I am always on the lookout for some Australian themed Christmas books to add to our collection and ‘Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle’ by Glenda Millard and illustrated by Stephen Michael King (what a duo they make) is a perfect addition to our stash. This heart warming book is a clever interpretation of the Nativity, set in Australia during drought and after bush fires have destroyed a farming area. Applesauce, a pig, is struggling to find the Christmas spirit and has lost hope, however as the story unfolds (and it is a captivating one) Applesauce soon discovers that Christmas comes from the heart.
Another Australian themed Christmas book is ‘Christmas Wonder’ by Vikki Conley and illustrated by Cheryl Orsini which is such a joyful story showcasing the unique and special Australian Christmas traditions enjoyed by a family one week prior to Christmas. All of the festive sights, smells and experiences of an Australian Christmas are captured in the rhyming text (two word lines that rhyme). There’s the purchase of the leg of ham, Christmas baking, festive decorating, a barbeque and cold lunch with family (complete with pavlova) at the beach, Carols by Candlelight and then Christmas day with a cold Christmas meal and bon bons. The detailed, bright, playful illustrations coupled with the text dance off the page and capture the joyous mood and wonder that is present in the Christmas season. This book can be purchased directly from Vikki Conley via her website at www.vikkiconley.com/books.html
‘A Bush Christmas’ by C.J. Dennis and Illustrated by Dee Huxley is a picture book inspired by the emotive classic Australian poem written by C.J. Dennis in 1931. This poem is set on Christmas day, the one day of the year the farmer in the poem does not work and the family enjoy a festive hot lunch. Rogan who lives alone in a hut visits the family at the farmhouse each year to enjoy Christmas lunch with them. After an enjoyable Christmas lunch Rogan delights the children with stories from when he was a farmer’s boy in England. He draws on his memories and paints a picture of a white Christmas, yuletide logs and mistletoe. A cold, snowy Christmas is concept completely foreign to the children who live on a hot, dry, parched farm surrounded by gums. The rich illustrations bring the poem to life and immerse the reader in the bush Christmas experience.
‘Christmas in Australia’ by John Williamson and illustrated by Mitch Vane is a picture book inspired by John Williamson’s ‘Christmas Photo’ song. It is a book that many Australians will be able to relate to as it tells the story of a Dad trying to capture that all important family photo on Christmas day and the obstacles that present with this feat. In the midst of attempting to achieve this elusive photo there are a host of iconic Aussie festivities going on. Mitch Vane’s illustrations are a delight to pour over and are packed with details that make you smile (often ones you can relate to and compare to your very own Christmas experiences). This is a quintessential Australian Christmas story.
‘The Nights Before Christmas: 24 Classic Stories to Share’ illustrated by Tony Ross is a book we turn to every year in the lead up to Christmas and is part of our Christmas traditions. It contains a compilation of 24 festive, classic poems and tales from well-known writers such as Charles Dickens, Clement Clarke Moore, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain and L. Frank Baum to name a few. At the beginning of the book, there is an inviting double page spread with one illustration to represent each of the 24 pieces. At the beginning of the book Tony Ross also talks about Christmas time during his childhood and experiences of it during the Second World War. He goes on to say what inspired him to illustrate this book. The colourful illustrations peppered throughout the book add another wonderful layer to this compilation. Now that my children are older, they appreciate the information about the authors and stories at the back of the book.
‘The Night Before Christmas’ (The Classic Edition) by Clement C. Moore and illustrated by Charles Santore is a book we have treasured for several years and enjoyed each Christmas Eve (my children recite this poem in chorus with lots of festive cheer). It has been reported that Clement C Moore is not the author and this poem was in fact written by Henry Livingston Jr. of Dutch heritage and the reason the original Dutch reindeer name, Donder, is in this edition. This is such an enchanting story that imbues the wonder and joy of Christmas Eve. The exquisite illustrations capture the beauty of a white Christmas and truly bring this poem to life.
‘The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker’ illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle is a unique book which combines the retelling of the Nutcracker with the music from the ballet. There is a “press here” button on each double page spread where a short excerpt of music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet is played and brings the story to life. In this story Clara is given a nutcracker from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. That evening the nutcracker turns into a Prince and invites Clara to join him in his kingdom where Clara is captivated by all that the magical Land of Sweets has to offer. At the end of the book is some information about Tchaikovsky as well further details about each of the pieces of music contained in the book for example, the act and scene where the piece is played in the ballet, information about the instruments played, the way in which the composition creates and adds to the mood.
‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ by Dr Suess was a book I had to share with my family as it is one which evokes such special childhood memories for me. My favourable childhood recollections of this book did not disappoint when I started re-reading it again as an adult with my children. This highly entertaining, fast paced story, told in rhyme, follows the Grinch, who is unpleasant, grouchy and detests Christmas with “a heart two sizes too small”. On Christmas Eve the Grinch observes, from his lonely cave the joy and merriment in Whoville and is very bitter and resentful of the Whos. Fuelled by his anger, the Grinch comes up with a way to stop Christmas from coming. The Grinch could not stand the thought of all the Who girls and boys waking to the scene of new toys and the associated joy (and noise) that comes with that and then their feasts and worst of all singing. The Grinch comes up with a “wonderful, awful idea” to stop Christmas from coming. Unfortunately, he didn’t bank on his definition of Christmas being very different to the Whos. Despite his attempt to stop Christmas through his mean actions on Christmas Eve, the Whos still woke merry and full of Christmas cheer despite what the Grinch had done. Completely flummoxed by the Whos reaction, the Grinch was catapulted into a state of reflection and then what happens next will make your heart swell (just as the Grinch’s did when he experienced the real meaning of Christmas). The themes of joy, love and acceptance are timeless. The illustrations are highly creative with a hint of mischief. This story captures the essence of the Christmas spirit.
Several years ago we added ‘A Wish to be A Christmas Tree’ by Colleen Monroe and illustrated by Michael Monroe to our collection of Christmas books. Initially I was captivated by the illustration on the cover. I researched the illustrator, Michael Monroe and discovered that he is a wildlife artist and he had been commissioned by the White House to paint 1000 Christmas tree ornaments as well as paintings and artwork for The White House. Not only are the illustrations stunning, but the text is charming and memorable. This is a heart warming story of acceptance, kindness, friendship and joy. It has a beautiful message about letting others know how much they are appreciated and valued. It makes for a wonderful Christmas story to read year after year.
‘The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey’ by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P.J. Lynch is a beautiful story about hope. This is a tale about Jonathan Toomey who is quite a recluse in his village. No one has taken the time to get to know him or his story and sadly, he has been nicknamed Mr Gloomy. He is an exceptional woodcarver and one day a widower and her son knock on his door seeking his help. They have misplaced their precious Nativity scene heirloom and ask Mr Toomey if he would be able to carve a new set for them. He agrees, but with no pleasantries. The widower asks Mr Toomey if her son may join him while he creates this as he has a keen interest in woodcarving. The young boy watches and is very careful not to disrupt Mr Toomey. He is very polite and comments about the appearance of the pieces and how they are different to the ones in his previous Nativity scene. The caring nature of the widow softens and helps heal Mr Toomey’s broken heart. The rich life like illustrations are exquisite and evocative as they deftly capture the characters emotions and mood. This is a heart warming story of loss, heartache and healing. It highlights how helping others can lighten your heart even when it is burdened.
‘The Christmas Eve Tree’ by Delia Huddy and illustrated by Emily Sutton is a tale about a tree that was planted carelessly and unable to thrive. Once in a store, shoppers were quick to pass by the tree and it became the only unsold tree on Christmas Eve as nobody wanted it. A young homeless boy seeks some reprieve from the cold inside the store where the tree is and spots a sales assistant in the store holding the scraggly tree. The young boy asks the employee if he is going to throw out the tree and if he could have it. The worker gives the boy the tree and the Christmas spirit that the boy and tree create is joyful and contagious. This story explores the power of hope and gratitude and how against all odds beauty and happiness can shine. Emily Sutton’s festive and detailed illustrations add to the Christmas spirit and sense of hope that exude from this book.
‘One Christmas Wish’ by Katherine Rundell and illustrated by Emily Sutton is a story that is set on Christmas Eve as Theo is at home with a disinterested baby sitter decorating his house by himself for Christmas. He is looking forward to his busy parents joining him after they finish work. Theo spots a shooting star and makes a wish to not be alone on Christmas Eve. The tree begins to rustle and four very old Christmas decorations come to life (a tin soldier, an angel, a robin and a rocking horse). What ensues is a snow filled, magical adventure led by these characters. The bright and lively illustrations with a retro feel ignite the Christmas spirit feeling and have many details that will have you wanting to revisit this festive book time and time again.
‘Heipparallaa’ sent us on a mission to learn more about Christmas in Lapland. This is a delightful story about two girls (Alidia from Australia and Maaria from Finnish Lapland) who are pen friends. They exchange emails in the lead up to Christmas and share information as well as pictures about their pets, foods, climate and traditions. We get lost in the details in the illustrations that accompany the text. This story focuses on friendship and how learning about different cultures is a rewarding and joyful experience. This book doesn’t seem to be available from bookstores, however you can purchase a copy directly from the author, Liliana Stafford (via her page) – https://lilianastafford.com/product/heipparallaa/
‘Walk This World at Christmas Time’ by Debbie Powell is a lift the flap book (on sturdy pages so flaps do not easily tear) where readers are invited, via clues (found in the text and illustrations) and lift–the-flap doors to discover the unique traditions people in different countries enjoy to celebrate Christmas. The text consists of four lines and then the reader is asked, “Where am I? To solve the riddle the reader lifts the flaps where they will find more information (text and picture) about the customs and traditions enjoyed in that particular country. At the back of the book is a map where readers can re- trace their Christmas journey and recall what they discovered in each country.