare is capable of satisfying the fussiest of readers from 10 to 100 and as Collins suggests, ‘should be in every home.’

Ford Street Publishing October 2015

Australiana

Emo the EmuIt doesn’t really matter where the exact origins of the term ‘emo’ originated, what matters is this spanking new picture book by Tony Wilson and Lucia Masciullo. Both creators have captured the essence of emo in this picture book adventure, Emo the Emu. Emo is one moody, despondent little emu dude so full of mope that he is unable to enjoy his inner emu and Old Humpty Doo where he resides with his extended flightless family. Wilson’s lilting rhyming verse personifies the creatures of our Aussie landscapes precisely while focusingEmo illos spread on Emo’s utter gloom. Masciullo’s watercolour illustrations are ridiculously true to country and fun. Her rendition of lanky-fringed, angst-ridden Emo is hilariously spot-on (worthy of eliciting dozens of teenage eye-rolls). Thankfully, cool Kanga Katie lightens the mood and saves Emo from himself. This will make an awesome gift-with-a-difference for overseas family and friends or for those with a hankering to see more of our great land. A beaut exploration of friendship, emotions, travel, and the great Aussie outdoors. Put it on your list!

Scholastic Press November 2015

Australians Let Us B B Q!Need an extra dollop of Oz? Look no further than Australians, Let Us Barbecue! Yes, Colin Buchanan and Greg Champion along with the iconic illustrations of, Glen Singleton have merged every bit of Aussie swank and summer backyard tradition into the tune of our Australian National Anthem, (one I am betting Aussie kids will instantly learn the words to!) I am throwing both thongs in the air for this one. Slap the accompanying CD on for a rousing recital and sing-along to the very recognisable soundtrack. It’s not just all about burnt black snags on the barbie. The lads take us across rugged mountain ranges, across scorching desert plains, around the Rock, through the Whitsundays and back again. I am almost on that sailboat and in that Kombi thanks to Singleton’s dynamite depictions. An exemplary example of an Aussie summertime that must be experienced by everyone. Quintessentially, unashamedly Aussie.

Scholastic Australia November 2015

Oh there are stacks more, but investigate these first, then have a look through the Boomerang Kids Reading Guide 2015 / 2016 for more great gift ideas. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

Song, Poem and Rhyme Picture Books

Children connect with songs and rhymes. This innate quality allows young readers and listeners the ability to play and experiment with sounds with ease. Not only do these lyrical stories lend themselves to a range of engaging and interactive experiences, but their audience is also given opportunities to learn the mechanics of language, sequences and meaning of the text. The following few picture books explore some well-known tunes and traditional tales in new and innovative ways that will relate to their readers, both young and old. Some great for a giggle, some for a wiggle, and one for learning about things that jiggle!

The Croc and the Platypus, Jackie Hosking (author), Marjorie Crosby-Fairall (illus.), Walker Books, 2014.  

From the lyrical talent of Jackie Hosking, with the superbly detailed and dynamic acrylic paintings by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, ‘The Croc and the Platypus’ bounds its way from outback Australia straight into our hearts.
To the age-old tune of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’, here our water-loving, ‘Aussie’ pair set off, not to sea in their pea-green boat, but across the desert in their rusty Holden ute. Featuring typical Australian and Indigenous treasures and proper slang, including didgeridoo hullabaloos, sheep-shearing blokes, a cocky, lamingtons and the beauty of the Southern Cross above Uluru, the platypus and the croc embark on an extraordinary camping adventure.
‘The Croc and the Platypus’ is a charming Aussie rendition of the classic song with its romping, rollicking nature and perfectly suited sandy tones and animated characters. Primary school children will adore these unlikely mates and all that our native outback has to offer.  

8367940_ZSilly Squid! Poems about the Sea, Janeen Brian (author), Cheryll Johns (illus.), Omnibus Books, 2015.  

Following on from the ‘Silly Galah!’ poem book, award-winning Janeen Brian, together with illustrator Cheryll Johns, dive into more fact-finding fun with the wonderfully entertaining ‘Silly Squid! Poems about the Sea’.
Learning about underwater sea creatures in this book is far from boring. I love how Brian cleverly gets the reader involved. She doesn’t simply spill facts onto the page, but through a nicely cantered metre and interesting information, she encourages discussion with prompting, questioning and expression. Find out fascinating facts, like how a sea star regrows an arm, that a daddy leafy sea dragon helps the eggs to hatch, a squid is not silly because it can colour-change, and that fairy penguins don’t carry wands or grant wishes.
Discovering the world of sea life has never been more captivating with the fun poetry and vivid, bold acrylic paintings. ‘Silly Squid!’ is a valuable resource for primary aged children both in and out of the classroom.  

9781743623534The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, Tony Wilson (author), Laura Wood (illus.), Scholastic, 2015.  

A hilarious version of the old nursery rhyme, ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, with a most persistent, hard-working cow and his ever-so supportive friends. ‘The Cow Tripped Over the Moon’ takes us back on the journey of how the cow ultimately succeeded in jumping over the moon. With exuberant rhyme and comical, distinct illustrations, it takes this hapless cow seven moon attempts before he finally conquers this mighty challenge. From tripping over, to hitting a hot air balloon, slow run-ups, riding meteorites and blazing bottoms, Cow hits an all-time low. But the encouragement of his dog, cat, dish and spoon mates sparks the determination in this fiesty creature, and the rhyme ends happily ever after.
Adorably whimsical and witty with clever plays on the classic rhyme, ‘The Cow Tripped Over the Moon’ is perfect for a snuggle and a giggle before a preschooler’s bedtime.    

Some other great song books to add to your list:

10-cheeky-possums10 Cheeky Possums, Ed Allen (author), Claire Richards (illus.), Scholastic, 2015.  

From the crazy silly series from Scholastic and Ed Allen, including ’10 Clumsy Emus’, ’10 Spooky Bats’ ’10 Hooting Owls’, ’10 Silly Wombats’, and ’10 Funny Sheep’, is the latest in the collection; ’10 Cheeky Possums’.
Each book contains the same rhythmic style and format, taking the reader from ten animals down to one, to the tune of ’10 Green Bottles’. There are always lively scenes and funny ways that the animals disappear from sight, like being inauspiciously swept off into the distance.
Whilst some unconventional phrasing to fit the verse, this series is an entertaining and interactive concept aimed at young preschoolers and the development of number recognition and counting skills. There are certainly plenty of opportunities for exploration and manipulation in the areas of numeracy and the arts.  

little-barry-bilby-had-a-fly-upon-his-noseLittle Barry Bilby had a Fly upon his Nose, Colin Buchanan (author), Roland Harvey (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.  

By legendary author and musician Colin Buchanan, and charismatic, witty illustrations by Roland Harvey, is the gorgeously humorous and charming ‘Little Barry Bilby had a Fly upon his Nose’.
Crafted from the classic ‘Little Peter Rabbit’ song, this Aussie version takes us bouncing and itching along as a group of helpless native animals escape the invasion of their bizzy buzzy bush bug pests by jumping into the creek.
With rollicking lyrics in three verses, repetition and alliteration, preschoolers can easily gauge the rhythm and language, allowing for a most appealing and engaging song (and dance) time experience. The bonus CD adds an extra dimension to the drama, particularly for those adults who may need some help staying on key!  

Let’s hear if for the boys! – Chrissy Classics you’ve Read with your Kids

Grinch ChristmasAs we romp ever closer to that special night of the year, don’t forget to take a moment or two to sit with someone small and share some magic. You never know, it may extend into a lifetime of golden memories.

Nick EarlsToday’s classics you’ve read with your kids starts out with multi-talented SE QLD writer, Nick Earls and despite his difficulty connecting with frost-bite and using the oven in 30 C degree plus weather to roast a traditional meal for three days, I believe is definitely on the right track with these all time favourites.

Nick Earls’ sugar plum delights…

Stick ManOkay, Christmas. I have to admit it doesn’t take up a huge part of our library. Maybe I’m more of a Grinch than I realised. Books are big in our house – my son is five – and a dinosaur Christmas book could really get some traction. In lieu of that, I think we’re looking at Polar Express  by Chris Van Allsburg and Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer. Perhaps Christmas books aren’t a big feature for us because we don’t connect with the religious side of it, or all the snow and cold-climate traditions?

Pat FlynnNext up, popular kids’ author, mad keen surfer and more than adequate tennis player, Pat Flynn shows us that we need look no further than our own glorious coastline for hilarious and meaningful Christmas inspiration, Aussie-style!

Pat Flynn’s Aussie flavoured Christmas Classics…

The other day my four-year old looked up at me with big, solemn eyes. ‘Dad, is it “Santa” or “Father Christmas?”’

‘Umm, I think you can use both.’

‘Okay.’ She thought for a bit. ‘Do you think Santa and Father Christmas will bring me a pony?’

It’s that time of year again, and what would Christmas be without stories of snow and reindeer during sweltering nights? Fortunately, there are some Aussie Christmas books to reflect our experiences down under, and these tend to be the ones I read to my own children. Here are some favourites.

 

12 Days of Aussie Christmas The 12 Days of Aussie Christmas by Colin Buchanan and Glen Singleton.

With half a dozen snags, five rusty utes and four footy fans, what’s not to love? Comes with a great song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_4IlcGyosw

  The Down Under 12 Days of Christmas by Michael Salmon

There is always plenty of detail in a Michael Salmon boDown under 12 days Christmasok to help enjoy a second or third reading.

 An Aussie Day Before Christmas Kilmeny Niland

and

An Aussie Night before Christmas An Aussie Night Before Christmas Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland

Any books that link Christmas with fairy bread and lamingtons are all right with me. Frivolous and funny.

Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King.

Beautifully written and illustrated, this book reminds us that while we’re often battling nature at Christmas time, we’re at our best when we help each other through the tough times.

 856-20141023120845-Cover_Mr-Darcy-and-the-Christmas-Pudding_R Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding by Alex Field and Peter Carnavas.

Peter Carnavas is my favourite illustrator (mine too Pat, mine too) and this Mr Darcy Christmas book sees him having a quaking good time drawing Mr Darcy the duck, Lizzy Duck and her sisters.

Well that should keep you well and truly satisfied this Festive Season. As I continue to crank up the silly season spirit in readiness for celebration and cheer-sharing, I want to say to every body who’s ever visited and read these posts, who’s ever ended up trekking down one of the many wonderful stories for kids I’ve tried to share with you over the past year – Thanks! Wishing you all a very very Merry Christmas! Dimity

Santa reading

 

 

Rounding up the Reindeers – Frivolous Fun Reads

Okay, so the countdown is on: Chrissy pudding curing away; Christmas turkey ordered; extra chairs stacked ready for those visiting hoards. Santa’s list might even already be on its way to the North Pole but you realise you have a few more stockings to stuff. Here are a bunch of playful festive reads that may be a little low on literary beef but will deck your halls with seasonal joy and verve. They are guaranteed to keep anyone up to six years-old thoroughly amused for at least as long as it takes to roast your Christmas turkey. And the best part? You can sing-a-long to just about every one of them!

One NightExcept this one,…One Night by Penny Matthews and Stephen Michael King is perhaps the least frivolous of the bunch being a heart-warming retelling about the legend of talking animals who magically relive the night Jesus was born every Christmas Eve at midnight. The conversational narrative paired with Stephen Michael King’s divine watercolour illustrations is so dreamlike, you’ll want to wish upon a star and listen out for the animals at midnight too.

Omnibus Books October 2014

Santa's Busy ReindeerForget about ten green bottles – Santa’s Busy Reindeer means red, as in Rudolph’s nose, is the new green. Ed Allen teams up with Sydney illustrator, Nathaniel Eckstrom as ten of Santa’s reindeer scramble madly to get a sleigh load of pressies delivered on time. Trouble is, they are too easily distracted for their own good. A jolly read-aloud counting book that embraces the sillier bits of the silly season.

Scholastic Australia October 2014

Keep an eye on your Christmas tree and everything under it because that bloke’s back and his Christmas appetite is bigger than a five year-old’s wish list to Santa.

There was an Old Bloke who Swallowed a PresentThere was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Present is bigger, brighter and even more ludicrous than previous Old Bloke and Old Lady books by P. Crumble and Louis Shea. Brimming with batty brilliance, this is visual gravy for your festive fare. It left me wondering though, how much that Old Bloke looks like someone I know. Possibly one of the best titles I’ve read in this series.

Scholastic Australia October 2014
The Twelve Days of ChristmasTake it down a gear or two with The Twelve Days of Christmas. Alison Jay’s distinctive fine art work gives this well-known song an almost vintage feel. The sumptuous illustrations are visually stimulating yet instil a genteel tranquillity in contrast to the frenetic rising tempo of the song, suggesting that you can have too much of a good thing. Merry makers be warned!

Koala Books October 2014

Amelie and Nanette SnowflakesFor little girls who want a bit more of a bedtime story to fall into dreams with, try Amelie and Nanette: Snowflakes and Fairy Wishes by Sophie Tilley. It’s all things soft and sugary just like the tops of the girls’ fairy cakes and just as sickly sweet in parts but then Christmas is the time to allow a bit of self-indulgence. Shimmering tinsel stars, enduring friendships and fairy wings are de rigueur for these two this Christmas.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books October 2014

Yikes Santa ClawsNeed something for the mini male monster masters in your life then whack Yikes, Santa Claws! by Pamela Butchart and Sam Lloyd on your list. It has dinosaurs, Santa, the word ‘poo’ in it and a nice lilting rhythm. Winner!

Bloomsbury Publishing November 2014

Ella and Olivia Christmas CountdownEJ Hide and PeekLet your slightly older readers snuggle up with these early reader chapter books as you digest the last of the fruit mince pies. Fans and followers of Ella and Olivia will be in raptures with their Christmas instalment of Christmas Wonderland, while EJ 10 recruits can join Emma Jacks as she discovers why Christmas can be full of surprises in Hide and Peek.

Scholastic October 2014

Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle Glen Singleton’s illustrations just scream Australiana for me, which may explain why I tried to scream this picture book aloud to my family with such unbridled enthusiasm. Perhaps I should have relied more on the bonus CD thoughtfully included. Happy to report my rendition of this popular Chrissy carol did nothing to diminish their enjoyment of Colin Buchanan’s (along with Greg Champion) and Glen Singleton’s Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle.

Syd Echidna is in the throes of sprucing up his shed for Christmas when a wretched willy-willy ‘undecorates’ all his hard work. Exasperated beyond exhaustion, Syd slips into a deep sleep while a troop of his best mates set to work on a bonza Christmas surprise for him.

Leg thumping, sing-along jocularity that will be getting lots of airplay around these parts this season. Because who doesn’t love a bit of song and dance at Christmas time? Make sure your kids are part of the fun.

Scholastic Australia October 2014

These aren’t even the tip of the iceberg, more a small bump somewhere near the top a North Pole-sized mountain of cool Chrissy reads available this season. Be sure to look around our other posts for more great kids’ titles.

If you’re looking for gifts with less focus on Christmas flavour but equal heart and soul, keep an eye out for my next post: Dim’s Top 25 Cracking Christmas Reads for Kids.

 

 

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

Aussie Appeal – Picture Book Reviews

Worrisome wombats, bouncing bilbies and even talking gumnuts may not be your de rigueur when it comes to picture book characters. Yet their antics make up a substantial percentage of picture book storylines and provide vital introductions and links between Aussie kids and our rich, endemic Australian flora and fauna.

Look around and you’ll find dozens of titles touching on everything from spoonbills to fruit bats, puggles to possums and jacanas to joeys. Many are by authors you know and trust offering true works of art worthy of coveting and collecting. Here is a tiny selection of some of the more recent releases.

One Woolley Wombat ReadersPerennial author illustrator, Kerry Argent, has a tatty new First Reader series out now tailored for pre-schoolers. Small colour-popping paperbacks perfect for little hands and new readers feature old mate, Woolly Wombat, his bestie, Bandicoot and a swag of other Aussie birds and beasts in easy-to-read adventures. Beautiful introductions to counting, colour, rhythm and language conventions. Scholastic Australia March 2014

The Bush Book ClubBook club nuts along with reluctant readers will adore Margaret Wild’s and Ben Wood’s The Bush Book Club. It has a little bit of brilliance on each page; rhyme, comedy, cuteness, colour and galahs! Bilby sorely needs to slow down and smell the ink but he is too busy and bouncy to read let alone actually enjoy a book until one fateful night he discovers what it’s like for his head to be ‘full of words and stories’. A marvellous look at what it takes to appreciate the wonderment of stories and a must in the classroom and home. Modestly adorable. Omnibus Books March 2014

Possum's Big SurpriseRhyming picture books are not always easy to digest (when produced badly), but done well they glide across our palates as smoothly as birthday cake frosting. So it comes as little surprise that Possum’s Big Surprise by celebrated duo, Colin Buchanan and Nina Rycroft, is a feast for 4 + year-olds and above. Fun, frisky, teasing verse coupled with super-rich, eye-pleasing water-colour illustrations, an Aussie bush backdrop and a perky possum named Flossy, give kids plenty of reasons to keep page turning. Scholastic Australia May 2014

Karana EmuSlightly more serious but quietly impressionable is Karana: the Story of the Father Emu, by Brisbane and Wakka Wakka leader, Uncle Joe Kirk and Sandi Harrold. In spite of the unwieldy title, this cyclical story is written in simple rhyming verse which unfolds easily leaving the reader fulfilled, enlightened and emphatic towards father Emu as he assumes the role of parent, nurturer, and chief educator for his chicks; just as father figures in many indigenous cultures do. An enjoyable tale to share with children because of its simplicity and heart but it was the emus’ eyes that clenched it for me; cute and clever! Scholastic Australia May 2014

 A Feast for Wombat features another Aboriginal author, Sally Morgan and first time picture book illustrator, Tania Ezinger.

A feast for WombatWombat is your typical underground slumber-champion with a strong predilection for his burrow. He rarely surfaces. When he does he encounters the goodtime antics of his friends, Goanna, Magpie and Dingo but is slow to join them in play until their persistence and kind-hearted surprise re-instates how much they value Wombat’s friendship.

Sounds a little trite and ordinary I know, however Morgan attempts to balance Wombat’s self-depreciating, woe-be-gone attitude with a questioning optimism that he displays by complimenting his friends’ various talents and by trying to replicate them albeit with little success.

I was pleased Wombat’s self-doubt is finally conquered and replaced with a greater sense of self-worth however felt a little muddled by the oscillating attitudes of Wombat’s friends towards him; sometimes generous and grateful, sometimes hurtfully frank. Four year-olds are unlikely to dwell on this (it is after all how true friends can be) gaining immense pleasure instead from Erzinger’s spirited acrylic based artwork. Keep an eye out for the hapless little spinifex mouse on each page too. Gorgeous! Omnibus Books April 2014

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie's Underwater AdventureWhether these titles stand up alongside such favourites as May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Narelle Oliver’s Don’t Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen! and Fox and Fine Feathers, Yvonne Morrison’s The Emu that Laid the Golden Egg or Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat to name a few, time will tell. But like the tiniest creature in the Aussie bush, there is bound to be a spot for them in your heart and on your book shelves.

 

Doodles and Drafts – A visit from Santa and Glen Singleton

Santa's Magic BeardIs there anybody else out there who, like me, thinks it can’t possibly be only 5 weeks until Christmas? Just 37 days left to sort the cards, deck the halls, knock back a cup or two of good cheer and squeeze in a few book signings, never mind about drafting a list for Santa.

Thankfully the crafty, creative critters at Macadamia House have been working harder than a workshop full of elves and come up with a sensational gift solution sure to lessen your pre-Christmas planning predicaments.

Santa’s Magic Beard hits the shelves this month and is a glorious celebration of the real magic and meaning of Christmas. Author, Em Horsfield and illustrator, Glen Singleton, successfully team up again for a third time in the Nutmobile series, delivering a veritable feast of words in rhyme and visual scintillation.

Santa’s Magic Beard is possibly my favourite book in the series to date. This could in part be due to my colossal obsession with all things Christmassy or simply because this tale is told with sincere warmth and respect for the season with just enough magic stirred in to make it fun and unique.

Santa's Magic Beard.jpg NoshIt’s Christmas Eve and all the characters of Macadamia farm work hard on their Christmas wish-lists before snuggling down to await the big man’s arrival. However, Nosh the Nutmobile’s wish is of a less tangible quality. He wants to know how the reindeer actually fly. Is it really just a case of magical elf dust sprinkled liberally on their pre-flight carrots as we’ve been led to believe?

Thanks to some typical seasonal over-indulgence on behalf of Rudolph and the team, Nosh not only receives his gift but is treated to the night of his life, with Santa. As with all things ‘magical, marvellous, woolly and weird’, the rest is best left for you to discover yourself.

Santa’s Magic Beard is as memorable as sinking your teeth into the first fruit mince pie of the season and will have you yearning for more, therefore making it a delight to read over and over. It is crammed full with the very essence of Christmas in a way many young lovers of Christmas will relate to (awakening on Christmas morning to a mountain of gifts for instance) yet happily reminds us of the old adage that giving is ultimately far better than receiving.

Primary aged children will soak up this cheery picture book either as a lead-up read to Christmas or as a special treat in their Christmas stockings this year.

And because it’s the season to be jolly and admittedly excess a little, this week we’re featuring not one but two interviews with the creators of Santa’s Magic Beard.

Glen SingletonToday, Glen Singleton, quiet achiever and talented artist behind the Nutmobile picture books reveals how he differs from Santa and likes drawing animals in clothes.

Q Who is Glen Singleton? Describe the illustrator in you and what sets your work apart from other Aussie illustrators.

I was born in Brisbane and have lived and worked here all of my life. After leaving High School I studied Illustration and Animation at QLD College of Art graduating with a Diploma Of Art (Visual Communications) in 1979 . Only making up my mind in the last few days of High School to enrol. Obviously I had always had a love for drawing and spent most of my spare time squirrelled away drawing intricate pen and ink line drawings with some old Rapidiograph pens my Dad gave me. I chose a complicated cross-hatched style for some reason to try to master. Very slow and labourious with every drawing like an etching. After leaving college I decided to take the big scary step to go to working freelance. Having no choice really as no one employed illustrators full time. So have been on that rollercoaster ride ever since. Sometimes stuck at the bottom of that big tower the rollercoaster climbs…creeping to the top…before it rushes down the other side again.

In that time back in the early 90’s I met the late (great) illustrator Greg Rogers through illustration work I was commissioned to do for a Government department he worked for. We often talked of the idea of illustrating childrens books. Greg heard of a weekend workshop Scholastic were putting on and we both went off to attend and learn about the joys and love you need to illustrate them. I don’t recall a lot of what they said at the time. But there were a few words that have stuck with me over the years. They said you will probably need to draw them ‘for the love of it’. How right they were . If only we were paid for the time we really put into each book. It certainly takes a lot of love!

But cant think of anything better than sitting at my drawing board working on illustrations for a book (preferably on a bleak rainy day) listening to music in my own little world.

What sets me apart..? I don’t know. I’ve probably made a name for myself drawing mostly typical Australian stuff. A lot of it based on animals. Hopefully not too stereotyped . Suppose you have to follow the text that’s given to you really. One book leads to another sometimes . Most of the animals I draw are wearing clothes too. Don’t they all..? A throw back to growing up having Beatrix Potter’s -The Tales of Peter Rabbit read to me possibly and sticking somewhere in the back of my mind. But funnily I always thought I would love to have a crack at illustrating something like The Wind In The Willows ..love all things British and would love to live and work there. That….may never happen. I might have to be happy with just having been there a few times for holidays. But have written some stories of my own that are aimed at the market in that part of the world. Illustrating them is something else. I’ll let you know if it ever happens!

Q When did the desire to draw and create manifest itself in you?

I can remember drawing way back to when I was little. My parents always encouraged me to draw. At school I recall having more drawings in the back half of my Maths pad…than Maths in the front. I still passed Maths…just. But hopefully the drawings in the back paid off in some way. Being paid to doodle now.

Glen S illo 3Q Santa’s favourite colour is red. What’s yours and how does it influence or restrict what you illustrate?

Yes ..Santa likes his red. I like cyan blue myself. And violet. But don’t tell anyone. I do use both of those colours here and there in all of my illustrations .Squeezing them out of little bottles of acrylic colour and onto my watercolour paper. Get as many of those clashing cartoony colours on the paper as I can.

Q Describe how you develop your illustrations?

Glen S at workThe illustrations for children’s picture books start as you would expect. Reading the manuscript. That’s usually in an email from the publishers . Like most people I see little flashes or pictures of what’s happening in the story as I read it..jotting down little scribbles on the side of the sheet as I go.

Then it’s to a storyboard layout for the whole book from cover to cover so everyone can see at a glance what’s happening through the whole book in a few A4 pages . After approval from the editors it’s on to the final larger pencil roughs where all the details are pencilled in. That’s ALL of the details. Probably a little too tight for some illustrators who like to be a little more spontaneous. But this way…they see all of the expressions and details so they know what they are getting before it all goes to ink and colour where it’s way harder to change if they don’t like something.

Glen at work 3Q What is your favourite medium to work in? Pen, ink and watercolour has always been my preferred medium. Nothing digital at this stage…apart from a little PhotoShop in other commercial illustrations .

Q You are an artist of prolific variation Glen. Where has your work appeared?

Since the early 1990’s I’ve put out illustrations for books ranging from black line illustrations for joke books to full colour picture books and commercial illustrations as well.

The Golden Kangaroo– Illustrated books- FATHER KOALA’S NUSRERY RHYMES- Kel Richards—- FATHER KOALA’S FAIRY TALES- Kel Richards—FATHER KOALA’S FABLES- Kel Richards—THE GOLDEN KANGAROO- Garrison Valentine/ John Williamson—JOHN WILLIAMSON’S CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRALIA- John Williamson AND KANGAROO PLAYED HIS DIDGERIDOO- Nigel Gray CINDY ELLA- Tom Champion THE LAMINGTON MAN- Kel Richards SANTA KOALA- Colin Buchanan THE TWELVE DAYS OF AUSSIE CHRISTMAS- Colin Buchanan ALL ABOARD THE NUTMOBILE- Em HorsfieldMacadamia House THE HARVEST RACE- Em Horsfield –Macadamia House SANTA’S MAGIC BEARD- Em Horsfield– Macadamia House

– Art shows / exhibitions—Not as yet. Might get around to it someday….perhaps! If someone wants to pay for all the framing!

– Other media—I’ve produced illustrations over the years for advertising agencies and art studios and direct with clients . But styles and fashions change as things do , so mainly childrens books now these days.

Q You seem to have an affinity for Christmas themed picture books. What other children’s books have you illustrated? Do you have a favourite?

It’s probably not that I have an affinity with Christmas books. I just seem to have been asked to do a lot of them. Hopefully it’s because they’ve sold enough to lead on to another…and another. Infact I’m working on one right now ..for Christmas next year… 2014. Nothing like getting in early for Christmas. And have SANTA’S MAGIC BEARD –Macadamia House out this Christmas.

Lamington ManBut my favourite book is probably THE LAMINGTON MAN-Kel Richards and/or CINDY ELLA- Tom Champion.

Q Some might say, competency improves output? How long, on average does it take you to complete illustrations for a picture book?

Most of the colour picture books take anywhere from 8 weeks (at a real push) to about 3 months from first reading the text to couriering off the artwork. There is a LOT of work in every one.

Q What was the hardest thing about illustrating the Nosh Nutmobile Series? What was the most enjoyable?

The Nutmobile series for Macadamia House . Three books illustrated in total to date. There was nothing exceptionally hard about drawing the books for the team. It’s been pretty enjoyable really. When they came to sit at the drawing board to talk over the possibility of drawing the books for them, there were plenty of visual images that popped out of the text at first glance. So always a good sign or indicator of how illustrating a book may go.

Q Name one ‘I’ll never forget that’ moment in your illustrating career thus far.

Twelve Days of Aussie ChristmasProbably the day the editor I was working with at Scholastic in Sydney phoned me to say the artwork for my ‘Twelve Days of Aussie Christmas’ children’s picture book had been delivered by the courier to their office……(then there was a long pause)…then there was a …BUT … The artwork was damaged she said. It was bent and had holes in it . It was either driven over by a forklift or jammed in the hydraulic cargo door of the plane (that’s my theory anyway)..on its way down to Sydney and had creases across all of the illustrations and a hole punched through about a half of the illustrations. Three months work with creases and holes!

Thankfully as bad as it was, the artwork was salvageable…I had seen myself having to re-draw things…But I didn’t have re-draw anything. With some skilful handy work from the graphic designer (and PhotoShop) the book went to print without anyone knowing of any of the drama.

Q What is on the storyboard for Glen?

Another Christmas book for next Christmas 2014 that I’m working on…. A Dinosaur book already illustrated and another Nutmobile book ready to start.

Just for fun question: If you had an unlimited supply of macadamia nuts, what would you do with them?

I’d have no use for them other than a handful now and then. So I’d send them by the truckload to Macadamia House for them to sell to fund the next dozen books in their series they have planned for me to illustrate. You can only eat so many nuts……..(unlike reindeers apparently!)

Thankyou Glen!

Keep your reindeer antenna tuned in for the next visitor to the Draft table – Em Horsfield.

Find out more about any of the books mentioned in this post or purchase a copy here.

Little Steps Publishing November 2013

 

THREE DIFFERENT CHRISTMAS STORIES

Today we’re looking at three very different Christmas picture books. They’re all colourful and entertaining, but the only thing they really have in common is the fact that they feature animals.

SNOWY’S CHRISTMAS

Written by Sally Murphy and illustrated by her brother-in-law, David, this story features a kangaroo who looks a little different from his friends. The themes are similar to those in Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer, but this story has an Australian flavour and features kangaroos instead.

Snowy stands out from the other kangaroos because he is the only white one. But he soon discovers that being different is also special, and that maybe he is different because life has something special in store for him. Snowy’s Christmas was a hit last Christmas and has just been released in paperback for 2010.

Kangaroo loving kids will enjoy this feel good story about family, friends and fitting in. David Murphy’s beautiful illustrations are so expressive that it’s easy for readers to know exactly how Snowy is feeling.

SANTA KOALA

As the name suggests, this book features another Aussie favourite. I’d never pictured Santa as a koala until I saw this book, but it works – and a koala in a Santa suit is pretty cute.

The book is written in rhyme and can be sung to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. It even comes with its own CD.

It is cleverly written by Colin Buchanan with a very Australian flavour and features other Australian natives like Echidna and Emu. Glen Singleton’s fun colourful illustrations complement the text and there’s a funny twist at the end.

THE TWELVE CATS OF CHRISTMAS

I’m an animal lover and I have to confess that cats are a particular favourite of mine, so this book was always going to appeal.

It’s written and illustrated by Kevin Whitlark and both the text and the pictures gave me plenty to smile about.

The book is written in the same vein as the Twelve Days of Christmas but features a ‘true cat’ instead of a true love.

I think my favourites were the ‘six furballs feasting’ and a ‘fat mouse in a fur tree’, but all the presents sent by the ‘true cat’ are hilarious and the ending when all the presents have arrived can only be described as a chaos of cats.

Snowy’s Christmas is published by Random House and Santa Koala and The Twelve Cats of Christmas are published by Scholastic.