picture books christmas 2020


Hello! It’s time for my annual Christmas book recommendation series! Wait – stop. I can guess what you’re thinking. It’s still two months until Christmas. Well, yes. So why start early? Well, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, things are somewhat different in 2020. I’m moving the series forward – not by much, I’ll add – in order for it to better fit in with my university timetable. Second, due to postage delays, and the probability that a lot of Christmas shopping will be done online this year, I wanted to give as much notice as possible. What won’t change is my desire to present a list of recommended titles. Maybe you’re buying for someone else, maybe yourself. In any case, I’m here to help.

As we’re kicking off today in the traditional manner – with picture books – it’s time I repeated my usual caveat. As these first few posts are set to discuss children’s books, I’ve tried to stick to the age suggestions that are generally recommended. But of course, every reader is unique. Reading capabilities differ. Taste is important too. I think this is why some people find present book-buying such a wonderful challenge and why good booksellers are worth their weight in gold – it’s because their suggestions are so on point. It can also be equally overwhelming! I’ve been on both sides of that fence. So do pop back over the coming weeks, there’s a lot to come.

Now, onwards! To picture books!

Just One of Those Days by Jill Murphy is the third title in the Bear family series and it has been a while coming since the first two were published in the early 1980s. Parents/adults might remember them, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t. This is a lovely, relatable story of a family who’s day starts off on the back foot and doesn’t really improve from there. But what matters, and this is the point, is how they still come together as a family at the end of the day and enjoy the comforts of home and each other. The illustrations are charming. You can get a peek inside at the Pan Macmillan website.

Found by Bruce Pascoe and illustrated by Charmaine Ledden-Lewis is the story of a lost and frightened calf struggling to reunite with its family. There is more to the story than that, for it also about the Stolen Generation and the trauma of separation. I want to stress that the book has a happy ending, but it can afford an opportunity to open a conversation with younger children – or students, it would be an excellent resource in schools. I want to note that Ledden-Lewis won the Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award and her illustrations are both dramatic with a sense of urgency, and intimate. The exquisite calf eyelashes to dust thrown by laden trucks, from grasses to rivers – all images are evocative. The Magabala Books website has a few to view, if you wish. Terrific.

Here is the delightful book trailer for Hello Jimmy! by Anna Walker:

First of all, let me say, that a number of books on this list made me emotional and this is one of them. Perhaps some of that can be put down to sheer pandemic exhaustion, but the themes of this book touch on isolation and how those feelings can manifest inside the family unit (in whatever shape it takes). It’s about recognising these feelings too and acknowledging that we all deserve support and in doing so become stronger. As ever, Walker’s illustrations are exquisite and this is possibly my favourite book of hers I’ve read.

Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham is a story that celebrates the imagination and freedom of childhood, with the tempering reminder that children will – and do – grow up. Therefore that time in their lives is to be celebrated, as is the knowledge that other children will – and are – born into this potential magic. Graham does it again – another hit.

Finally, I’ll mention I’m Sticking with You by Smriti Halls and illustrated by Steve Small. It is the story of an unlikely friendship between a bear and a squirrel and is just a joyful delight. Good rhyming picture books are tricky to write, and a measure of their success is if they can come off the tongue easily no matter the reading pace. And this one gets a big thumbs up (I tested it by reading to one of my teenagers!). Fans of Jon Klassen’s Hat Trilogy series will love this book. I know I do.

I hope you liked the post – let me know if any of these pique your interest!


Disclosure: I’m a Booktopia affiliate. This means I earn a small commission if you click through to that site from this one via an affiliate link and make a purchase. Normally I like to provide Booktopia’s Christmas cut-off dates for both stocked and non-stocked items, but as this is 2020, and Australia Post is under pressure with deliveries, I think the general recommendation is to try and get all your shopping done as early as possible, just to be sure! I know I will be. Also, Qantas Points can be earned on eligible Booktopia orders. (I know travel seems like a far-off prospect, but it will happen again!) So if you’re a Qantas Frequent Flyer you can link your membership to your Booktopia account. More details here.

karen andrews

Karen Andrews is the creator of this website, one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Her latest book is Trust the Process: 101 Tips on Writing and Creativity