What's your favourite Christmas book?
When I was a child there were few stories that weren’t set in the white, snow-covered Northern Hemisphere. Nowadays Australian Christmas stories are everywhere, but I don’t mind traditional tales – all that snow has a cooling effect during a summer scorcher.
This is by no means a best-of or even an exhaustive list of Christmas books – the library had been raided by post-storytime toddlers before I got there.
Jackie French, Bruce Whatley
I have to declare a conflict of interest here. I believe I single-handedly put 'Diary of a Wombat' on the best sellers' list after giving it to almost everyone I know. After reigning over the household in Diary, in this book loveable Mothball takes on Santa’ reindeer in her eternal quest for carrots. The wombat leaves her trademark trail of destruction and battles strange creatures before hitching a ride on Santa's sleigh and discovering a world of carrots. French and Whatley have yet again created a delightful story, and funny characters. The ideal Christmas book for anyone who loved 'Diary of a Wombat', or to introduce someone to the series.
Christmas at Grandad’s Farm, (Jingle all the way…)
Claire Saxby, Janine Dawson
The Five Mile Press, 2013
Written to the tune of Jingle Bells, 'Christmas at Grandad's Farm' is a familiar tune with an unfamiliar twist. The family gathers at Grandad's farm on Christmas Eve, rides in the ute, swims in the creek, and awaits Santa's arrival. It's impossible not to sing the story, which, unlike some other Christmas carol interpretations, rolls off the tongue easily. Dawson's illustrations capture Christmas in a hot, dry Australian summer. Written with humour and plenty of good cheer, this sing-song book will most likely star in school Christmas concerts from next year.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
HarperCollins Children's Books, 1985
It is almost impossible to read this classic, first published in 1957, without doing the Grinch voice. Its enduring popular it down to its great story, characters and that trademark Dr Seuss rhyming verse. If you've only seen the movies don't be put off - The Grinch is a loveable villain and the noisy, humourous writing is a joy to both read and listen to. The black, white and red illustrations are action-packed, and the story has a strong anti-consumerism message, and focuses on togetherness.
Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker
Gina Newton, Christina Booth
Scholastic Press, 2013
It's Christmas Eve. A hot and tired Koala Claws and his reinroos at are the last stop, and he decides to have a quick nap. After stripping down to his jocks Koala Claws falls into a deep sleep. Blossom Possum and her growing band of similarly rhyming Aussie bush friends who try to wake the sleeping Koala Claws to save Bush Christmas. The story is written in partially rhyming verse, with repetition and characters that would appeal to young children, and humour and Australian slang. Booth's illustrations capture the action in muted bush tones as the animals try various means to wake the koala, with a bright and cheery feast at the end.
Queen Victoria's Christmas
Jackie French, Bruce Whatley
Two dogs and a parrot explore the palace as Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family prepare for Christmas. The reason behind the mysterious smells and noises, caroling, crackers, and a strange tree are revealed on Christmas Day. The author's endnote explains how Prince Albert's Christmas traditions spread through the British Empire in the 1840s and became the basis of the traditional Christmas most of us know today. A delightfully playful and sneakily educational book from Australia's new Children's Laureate Jackie French, and illustrator Bruce Whatley.
The Night Before Christmas
Clement C. Moore
Various publishers, first published 1823
"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..." The classic poem, also known as 'A Visit from St Nicholas', has been the basis for movies, other stories, including 'Brucie Saves Christmas' (below), and is an enduring tale about a household awaiting the arrival of St Nicholas. I own a version that came as a set with a cardboard advent calendar. My son has a bear that recites the whole poem. He listens to the bear while reading the book – the two versions don't quite match, but the narrative is a classic. This poem is believed to be the source of the reindeer names - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.
The Little Drummer Boy
Random House, 2010
Whatley must love Christmas. This is his third book on this list - and the only as author/illustrator. He has created a warm, poignant and enduring tale that simultaneously warms and wrenches the heart. This is not based on the Christmas carol of the same name - it is a story about tradition, family and worth. The Little Drummer Boy is a Christmas ornament made by Annie's grandfather. He takes pride of place on the tree each year, and as he gets older and starts to fade, so too does Annie.
Brucie Saves Christmas
Yvonne Morrison, Michelle Pike
Scholastic Australia, 2009
It's Christmas morning. Santa, his ute and his roos have finished their run. Back home in the Outback one roo is about to give birth (after clearly ignoring medical advice about not flying in the last weeks of pregnancy). Joey Brucie isn't the sporty, ute-flying type. He's studious and shy. Written to the pattern of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas', and also Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, this book shows that everyone is special in their own way. The sequel to 'An Aussie Night Before Christmas'.
When it Snows
David Fickling Books, 2012
Gorgeous illustrations take a boy through snow-covered towns past where the snowmen live to a secret place with elves and a giant reindeer. Christmas exists in the pictures, which are an atmospheric rendering of a white European winter.
Llama Llama Holiday Drama
Penguin Group, 2010
So much to do. How many days left? Impatient little Llama Llama is busy shopping with Mama Llama, playing at school, and waiting, waiting, waiting. Llama Llama is like every little kid who gets so excited about the holidays, when there's so much to do and the big day just can't come fast enough. Beautiful, character-filled illustrations and text make this an enjoyable, humourous book to read.
Mr Men: A Christmas Extravaganza - and others
Roger Hargreaves, Adam Hargreaves
Penguin Group, 2010
Old and new Mr Men and Little Miss characters feature in various books, some of which made their way into our home in Christmas stockings. Santa clearly knows us well! Subjects include the Misters and Misses preparing for Christmas Day; A Christmas wish for snow in Australia; and Little Miss Trouble causing mischief during a Christmas staging of Aladdin. They are great additions to any Mr Men collection, with the familiar humour and style. Hopefully Santa will bring some of the other titles will this year. They make great stocking fillers.
Comments: (copied from previous platform)
*These comments relate to a competition that was run in conjunction to this post
Daniel 11 December 2013 at 10:31
I like Christmas Wombat because it's funny and she eats lots of carrots.
Melissa Wray 11 December 2013 at 13:32
I had a Christmas book made with my son and his friends names included. I hope he will read it to his kids one day.
Alex Fairhill 11 December 2013 at 15:37
Hi, Daniel. Christmas Wombat is one of my favourites too!
Melissa - that's a great idea. I'm sure your son will cherish it.
Chris Reeve 12 December 2013 at 14:45
After serious deliberation my puzzler is sore, but, of course, The Grinch has to be my favourite. Great verse, great message and, as you say, a chance to do the voice. It's win, win, win!
Heidi Jones 12 December 2013 at 14:47
A Christmas Carol. Timeless classic. Ghosts at Christmas - what's not to love?
Natasha Luka 12 December 2013 at 17:45
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. A great train ride adventure to prove Santa really is at the North Pole!
Alex Fairhill 16 December 2013 at 09:25
Chris - My heart grew two sizes with your comment!
Heidi - A Christmas Carol is definitely a classic, but I find the language of the original book a tad difficult. This is one where the movies (some more than others) are my preference.
Natasha - Great choice! A modern classic.
Anonymous 17 December 2013 at 14:10
The Night Before Christmas- Clement C Moore.
I read this every Christmas eve to my children, never realising it was the start of our family tradition.
Tattered book needs replacing for grandkids.
Alex Fairhill 19 December 2013 at 17:41
A great choice and an ideal book to start a Christmas tradition
Helen Lazzaro 19 December 2013 at 14:47
Each year we buy a new christmas book to share as a family. Our favorite one is How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow. There's something new to find each time you look again. And we loved visiting the Myer Windows that year too!
Alex Fairhill 19 December 2013 at 17:42
Hi, Helen. That sounds like an interesting book. I haven't come across it yet and will have to track it down.
Anonymous 20 December 2013 at 15:17
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Anonymous 20 December 2013 at 15:29
Old Yeller - because it has a happy ending and it's not about Christmas.
Alex Fairhill 20 December 2013 at 15:59
Um... bah humbug?