Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
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.
Sleigh Ride, by L. Anderson & M. Parish, illustrated by Matt Shanks
The animals floated on the waves.
They BOBBED and BOUNCED.
SURFED and SPLASHED.
They were having a wonderful time.
Echidna Jim went for a swim.
It’s a very hot day, but the animals don’t mind. Dingo has fixed the old blue bus that used to sit in the creek – and he’s taking everyone to the beach for a swim. At the beach everyone blows up their inflatable toys and swim rings, and has a lot of fun – until Echidna Jim joins in. His spikes wreak havoc, popping the inflatables – which could be a disaster, but instead, adds to the fun as the animals whoosh around.
Echidna Jim Went for a Swim is a humorous picture book story featuring lots of favourite Australian animals, including the echidna, the wombat, a platypus, an emu, a kangaroo and more, as well as all the fun of a bus ride and a trip to the beach. With lots of golden sand and watery aquas and blues, as well as the colourful inflatables and the browns and greys of the animals themselves, the illustrations fill the pages with movement and fun.
Echidna Jim Went for a Swim, by Phil Cummings & Laura Wood
The young Royal was taller than Joey and he had four long legs that all reached to the ground. Joey looked at his own short front paws and sighed.
“I wish I had four long legs that could take me wherever I wanted to go. Maybe the Royal joey could teach me,” he whispered hopefully.
Joey wants to be better at hopping, so that he can go wherever he wants to. So when outsiders – Royals (deer) – come to the valley, Joey envies their long legs, and wonders if he can learn from them. He follows them into the hills, but before he can talk to them, danger arrives, and Joey has to hide. When his mother finds him, she explains to him that he is special just as he is.
The Creatures of Dryden Gully is a picture book story about belonging, difference and being unique. Joey learns that being different does not make him less special. He also learns the reassurance of his mother’s love and understanding.
Aboriginal elder Dr Ruth Hegarty tells the story in clear language, allowing readers to learn from Joey’s experience. The illustrations use colours of the Australian landscape against textured backgrounds and are both gentle and warm.
A touching story.
The Creatures of Dryden Gully, by Aunty Ruth Hegarty, illustrated by Sandi Harrold
Hop up, wiggle over, wakey wakey, HUNGRY!
Crunch crunch, gobble gobble, lick lick, MORE!
So begins this beautiful little movement and sound filled offering for early childhood audiences. This unconventional animal family – Mum is a koala, Dad a big red kangaroo, and the nine children include a wombat, an echidna, a bilby and more – move through the day joyfully, from wake up till bedtime.
The text is minimal – just four words or phrases per spread, being the sounds the animals mutter (sploosh! boing…boing) or the occasional word such as yum yum! and a joyful Dad-dee! when Dad arrives at the park where the children are playing. Illustrations, in watercolour with pencil outlines are pastel-toned colours of the Australian bush, with white backgrounds and lots of fun detail for youngsters to discover. Movement is depicted with a few well placed lines, and the joy of the family is evident in their faces.
A joyful celebration of families and of Aussie animals.
Hop Up! Wriggle Over!, by Elizabeth Honey
Allen & Unwin, 2015
Available from good bookstores and online.
All the other kangaroos,
Thought him rather shy and small.
They didn’t think poor Brucie,
Could be any help at all…
Brucie is a small joey who isn’t brave and is not good at any of the Christmas things the other kangaroos can do. So, when Christmas time comes, he feels sad and left out. But when Christmas Eve comes and it’s foggy and cloudy, it is Brucie who comes up with a solution.
Brucie Saves Christmas! is a fun rhyming tale for Aussie kids. A sequel to An Aussie Night Before Christmas, it also has some parallels with the story of Rudolph, with the odd man (or, in this case kangaroo) out, being the very one who can save Christmas. At the end of the story, there is also a song about Brucie, to the tune of Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer.
With humorous illustrations by Michelle Pike, this is sure to appeal to youngsters and would make a great Christmas gift.
Brucie Saves Christmas! by Yvonne Morrison and Michelle Pike
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
If you are an Australian parent then there is a good chance that you grew up singing Six White Boomers at Christmas time. This song, and the legendary singer Rolf Harris, have been a art of Christmas in Australia since 1960. This Christmas you can share the magic with your children.
Rolf Harris and Scholastic Australia (under its Margaret Hamilton imprint) have combined to produce the song lyrics in a beautiful picture book with accompanying compact disc.
The book includes the full lyrics to the song, written by Rolf and his friend John D. Brown, with watercolour illustrations by Bruce Whatley bringing the song to life.
The CD includes a recording of the song so that you and your young ones can sing along with Rolf. And, if you want more, there are two bonus Rolf Harris tracks – Christmas in the Sun and Pavlova
An introduction at the beginning of the book explains how Rolf came to write the song. he explains that he was always amazed to hear Australian sing songs about snow and icicles in the middle of Australian, and so set out to write a song more appropriate to our climate and culture. The longevity of this song’s success indicates that he struck a chord with fellow Aussies.
Every Australian child deserves a copy of this book – one of the few Christmas songs written especially for Australian children. Friends and relatives overseas may also enjoy this piece of Australiana.
Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris and Bruce Whatley
A Margaret Hamilton Book from Scholastic Australia, 2001