Wake Up, Bear… It’s Christmas! – Christmas book review

Wake Up, Bear… It’s Christmas!

by Stephen Gammell
William Heinemann, London, 1981

Age group: primary school

A sweet story about a bear who decided to enjoy Christmas rather than hibernate.Book cover of 'Wake up, Bear… It's Christmas!'

The story

Bear decides that he is missing out each year so he sets an alarm to wake him up on Christmas Eve. As he sits enjoying his fire, an old white-bearded man visits him and takes him on a sleigh ride.

My review

I liked the unusual aspect of this story – a bear waking up from hibernation for Christmas! My five year old and I both thought is strange on page one where it states ‘But he wasn’t going to be sleeping all winter’, but it was quickly explained and made a lovely basis for a story.

There is enough text on each page to keep middle primary kids interested, yet little enough to be enjoyed by younger children as well. Emergent readers could even read it themselves.

Bear has a wonderful Christmas which is a delight to read about, and of course the old man can be assumed to be Santa. It was heart warming and fun, but the timing seemed wrong. If the old man was indeed Santa, how did he have time on Christmas Eve to sit with Bear for hours before going on a sleigh joyride? To me, if the story had been set on Christmas night, it would have been better as then not only does Bear get company and enjoy his Christmas and Santa would be free to do his deliveries, the story would show Santa having a relaxing evening after his big night and that just would have added extra warmth to the book.

Inner spread from book "Wake up, Bear… It's Christmas!"So, Wake up Bear… it’s Christmas is a lovely book, with nice illustrations and rhyming text, that would be a happy addition to any bookshelf.

Where’s Santa? – Christmas puzzle & book review

Where’s Santa? puzzle & book set
Picture of "Where's Santa? box set

by Louis Shea
Scholastic Australia, Lindfield, 2014

Age group: primary school

A book to be searched for Santa, Elvy and more, plus a 150 piece puzzle of the find Santa at the beach page.

The story

Elvy the mischievous elf took Santa’s sleigh in a misguided plan to star Christmas early. Detective Inspector Scrooge, Santa, Mrs Claus and their pet Fluffy search for Elvy on a beach, at a carnival, in space and in a shopping centre – and readers get to find them all on each page.

Sample page from "Where's Santa?" box setMy review

This was a fun book and I spent quite a while with my son looking for the specified pictures on each page.

As well as the images you need to find, there are numerous funny pictures to enjoy such as a sheep streaking across a game, an ice cream dropped on a sun baking woman, escaped turkeys and people riding jet propelled candy canes.
back cover of Where's Santa book

The puzzle is the biggest (in terms of number of pieces) my kids have tackled so it took us about 40 minutes to complete it. I’ts not an easy puzzle in that there is so much colour and action across the picture that it takes some effort to piece it together – but I love the challenge of finding bits so that is not a negative for me! Alone, I think my seven year old could have done the puzzle, it just would have taken him a lot longer!

Note this set is related to the Where’s Santa in Australia? book.





The completed Where's Santa puzzle

The completed puzzle, showing Santa and friends at the beach

Where’s Santa? In Australia – Christmas book review

Where’s Santa? In Australia
Book cover of 'Where's Santa? in Australia'

by Louis Shea
Scholastic Australia, Lindfield, 2015

Age group: primary school

Santa travels around Australia, providing a page for each state for us to search for Santa and other characters.

The story

It’s almost Christmas and Santa drops in to visit his cousin Barry in Australia. Unfortunately, Bluey the dog ‘catches’ Rudolph’s red nose magic and shares it around. The animals fly off around Australia, dragging Barry’s grandkids with him. Santa and Barry therefore try to find the kids, while the readers get to look for all of them in the pictures.

My review

We had a lot of fun with this book – the two seven year olds spent at least half an hour searching pages for the listed characters, while the two five year olds lasted for about half that. And all four of those kids have been back to the book more than once to find more things.

Sample page from 'Where's Santa? in Australia'

We all enjoyed the amusing pictures themselves – for example, on the Tasmanian page you can see noughts and crosses on a sheep’s flanks, a sheep knitting, wolves in sheep’s clothing and sheep getting salon treatments! And I liked seeing the pages being themed to the state, like apples for Tasmania, opals and underground homes for South Australia, various sports for Victoria and hot air balloons for the ACT.

I liked the fact that there was a story rather than just pages of searching for things. I think the story helped the kids keep interest and find so many items on each page because they were characters in the story (as well as page specific items).

There were also amusing little touches, like naming the kids Kylie and Jason, Bluey the red healer and cousin Barry in his blue singlet calling Santa ‘Clauso’. Add in Santa trying to lose his jar of Saltymite while Barry looks for his favourite blue undies, and there’s plenty to keep you amused! Of course, much of this may need an Aussie sense of humour…

So this book has a lot of fun, a story and helps kids be observant and remember the details of what to find. I think pre-schoolers can enjoy the pictures and story, and teens and adults can have fun with it. Primary aged kids will love it so I thoroughly recommend it 🙂

Zelda and Ivy: One Christmas – Christmas book review

Zelda and Ivy: One ChristmasBook cover of Zelda and Ivy: One Christmas

by Laura McGee Kvasnosky
Walker Books, London, 2000

Age group:  primary  school

A three chapter picture book about caring and appreciating gifts.

The story

Two sister foxes, Zelda and Ivy, are together in three Christmas stories in one book. The first story sets the scene of what the girls and their friend Mrs Brownlie wish to get for Christmas. Mrs Brownlie’s husband has died since last Christmas so the girls make a gift to cheer her up this year.

In the second story, Zelda becomes the Amazing Zeldarina and tells Christmas fortunes through a Christmas bauble. The third story covers the excitement of Christmas Eve and checking the tree on Christmas morning.

My review

This was a pleasant read and my five year old certainly liked it (mind you, her favourite part was that they cooked some biscuits which only happened on page one of the book!)

One Christmas is a realistic story as it shows children having very self-centred Christmas wishes and logic (pretending to sneak downstairs is not really sneaking down!), yet they also have compassion for their friend. The expression of that compassion in the form of making a gift is very realistic to me – I’ve seen children do it many times and it is always a precious thing.

Being in three parts, it can be broken over a few reading sessions but it is still short enough to read it all at once to a child. The text is easy to read, both in the wording and the length of text per page, but beyond an earlier reader to get very far.

As for the story, I enjoyed the simple concepts of Christmas and care. The lack of Mr B was a surprise – just not something I’d expect in a child’s Christmas story – but was done subtly and nicely so is not really an issue. Of course, taken as part of a series of books it makes more sense – although I couldn’t see any reference to Mr B dying in an online search of the other 5 books.

Page from 'Zelda and Ivy: One Christmas'

Christmas morning with Mum and Dad looking on

Zelda and Ivy are quite real – Zelda bosses her little sister and Ivy does as she’s told to be with her idolised big sister, yet they happily do things together. I found it a little strange that their parents are not mentioned or spoken to – they are in the Christmas morning pictures though!

I was impressed that the girls got something other than their wishes from Santa and Zelda was very gracious about it – there were no pouts, tantrums or sad faces. This was immediately overwhelmed by secondary gifts of exactly what they wanted which is a happy ending for the story but not so useful for discussions or learning!

The ending is very happy so the book leaves you with a sense of happiness about the enjoyment of Christmas. Dancing around together is just a perfect example of how Christmas is special through the little things, not the gifts.

Page from Zelda and Ivy: One Christmas

Ivy looking at her Christmas wish gift…













There was an old bloke who swallowed a present – Christmas book review

There was an old bloke who swallowed a presentBook cover of 'There was an old bloke who swallowed a present'

by P. Crumble
illustrated by Louis Shea
Scholastic Australia, Lindfield, 2014

Age group: preschool, primary & secondary school

This is a fun book I recommend as a Christmas gift or to read in the lead up to Christmas.

The story

Based on the long standing story of “there was an old woman who swallowed a fly”, this book is about a man who swallowed a present (now that’s not pleasant!) and a series of other festive things such as a card, gingerbread man and a choir!

My review

It is a colourful book with beautiful pictures of the old man (who resembles a certain jolly white-haired man known as Santa) swallowing his treats and within his stomach as the various creatures interact (such as the gingerbread man who reads the card!)

I think this book would suit many age groups as it is colourful, has rhymes, is funny and works on a familiar story that will appeal to children and adults alike.

Personally, I would prefer to avoid the snowman and even the gingerbread man as they just aren’t Christmassy images to me, but they work and are fun (and a snowman is obviously a good choice for cooling something down! He also reminds me of Olaf from Frozen so that has to be a win for many children). And of course it is not sold as a Christmas book as such, but that is the overall impression rather than it being a birthday present.

For a fun read, I say go ahead and get this one!

Bubbay – Christmas book review

Bubbay – A Christmas adventureCover of 'Bubbay a Christmas advdenture'

by Josie Wowolla Boyle
illustrated by Fern Martins
Magabala books, Broome, 2012

Age group: primary school

Coming across a lovely picture book that is very Australian (without any clichéd cute animals dressed as Santa) is a nice treat

The story

Bubbay is a lonely boy fending for himself in the Aussie Outback. On Christmas Eve, he feels sad to have no family, no house and no Christmas tree. At this point, the story gets magical with Bubbay’s Grandmother’s spirit leading him on an adventure to collect special things so Bubbay can earn a special Christmas.

The story is a little  detailed for pre-schoolers but is enjoyable for lower primary children. It is beautifully illustrated with simple, detailed paintings. Australian animals are included in a way that hints at the Dreamtime and characteristics of those animals (eg mentioning a Bower Bird’s home), thus inviting further discussions and learning.

My review

Front cover of BubbayMy only disappointment was that Bubbay sat back on Christmas Eve to watch reindeer flying by instead of boomers, but reindeer may well work better for a wider audience.

I was able to predict the ending early in the book, but it is still heart-warming – and children wouldn’t see the obvious coming as easily as I, so this doesn’t detract from the story at all.

Definitely a beautiful book to add to any child’s (or adult’s!) Christmas or Australian book collection.

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