With Christmas fast approaching, now is a great time to check out some beautiful picture books to buy as gifts for kids, both those celebrating this festive time of year and some wonderful reads in any month.
We’re spoilt for choice in Australia when it comes to picture books, so it was hard to choose just a few to review. However, I managed to whittle down the list and do a roundup of six I’ve enjoyed in recent times. Here are those you could consider for the young ones in your life this Christmas.
Christmas Wonder, Vikki Conley (author), Cheryl Orsini (illus.), Affirm Press, 2019
Christmas Wonder is an exquisite picture book that honours the uniquely Australian Christmas traditions so many of us have. While there are lots of humorous Aussie picture books that have come out over the years relating to a hot Christmas, I loved seeing this more serious, lyrical option that gives local kids something to relate to in a sweet, poetic way. Vikki Conley’s superb rhyming text takes readers through festive situations such as baking, decorating the tree, wrapping presents, eating sausages and pavlova during picnics at the beach, and attending carols in the park.
Conley’s story is melodic and reads almost like a Christmas lullaby. It covers an excellent variety of situations that are sure to be familiar to many kids, and it is paired beautifully with illustrator Cheryl Orsini’s bright, colourful artwork. There are details galore to encourage re-readings, and fun colour combinations to get families into the holiday spirit. This joyful book feels like a big Christmas hug. Recommended for children aged around four years and up.
I’m Ready for Christmas, Penguin Random House (author), Jedda Robaard (illus.). Puffin Books, 2019
Part of the “I’m Ready” series released by Penguin Random House this year, I’m Ready for Christmas is a cute, bright board book that introduces young children to the experience of the festive season. The book is a great tool to have on hand if you want to explain Christmas to children who are now old enough to start understanding this special time of year. I’m Ready for Christmas is especially suited to two to three year olds who can get excited by things like decorations, street parties, making pudding, putting up the Christmas tree, wrapping presents, and spending time with family.
The book suitably demonstrates this variety of Christmas traditions, and is gorgeously illustrated by Jedda Robaard, who brings Australian animals to life in a sweet, child-friendly way. I’m Ready for Christmas showcases a young wombat, while other books in the series (including I’m Ready for Preschool, Easter, My Birthday, and Swimming) depict other popular Australian wildlife, such as the koala and platypus.
Boo!, Margaret Wild (author), Andrew Joyner (illus.), Puffin Books, 2019
Margaret Wild is one of Australia’s most well-known and respected picture book authors, and in her new title, Boo!, she brings her expertise to a cute story for little babies and toddlers. The rhyming story pairs six adorable bubs with their favourite toy animals as they play the popular game of peek-a-boo. Better yet, half way through the book, the animals surprisingly decide to play, too!
This joyful, light-hearted picture book is illustrated by Andrew Joyner. He brings the fun of play time to life with artwork full of bright colours and humour. The artwork is bold and high contrast, and perfectly matches the enthusiastic text. Kids aged around two years and up are sure to have a great time getting involved in the reading of this interactive book.
Moonwalkers, Mark Greenwood (author), Terry Denton (illus.), Puffin Books, 2019
If you’re keen to buy the kids in your life a picture book that melds fiction and non-fiction in a child-friendly way this holiday season, check out Moonwalkers. Author Mark Greenwood takes readers back to 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission launched. The story is set in Parkes in NSW (home to the famous Dish), and explores the “giant leap for man” and the impact it had on people of all ages, opening up a whole new universe of ideas and inspiration.
Moonwalkers juxtaposes the journey of the Apollo’s astronauts with the dreaming, imagination, and hope of children back in Australia who go on their own explorations and adventures, inspired by the space race. This book is a lovely celebration of imagination and play and cleverly entwines facts about the historic event with the story of children in Parkes. Terry Denton’s recognisable illustrations draw the reader in and are humorous and playful. There’s plenty to discover on each spread, which makes the book a good one to read multiple times.
The back of the book also contains a double page spread that details the Apollo 11 mission and how the journey and the rocket worked. An additional double page spread provides more facts about the astronauts, NASA, The Dish in Parkes, the moon, and a note from both the author and illustrator about their memories of watching the moon landing themselves as kids. The book is perfect for kids aged around five years and up.
Bitsy, Nicki Greenberg (author & illus.), Affirm Press, 2019
As an animal lover I’m always drawn to picture books showcasing creatures, particularly those that don’t seem to get depicted enough in literature or that are often seen as “ugly” or otherwise less desirable. In Bitsy, Nicki Greenberg (author and illustrator) introduces readers to an inquisitive, playful bat named Bitsy. In excellent rhyming text, Greenberg tells a story about a bat who goes against the advice of others to explore the day for once, rather than only sticking to night-time adventures.
This picture book celebrates being open-minded, thinking for oneself, overcoming fear and prejudices, being interested in our differences, and making assumptions about others based on how they look or other traits. The uplifting story will have children smiling as they see Bitsy take a leap, face challenges, learn new things, and make new friends. The illustrations bring extra humour to the book, and are full of life and colour. They also perfectly showcase the beauty and diversity of the Australian bush. The book is well suited to children aged around four years and up.
The Gift, Michael Speechley (author & illus.), Puffin Books 2019
With Christmas being the time of year when many children become more demanding and expect to receive gift upon gift, it’s nice to have a picture book on hand that explores the joy of giving, rather than receiving. The Gift, written and illustrated by Michael Speechley, tells the story of a young girl who wants to connect with, and give to, a mystery neighbour. The book addresses themes such as acts of kindness, friendship, grief, loss, healing, resilience, gardening, family, and the idea of community.
The text in this picture book is longer than many books coming out these days, so it’s one to savour slowly – which helps all the subtle messages and lovely language throughout to really seep in as one reads. Speechley’s illustrations depict more and more colour as the book goes on, which helps bring even more impact to the emotional story. The illustrations are moody, expressive, evocative, and full of light and shade. The book is best suited to children aged around 5 years and up.
Please note: copies of each book were provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews.
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