My Favourite Christmas Books: Santa’s Beard

One of my favourite Christmas books is Santa’s Beard by Matilda Tristram and Tom Duxbury, and illustrated by Nick Sharratt.  It is the best Christmas story to read aloud and I love sharing it with kids.


It’s an incredibly silly, laugh-out-loud story about Santa’s beard finding a new face.  Santa is too hot with his beard in the summer sun so his beard decides to find a new face.  Santa’s beard jumps onto a chef, a granny, a baby and many more faces to try and find the right place.  The real fun of this book is that, as you read, you have to move Santa’s beard around and put it on each new face.  The anticipation is wonderful and kids always laugh when they see whose face Santa’s beard has landed on.  The text is simple and fun and Nick Sharratt’s illustrations are delightful as always.

Here is a video from the publisher of Santa’s Beard, Walker Books, of a very funny reading of the book:

Win a copy of Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track

Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track is a wee gem of a book about a Kiwi Christmas.  It follows the Sandersons as they prepare for Christmas and the pukeko family as they prepare for the arrival of their chicks.  You can read my review here on the blog.

Thanks to the author and illustrator Lotte Wotherspoon I have a copy of Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is email with the subject line ‘Pukeko Dancing,’ along with your name and address.

Competition closes Friday 23 October (NZ only).

Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track by Lotte Wotherspoon

When so many of our local Christmas books are just Kiwi versions of Christmas carols or The Night Before Christmas it is really refreshing to read a book about Christmas in New Zealand that is fresh and fun.  Lotte Wotherspoon has just released her new picture book, Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track, which blends the story of a family Christmas in New Zealand with the story of a Pukeko family.

Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track follows the Sandersons, a Kiwi family, as they prepare for Christmas.  They chop down a pine for their Christmas tree, decorate it, sing Christmas songs, and wrap presents.  The Pukeko family, Spike and Rose, are also making preparations.  They are gathering materials to build their nest and dreaming of ‘fleet-footed chicks.’  Just as Christmas Day arrives, with presents and yummy food to share, six fluffy chicks hatch out of their eggs and the celebrations kick off.

This is a wee gem of a book.  The story is delightful and the rhyming text bounces along, following the two families as they make their preparations.  Children will love joining in with the refrain that repeats throughout the book, ‘Flip-flap, yikkidy-yak! There’s a pukeko dancing on the old dirt track.’  The main reason I love this book though is because of the gorgeous, quirky illustrations.  The family are all wearing bright clothes and the Pukeko are even wearing little hats. Lotte has given the book a real Kiwi feel with Pohutukawa, toitoi and ferns throughout the book and the Summer activities that the family are all doing.  My favourite page is the very last spread where the Pukekos are having a party.  You can tell that a lot of love has gone into this book, just by looking at the beautiful production of it, from the hard cover and the feel of the pages, to the quality of the illustrations and the wonderful Pohutukawa end papers.  I hope to see more books from Lotte and Clay Press.

We had an event in Christchurch recently called the Pukeko Stomp, which was a walk around the Travis Wetland for pre-schoolers and their families, with stories and snacks.  I shared this book at the event and the children loved it.  It is a great book to read aloud to a group or one-on-one.

Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track is the perfect New Zealand picture book to share with your family this Christmas or to send overseas to relatives.  You can purchase Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track from the Clay Press website or at your local bookshop.

Christmas 2012: Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary and Martin Brown

Do you love history with all the horrible bits left in?  Have you ever wondered where Christmas carols came from or why we have Christmas trees?  Well all your Christmases have come at once with the latest edition of Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary and Martin Brown. 

Horrible Christmas is a fantastic book from the pair that have brought us the Horrible Histories series.  It’s a book ‘filled full of the foulest facts you can find on this festive folly.’  Terry and Martin dispel the myths about Christmas and give you the cold, hard, horrible facts.  You can discover:

  • the truth behind some popular Christmas carols
  • who invented the Christmas cracker
  • what people used to eat for their Christmas dinners
  • the things they never tell you about Santa
  • Christmas entertainment from the past
  • Christmas customs from around the world

There is so much in this book that I didn’t know about Christmas.  Did you know that Father Christmas comes in down the chimney because Saint Nicholas was the saint of chimney sweeps or that Christmas pudding in the Middle Ages was spicy porridge?  There are also lots of quizes and a game so that readers can test their knowledge about the different topics.  Martin Brown’s illustrations always make me laugh and this book is chock-full of his Christmasy characters from through the ages.  I especially like the illustration of a very fat Father Christmas trying to figure out how to squeeze back up a very small fireplace.

Horrible Christmas is a great addition to the Horrible Histories series that boys just seem to gobble up.  They’re hugely appealing because they’re interesting, funny and gross.  If you know a kid that says they don’t like reading, put  Horrible Christmas under the Christmas tree for them and they’ll be hooked on this fantastic series.

Christmas 2012: New Christmas books from Scholastic NZ

Scholastic New Zealand have released some wonderful new Christmas books this year, for children young and old.  Grab a copy of these books to share with your children this Christmas.

Grandma McGarvey’s Christmas by Jenny Hessell, illustrated by Trevor Pye

It’s Christmas Eve, and Grandma McGarvey is excited to get her favourite spot in the camping ground, where she sets about putting up Christmas lights and making her festive preparations.  But – oh no! Santa is sick! Will Grandma McGarvey save the day?

Grandma McGarvey’s Christmas is a wonderfully Kiwi Christmas story.  Instead of an open fire there’s a camp fire, the kids are eating ice blocks, it’s warm and sunny, the pohutukawa tree is in bloom, and there’s a flying fox.  Jenny Hessell’s rhyming text flows nicely and Trevor Pye’s wonderful illustrations portray a classic Kiwi Christmas.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star by P. Crumble, illustrated by Louis Shea

It is time for Christmas and the old lady’s festive appetite is enormous! Hold on to your chimneys as even Santa isn’t safe from the old lady’s chompers this year! Surely she’ll POP!

This festive take on There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Spider is full of silliness. This gummy, wrinkly old lady is quite scary and you would definitely want to run if she looked your way.  Kids who know the traditional rhyme will think they know what is coming but it’s a surprise each time you turn the page to find out what she eats next.  Kids will be laughing with each new thing she eats and the ending is especially fun.  Look out for the cool holographic cover too.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas and The Twelve Cats of Christmas by Kevin Whitlark

Whether you’re a dog or a cat person you’ll love these two different version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  In these two books you’ll find 3 Fluffy Persians, 6 Pooches Playing, 9 Pussycats Playing and 12 Dogs a’ Digging.  They’re sure to appeal to kids, more than the original song, and everyone can join in the singing.  The illustrations are hilarious and the pages get more and more crowded the more you go through the song.

The Gift by Penny Matthews, illustrated by Martin McKenna

A rather plain bear sits next to a gorgeous plush crocodile in the toy shop among the special Christmas toys.  As each waits to be chosen, Brown Bear makes his own gift to his friend.

This is my favourite Christmas book so far this year.  It’s a lovely story with gorgeous, soft illustrations, and it has the cutest teddy bear on the front cover.  It’s a story about friendship and hope, and it’s one of those stories that are perfect for snuggling up and reading at bedtime.  You’ll want to Brown Bear home and give him a big cuddle.  I love the illustrations, especially the one right near the end where Brown Bear sitting on the counter, gazing up with hope in his eyes.

The Mysterious Magical Shop by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Rachel Driscoll

Even on ordinary days Hannah thought Mr McPherson’s second hand shop was somehow mysterious. But today, being Christmas Eve, it seemed even more so. And as she grasped the wooden doorknob and pushed open the door, she thought she heard the faint jingling of sleigh bells …What is the mystery behind the wee dancer trapped in the crystal ball? Could it be connected to her hunt for a Christmas tree fairy?

This is a Christmas story for older children, especially 7-9 year old girls who love stories about princesses, fairies and magic. It’s a short wee story told wonderfully by Elizabeth Pulford, with magical illustrations by Rachel Driscoll.  I really like the mysterious character of Mr McPherson and his wonderful shop full of all sorts of curious objects.

The Mysterious Magical Shop is the perfect book to get you feeling all Christmasy.

Picture Book Nook: The Elves and the Cloakmaker by Chris Gurney

The Elves and the Cloakmaker is the latest title in the Kiwi Corkers series from Scholastic.  Written by Chris Gurney and illustrated by John Bennett, I think this is one of the first, if not the first, Christmas book with a Maori theme.  Chris and John have taken the idea of the original Elves and the Shoemaker story and given it a New Zealand twist.

Kahu is a cloakmaker who toils night and day to weave cloaks to sell to his customers.  His wife picks the flax and extracts the fibres for the cloaks and Kahu finds the feathers.  It is nearly Christmas and they must finish their cloaks in time, but when they fall asleep, four fairies come to help them.  Their little rhyme is:

“Tahi, rua, toru, wha
we bring feathers from afar.
Our flying fingers weave a cloak,
for we are special fairy folk…

Each night the Patupaiarehe come to help them so that they can get their cloaks finished in time for Christmas.

Like the other titles in the Kiwi Corkers series, The Elves and the Cloakmaker is a fun twist on a classic tale and is a welcome addition to the growing number of Christmas stories for Kiwi kids.

Picture Book Nook: All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, Illustrated by Katz Cowley

Christmas is nearly upon us again and one of the first new Christmas books for the year is an illustrated version of song, All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, originally by Don  Gardner.  This catchy little song has been brought to life by the quirky illustrations of Katz Cowley, who also illustrated the best-selling Wonky Donkey and Willbee the Bumblebee.  I’ve loved Katz’ illustrations ever since I first saw how she’d perfectly portrayed the Wonky Donkey from Craig Smith’s song.  The song is about a child who has lost their two front teeth and wants nothing more for Christmas than to have them back again so that they don’t have to keep talking funny.  Katz has taken a different take on the song and instead she uses a monkey to tell the story.  The monkey’s two front teeth have gone missing and he doesn’t know who to blame.  The teeth police are on the case and they try to find where his teeth are gone.  The monkey can see that everyone else has all their teeth apart from him and thinks up all the ways he could get new teeth, including asking Father Christmas, and replacing them with buttons or leaves.

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth is the perfect Christmas gift for young children.  Katz’ illustrations are quirky and fun and will make children laugh.  I particularly like the page where the monkey is holding up a pair of teeth that he has drawn.  Like the other books that Katz has illustrated, there are lots of things happening in each of her illustrations, especially with other characters, so watch out for these.  Not only are the illustrations wonderful, but the book also comes with a CD of Craig Smith (of Wonky Donkey fame) singing the song (and a monkey version), as well as one of his own songs, called Toothless.  If you loved Wonky Donkey, Willbee the Bumblebee and The Fidgety Itch, then you’ll love All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.