With Christmas just around the corner it is appropriate to continue my series in Celebration of Australian Picture Books with some Australian Christmas picture books. This post is the seventh in a series celebrating picture books by Australian authors. If you missed earlier posts, please follow these links to the introduction, Mem Fox, Kim Michelle Toft, Narelle Oliver, Jeannie Baker and Jackie French.
Christmas in Australia is unlike that in most other parts of the world that celebrate the holiday. In Australia, Christmas falls in summer and people generally head for the beach or somewhere with air conditioning to cool down. While many still follow the traditions of the Northern Hemisphere with baked dinner and plum puddings, many opt for seafood and salad, and outdoor barbecues and picnics. Whatever the weather Christmas is a great time for catching up with family and friends (or not, depending on your family!)
I shared some thoughts about Christmas in Australia last year when I posted I’m (not) dreaming of a white Christmas. This year the post is specific to picture books.
Because our climate is so different and we have such a small population down here, most of what is available for us to read, sing or view deals with situations very different from our warm sunny days. I’m pleased to say, though, that there is an increasing number of songs and books with an Australian flavour available. However, many are merely innovations on the traditional such, as “The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas”, “Aussie Jingle Bells” or “An Aussie Night before Christmas”.
One innovation I particularly like is “The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas” by Kim Michelle Toft. I celebrated Kim’s work previously in this series. Kim is an Australian who uses her talents as author and illustrator to educate children about things for which she is passionate: ocean life and coastal habitats. The stunning illustrations in this book, as in others, are hand-painted on silk; providing a richness of information through visual as well as textual features. In addition to the information about the animals, Kim includes a stunning six-page foldout poster, and information about the original carol.
Jackie French, another whose work I have previously shared in this series, also has a Christmas picture book in the Wombat series, Christmas Wombat. It is just as delightful as the other wombat stories and tells of Wombat’s Christmas Day with sleep, adventure, sleep, and treats.
Using the traditional Nativity play as the setting, Mem Fox, another whose work I shared in this series created an original and fresh story in “Wombat Divine”. It is a delightful tale of Wombat who loved everything Christmas. When finally he was old enough to be in the Nativity Play he rushed along to the auditions. Unfortunately, it was difficult to find a role that was just right for Wombat. Can you guess which one he got? You’ll have to read the book to find out! Children all over the world will identify with Wombat and his predicament, and enjoy the heart-warming tale.
For slightly older children there is the first chapter book PS: Who Stole Santa’s Mail by Dimity Powell, who is very active in the local SCBWI group. She blogs at Dim’s Write Stuff. This is a fun story filled with mystery, magic and humour and a great first step into chapter books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
We do have a few original Christmas songs to listen to as well. One that I enjoyed listening to on the radio as a child, and delight in now hearing my grandchildren sing, is “Six White Boomers”. It is a lovely tale of a joey kangaroo who is lost and alone in a zoo. Santa rescues Joey and reunites him with his mother on Christmas Day. Of course to get there, Joey is treated to a ride on Santa’s sleigh pulled by six huge white kangaroos.
Peter Combe has written two albums of original, but with a traditional rather than specifically Australian flavour, Christmas songs for children, including this one:
Children around Australia are finishing their last few days of the school year within the next week. They will then have five to six weeks of holidays before starting back for a new school year. I have shared previously about the importance of keeping children’s love of learning alive and described easy ways of incorporating learning into everyday family activities. If you know of any families in need of suggestions, please give them a copy of:
20 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the school holidays
Let the children write! 20 suggestions to get children writing during the school holidays
These are available free download in my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teach in a Box stores. Soon they will also available free on my website.
Of course books always make wonderful gifts and any of the books mentioned here would be a great addition to anyone’s collection.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.