The Advent is upon us. If you don’t have a plan, here is an idea for you using books about Christmas. (It’s still early days, you can totally start today or tomorrow, or later, if you want!) Wrap up a book for each day until Christmas, and every day your child can unwrap the book and you can read them together. A friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that she did this last year, and I thought it was a fabulous idea so we are doing it this year. I’m not buying 25 new books. We already have several Christmas books, I packed them away with the Christmas tree so they feel new at Christmas time, so this will work perfectly for me. The few new books we have in the mix this year were given to me by Scholastic to review.
1. The Nights Before Christmas (24 Classic Stories Illustrated by Tony Ross)
If you were going to choose one book from this list, (and you have children 6 years and older), choose this one. The stories are quite long, so it’s not the best book for toddlers. If you got it while the children are under 8, it will certainly be a keepsake to treasure in years to come. I think the stories would be suitable right through to upper primary. The reason I would recommend it so highly is that I suspect most households would have a selection of modern Christmas books in their libraries. This book is literary extension for the modern day kid and has classic tales, which sometimes take longer to tell, but also develops the child’s literature appreciation as well as extending vocabulary and gaining literary knowledge. Many of the stories are age old classics that our grandparents would have read or listened to during their childhood. With the wealth of children’s books available these days, sometimes the classics that have been passed down the generations are being overlooked for some of the newer stories and their bright glossy covers. This book has a story for each day in December (a perfect advent alternative) and includes work by authors such as Leo Tolstoy, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Charles Dickens and The Bible. Titles include The Snow Queen, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, The Little Match-Seller, The Story of the Christ-Child, Good King Wenceslas and The Nativity.
I love that the lavish images depicted by Tony Ross bring these golden oldies to light.
2. My First Countdown to Christmas (Dr. Mary Manz Simon)
If you have a toddler and you were choose one book from this list, choose this one! I bought our copy years ago from Koorong, they are still selling it, click here if you are interested. Each day has an explanation about Christmas traditions or the Christmas story, followed by a simple activity for children to do which will channel a young child’s anticipation for Christmas and help them celebrate the birth of Jesus. There is also a simple prayer and Bible verse for each day.
This is a board book, so it really is suitable for little children, but my lower primary child still engages with the text and it’s a great springboard to discuss the significance of Christmas each day.
3. There Was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Present (P. Crumble & Louis Shea)
My boys love this crazy old bloke. We enjoyed The Old Bloke Swallowing a Rabbit at Easter, so there is no doubt that the boys are going to once again be laughing at this silly old codgers antics, starting with its amazing lenticular moving image cover! There are funny elements to look for on each page, which always engrosses them following the sub-stories contained in the illustrations.
4. Child of Bethlehem (Elena Pasquali)
This story very closely follows the Biblical account of The Nativity, yet uses simplified, (but not dumbed down) easy to understand language with bright and colourful illustrations. It is so important to our family that the children understand the real reason behind Christmas, so it is imperative that The Nativity features in this list.
5. My Merry Christmas (Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley)
This is a particularly good book for very small children. Even older babies would be able to engage with much loved illustrator, Bruce Whatley’s, illustrations of friendly animals on each page. There is only a few words on each page, so their attention should be maintained the duration of the book. I’ve had 5 babies though, and know there is no guarantee when it comes to babies and attention! The book describes some of the traditions we follow at Christmas, so toddlers are quick to engage with the content and relate it to their own experiences.
6. Santa’s Busy Reindeer (Ed Allen, Nathaniel Eckstrom)
It’s nearly Christmas! The presents are wrapped and the sleigh is packed, but ten of Santa’s reindeer still have lots to do. This rhyming story can be sung to the tune of ‘Ten Green Bottles’. Personally, I see the benefits of these counting/subtraction stories, but singing them to my kids often bores me to tears, even though the child isn’t bored in the slightest. This particular book has got enchanting illustrations in it though, so I quite enjoyed it. Trent also loved finding the hidden number to look for in each scene. So I have to admit, even though these are not my favourite books, there are great reasons for reading/singing them. (It must be helping, Trent already recognises all numbers 10 and under. Subtraction isn’t an easy concept to learn either, so this is a good into. He will be well and truly ready for Prep next year!)
7. Santa Koala (Colin Buchanan & Glen Singleton)
Our children are a little bit in love with Colin. Any book that accompanies a CD of Colin singing is bound to be a winner in our house. Feature Santa in the story … and well, you can’t lose! (We also love have a Christmas DVD with Colin outlining the Christian elements of Christmas which brings a bit of balance to all the fun also!) This song is to the tune of Waltzing Matilda and very Aussie, particularly with the real Santa calling Santa Koala a great galah for delivering the presents early!
8. A Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Christmas (Mark Mac Leod, illustrated by May Gibbs)
This is a Christmas story based on May Gibbs’ best-loved characters, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie introducing the timeless artwork of May Gibbs to a new generation with illustrations capturing the beauty of the Australian bush. I hadn’t realised that when May Gibbs died in 1969 she bequeathed the copyright of her bush characters to charities.
In doing so the sale of May Gibbs products have supported thousands and Australian children with disabilities and their families. Royalties from this book goes to Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Northcott Society.
9. The Twelve Days of Christmas (Alison Jay)
It’s a song that must be sung every Christmas, never mind that it makes no sense that a man would give a woman bizarre gifts like geese, milk maids, jumping lords and swans. (The five golden rings of course are not bizarre, that is a dazzling good choice.)
Alison Jay is a graduate of the London College of Printing and a critically acclaimed illustrator of many children’s books. (The Nutcracker, Welcome to the Zoo & Nursery Rhyme Rainbow.) The old style illustrations in this book are simply enchanting, and have been presented in such a way that much of the gifts happen around an ‘olden days’ couple, rather than turning up on her doorstep, so it doesn’t feel so silly, but instead quite beautiful.
10. My Christmas Crackers (Bronwen Davies)
This book contains a host of funny Christmas jokes that are sure to delight any child. My children loved this book last year. (Read about that here) I am positive that it will be a popular book again this year.
Why didn’t the lobster share its toys at Christmas?
Because it was shellfish.
11. Deck the Sheds with Bits of Wattle (Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion)
A hilarious Australian take on Deck the Halls performed by Colin Buchanan and with gorgeous Aussie illustrations by Glen Singleton.
Deck the Shed with bits of wattle,
Whack some gum leaves in a bottle
Syd Echidna’s feeling chipper,
It’s Christmas Eve – my shed’s a ripper.
FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA
12. Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker (Gina Newton & Christina Booth)
Children’s book character favourite Blossom Possum is involved in a Christmas adventure as she goes along the bush track to find her old friends Rocky Cocky, Echo Gecko and Toey Joey to try to wake Koala Claws so the Bush Christmas is not ruined. They need to find other friends to help and on the way halt By Jingo Dingo from eating a duck. (I feel a bit sorry for the dingo in this book, his family is hungry, and I’m with the dingo on this one, duck really is delicious.) In the end it was lucky they saved the duck (the Christmas Quacker) since it was able to wake Koala Claws and Bush Christmas is saved.
13. One Night (Penny Matthews & Stephen Michael King)
On the first Christmas Eve, so the story goes, the animals were given a very special gift to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Since then, at midnight on Christmas Eve the animals remember. A beautiful retelling of an old Christmas folktale. A magical story about how very Christmas Eve at midnight the animals can speak and they relive a Christmas Eve long ago when Jesus was born.
14,15. Where’s Santa? and Where’s Santa Around the World? (Louis Shea)
These are two wonderful search and find books. I don’t know why boys are particularly attracted to these search and find books, but they are. My boys are no exception, and I blogged about how much the loved these books last year here
. These are perfect books for getting children preoccupied with hunting through the colourful images and humorous sub stories to find Santa. Particularly good if you need your children to sit in a corner quietly during a festive occasion!
16. The Busy Christmas Stable
This book will be perfect for my three year olds. It’s a robust board book which is sure to entertain with tabs that make animals and people move in the stable throughout the story. A wonderful way to share the story of Jesus’ birth with the little ones.
17. Aussie Jingle Bells (Colin Buchanan and Nick Bland)
I absolutely adore this book (and CD) which ought to be no surprise, how could you go wrong with Colin and beloved children’s author Nick Bland? The illustrations are so very Aussie, and it captures a lot of an Aussie larrikan family Chrissy with kids jumping in pools, swinging on clothesline, Grandpa dozing, and driving in a ute on a scorching summers day in singlet, shorts and thongs.
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer’s day, hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.
My particular favourite is that the family packs the car and shoot through before the washing up! (We are all so tempted to do this, are we not?) I’ve actually bought a few copies of this book to send overseas as gifts this year.
18, 19. Thomas and Friends books
These are just little books I have picked up at the supermarket, but nevertheless the children really do love the stories. I mean, you can never go wrong with Thomas, can you?
20. The Nativity (illustrated by Julie Vivas)
The text in this book is straight from the Bible, however the illustrations are in the contemporary style of Julie Vivas. Julie Vivas is became famous when she illustrated Mem Fox’s Possum Magic in 1983. Since then her illustrations have continue to enchant and delight children. This account of the nativity is no different, the illustrations draw you in and make you examine them carefully and contemplate what life really was like during that first Christmas.
21. We Wish You a Ripper Christmas (Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion)
Yes, I know, another Colin book, but seriously, it’s impossible to overdose on Colin. If you are going on a road trip, it would be an even better reason to own all these books and CD’s (yes, there’s a CD again!) to play throughout the trip while the children delight in the wonderful Aussie illustrations in the back.
|OK, so this is the CD for one of the above books and I was too lazy to go and take another photograph, so be inspired anyway. CD’s and road trips, a perfect Christmas combo!
This time the book is illustrated by Roland Harvey and his funny and distinctive Australian flavour.
22. My First Christmas – Magnetic Adventures
This has been a much loved book in our family that I bought quite some time back at our local Koorong. (Brilliant Christian bookstore) I actually need to go hunting a little bit before I put this book out this year because I realised when I unpacked it that the baby Jesus plus Joseph and Mary are missing (and perhaps a few other key characters from the Nativity.) I hope I can find them, because the children adore moving the magnetic characters through the various magnetic scenes and telling the story together.
23. My First Story of Christmas (Tim Dowley)
The Christmas story told in a child friendly manner with cute illustrations.
24. ‘Twas the Night – The Nativity Story (Melody Carlson)
I thought on Christmas Eve it would be good to pause and remember it’s not all about Santa coming, but rather that the arrival of baby Jesus would be the beginning of salvation for mankind. This is a beautiful book and a wonderful retelling of the nativity story to the cadence of “The Night Before Christmas”.
Twas the night before Christmas when all through the stable
Not a creature was stirring, though plenty were able.
The ox and the cow and the goat and the sheep
All comfy and cozy, had drifted to sleep.
A perfect book the night before the big event!
Do you have any favourite Christmas stories/books in your home? Are you counting down the Advent this year and if so how?
I am linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT
* I was gifted some of these books by Scholastic Australia. All opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t make a recommendation unless myself and/or my children enjoyed the books.