My Top 11 Picks for Christmas/Holiday Themed Picture Books!

Each month I bring home a big stack of curated picture books around whatever the theme is for the next upcoming Picture Book Book Club chat which myself, and two others run. Prior to taking them home I’ve reviewed countless more and scoured the library catalogue for books that match the theme.

For December our theme is Happy Holidays which provides countless pages of results on the catalogue but also plenty of books to choose from. I’ve gone for a selection of picture books I really enjoyed reading that cover a range of different themes and customs of the holiday period. I will note however that unfortunately I had a lot of trouble finding any picture books on Hanukkah or Kwanzaa and only managed to get one book relating to Hanukkah customs.

While not definitive, here is a list of some of my favourite holiday themed books in no particular order!

1. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long

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I got The Twelve Days of Christmas a few years back when I was working admin and used to send my lunch breaks endlessly browsing the shelves of bookstores. I instantly fell in love with the illustrations and knew I had to take it with me. While The Twelve Days of Christmas song has been made into countless books there’s something particularly special about how Laurel Long illustrates each scene and you can find hidden little extras on each page.

 

 

 

 

twelve days of christmas laruel long

2. The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket & Lisa Brown

latke who couldn't

This was the one and only Hanukkah related picture book I could get my hands on but being Lemony Snicket it provides a entertaining if not slightly macabre read. While more text heavy than the other books in the list, I enjoyed reading this funny and informative book about Latkes which are a type of potato pancake eaten as  part of the celebration of Hanukkah. Though why the cover calls it a Christmas story when the book itself says “I’m not a part of Christmas!” cried the latke” is anyone’s guess. Not really suitable for storytime but a great personal read.

 

3. Merry Everything! by Tania McCartney & Jess Racklyeft

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This is probably the first Christmas book I came across this season and what struck me first was the use of different animals to illustrate Christmas being celebrated around the world in different ways and how connected it makes us all feel. The text takes us on a journey from Christmas Eve to the end of Christmas day and the rhythm of the words makes it a joyful and soothing one. Is is definitely one I look forward to reading again next year!

 

 

 

4. Coming Home by Michael Morpurgo & Kerry Hyndman

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Coming home to me symbolises not just the robin’s journey home but the journey home that many make around the holiday season. It can be treacherous at times but it’s all worth it for the joy of being reunited with loved ones and coming back to the places that feel like home. What really sells this book for me are Kerry Hyndman’s beautiful illustrations with their paint stroke like quality and intricate details.

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5. One Night by Penny Matthews and Stephen Michael King

OneNightHBkI’m a tad bias when it comes to books illustrated by Stephen Michael King as I’ve been a fan of his painted cartoon style illustrations since I was a kid. However there is more to love about this book than just its illustrations. Its introduction opens you to the magic of the story about how on Christmas Eve the animals remember another wonderful night long ago of what the animals on the first Christmas witnessed. This gorgeous book tells the story of the animals involved on the night that Jesus was born. While all the animals included in the story may not be entirely factual to what happened that first night, it is a beautiful story that highlights how precious the baby Jesus was and the important tradition of oral histories.

6. The Birth of Jesus by Katherine Sully & Simona Sanfilippo

birth-of-jesus-9781781711668What I love about this book is that it tells the story of Christmas and Jesus’s birth in a way that children can understand without compromising the integrity of the original story. It deals well with how it shows its young audience King Herod’s hatred and jealously towards Jesus without having to include his desire for the baby’s death. This is a beautifully illustrated story that can be shared with young and old that tells the story of why we celebrate Christmas and what many believed happened over 2000 years ago.

 

7. Santa’s Aussie Holiday by Maria Farrer and Anna Walker

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What better way to travel around Australia than with Santa and his friends? This fun story tells the tale of Santa’s post Christmas holiday to Australia and follows him as he visits different spots around the country. I love that it  includes references to Aboriginal art signifying its important link to our history. It highlights the different animals of Australia and the areas they are most connected to such as the fairy penguins on Phillip Island or the quokkas of Rottnest Island. While it appears to be a story about Santa, it’s really a showcase of Australia, our animals and some of the key things of Australian life.

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8. Santa’s Outback Secret by Mike Dumbleton & Tom Jellett

santas outback secretWhat I instantly loved about this story was the idea that Santa aka a well known figure was so moved by a young boy’s letter for help that he went undercover to lend a hand. This attitude is a very Aussie one that speaks of our attitude to lend a mate/fellow man a hand in their time of need cause that’s what you do when someone needs help. What I think is particularly special about this story is that Santa disguised himself so that they wouldn’t know that it was him but still made sure that the family knew that the boy’s call for help had been heard and answered.

9. What Do You Wish For? by Jane Godwin & Anna Walker

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Yes it’s another Anna Walker illustrated book but when you’re as good as her it’s not surprising! What I find special about this book is how it explores all the little things that makes the Christmas season special particularly in Australia such as the sun staying out later or eating Christmas lunch in the park. It’s a season that brings people together to celebrate through decorating trees, putting on Christmas shows, singing carols together and sharing wishes. I like the child like innocence that the book portrays that maybe Christmas can feel this magical every year and maybe it can be if we just take the time to slow down and enjoy our time together.

10. That Christmas Feeling by Lili Wilkinson & Amanda Francey

that christmas feeling

That Christmas Feeling follows the story of Dottie who’s worried that the Christmas feeling that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside won’t be coming this year!  But even without their normal traditions of carols in the park and making Christmas pudding, Dottie and her family find a new reason to feel the joy of Christmas! I love how Dottie shares all her favourite Christmas memories and traditions and how her brother helps to cheer her up and see that they can still have fun even if things aren’t exactly the same. It’s a beautiful book about what it means to be a family.

lili illustrations

11. Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer by Nicola Killen

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What’s special to me about this book is that it’s mostly monochrome with only a hint of red and if you look really closely, hints of blue. The added features in the illustrations such as the splashes of metallic silver and the windows looking through to other pages add extra dimension to the pages. What I love about this story is that the writing guides the reader in the different sounds, sights and feelings Ollie experiences during the story. It’d certainly make the perfect storytime book!

 

I hope you enjoyed this list of recommendations and that it helps you to find your next picture book read or a story to share for your holiday storytimes! If you have any holiday themed books you think I should read, leave me a comment about why you love it!

– Ashleigh

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My Library Journey – The Early Years

Every library journey an early years story, or at least mine does. The things and moments from when we were young that influenced our decision to join the GLAM industry. This is the back backstory of how I got into libraries and how I never stood a chance. Reflecting on it now I can see some key things that helped me embrace reading and libraries, which I’ll touch on in this blog.

Some of my earliest memories involve reading book after book while sitting on the floor of the library and listening to audio books from those old cassette read along stories when I was sick in bed. My mum has worked in a school library for most of my life so I grew up spending a lot of time in the back room of the school library.  So to say that I have fond memories of books and libraries from my childhood would be an understatement. To me books and libraries were a major part of my journey to adulthood and I am forever grateful that I had parents and such amazing librarians who encouraged my reading and love of words.

One thing that my parents did in particular that helped me was to give me the freedom to choose the books and types of books that I read. They made sure that I always had books on hand that matched my interests and each year when Book Fair came along we were allowed to choose a book as a special treat. I remember reading lots of fairy picture books particularly Shirley Barber and The Jewel Kingdom novels (think the 2000s version of Rainbow Magic). When I was briefly into reading about dolphins and other animals I had books about those too. I was also probably the lone borrower of poetry books from our primary school library because I went through a stage of being completely and utterly enthralled by them and how one could write poems about cats. I was never chastised for reading piles of picture books when I was well into novel reading levels.  Sadly this is something I see far too much of when parents are looking for ways to encourage their young reluctant child to read. They wish to restrict their child from reading picture books or graphic novels because they’re too old for them or they don’t consider them real books. Restricting a child from reading the types of books they want to read purely for this reason won’t help them develop a rich love of reading. You are never too old to enjoy a good picture book, I should know I’m one of the co-founders of the Picture Book Book Club!

Because my mum worked at a school library we didn’t really have much need to go to the public library for books until I hit my teens. I was lucky and we lived near a big public library that really catered well to their teens/young adults. It had rows and rows of books to choose from and magazines galore and I knew exactly where to find everything. I’d pour over the shelves and leave with a large pile of books to pick from and read. I was big into fantasy so I really loved that the library made them easy to find by the dragon stickers on the spine and I mostly avoided the romance novels. I wasn’t just a fantasy reader though and made sure to regularly branch out into other genres. Most of the time I didn’t have particular authors or books in mind when I went to the library but just let the titles and spines entice me to read their blurbs. Most of the time I was able to find great books this way and it certainly meant that I read books I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. One particular book that always stands out is Morag Bane by Cheryl Jorgensen which was set in Brisbane.  I got to see things I was familiar with on the pages of this book and on the cover. Diverse representation in books is important and is something we need to continue to champion in our libraries so that our readers too get to see themselves and places they know in the books they read.

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As I mentioned earlier, my mum worked in a school library so I got to see the behind the scenes workings of the library and all the hard work that went into making it function. I loved my school library and though I’m sure I grumbled at times, mornings and afternoons spent in the library meant time sitting on the floor flicking through the book boxes and reading picture books which I loved.

I also had a close relationship with my teacher librarian and to this day she is one of my favourite teachers/librarians because she really cared about her library and her students. She made sure we knew all the basics on how to research, use the library, and create our own books and it was a whole lot of fun too.  I don’t remember much of my primary school classroom work but I remember lessons in the library and being taught about Dewey, having stories like The Very Blue Thingamajig by Narelle Oliver read to us, and borrowing time. Our Teacher Librarian’s passion was evident and she put in a lot of hard work to making the library and us shine. Book Week and Book Fair were always a big deal and we’d celebrate with extra fun activities and competitions. Our library was always a welcoming place and somewhere we could come to during breaks to play games with our friends or read books.

the very blue thingamajig

These positive experiences have helped to shape me as a person and librarian and I am an example of what positive library experiences and the efforts of hard working library staff can do. I hope that by reading this you are encouraged in the work that you do for our young people and for any children in your care. Though you may not always see the fruits of your labour, you are helping to shape the futures of young readers and library users and giving them the skills to thrive.

If you are like me and still in love with picture books and how they teach and encourage in their own unique way please join myself and the rest of the Picture Book Book Club team for our next Twitter Chat.

-Ashleigh
@Ashleigh_CM

#NLS8 Tours Wrap-up

How do you wrap up something that’s been in the works for the last 18-24 months? You put a focus on it! As the Tours Captain my main highlight of the weekend is of course the Tours I’ve spent so much of my time researching, mapping, planning and communicating to make possible. So the focus of this particular blog post will be on a wrap up of my experiences on the Tours while it’s all fresh.  In due course I hope to share more of my NLS8 experiences, so stay tuned! I personally was on both of the Bus Tours and sitting on the bus between locations I did get a moment to sit back and let it all sink in and it felt amazing.

The morning started off with a trip to the AIATSIS Library. It brought me great pleasure to be able to include AIATSIS Library in our AM Tour as I strongly believe that more GLAMs and Australians need to be aware of the services they offer and the importance of respectfully collecting and maintaining Indigenous resources. As part of AIATSIS’s services they offer family history services to Indigenous peoples to help them to access the institutional resources available that connect them to their family’s history particularly in relation to mission/reserve life.

 

The National Film and Sound Archive was our next stop and it has a rich history including its current building. The building was originally designed to be be the entrance to a Zoo but due to the Great Depression funding ran out and the rest of the Zoo was never completed. This history is evident in its Art Deco style and animal motifs one of which is featured in the centre of the ceiling. Busts of famous people line the walls of the entry and the now Green Room of the Theatre used to be the city morgue. The NFSA itself collects a range of things including various formats of audio/visual recordings as well as the devices needed to play them. For more history on the building head to ABC Radio’s article – “National Film and Sound Archive one of Australia’s ‘most haunted buildings'” and NFSA Venue History.

 

The final stop on the AM Bus Tour was to the Civic branch of the ACT Libraries. Civic Library is unique in the fact that it is the only branch in the system that isn’t a suburban branch but instead its clients are mostly city workers rather than those who live near the branch as is the case with the other branches. Due to this it has a number of quirks such as a smaller children’s section and the inclusion of the Access Canberra Drivers Licence Service Centre.

 

After a quick lunch break at NLA it was off to an afternoon of more tours! First stop, N H (Doc) Fisher GeoScience Library!

This was my personal favourite of all the libraries we visited as I’m easily bought by well designed libraries, indoor greenery, dinosaurs and historical items like the field notes that were shown to us on our visit. The library’s dinosaur and greenery theme is throughout the entire library with the garden in the centre that really opens up the space. You’ll see what I mean if you check out all the photos in the Storify! I enjoyed hearing the story of Geologist Dr Fisher having to be restrained from running into a burning building to save valuable texts now which only 42 boxes of books and papers still exist. It was definitely a highlight of my trip to Canberra.

 

Stop two of the afternoon was Telopea Park School, a public bilingual school that speaks both English and French as well as a number of LOTE languages as part of their studies. It is a P-12 school which is quite different from most schools I’ve experienced particularly for a public school as it is not a common thing in Queensland. What I enjoyed most about visiting the school was seeing the mix of languages in the collection and how they had divided up the space. As a Co-Founder of @PictureBookBC it gave me quite a thrill to see the displays of picture books in multiple languages. They have a separate junior and senior school library that is separated by a glass wall which helps to provide the different spaces whilst allowing for that sense of open space. As part of the senior library they have a step theatre, radio recording studio and several classroom like areas for group work.

 

ANU’s Chifley Library was the last location on the Tour and provided the perfect way to wrap up a day of tours. Chifley Library is part of 5 on campus libraries and provides services for the social sciences and humanities subject areas. It has social, quiet and silent zones  as well as a room to meet accessibility needs of its students. This allows students to find the spaces they need within the library to meet both social and study needs.

 

As much as I wish I could have been in two places at once in the morning I couldn’t, save meeting The Doctor and using his Tardis, so the Walking Tour was lead by the amazing Rob Thomson. From the photos, videos and feedback I received it sounded like delegates had a great time exploring the National Library of Australia, National Archives of Australia and High Court Library. Even though I wasn’t there the videos on Twitter helped me to learn what those cool robots in the basement of NLA were!

 

As sad as I am to see the day I spent so long planning come and go it was an absolute pleasure to see it become a reality and how much the delegates enjoyed the experience. Thank you to all the institutions and staff that welcomed us so wholeheartedly to visit their institutions, you made our day! It was lovely to meet the hard working GLAM staff at these institutions whom I’d been emailing and talking to and to see their passion first hand. I’d also like to thank all the delegates who came along on the Tour particularly those who engaged with the staff and tweeted about their experience, it was a pleasure meeting you all!

To see more photos and information from the Tours check out the Storifys, AM Bus Tour and PM Bus Tour.