Welcome to my annual Christmas book recommendation series! Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting my picks for the books that have nabbed my attention at the time of the year where shelves are crammed with so much choice. I know it can get overwhelming because, honestly, I feel it too sometimes! So if you’re on a present hunt for a person in your life (it could be yourself!), I hope these selections help.
I will add that for the first few posts deal – as ever – with children’s books. Children can have different reading capabilities at different ages. Some books might suit older readers or younger readers who are more advanced. To help, I’ve extended the series yet again to include junior readers. So do make sure you check out those posts (to come over next week) and you might find a better gift match for the taste and capabilities of the person you’re thinking of.
Also remember: a favourite will always get a reread. At any age. For example, one of my teenagers still flicks through Imagine a Day.
Let’s get started.
1. Summer Time by Hilary Bell and Antonia Pesenti
For anyone who looks forward to that first mango of the season, the feeling of stepping onto warm sand as you crack the car door open at the beach and all those wonderful sensory experiences of summer, this book celebrates those and more. The illustrations have a contemporary, chic look – watercolour and collage – and I enjoyed its rhyming verse. I can see how it would make a good intergenerational book, as parents or grandparents could then compare and contrast what their summer days were like while reading to the child.
NewSouth books rates this is for ages 3+ and they provide some excellent teacher’s notes.
2. The Tiny Star by Mem Fox, illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Mem Fox and Freya Blackwood – a dream combination which, perhaps surprisingly, is happening for the first time in The Tiny Star. And what a start. The rather enigmatic tagline goes, “Once upon a time, although this happens all the time, a tiny star fell to earth . . .”. This story radiates with love, matched equally with the wonderful illustrations. I admit to getting choked up with emotion as I read because it also deals with the subject of death, but done so deftly, so cleverly, I finished with a smile.
The publisher’s website offers a sneak peek of the opening pages, if you’d like to look.
Age rate is 4+
3. Mr Chicken All Over Australia by Leigh Hobbs
The beloved character Mr Chicken, who has travelled the world to such places as Paris, London and Rome, now turns his attention to the sights of Australia. From the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Big Banana to Uluru to Coober Pedy, to other places large and small (I got a thrill when my hometown Kempsey got a shout out!), he sees it all.
I sense that former Australian Children’s Laureate Hobbs has written this book as a tribute to the place stories continue to have in our lives, and to keep telling them. It’s 32 pages but feels longer because it’s quite wordy, and some of the place names will be tricky for younger readers just learning how to read. The pictures are as comedic and distinctive as usual. It will remain – I daresay, at least if our household is one to go by – a read to share between an adult and a child as they chuckle over Mr Chicken’s adventures.
Given age rate/guide is 4+
The publisher’s website has a few downloadable activities as well as teacher’s tips if you’re after further information.
4. Nop by Caroline Magerl
From the publisher’s website:
“Nop is a scruffy kind of bear. He sits on a dusty armchair in Oddmint’s Dumporeum surrounded by the beaders, knitters, patchers and stitchers who are much too busy to talk to him. So he watches the litter tumble until, armed with a new bow tie, he has an idea that will change his life forever.”
As you might be able to tell from the cover, Magerl’s illustrations are luminous. This is a tale of the journey towards self-worth and empowerment and I admit read it with a lump in my throat as I’ve always found these kinds of stories moving, perhaps because I’ve been able to identify with (or imagine being) the protagonist no-one wants to own or love. That makes the payoff at the end so satisfying and relieving!
Recommended reading age 3+
5. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
From the publisher’s website:
“Sulwe’s skin is the colour of midnight. She’s darker than everyone in her family, and everyone at school. All she wants is to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister.
Then a magical journey through the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.
In this stunning debut picture book, Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.”
I should offer a disclaimer: this book is getting hard to track down here in Australia. Depending on where you look, you might not be able to receive a copy until January when new stock becomes available – that’s how fast it’s selling out. I was lucky to get mine! And I can tell you, I know why it’s popular – the message is powerful and beautifully executed. Here’s a quick video of Nyong’o talking about the book with Oprah.
Age recommendations are 4+
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Booktopia, which means I earn a small commission if you click through from this site and make a purchase. Be aware that Booktopia has Christmas cut-off dates for both non-stocked and stocked items so it’s a good idea to check when ordering what these dates are. (At the time of writing they are still being determined.) Did you also know that you can earn Qantas Points on eligible Booktopia orders? If you’re a Qantas Frequent Flyer you can link your membership to your Booktopia account. More details here.