It’s time to break out the fruit mince pies and sugar-crusted almonds and rustle up that Christmas feeling, for today’s double dip is all about everyone’s
favourite most stressful time of year. Luckily, today’s books for mini-fleshlings are not stressful in the least and should actually contribute to the heightening of joy and happiness in your dwelling. Let’s crack on then, with an Aussie Christmas picture book, Christmas at Home by Claire Saxby and Janine Dawson, which we cheerfully received from Five Mile Press for review. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Let’s decorate your branches…
The tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped, and the neighbourhood Christmas lights blaze against a warm December sky.
It’s Christmas time at home — the very best time of the year.
An Australian Christmas tale.
Dip into it for…
…a delightful romp through the lead up to Christmas and Christmas Day itself, that pulls no punches as to how festivities really unfold in a land in which the only snow to be seen is of the type that is sprayed out of cans to fancy up one’s window display. The text is based on the classic carol, O Christmas Tree, and each page spread focuses on a typical Christmas activity – wrapping presents, visiting neighbourhood light displays, cooking on the barbie, and general family shenanigans. The illustrations are absolutely fantastic here and I particularly love the way that aspects of contemporary life, such as two lads discussing something on the iPad with grandma, a lady taking a selfie at a light display and dad trying to fly his new remote control helicopter are all present, but peripheral to the main events. The best bit about this book for me however was the fact that the illustrator has obviously paid close attention to inclusion and representation in creating the characters. Although the protagonist family are fair, white (and slightly sweaty!) Australians, every scene that depicts other people includes characters who possess a range of skin tones. Just at a quick glance it is possible to spot an Indian couple, a number of Asian families, a Maori family and a family that, judging by their outfits, may be from West Africa. There’s even an Inuit family friend who for some reason has chosen to wear traditional cold-weather clothing for reasons that aren’t explained. Representation aside, there’s plenty going on in each illustrative spread for keen eyed mini-fleshlings to spot.
Don’t dip if…
…you’re after a “traditional” Christmas story, for this one is a celebration of modern family life. Other than that, if you aren’t a fan of changing the words to well-known Christmas carols, then this might not be for you.
Overall Dip Factor
This is a story that seems simple at first glance, but has more layers to uncover every time you look through it. The illustrations, obviously, have much to do with this. The most memorable page for me is one that notes that on Christmas day, “every place is bursting”. The pages feature a number of different social groupings, mostly showing families, but also with a few touching asides. I will admit to getting a little stab in the heart as I noted one of the pictures shows an old lady dressed in jaunty Christmas bonbon hat, putting food out on Christmas themed paper plates for about half a dozen cats. While the lady herself looks perfectly happy (and there’s no indication that she hasn’t just popped out from family festivities for a moment), I felt like this was a little reminder that others may not be celebrating with a large, jolly social group. Whatever the case, as well as providing a cheerful Christmas read-aloud for the mini-fleshlings, there are also other aspects of the book that will no doubt start conversations about diversity and how others do things.
Recommended. Especially for those in a cold climate, who no doubt won’t be thinking of us southerners at all as we sweat it out over our Christmassy summer.
Next up we have a fun little boredom-buster for primary school aged kids and beyond. It’s My Lovely Christmas Book and we received a copy from Bloomsbury Australia for review. Here’s the blurb from Bloomsbury:
Have a crafty Christmas this year: cut and glue, make beautiful pages, pockets, frames and other charming creations. Use your creativity to make lists, make notes, write poems, short stories, diary entries and add other things to make it yours. You can draw and colour, write and doodle. This is your book, made by you and for you.
Dip into it for…
…a sweet, creativity-inducing tome that really is as lovely as it claims to be. The perfect gift for crafty pre-teens (or for yourself, if you rejoice in the anticipation of the days before December 25th), My Lovely Christmas Book is part diary, part photo and memory album, part activity book and part craft kit. Apart from diary pages themed around each of the twelve days of Christmas, the book is structured so that the reader can flick through and pick the activities that take their fancy – and what a selection of activities there are! On a quick flick from front to back I spotted mazes, cut-out-and-stick activities to make decorations, gift tags to cut out and use for gift giving, thank-you note templates, places to stick photos, doodling pages and search and find pages. On a more studied examination, other features include beautiful papers that can be used to wrap small gifts, festive colouring pages, pages that can be cut and folded to make a pocket inside the book for holding special things, little journalling prompts, and a space to plan (or record!) a Christmas menu. Honestly, it’s so chock-full of interesting things to list, make and do that any parent, upon hearing their offspring whine “I’m bored!” during the Christmas holiday period, could easily just growl, “Go to the book!” and everyone’s problems would be solved.
Don’t dip if…
…you are the kind of person who just cannot bear to write or draw in a book, let alone take to a book with a pair of scissors. The only downfall I can see with this tome is that it is so aesthetically pleasing, that some readers may not want to spoil that beauty by actually using it as intended.
Overall Dip Factor
I can see this book being a fantastic companion for a young one who loves to create and record, and as a finished product, something that will be kept for years to come – who doesn’t love looking back on their own (often hilarious) jottings from childhood? I would certainly recommend this as a book to accompany Christmas time travels, to keep that sense of Christmas close even though one is away from home. Being one of the aforementioned readers who is often unable to deface beautiful books, even if that is their sole purpose, I am in two minds about whether to have a crack at some of the activities myself or leave this one in its pristine state. You, however, should search this one out immediately – even the grouchiest Grinch will feel a flutter of Christmas cheer on flicking through these lovely pages.
There now. Aren’t you feeling more festive already? Well that’s great, because apparently there are only seven and a bit weeks til Christmas. You’re welcome.
Until next time,