The Watchmaker Who Saved Christmas, by Bruce Whatley

The days before Christmas had been quiet for the Watchmaker. Watches with faces and hands had been replaced by digital displays and flashing numbers. The Watchmaker felt sad.

Alone in his workshop, the Watchmaker does not expect to be visited by a mysterious Old Man. Nor does he expect to be given a task which might save Christmas. The Old Man has a special clock which needs fixing, and only some ingenuity will see the job done.

The Watchmaker Who Saved Christmas is a beautiful tale of friendship and perseverance, with a real message of Christmas spirit. Children will also love that it explains one of the mysteries of Christmas – how Santa manages to get right around the world in just one night.

Illustrator Bruce Whatley delights with stunningly detailed scenes which reflect the timeless feel of the story.


The Watchmaker Who Saved Christmas, by Bruce Whatley
Random House, 2006

An Aussie Night Before Christmas Activities, by Kilmeny Niland & Yvonne Morrison

The 2005 offering An Aussie Night Before Christmaswas a runaway success. Now, in time for Christmas, Scholastic has followed up with two activity offerings for fans of the picturebook.

An Aussie Night before Christmas Sticker Book includes text and illustrations from the original picturebook, with stickers for children to complete the scenes. Readers can add Santa to the night sky, festoon the house with lights and decorate the Christmas tree, with over 80 stickers to use for these tasks.

An Aussie Night before Christmas Activity Book features activities for slightly older children, including word searches, art and craft and even recipes. There are 32 pages of activities developing skills in counting, discrimination and more.

This pair is loads of fun and would make a good addition to a gift of the original picturebook, or even on their own.

An Aussie Night before Christmas Activity Book and An Aussie Night before Christmas Sticker Book , both by Kilmeny Niland and Yvonne Morrison
Scholastic Australia, 2006

Aussie Jingle Bells, by Colin Buchanan and Nick Bland

Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute,
Kicking up the dust, esky in the boot.
Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs,
It’s summertime and I am in my singlet, shorts and thongs.

The words to this one will be familiar to most Australians – Aussie Jingle Bells has been sung at concerts, Christmas pageants and more for several years. Now, though, singer Colin Buchanan (who some will recognise from Playschool) teams with illustrator Nick Bland, to present the song in a hardback picturebook format, with plenty of Aussie scenery and a CD recording of the song.

This is a wonderful Christmas treat which kids and parents alike will enjoy for years.

Aussie Jingle Bells, by Colin Buchanan and Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2006

The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Heath McKenzie

With shops full of tinsel and presents, it’s pretty obvious Christmas is on its way. But there’s a catch. Alongside the tinsel and lights, are scenes of snow, plum puddings and all the trappings of a Northern Hemisphere style Christmas. Here in Australia, Christmas usually entails cooling down and trying to escape the heat as we celebrate this special event in the midst of our summer.

The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas, puts an Aussie slant on the old song, with partridges and maids a milking replaced with a kookaburra up a gum tree, wombats, possums and, of course, flies.

Accompanying the humorous text are colourful, funny illustrations with illustrator Heath McKenzie interpreting them in a unique way. The seven possums playing are in front of the TV with Playstations, and the six sharks are swimming in paddle pools.

This is a fun Christmas offering which will appeal to Aussie kids, but would also make a novel gift for overseas friends and family.

The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Heath McKenzie
Black Dog Books, 2006

Red Haze – Australians and New Zealanders in Vietnam, by Leon Davidson

The soil in our area is Red Mud, RED-BLOODY-MUD. It drives me mad…It’s the only place in the world where you can be bogged down in mud up to you neck and get dust in your eyes.Douglas Bishop, 5RAR, letter to family, October 1966

Leeches, mosquitos snakes and more. Dust, mud, rain, rain, rain. Red Haze looks at the circumstances that brought Australian and New Zealand soldiers to the experience that is called ‘The Vietnam War’. Many people believed that if communism was allowed to spread in Vietnam that it would eventually ‘infect’ countries all the way to Australia and New Zealand. While the political battles waged at home, soldiers fought an intractable foe on hostile ground. Red Haze tracks the war from the political impetus for its beginning, through many of the well-known and less well-known battles, to the 1973 ceasefire.

Nothing could have prepared Australian and New Zealand soldiers for the environment in which they were to be asked to fight. Red Haze uses personal experiences to bring the reader close to the action and uncertainty. Davidson doesn’t pretend to have the whole story, but shows the brutality and compassion, the confusion and violence that accompanies war. The use of letters and recollections from soldiers from both sides and from protesters at home gives some understanding of how difficult a time it was. Though today’s children have little direct experience of the Vietnam war, this book can help them understand some of the issues of the wars of their time. For upper primary and early secondary readers.

Red Haze: Australians and New Zealanders in Vietnam, by Leon Davidson
black dog books 2006 ISBN 876372958

So Gross Christmas

Is pudding really made with pig fat?
Do reindeer really eat goose poo?
Why is Santa so fat?

Only kids could go looking for gross facts about Christmas – but there is no denying that children do enjoy anything gross, so why not let them look at Christmas through a whole new light? So Gross: Christmas answers dozens of questions about germs, mess, body odours and more, all with a Christmas slant.

Produced by the team from D-Mag, answers to the questions are scientifically accurate, so kids are learning while they are laughing, which has to be a good thing. There are also some gross Christmas gifts for kids to make – including green slime and fake brains – jokes and more.

Perfect as a stocking-filler.

So Gross: Christmas, DMAG
Scholastic Australia, 2006

Slinky Malinki's Christmas Crackers, by Lynley Dodd

brilliantly bright,
the tree was a truly
someone was waiting
to meddle and play,
to get up to tricks
in his usual way.

Slinky Malinki is surely one of the world’s best loved cats – certainly amongst those adults and children who have been fortunate to meet him in Lynley Dodd’s picture books. Christmas Crackers sees Slinky pitted against a Christmas tree. He waits till the family has finished decorating then creeps out to explore – with hilarious results.

Dodd has a brilliant way of blending the rhyme and rhythm of her stories with delightful illustrations, filled with detail. They are fun for adults to read aloud, and children just adore listening to them.

This is a real Christmas treat.

Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers, by Lynley Dodd
ABC Books, 2006

Gold Fever, by Susan Coleridge

‘Tonight, like all the other nights, it had started with the hands. Dirty, bent hands feeling around in the darkness. And behind the hands were faces – shadowy faces, with dark, watching eyes.
Then came the voice.
It was always a man’s voice – low and muffled like it was coming from underground – deep underground.

Robert’s class is going on excursion to the ‘fake gold mining town’, Sovereign Hill. It’s nearly a year since Dad died and Robert and his family are having trouble coping. It’s an effort to be enthusiastic about anything. Then, once he gets to Sovereign Hill, strange things begin to happen. A wax statue moves, a dog follows him and then disappears. Robert falls into an impossible hole dug by the dog and the mystery begins. He experiences some of the reality of living in a working gold mine town – and it is very different from visiting a recreated town. He doesn’t understand how he got there or why and wonders what he must do to return home again.

Gold Fever is set in Sovereign Hill, a replica town, where every effort is made to reproduce life on the gold diggings. The story is well-paced and features many well-drawn cameo characters. There is plenty of adventure to keep the pages turning. The reader is given an opportunity to see the difference between the fun of visiting Sovereign Hill as a modern day visitor and of living in a time where people die of minor ailments and thirteen-year-olds work in dank, dark, dusty mines. Twelve-year-old Robert learns that suffering, death and survival are part of every life. There are many themes to explore in this first novel from Susan Coleridge. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Gold Fever by Susan Coleridge
Lothian Books 2006
ISBN: 0734409605

Goal! How Football Conquered the World, by Catherine Chambers

In 1746, Derby’s Mayor Humphrey Booth banned Shrovetide football, saying it might spread foot-and-mouth disease among the local cattle. Nearly 100 years later in 1846, another mayor who came bounding in on horseback to break up the games was stoned by a screaming mob, and got so angry that he called in the troops. The next year, no-one bothered turning up to play.(p24)

Many countries would like to lay claim to ‘inventing’ football but proof is difficult to establish. It is clear that, worldwide, balls have been kicked since very early times. Balls have been made from rubber, hair, sponge, animal skins, cloth and animal bladders. Football has been called ‘marn-grook’, ‘tsu chu’, ‘kemari’, ‘aqsaqtuk’, ‘episkyros’ and ‘soccer’. Football competitions have waxed and waned in different parts of the world, but always there has been passion. Passion to play, passion to follow. Football has grown into an sport played everywhere from backyards to the grandest stadium. It boasts over 250 million registered players and 30 billion followers. FIFA, the game’s governing body, recognises 207 national teams – more than there are countries in the UN.

Goal! How Football Conquered the World tracks the evolution of football (more commonly called soccer here) from earliest times. It is a history citing archaeological evidence, a collection of statistics and a compilation of anecdotes. There is an extensive index of players, teams and countries. Fans will eat up the statistics as well as the stories and legends that accompany any sport. The style is conversational and the language accessible to most readers. ‘Goal’ is pitched at upper primary – early secondary readers. Though there is a small section detailing the involvement of girls/women in football, the book will have most interest for boys.

Goal! How Football Conquered the World by Catherine Chambers
black dog books 2006
ISBN: 1876372982

Maxx Rumble Grand Final fever, by Michael Wagner

“This is it!” said our coach. His eyes were red and bulging. His eyes were popping. “This is the biggest game of the year.”

It’s been a pretty memorable football season for Maxx Rumble and his team, the Stone Valley Saints. Now they are in the Grand Final – against the Outhouse Rodents.

But the Rodents are up to their usual tricks. They will stop at nothing to win the game, even locking the umpire in the change rooms and substituting him with a fake. Maxx has to figure out what is going on before it’s too late to save the game.

Maxx Rumble: Grand Final fever is the ninth title in the Maxx Rumble footy series, with each book telling the story of one game in the season. There are loads of laughs, with comic illustrations by Terry Denton, and plenty of action.

Great for beginning or reluctant readers.

Maxx Rumble: Grand Final fever, by Michael Wagner, drawn by Terry Denton
Black Dog Books, 2006