That Christmas Feeling by Lili Wilkinson

Published: January 1st 2018 by Allen UnwinGoodreads badge
Publisher:
January 1st 2018 by Allen Unwin
Illustrator: Amanda Francey
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Dottie is waiting for the Christmas feeling to arrive—that fizzy, excited feeling, where everything is a bit magical. But this year, Dottie, her brother, Jem, and their dog, Shortbread, are staying with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma and Grandpa are trying hard, but Christmas just isn’t the same . . . A gorgeous, heart-warming story about misplacing the Christmas spirit, and finding it again.

Wilkinson has created a sweet story about the hunt for the “Christmas feeling”. When Dottie and her brother stay with grandma and grandpa on Christmas Eve she can’t help but compare it to the Christmas last year which feels a lot of magical.

It’s initially unclear why the pair are at their grandparents, but by the end it’s evident and seeing Dottie go through her Christmas worries and how Jem tries to help is incredibly touching. The sibling relationship between Jem and Dottie is so adorable. The affection between them and the older/younger sibling relationship is beautiful. Jem comforts Dottie and tries to ease her worries as they make the best out of being at their grandparent’s house.

Francey’s illustrations add a lot to this story too, they are realistic pencil drawings with wonderful detail. The style she has used brings out emotion and heart which is perfect for the story Wilkinson is telling. There’s lots of colours but suitably subdued and not overbearing. The bright scenes and the beautiful scenery add a wonderful feeling of a special night and anticipation.

This is a beautiful story about how different Christmases can be just as wonderful as past Christmases and that the Christmas feeling can be found in the most unlikely of places.

You can purchase That Christmas Feeling via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Naughty List by Holly Lansley

Published: 1st October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Make Believe Ideas
Illustrator: Lara Ede
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Bookpict
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A brand-new picture book told in the form of a letter to Santa. The letter is written by a boy named Tom, who is trying to convince Santato put him on the Nice List, even though his behaviour has been bad all year! Hear all about the things Tom has done and the ways he tries to spin them to Santa.

This is a fabulous book written in the style of a letter to Santa which is hilarious, clever, and even at times very sweet.

There is so much to love about this book. From page one I was in love and seeing the colourful and decorative formatting makes it even more enjoyable and brilliant. The formatting is big and bold, filled with colour and decoration with emphasis placed by the letter writer which in turns helps when reading and shows how passionate Tom is in his belief and his reasonable explanations.

The rhyme is fantastic, it’s a great poem about all of Tom’s well intentions but essentially naughty adventures through the year which may have got him on the Naughty List. I loved how Tom explains his actions and how insistent he is that he wasn’t actually being naughty at the time he was having an adventure or quite often just trying to help.

The illustrations are woven into the story with the text appearing on lined paper reminiscent of a child’s Christmas list and reflects the story of this complaint letter to Santa. There are drawings on the letter which are from Tom’s hand but there are also drawings on the adjacent page in a more defined style depicting the action he’s defending himself against. I liked Ede’s style of bright and cartoonish drawings. Tom’s cheeky nature comes through as well as those suffering around him.

This is a brilliant book not just for the story and the rhyme but the creativity of the formatting and the presentation was a huge bonus. This is a funny and clever book that is a wonderful spin on why one may find themselves on the naughty list this year.

You can purchase The Naughty List via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

While You Are Sleeping by Alexis Deacon

Published: 5th September 2006Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Farrar Straus and Giroux
Illustrator: Alexis Deacon
Pages: 26
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Being a plush toy might sound like an easy job, but when a newcomer joins their group, the bedside toys show him everything that goes into taking care of a child while he is sleeping. Every night, they make sure that he isn’t too hot or too cold, and that he stays safely in his bed. They chase away bedbugs and bad dreams. And on Christmas Eve they have the very important task of making sure the child does not awake until morning. The new toy and the reader will find a lot to learn before the night is over. 

I picked this up because when I saw it I was immediately reminded of one of my favourite pictures “Sweet Halloween Dreams” by begemott. The image shows the power of the toy and this story is one in the same vein.

Deacon tells the story through the voices of the bedside toys. The text addresses the reader and tells them what their toys get up to when they are sleeping. They explain that after sitting and waiting all day, and once they are sure you are asleep, they get up and make sure you have a good night. Whether it is checking for things in cupboards and under the bead, or helping if you are too hot or cold, these toys will be there. With an adorable new lion toy added to the ranks he helps them work in a bid to join their crew and they show him their routine. The toy’s job is to keep you safe while you sleep, to keep monsters and bad dreams away.

The words are simple, but extra information is provided in the illustrations. They demonstrate how these toys help without having to explain it in the text. I would have loved the illustrations to be slightly clearer. They were wonderful and there were little sweet and fun moments in the background that made me smile. I understand that was Deacon’s style but I would have loved the same heart but with less haziness. The pencil illustrations are detailed and coloured, and seeing the different sized animals doing different things is quite adorable. The new toy acts like a new toy would, not as confident or as brave, but you also see the current toys helping out and showing him how their job works. These extra details made me enjoy the story a lot more and added another unspoken layer of the story.

I can see this being a great comfort to children who may be worried about going to sleep or being in the dark. Having this story that reassures them that their favourite toys are there to protect them would be a great comfort.

You can purchase While You Are Sleeping via the following

Book DepositoryAmazon | Amazon Aust

Little Puggle’s Song by Vikki Conley

Published: 1st September 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
New Frontier Press
Illustrator: Helene Magisson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Puggle the echidna has just one wish: to sing. But every time he tries to make a sound, nothing comes out.

Can Puggle find his voice in time to join the bush choir?

This is a beautiful story and it is the perfect length that it makes you emotionally invested in this event and magical story. Puggle desperately wants to sing in the bush choir but as Puggle is well aware, echidnas have no song.

Conley introduces us to a host of wonderful native birds and wildlife, a great selection other than the standard Australian animals that are depicted in these types of books. There are Willy Wagtails, Cassowaries, and Blue Wrens, but there are also the iconic kangaroos, cockatoos, and koalas.

Through the story you learn about the different noises and sounds the animals make but Conley keeps it within the narrative. It never becomes comical or mean, the animals are honest and sympathetic about Puggle having no sound but there isn’t much they can do about it. I love Conley’s gentle approach that is filled with heart and is the perfect balance between engaging, sweet, and educational.

Magisson’s illustrations are incredible and so sweet. I love her realistic depictions of the Australian animals but there is also a magical element as well. The colours are bright and detailed, showing off the variety of animals and bushland surroundings. Some pages were filled with gorgeous colours and beautiful scenes, the small details are delightful as well with other animal expressions just some of the evidence where Maggison has gone that little extra mile.

Another thing I loved is that Conley doesn’t change who Puggle is, he is still able to wish and hope and Conley ends it on a beautiful note which is a nice surprise to the reader. I truly loved this book and both times I have read it I became emotional and swept up in this dear little echidna’s story. A true gem of a book that everyone should read.

You can purchase Little Puggle’s Song via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Return of Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Published: 1st October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Aaron Blabey
Pages: 28
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The world misses its favourite unicorn, but Thelma is reluctant to don her horn and sparkles again. However, with the support of her best friend Otis, she realises the importance of spreading love and joy — no matter what people think.

This is a great sequel because not only does it address Thelma’s ongoing desire to still be a unicorn and the apprehension she has given her experience last time, but it also solves the question about what the rest of the world did when their favourite unicorn suddenly vanished off the face of the earth.

Otis is back being Thelma’s number one fan and he is a great sounding board for what Thelma should do. He has a bigger role in this one and he is adorable in his love and affection for Thelma.

The argument Blabey makes is an interesting one. What did it matter that she wasn’t a real unicorn? She made people happy and isn’t making people happy a good thing? He balances it out though and Thelma has learnt from her past experiences because while she is scared, Otis grounds her and she remembers to also be herself, they can love her for being her.

Blabley great rhymes are back and I love how he uses the pages and the illustrations to work together in telling the story. There’s anticipation and suspense as you turn the pages, and the rhyming makes sense and with the right rhythm can be read with a nice flow.

The illustrations are big and bold with a lot of full pages and colour that stand out. There’s a few small, fun details too which are nice in the background. One thing Blabey can’t seem to decide on is whether Otis and Thelma wear clothes because seeing it switch from page to page is hilarious.

There is a pop culture reference in there which I get, but it was weird, but I can see people loving it. I think it was the accompanying illustration that weirded me out more than the eye rolling reference but I can’t complain because it’s a kids book after all.

There is a nicer message in this story because Thelma gets to keep being who she loves and she has found a balance in her life with a great support system around her. Otis and Thelma are an adorable pair and Blabey beautiful skirts around whether they are just friends or have gone further. I like he left it vague and I love that he has made a story where he shows Thelma’s dreams are indeed possible with the right kind of attitude and support.

You can purchase The Return of Thelma the Unicorn via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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