Things New and Things Old for Christmas

The Most Wonderful Gift in the World
Mark Sperring and Lucy Fleming
Little Tiger

Friends, Esme and Bear, discover one last present under their tree on Christmas morning but it isn’t for either of them. Its tag reads ‘For Little Bunny Boo-Boo, Love Santa.’ They decide to find its intended recipient and donning their warmest clothes, off they go into the snow. Guided by signs that give specific instructions ‘FOLLOW THE TREACHEROUS PATH’, ‘WALK THROUGH THE HOWLING GALE’ and carry on beyond ‘DEEP, DEEP’ snow drifts, the two slip, slide, bump and are blasted towards a little wooden cabin.

There they receive a wonderfully warm welcome from Little Bunny Boo Boo but notice that thus far, she hasn’t received a single Christmas present. Imagine Bear and Esme’s surprise then when the rabbit opens the package only to find there’s absolutely nothing inside other than a small note.

The explanation that follows from Little Bunny Boo-Boo reveals that’s she’s actually received exactly what she was hoping for.

Mark Sperring’s festive tale about kindness, friendship and going the extra mile shows readers and listeners that the very best presents aren’t really wrappable at all. Imbued with the warmth and spirit of the season too are Lucy Fleming’s bright, expressive illustrations making this a book to read with little ones in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The Christmas Unicorn
Anna Currey
Oxford University Press

Here’s a tale of the enduring magic that Christmas holds for young children.

Young Milly isn’t too happy at the prospect of spending Christmas at her Grandpa’s, but Mum explains as she tucks her into bed that he’ll be lonely otherwise and that Dad will join them as soon as he can.

During the night Milly is woken by a noise coming from beneath her bedroom window and discovers a unicorn standing there, attracted by the twinkling of all the Christmas lights of the town. Florian is his name. Milly lets him inside and from then on the unicorn participates in breakfast and all the Christmas preparations. They unpack decorations and adorn the tree but when the newcomer gets a bit over-enthusiastic about tasting the decorations, Grandpa suggests a trip to the Christmas market where Florian temporarily goes missing.

Milly’s search yields not only the unicorn, but also an invitation from a little girl who lives nearby, for Milly to join her in tobogganing the following day.

Then it’s time for Florian to depart but back in Grandpa’s house something very special awaits their return.

This wonderfully warm story of wishes, magic and love has all the warmth of the season but without the glitz and glitter. Anna Currey’s gentle watercolour illustrations add much to her telling; they’re enchantingly expressive and really bring the characters to life.

First published fifteen years ago the book has lost none of its original charm.

Board Book Christmas

Just Right for Christmas
Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

A board book version of a Christmas favourite from a few years ago unfolods over two days.

It begins on a snowy Christmas Eve with the king walking around the market. His purchase of a roll of beautiful red cloth to make a cloak for his daughter results in the left-over scraps of fabric being placed outside the back door.  Jenny the kitchen maid finds them and makes  a jacket for her ma. The remaining scraps are turned into a hat for Bertie Badger’s pa, then gloves for Samuel Squirrel’s wife and a scarf for Milly Mouse’s little one, and all just in time for Christmas Day.

A warm, feel-good story ‘… just how Christmas should feel’ celebrating the pleasures of giving, made all the more so with Rosalind Beardshaw’s, mixed media illustrations that help stitch the narrative together beautifully.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

In this board book, using two enchanting elf characters and her trademark die-cut collage style illustrations, Britta Teckentrup presents a favourite seasonal song aimed at the very youngest listeners. As the song progresses, one verse per spread, the gift is revealed through the cut out. Then on the fourth day additional die-cuts are used to accommodate the 4 colly birds and so on until the eleventh day. On day twelve all the gifts are revealed around the tree on the recto while in the bottom corner on the verso the elves give each other a Christmas kiss.

Just right for tiny hands and there’s plenty of counting fun to be had too.

Wake up, Santa!
illustrated by Pintachan
Words & Pictures

With cleverly designed paper engineering and digital illustrations, this bright, jolly interactive board book will get little ones and their sharers in festive mood as they waken in turn Santa, the elves, Rudolph and a teddy bear.

There are things to find, name, count and talk about all in a tiny, fun-filled ‘Little Faces’ package.

Christmas is Awesome!
Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

The Moyle sisters go to town to demonstrate the veracity of their latest board book’s title.

Popping with neon pink, Eunice provides lively scenes of assorted animals getting into the festive spirit with ‘twinkling lights, silent nights, being nice ‘(of course) and much more.

Humorous touches abound with ‘ugly sweaters’, a dachshund sporting one such takes the opportunity to get beneath the mistletoe and bestow a long-tongued lick upon the cat’s beaming countenance; and don’t miss the lump of coal getting in on the act by knitting itself a sweater from ‘darkest black abyss’ yarn. And the nativity scene is priceless: Mary and Joseph are two birds looking benevolently upon their newborn baby Jesus – a haloed egg.

Sabrina’s rhyming narrative orchestrates the celebrations concluding thus: ‘Joy and kindness, love and fun, Christmas is for everyone!’ Their portrayal is certainly a whole lot of fun.

Busy Reindeer
illustrated by Samantha Meredith
Campbell Books

As an adult reads the rhyming couplets, little fingers can manipulate the sliders to activate Santa’s reindeer Ruby, then watch the sleigh take flight over a snowy landscape, help Santa down the chimney and finally, open the stable door for him to thank and bid goodnight to his number one helper. All of this is illustrated in Samantha Meredith’s bright, jolly scenes of a busy Christmas delivery round.

On Sleepy Hill / I Love You Brighter than the Stars

On Sleepy Hill
Patricia Hegarty and Xuan Le
Caterpillar Books

Layered scenes of the natural world as the day draws to a close and accompanying rhyming couplets give sleepy humans the opportunity to view and bid goodnight to the inhabitants of first a woodland where baby rabbits return to their burrows and a little wolf peers from a hollow. Then, the bank of a mountain stream whereon a black bear watches his cubs while otters take a last look at the evening and a mother duck gathers up her ducklings.

Further up, in a mountain clearing, deer and foxes make for home and the geese fly back to their nest, and even higher while caribou and boars are almost ready for sleep,

the owl swoops, watching and waiting.

The soporific narrative and cutaway pages of the fauna and flora of Sleepy Hill should work their magic on little humans when they too are almost ready for their slumbers.

I Love You Brighter than the Stars
Owen Hart and Sean Julian
Little Tiger

Books that celebrate the forever love between parent and child seem, like the sentiment they express, never ending. Indeed this is the second from Owen Hart and Sean Julian and rather than polar bears this one features a brown bear and its cub.

While they walk together as the evening sun gives way to moonlight and stars, the adult’s gentle heartfelt words to the cub promise lifelong guidance, companionship, support and the kind of love that is there no matter what, no matter where.

As they climb the hill, the two pause to gaze at the wonders of the natural world and at the star-filled sky

before taking a moonlit dip in the mountain stream.

Then it’s time to head home and sleep, the cub safe in the knowledge that as the wind sings a gentle lullaby it is loved ‘more than all the stars that sparkle through the night.’ Who could wish for more than that?

Soft spoken, rhyming reassurance and beautiful land- and sky-scapes make for a book that is ideal bedtime sharing for adults and their little ones.

Oh No, Bear!

Oh No, Bear!
Joanna Partis
Little Tiger

One autumnal morning a hungry bear wakes knowing he has an important task ahead. But as he walks through the forest his hunger distracts him causing him to follow the delicious smell that assails his nostrils. It leads him to a vegetable bed where Rabbit and friends have dug up a huge pile of carrots. Bear accepts Rabbit’s offer to try one and before you can say ‘chomp’ Bear has consumed the entire barrowful.

But then he smells another delicious aroma and instead of making amends to the rabbits, nose in the air, he’s off on the trail,

which leads him to a group of squirrels engaged in picking acorns. A similar thing happens: it’s Bear’s tummy not the baskets that he fills with acorns.  After a brief apology Bear’s off again hot on the trail of another tempting smell. And oops!

Soon, Beaver’s freshly caught fish ends up in the same place as the previous items he was supposed to taste and unsurprisingly by now, Bear’s tummy is rather larger that it was at the start of the day. As he sits ruminating upon his greed he starts to feel concerned that his friends might have to go hungry all winter.

Back to his cave he heads intent on thinking of a way to put things right. But when he reaches his door another problem awaits.

Is he to remain in that sorry state all winter? Happily not, thanks to his friends, not to mention his inadvertent clumsiness during his pre-hibernation perambulations.

Funny, thought-provoking and engagingly illustrated, with its ‘OH NO BEAR!’ refrain this is an enjoyable autumn term read for foundation stage audiences especially.

The Wonder Machine

The Wonder Machine
Barry Timms and Laura Brenlla
Little Tiger

Something of a reclusive character, Wolf is an inventor, the world’s greatest so we’re told.

One day she decides to make a machine that will be a world changer and with that in mind she consults a large nameless book wherein she finds these words, ‘The wonder machine! / The wonder machine! / A gadget like nothing that / you’ve ever seen! From mittens to music, / from cushions to cakes, / The thing you most need / is the thing that it makes!’
Her search for the components required to construct such a marvel take her for the first time ever, away from her home and across onto the mainland.

Once there, she encounters, and helps in turn Squirrel,

Owl and a family of foxes. For each kind deed she receives a gift of thanks. First a garden rake, then a fishing reel and finally, a silver spoon: the very items she needs to complete her Wonder Machine.

Back at home she sets to work next morning, toiling all day until her creation is ready. Although from it there comes wonderful music, Wolf doesn’t feel the satisfaction she’d eagerly anticipated. But then as she sits downheartedly

there comes a realisation and a wonderful surprise …

All of which shows that stepping outside your comfort zone, paying it forward and sharing your talent are enormously rewarding.

Barry Timms’ tipping, tapping text flows along nicely sweeping readers along with it, eager to find out everything about Wolf’s invention, while on the way they’ll enjoy her exchanges with the other characters and empathise with her highs and lows as the story builds to its satisfying musical finale. All this is appealingly shown in Laura Brenlla’s rural scenes with their peepholes, flaps and foldouts.

Through the Eyes of Us / In Every House, on Every Street

Through the Eyes of Us
Jon Roberts and Hannah Rounding
Graffeg

This is the second book written by the father of a child on the autism spectrum.

Herein as well as Kya from Through the Eyes of Me, we meet her best friend Martha.

Kya, now at school, talks about her experiences there, sometimes contrasting her thoughts, behaviour and preferences with Martha’s.

I know from experience of children I’ve taught that school can be a very confusing place for neurodiverse children, but both girls have their own ways of navigating through lessons, playtimes and lunchtimes, all of which are illustrated in colourful, detailed, sometimes funny scenes.

Kya also describes how she and Martha enjoy different tactile experiences,

and activities in their free time; and their routines are also different.

Martha knows when she feels tired, unlike our narrator whose energy seems boundless; although once asleep after a soothing bath and massage, she sleeps soundly.

Enlivened by Hannah Rounding’s expressive illustrations, this is a smashing celebration of every child’s uniqueness as well as providing an insightful picture of the world of an autistic child.

The book concludes with a list of relevant websites.

Put Through the Eyes of Us in your class collection and whether or not you have children on the autism spectrum therein, read it together, talk about it and lend it to individuals for home sharing too.

In Every House, on Every Street
Jess Hitchman and Lili La Baleine
Little Tiger

The girl narrator of this book invites readers into her house to see what goes on in its various rooms.

What we discover is a happy family engaging in seemingly ordinary everyday activities, but nothing they do is dull or mundane.

The cake baking in the kitchen becomes an opportunity for the family to dance and sing together.

The dining room might be the place for eating a meal, but that meal can turn into a fun piratical party,

while the living room is a great spot for rest and relaxation but also for dancing and singing, mulling things over and talking about feelings.

Yes the bathroom is for getting clean but there are opportunities for some artistic endeavours too.

And the bedroom? Yes sleep happens therein, but so too does play.

Full of warmth, this is a lovely demonstration of what makes a house a home delivered through Jess Hitchman’s upbeat rhyming narrative and Lili La Baleine’s views of the everyday incidents of family life that make it special but different for everyone in the street, as the final fold out spread reveals.

Let’s All Creep Through Crocodile Creek

Let’s All Creep Through Crocodile Creek
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger

As the sun sets an intrepid little Mouse leads his fearful friends homewards.

In order to get there before dark, he decides to take the short cut through the creek. He’s ‘NEVER seen a crocodile in the creepy, crooked creek’, so he tells Shelly and Rabbit.

What follows is a delicious comedy of errors as the three friends set off, traversing a ‘lumpy, bumpy bridge,’ clambering through ‘long, thick “scritchy, scratchy” thorns’

and swinging through green vines. All the while Mouse is providing a description of the animals they’re hoping never to see.

Then Shelly’s comment concerning the similarity between slippy, slidey logs and the bodies of the green reptiles causes them to plunge into a dark tunnel from where they view a host of watchful pairs of eyes upon them.
Hundreds of crocodiles, is Shelly’s conviction.

Mouse continues with his banter until Shelly’s burning question provokes a considerable degree of panic; but the three friends do manage to find dry land safely, albeit still some distance from home.

A forest shortcut is Mouse’s suggestion; but don’t forests contain tigers, wonders Rabbit … and off we go again.

Jonny’s surefooted way of manipulating words and images, orchestrating them into a seamless drama that unfolds across the pages, is what makes this book SO brilliant; that and his attention to detail throughout. From the crocodilian front endpapers to the tiger-striped back ones it offers a superb lesson in how a picture book should be read.