review

Why dogs don’t bark at Santa – Christmas book review

Why dogs don’t bark at Santa Book cover of Why Dogs don't bark at Santa

by Greg Ray
illustrated by Jenny Miller
designed by Holly Webber
Why Dogs, Tasmania, 2017

Age group: preschool to 10 years, adult dog lovers

Format: hard cover, 26 pages

 

A friend travelling in Tassie discovered this book for her grandson, and lent it to me.

The story

Santa and Rudolph are heroes to dogs everywhere, and this story explains why…

My review

I was surprised at enjoying this book more than I expected to. Jenny Miller has created some beautiful watercolour images for the story that merge into the white space used for the text. It starts with a dog not reacting to reindeer outside the window and Santa’s feet arriving in the fireplace.

The text itself consists of rhymes throughout which is fun for younger listeners, and for the reader!

Why Doges don't bark at Santa inner pages

Santa and Rudolph in the snow

Through a snowy storm, Santa doesn’t give up on searching for a group of lost puppies so the book showcases Santa as generous and caring, as we expect him to be.

This is the latest in series of Why Dogs books which are all self-published in Tasmania. I haven’t read any others, nor seen them, but they are described as a tongue in check collection of stories about the characteristics and eccentricities of our canine companions.

My seven and nine year olds enjoyed this story, as did a friend’s two year old dog-loving son.

Christmas treasure hunt – Christmas book review

Christmas treasure hunt Christmas treasure hunt book review

by Sarah Powell
designed by Emma Jennings
St Martin’s Press, London, 2014

Age group: preschoolers

Size/format: board book

A cheerful looking baby book full of Christmas images that we gave to a young friend last Christmas.

The story

A search and find book for babies and toddlers. There’s no story as such!

My review

This is a very cute book, enjoyed by adults and loved by the one year old we gave it to. Not surprisingly, it is very simple given the age group.

Santa page within the Christmas Treasure Hunt

There are seven sets of images (such as Santa and some Christmas stockings) where one image is a little different to the others. There is also a teddy bear ‘hidden’ on each page.

It is a lovely first book, and could be read throughout the year, not just at Christmas time.

 

Angry Birds wreck the halls – Christmas book review

Wreck the halls (Angry Birdscover of the Angry Birds book, wreck the halls

by Tomi Kontio
translated by Owen Whitesman
graphics by Terhi Haikonen
Puffin Books,  London, 2013

Age group: early to mid primary school (6-9 year olds)

Size/format: small, soft cover

I spotted this in an op shop recently and thought it was a bit different to the typical Christmas book. I believe it was originally part of a box set with a toy but I only got the book.

The story

A sack of Christmas presents is taken by three pigs and chased by two birds, Bomb and Red.

My review

This the first Angry Birds book I have read, and I know little about them. I was surprised to find a varied and interesting vocabulary (I wasn’t expecting to see words like smouldering, careened and precipice) and interesting descriptions (like majestic mountains, slanting rays of sun glimmering and gleaming pearls of ice).inner pages of Wreck the Halls

The story itself was good – the birds on skis chasing the pigs in a frying pan sled had excitement and anticipation. The birds speak respectfully and care for each other, and any anger is justified. It is a bit strange when Bomb explodes with expected repercussions, and comes away unscathed but I suspect that is something Angry Birds fans would understand and expect!

The pictures are ok, but I found a couple of them unclear. There is a reasonable amount of text on each page (it is not a picture book or aimed at early readers) and the font is rather small. The book is actually created based on an Angry Birds episode of the same name which was produced for Christmas 2011.

My children have played Angry Birds a couple of times (my sole previous knowledge of angry birds is based on those games!) My eight year old has more prior interest in the Angry Birds and he really enjoyed this book (“My favourite part was when Bomb exploded”); my seven year old was less excited but still enjoyed hearing the story.

That’s good! That’s bad! On Santa’s journey – Christmas book review

Cover of That's good, that's bad Christmas bookThat’s good! That’s bad! On Santa’s journey

by Margery Cuyler
illustrated by Michael Garland
Square Fish, New York, 2009

Age group: preschool to mid primary school

I heard of this book as being written to show children that bad things can change into good so I wanted to read it with my own children.

The story

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa heads off to deliver presents around the world but is hampered by bad weather, impatient reindeer and his own clumsiness.

A fun Christmas book that presents Santa in a relatable way.

My review

image of Santa falling from That's good, that's bad book

That’s good! That’s bad! On Santa’s journey looked like fun and presents Santa is a relatable way for children, which was a good start.

This is  a beautiful book, and a decent size, too (a little taller than an A4 landscape page). Garland has done a fantastic job illustrating this book – the pictures are detailed and colourful and cover entire pages. I love the expressions on faces throughout the book.

It is a fun story – I’d never heard of the reindeer being impatient and taking off without Santa before he came back up the chimney! And when Santa tripped over, the popping eyes and flying false teeth made me laugh out loud!

However, I really don’t understand the good/bad aspects of the book. On each page, something happens and is followed by ‘that’s good! No that’s bad!’ or ‘that’s bad! No, that’s good!” To me, in every instance, the first comment is correct – for instance the storm easing is good and the Santa falling out of the sleigh is bad – so I don’t see the point in the second comment. And there is no explanation on the next page about the change of good to bad (or vice versa).

I guess you can use the good/bad switch to start some conversations with children but it would have to be a deliberate act as the book doesn’t naturally lead that way. However, my eight year old immediately looked for reasons to swap good to bad (eg Santa fell into a pile of snow and wasn’t hurt) so there obviously is merit in this technique!

When we got to the last page, my seven year old said “Oh, no! Why does it have to be so short – I want lots more pages” and that says it all, doesn’t it?!

Santa Koala – Christmas book review

Santa KoalaBook cover for "Santa Koala"

by Colin Buchanan
illustrated by Glen Singleton
Scholastic Australia, 2010

Age group: early to mid- primary school

A koala helping Santa is a story line I find intriguing, and add in the caption “the official Waltzing Matilda” Christmas anthem and I couldn’t resist trying this picture book!

The storyCD from Santa Koala book

Santa fell asleep in the Aussie bush so a friendly Koala plans to save the day, but not everything goes to plan. This story is done to the tune of Waltzing Matilda, and the CD comes with the book.

My review

I sang this to my six and eight year olds tonight and we all enjoyed it, and I loved hearing their surprised laughter at the twist on the last page.

It’s a fun story about the bush animals taking over delivering gifts off Santa’s list while Santa had a nap by a billabong. We see an echidna, emu, goanna, platypus, wombat and bandicoot and six boomers  (pulling the sleigh of course!)

Not surprisingly, there are numerous Aussie references, like lamingtons, Tassie, the back of Bourke, a mad cockatoo and boiling up a billycan.Inner pages from Santa Koala

My six year old was keen to read the book herself, and my eight year old managed to sing along with me by reading the pages. And the pictures are lively and cheerful, so I’d say it’s a book worth adding to a Christmas collection.

The included CD has an instrumental version of Santa Koala as well as the full song to sing along to.

The magic little Christmas tree – Christmas book review

Book cover for The magic Little Christmas TreeThe magic little Christmas tree

North Parade Publishing, Bath, 2010

Age group: preschool

A colourful Christmas story about friendship that perhaps offers more than it delivers.

The story

Some cute animals make friends with a little fir tree on Christmas Eve and he rewards them with some magic.

My review

Inside of The magic little Christmas tree bookThis is a cute little book, and the unusual shape makes it fun. It feels like it is a baby book because the pages are so think but it isn’t a board book as such and I could see the pages lifting off the plastic if a very young child had hold of it for too long.

I love the pictures – they are cheerful and cute, and match the story beautifully. Unfortunately, no illustrator (or author for that matter) is listed on the book.

There are only five pages of text, so it is not a long story, but probably should be longer as it skims over a lot of details – I think it would be great as a longer picture book instead of being like a toddler book. The story itself is too involved for a baby or young toddler, unless the reader makes it more interactive and interesting anyway.

It is nice that the animals finish a job (although the implication is the path must be clear for Santa and friends to arrive!) before playing, and that the animals are friendly and inclusive. Giving a tree a voice and the ability to generate presents felt a little far-fetched to me, but it is a feel good ending.

That’s not my elf – Christmas book review

That’s not my elf…

by Fiona WattCover image of 'That's not my elf'
Illustrated by Rachel Wells
published by Usborne Publishing, London, 2016

Age group: baby to toddler

It was my eight year old son who grabbed this book off the shelf last night and begged me to read it. And then demanded to touch the textured part of each page.

So while these may be designed for the youngest of children, it has appeal to many age groups!

The story

A series of Santa’s elves are shown, each with an explanation of how it is different to ‘my’ elf. Each page has a different texture included for little fingers to explore.

My review

In line with “That’s not my reindeer“, this is another Christmas addition to the “That’s not my…” series of books, my children and I enjoyed reading this together.

Sample page from 'That's not my elf'

The pictures are cute and brightly coloured which makes the book appealing to all. I like that these books are interactive and teach young children various adjectives, and think that this should be on every baby/toddler Christmas bookshelf!

The naughtiest reindeer at the zoo – Christmas book review

The naughtiest reindeer at the zoo

by Nicki Greenbergnaughtiest reindeer in zoo

Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2013

Age group: primary school

The story

It’s Christmas Day and a family heads of for Christmas with Granny and Pa. Much to the children’s horror, the parents won’t let them take Ruby the reindeer with them after the trouble she caused last year, so she goes to the zoo for the day instead.

My review

I really enjoyed this story book. It is Christmassy but has a very different story that is fun and keeps the kids wondering what will happen next.

The zoo animals are feeling sorry for themselves as they get lonely on Christmas Day (which led us to talk about the fact that Melbourne Zoo is open and has keepers on Christmas Day). Ruby had an idea of letting the animals mingle and party, which seemed to go ok at first but then the inevitable problems arise.

Sample page from 'The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo'

Ruby sees Santa’s sleigh go past and asks for help, naming all nine reindeer.

My kids reacted to “I don’t think [Santa] even believes we exist” – my six year old just could not understand how anyone could not know about zoo animals – and “Good tidings, good cheer! Mind the elephant poo!” (they may that hysterical, of course!)

The book rhymes throughout which delighted my seven year old and adds some rhythm and fun to the experience, too.

Pictures throughout are colourful and simple, matching the story perfectly. And some sparkly texture on the front cover makes it all a little bit more special, too. It’s all good fun and I recommend it.

Greenberg has written another naughtiest reindeer book and some others, and based on this one, I’ll be keeping an eye out for them 🙂

Santa is coming to Australia – Christmas book review

Santa is coming to Australia

by Steve Smallman
illustrated by Robert Dunn
AliCat, South Melbourne, 2012

Age group: early to mid primary school

Santa in Australia – you gotta love that 🙂Santa is coming to Australia

The story

The book starts with Santa and a little old elf preparing the sleigh and reindeer for his trip Down Under. It then covers the flight, including getting lost in cloud, and delivery of the gifts.

My review

Santa is nice and cheery, a young reindeer is bright and finds the way to Perth’s Bell Tower, and Santa’s magic is throughout the book. So it was a fun and happy read.

Interestingly, Perth got the most mentions but Santa then went onto the other major cities (though one does wonder why he went to Alice Springs, then the east coast before going to Darwin!). One spread includes many recognisable structures, although predominantly Sydney and Melbourne, and the last page sees Santa flying home over Sydney rather than Darwin…Sample page from 'Santa is Coming to Australia'

As a positive, the Santa-nav uses kilometres and there is no snow in Australia, Santa refers to little Aussies and ‘crossed the Equator and headed down under’. I was less happy with children leaving out ‘cookies and milk’ and a reindeer snack was left inside rather than out on the grass as I’ve always known to do.

Sample page from 'Santa is Coming to Australia'

There are other versions available, such as Santa is coming to Western Australia, Santa is coming to the beach, various parts of the UK and USA, and even Santa is coming to my house.

Astute children may ask why Santa went straight home after Darwin rather than delivering gifts to children in other countries (and my seven year old did notice!), but that didn’t detract from the overall story.

As always, it’s nice to see a book centred around places you know, so Aussie kids are bound to enjoy this book. And children elsewhere may well enjoy the story in its own right and get some interest out of seeing some views of down under!
Sample page from 'Santa is Coming to Australia'

A bit of applause for Mrs Claus – Christmas book review

A bit of applause for Mrs Claus

by Susie Schick-Pierce, Jeannie Schick-Jacobowitz, Muffin Drake-Policastro
illustrated by Wendy Wallin-Malinow
Naperville, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2012.

Age group: 3-5 year olds, plus earlier readers

A Bit of Applause for Mrs ClausThere are many, many books and stories about Santa, but not so many about Mrs Claus so this seemed like a different angle worth looking into.

The story

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa is sick so Mrs Claus has to take over so the children don’t miss out on Christmas.

My review

Many parents will understand how Mrs Claus feels with the number of jobs still to be done on Christmas Eve as she has a very busy night. She has to wrap gifts, cook snacks, harness up the reindeer and finish decorating all the trees. Mrs Claus even has to write a pile of letters children to on behalf of Santa!

[Spoiler alert!] While the story focuses on Mrs Claus, the story doesn’t damage anyone’s expectations or hopes as Santa gets better in time to do the Christmas Eve run.Sample page from 'A bit of applause for Mrs Claus'

Little Miss Christmas – Christmas book review

Little Miss Christmas

Cover image of 'Little Miss Christmas'by Adam Hargreaves
from concept by Roger Hargreaves
Egmont, London, 2005

Age group: preschool

I recently rediscovered this book in our attic, so I read it a few weeks ago with my kids on a drive to a family outing, when Christmas still felt a way off!

The story

Santa’s niece, Little Miss Christmas, has the important job of wrapping the presents for Santa to deliver. However, she decides she wants a break so Santa and Mr Christmas have to wrap presents instead.

My review

This was typical Mr Men/Little Miss book and enjoyable to read together – my six and eight year olds both enjoyed it and said it was fun.

little_miss_xmas_innerAs well as being fun, I found that this book was good for starting conversations and thinking. For instance, I was able to get the kids to predict the next step of the story when Santa and Mr Christmas got distracted. Then we talked about whether doing jobs straight away was a better choice and a better way to care for Little Miss Christmas.

It took a team effort at the end to get all the gifts wrapped in time for Santa to leave the North Pole, which was a nice message and had the amusement of how different characters ‘helped’ with the wrapping (Miss Nasty had to be supervised and you can guess how Mr Messy went…).

However, Father Christmas and Mr Christmas hadn’t learned their lesson which was a little more disappointing – and didn’t make my kids laugh either. Readers could be left with a worry that some presents may not arrive on Christmas Eve if Santa and the reindeer take off late – I covered that up with the idea that Australia is so early on Santa’s route that he would not miss our place on Christmas Eve!

So this book was fun with a bit more depth than most of the Little Miss books, and can be enjoyed by a range of age groups.
'Little Miss Christmas' illustration

 

The Christmas Wombat – Christmas book review

The Christmas WombatBook cover of 'The Christmas Wombat'

by Jim Poulter
illustrated by Jo Poulter
Red Hen Enterprises, Templestowe, 2007

Age group: primary school

I came across this book by a recommendation by a friend and her eight year old son. They had got the book at a local market and really enjoyed reading it – her son doesn’t always enjoy reading but he loved this book and managed to read it himself despite it being a bit harder than he usually can manage.

The story

It is Christmas Eve in Wattlebark Creek and the animals are preparing for and looking forward to Christmas and a visit from the Christmas Wombat, but not everything goes to plan.

My review

Sample page from 'The Christmas Wombat'While this book is full of pictures and is picture-book size, it is not a simple picture book for toddlers – although you could read it over a few days to a toddler or pre-schooler.

I loved the Australian feel to this book – it’s more the overall tone than any specific things that make it feel so comfortable to me.

There are also a number of humourous elements, such as Enid B Koala, Wall and Bea the wallabies, Col (short for Collingwood) the Magpie, Iris Emu the Chief Inspector of Local Business, and Clint E Tiger Quoll.

It is more than a picture book in that characters are more developed and the story includes history, background, excitement and danger. But it is accompanied by lovely images of the Australian bush and animals – all drawn by Jo Poulter, the author’s wife.

As part of the Christmas Eve preparations, Enid reads out the Wattlebark Creek Christmas Story. It starts with “it was the night before Christmas” and keeps to the idea of young ‘uns sleeping with a special gift-bearing Christmas visitor, but has it’s own flavour and the gifts are carried by the Christmas Wombat! The Christmas Wombat uses magic to get around the Aussie bush so doesn’t need reindeer or even boomers to help him, although some white possums are his assistants.

Christmas morning is interrupted by an attack by two feral cats, and the animals are all scared which may frighten young children. Shhh, everyone ends up ok, including the feral cats who become friends!

Both my children enjoyed the story – my six year old said “It’s not good Mum – it’s super!” and my seven year old loved how the day was saved and a “Star of valour” earned.

My only criticism (and it is picky) is that it needed a little more editing as a couple of sentences have an extra word, missing word or a slightly wrong word. It stood out to me as I read it aloud but I corrected it orally and it certainly didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the story.

Jim Poulter has written and self-published this book, and some others, so it is not widely available but is well worth the effort and by buying it directly from Jim, you know the entire cost is going to costs and the author.

Share your Christmas story
Instagram