Each week I review books we’ve read with Squirm. This week, I’m concentrating on Christmas Books!
Christmas Carols by Holly Russell
This is a pretty simple concept – a board book full of Christmas carols, well known and not so known. They are laid out simply, with simple textured illustrations, and come with an accompanying CD. There were a lot of my favourite carols here, and it was nice to see a wide range of them.
The raised illustrations immediately encourage interaction with this book, which is further enhanced with the CD. The songs are peaceful and well sung, which is not always a given when it comes to Christmas CDs! It’s also nice to read the carols without music – most of them sound really nice as poems, and listening to them in that way can bring some new meanings out.
This is a great way to introduce and discuss Christmas Carols. You can talk about the focus on cold in carols and how weather in the northern hemisphere is different to southern hemisphere weather at Christmas time. You could draw your own illustrations for the carols and even turn them into christmas ornaments or other decorations for the house.
An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison
I’d read this one a few years ago when I was working as a teacher-librarian, so I was happy to see it released as a board book. It retells the classic A Night Before Christmas, talking of dreams of pavlova, rusty utes instead of sleighs and Santa wearing red stubby shorts. There’s more Australiana in the illustrations, with the little girl holding a koala toy, and emu and kangaroo christmas lights.
Although this is amusing to young children, a lot of the humour in it is appealing to older children and adults – like the bumper sticker on Santa’s ute that says ‘Go the Roos’ and the facts that the kangaroos hauling the ute have names like Shazza and Bazza. Santa even has a plumber’s crack when he bends down to put the presents under the tree. It has been well rhymed, though, which is not always the case with these ‘retellings’ and it rolls off the tongue nicely when you read it aloud.
It would be interesting to read with the traditional version and to discuss why certain differences were made. With older children you could talk about stereotypes – there are a lot of Australian stereotypes in here – and where else you see them at Christmas time. You could look into different ways people celebrate Christmas around the world, or even how different people celebrate Christmas in your own area.
Queen Victoria’s Christmas by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Throughout this lovely book, we follow two dogs around the palace of Queen Victoria and her family. Everyone’s getting ready for Christmas, when suddenly a tree appears. A tree? What can you do with a tree? It’s a big secret as the doors are closed and mysterious things happen behind them. Finally, the doors are opened and all is revealed with a lovely decorates tree and lots of presents underneath.
I really loved this book – it had a beautiful, whimsical feel, while explaining how Prince Albert made the Christmas tree the centre of the celebrations. The author’s note at the back of the book talk about how so many of the traditions we take for granted now, were developed and became popular during the time of Queen Victoria – it must have made Christmas pretty exciting.
This is a wonderful book for looking at Christmas in the past. It’s also great for taking a closer look at traditions like Santa and Christmas trees and carols. You could learn more about the royal family, or what the current Queen does for Christmas now. You could also look at how other buildings around the world – like the White House – are decorated.
What is your favourite Christmas Book?