Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise by Mark Carthew ill Simon Prescott

On the first of December, Marigold Mouse
found a rather large box at the front of her house.
Ms Marigold Mouse
Busselton Road
*Do not bend*
Sender: Mrs M. Mouse (Snr)

It’s Christmas and Marigold finds a box on her doorstep. She opens it to find a letter from her mother and a box full of tree and Christmas decorations, a memory in each one. From her window she spies her neighbour Marvin. His aloneness and loneliness radiates through the window, and she invites him to join her. Together they decorate the tree, share Christmas memories and celebrate the spirit of Christmas. Illustrations show a snowy Christmas, teddy bear-like mice and gingerbread-like houses.

Marvin and Marigold live side-by-side. When her parcel arrives, Marigold is happy to invite her friend to share the decorating of the Christmas tree. He brings a snack to share. Gentle rhyme details the friendship and the sharing of Marigold’s family tree tradition. Inherent in the rhyme and the illustration is the reminder that Christmas is about sharing with those around you. The final image shows the friends sitting by the fire, with both stockings hung together as they share a meal and more chat. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise, Mark Carthew ill Simon Prescott
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925259991

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost by Sally Murphy

‘You stay safe,’ my friend Lucy instructs me. and have a wonderful Christmas. I’ll miss you!’
‘I’ll miss you too!’ I say. Have the best Christmas ever.’
Lucy climbs into her dad’s waiting car, clutching the Christmas present I’ve given her.
‘And no pressie-poking!’ I call.
‘Same to you,’ she says, grinning as I hold up the gift that she has given me. ‘Bye Sage!’

It’s Christmas time and Sage and her TV chef family are flying to Western Australia to film a world record attempt at making the largest ever pavlova. The film crew are already there, now it’s time for Mum, Dad and Sage to meet Myra, who will be making the pavlova record-attempt at an old brickwork factory. There are rumours of a ghost at the brickworks, and when things start to go wrong, Sage begins to wonder if the rumours might be true. There’s nothing Sage likes more than a mystery. Since everyone else is busy, she’ll just have to investigate by herself.

Sage has an exciting life accompanying her parents and their crew around Australia. This year has been particularly exciting with several dramatic episodes. Her parents are busy setting up the event and Sage has time to notice things that others may not. Her sleuthing always ends well, though there are often some tense moments. She doesn’t always get things right but she keeps trying. Sage’s adventures are always exciting as she visits different regions of Australia. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925594058

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Pig the Elf, by Aaron Blabey

How he loved Christmas!
He’d chortle with glee –
‘The presents! The presents!
For ME! ME! ME! ME!

It’s Christmas Eve and Pig and his patient friend Trevor are excited. But while Trevor has written to Santa asking just for ‘something nice’, Pig has written an almost-endless list of demands. And, while Trevor knows that Santa will come when he’s asleep, Pig is determined to stay up to see Santa. The waiting is hard, but harder still is his realisation that Santa hasn’t brought him everything on his list. He wants to make Santa pay – with hilarious results.

Pig the Elf is the latest in this much-loved picture book series featuring Pig the selfish (yet somehow lovable) Pug and his long-suffering friend Trevor the dachsund. In bouncy, humorous verse complemented with big generous acrylic illustrations, this is sure to be a favourite this Christmas season.
Pig the Elf, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760154271

Sleigh Ride, L. Anderson & M. Parish, illustrated by Matt Shanks

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
Ring-ting-tingling too,
Come on, it’s lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you.

This popular Christmas song filled with mentions of snow and sleighs seems an unlikely choice for an Australian picture book, but illustrator Matt Shanks has given it a very Australian makeover. The words are unchanged, but the sleigh bells belong to an icecream van, and the sleigh is a trailer towed behind it. The ice and snow come from an esky. The pages are also populated with a cast of Australian animals – koalas, wombats, numbats, galahs, echidnas and more are picked up in the icecream van sleigh and end up at the beach where the van’s driver is revealed as a penguin.

Youngsters will love seeing the song interpreted in a beach and outback setting, and there is a bonus CD featuring the song performed by Hum,an Nature and Jessica Mauboy, so they will be able to sing along.

Christmas fun.

Sleigh Ride, by L. Anderson & M. Parish, illustrated by Matt Shanks
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760276928

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, by Haven Gillespie & J. Fred Coots, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I’m telling you why…

This hardcover picture book offering brings to life the lyrics of the popular song Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Featuring animal characters – a lion, a rabbit, a giraffe, a bear an a monkey – as they prepare for Christmas, and spread the news that Santa is coming by train, plane, by drum and more – this celebratory offering is accompanied by a CD recording sung by Human Nature.

Youngsters will enjoy seeing a song they are likely to be familiar with brought to life and to interpret the subplots of the illustrations as the characters exchange gifts, play tricks, argue and celebrate.

Good Christmas fun.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, by Haven Gillespie & J. Fred Coots, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743626405

We're Going on a Santa Hunt, by Laine Mitchell & Louis Shea

We’re going on a Santa hunt.
We’re going to find the jolly one!
I can’t wait. Presents for you and me!

Five animals – a polar bear, deer, mouse, penguin and dog – have written letters to Santa. Now they are off to deliver them – racing through a tunnel, swishing through trees, bouncing through Santa’s workshop. But, when they find Santa, they realise they need to get home quickly, so that they are in bed before he delivers the presents.

Using the rhythm of the much loved ‘Bear Hunt’ rhyme, We’re Going on a Santa Hunt is a rhyming Christmas offering which children will enjoy joining in with, made easier by the inclusion of a CD recording featuring Jay Laga-aia.

The illustrations are humorous and there is much here to entertain in the lead up to Christmas.

We’re Going on a Santa Hunt, by Laine Mitchell & Louis Shea
Scholastic Books, 2015
ISBN 9781743626429

One Night, by Penny Matthews & Stephen Michael King

In any farmyard, on Christmas Eve, if you are very lucky, you can hear the animals talk.

It happens only on this most magical of nights.

And it happens only in that moment just before midnight

when the world is silent, waiting.

On Christmas Eve, at midnight, legend says that animals can talk. They speak to remember the part that animals played on the very first Christmas – where a donkey carried the baby’s mother, horses gave up their stall and other animals provided soft bedding. Even the mouse and the spider did their bit, and the rooster crowed to herald the news. Proud of the part their forbears played, the animals celebrate on Christmas Eve.

One Night is a delightful, gentle Christmas tale with the focus squarely on the animals, though two spreads show Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus, and the final spread shows all the animals gazing at the sleeping baby.

The text is not overdone, using the animals’ dialogue to show their pride, and the watercolour and pencil illustrations are a perfect complement with soft, expressive animals and night time hues.

A lovely Christmas offering.


One Night, by Penny Matthews & Stephen Michael King
Omnibus Books, 2014
ISBN 9781742990279

Available from good bookstores or online.

Once Upon a Christmas, edited by Beattie Alvarez

I slid down the icy balustrade outside our town house. The chill of the evening fairly took my breath away, then, I was airborne. I landed in the flurry of snow at the base of the stairs, startling the band of carol singers who had just crossed the street.
Father opened the door and took in the scene. ‘Please forgive us,’ he said to the carol singers. ‘My singers who had just crossed the street.
Father opened the door and took in the scene. ‘Please forgive us,’ he said to the carol singers. ‘My daughter has no fear.’
Michael Pryor The Spirit of Christmas

For adults who remember the Christmas Annuals of their childhoods, Once Upon a Christmas will feel familiar, while for children who may not have encountered such an offering, it will prove an unexpected treasure. With over 150 pages of stories, poems, illustrations and more, the anthology celebrates a huge variety of Christmas traditions and imaginings.

The stories are from different cultures, and represent both Australian Christmas settings and traditions as well as those from around the world and in different time periods. The range of genres is also wide including historical fiction, modern fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction, humour, and poetry. Black and white illustrations throughout are complemented by coloured plates in the centre of the book. Creators whose work appears in the book include Susanne Gervay, Ursula Dubosarsky, Duncan Ball, Sophie Masson and more.

Once Upon a Christmas is a book which will be treasured.


Once Upon a Christmas

Once Upon a Christmas, compiled and edited by Beattie Alvarez
Christmas Press, 2014
ISBN 9780992283858

Available from good bookstores and online.

There is a Monster Under My Christmas Tree Who Farts, by Tim Miller & Matt Stanton

There is a monster under my Christmas tree who farts.
You don’t want his help putting up the star.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try to be good when you are plagued by a farting monster who seems intent on getting you put on Santa’s naughty list. the young unnamed protagonist of this funny picture book sees (and smells) the monster under the Christmas tree, in his room where he should be wrapping up presents, even in Santa’s grotto when he goes to have his photo taken. What if Santa thinks it’s him, and doesn’t leave him any presents?

There is a Monster Under My Christmas Tree Who Farts is a humorous tale which will appeal to pre an early schoolers who will enjoy the fun of (and probably relate to) the dilemma of who to blame for stinky smells, and the resolution on the final page, which shows the monster and Santa out-stinking each other under the Christmas tree.

Great for Christmas laughs.


There is a Monster Under My Christmas Tree Who Farts, by Tim Miller & Matt Stanton
ABC Books, 2014
ISBN 9780733332951

Available from good bookstores and online.

Count My Christmas Kisses, by Ruthie May & Tamsin Ainslie

One kiss for baby, under mistletoe.
Two kisses for baby, catching falling snow.

Playing under mistletoe, singing with the choir or jingling Christmas bells, Christmas kisses abound in this gentle rhyming offering. Counting from one to ten, and finishing with the children (and their animal friends) asleep on Christmas Eve, the text would make a perfect bedtime wind down in the lead up to Christmas.

The pastel toned illustrations are adorable, with the numbers hanging in large baubles, the kisses snowflake adorned love hearts and the characters – two older children, baby and a rabbit and a fox – happily preparing for Christmas.

This would make a perfect gift for a baby or toddler.


Count My Christmas Kisses, by Ruthie May & Tamsin Ainslie
ABC Books/Harper Collins, 2014
ISBN 9780733332203

Available from good bookstores and online.