Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary

Published: 6th October 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

It’s history with the NASTY bits left in!

Do you want to know:
– A very rude pantomine song?
– Why making Christmas pudding used to be a crime?
– How to get rid of carol singers?

Horrible Christmas tells you all the festive facts you ever wanted to find out but were too stuffed full of mince pies to ask.

It’s Christmas time and what better way to celebrate than with a fabulous book that tells you everything you know about Christmas is either wrong or even more interesting than you thought? Legendary series Horrible Histories has taken hold of Christmas and filled up this fabulous book with trivia, fun facts, and a whole heap of history both intriguing and horrible all relating to this the festive season.

The book is also incredible funny and quirky and I loved learning all the facts about Christmas and the surrounding myths and associations. There are multiple quizzes to test your knowledge and it is fascinating about all the old traditions that have either been forgotten or the ones that live on today but I had no idea of the original reasons why. There’s some science in there too as the realities of Santa’s sleighing and reindeer endeavours are worked out with maths and logic (a lot funner than it sounds), plus the horrible bits of history that wouldn’t be Horrible Histories without it.

The book is laid out with pictures, colours, and trivia boxes and full page stories. There are topics like chapters breaking up the book into relevant information like Christmas Carols, Christmas History, Rotten Christmas etc that keep the topics together but there is still general crossover. Great to pop in and out of when you need a certain fun fact.

I love learning new things and fun facts and trivia are some of my favourite things in the world so this book is right up my alley and it is presented in such a fun and non-intimidating way that it is easily accessible. It isn’t just page after page of facts, the best part is you learn things in different ways, not just quizzes, not just the fact lists but with storytelling and humorous writing too. Information like the first Christmas card was printed in 1843, or that kissing under the mistletoe comes from a Druid tradition are told in clever ways that are interactive and make it a fun experience.

My favourite fun facts from the book must be included here because they are wonderful:

  • There were no angels around when Jesus was born. The reporters wrote in Greek of ‘angelos’ being there which is not Greek for angels, it’s Greek for ‘messengers’.
  • Silent Night was first played on a guitar.
  • The first record of Christmas being written down is in 1038 in a Saxon book where it appears as Cristes Maesse.
  • Little Jack Horner (of thumb in pie fame) was actually a monk who (supposedly) tricked Henry VIII out of a land deed at Christmas.
  • In the 1600s the Germans decided that the Christ Child should be worshipped at Christmas. They called him Christkindl – German for Christ Child. This became Kris Kringle and became a name for Santa Claus instead.
  • Rudolph was created for an advert in 1939
  • In the 1800s Christmas had almost died out but Charles Dickens bought back its popularity with ‘A Christmas Carol’.

There’s definitely a lot more but these ones stood out. There’s so much to learn in this book about old customs, traditions from Victorians and other eras, other countries, present day and the past. It is fascinating to see what feels like an ingrained tradition or idea is actually manufactured or something so old was really a simple thing at first.

If you have been a fan of Horrible Histories in the past this is a great addition with a nice holiday theme, but if this is your first experience of Horrible Histories it is also a great book because you get to learn a little more about Christmas and its history and love the joyfulness that is Horrible Histories.

You can purchase Horrible Christmas via the following

QBDDymocks | Amazon

How to Hide a Lion at Christmas by Helen Stephens

Published: 4th October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Alison Green Books
Illustrator: Helen Stephens
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

A charming holiday picture book about a girl, her pet lion, and a Christmas adventure.

Iris and her lion go everywhere together. But when Christmas comes and the family is going away, Mum says the lion must stay behind. After all, you can’t take a lion on a train. Luckily the lion has other ideas. He sets off on a festive, snowy adventure to find Iris—and almost bumps into Santa Claus!

This is the Christmas edition of How to Hide a Lion and in this story we see Iris face the challenge of hiding her lion once more because lions can’t go on trains and therefore cannot come with them to visit Auntie Sarah.

It’s a very sweet book. It’s fun to see Iris attempt to hide her lion but can’t quite make it work. Iris’ lion doesn’t want to make her sad by being left behind so he sets off to join them on their Christmas. Having not read the original book or others in the series first I was slightly underwhelmed, but I’ve since read the first book which is more substantial and this makes this a nice addition to the series of Iris’s numerous adventures of having to hide her lion.

You don’t need to have read the original per se, it’s easily accepted that Iris has a lion and no understanding of how this came about is required, but I did feel like it was missing something. Having now read the original story I can see the themes Stephens uses here which connect it to the original. But even beyond that, there is a sweet story about a lion not wanting his friend to be lonely and setting off to make sure she has a nice Christmas, albeit with a few mishaps on the way. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.

I enjoyed this because there is a lion in it, which is an easy way to gain my approval over anything, but beyond that it’s also a nice, fun story. Stephens’ illustrations are bright and colourful, the mixture of full page and small illustrations suit the story and helps convey the narrative being told. Her style is simple but still full of detail, and the scenes through the book tell their own story.

I think I will have to track down more of Iris’ adventures because seeing the humorous and creative ways she tries to hide her lion, I’d love to see more of her attempts and see what mischief they get up to in the meantime.

You can purchase How to Hide a Lion at Christmas via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Have Yourself a Hairy Little Christmas by Rosie Greening

Published: 27th October 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Make Believe Ideas
Illustrator: Dawn Machell
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Santa wants a new hairstyle for Christmas, so Elf offers to help! Help Santa choose as you explore thick woolly beards, to ones that sparkle with glitter!

I got quite excited because looking at the touch and feel cover I thought this book might be like those “That’s not my…” books where each page had a different thing you could touch, but alas ‘tis not the case. The copy I read was just a special edition and not the norm for all of them.

So what we get instead is a cool beard you can touch on the cover, but inside are typical illustrations. That is not to say they are boring. After my disappointment subsided I actually quite liked them. They are cute and funny, Machell does a great job making these characters funny and represent the story Greening is telling.

The narrative itself is straight forward and simple, Santa wants a new look and each page depicts a new style the elf barber is trying. The rhyme is also simple, great for younger readers with big clear visual accompaniments and formatting that enhances reading aloud.

Overall, it is a sweet story. Santa finds his new look and the rhyming structure is clear and flows nicely. It is a creative holiday story and getting to play with a fluffy bear on the cover is an added bonus.

You can purchase Have Yourself a Hairy Little Christmas via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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 Crayons’ Christmas by Drew Daywalt

Published: 15th October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Workshop
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

‘Tis the season for all of us to write our holiday wishlists. But everyone–even the crayons–know the best presents are the ones that you give. In this unique book, readers get to see how Duncan, the crayons, and their families celebrate the holidays. With real, folded letters from the Crayons that you can pull from their envelopes and read, games, punch-out ornaments, a poster, and a pop-up tree, this book is the perfect gift for fans of The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home.

I was incredibly excited when I saw there was a Christmas themed Crayon book. I’ve loved the other two and to return to their funny little world was fantastic.

In this new book the Crayons are preparing for Christmas and letters keep arriving from all over the place— from travellers, from online shopping, and from numerous crayon relatives. The letters are wonderful. They’re funny, clever, and I love the interactive envelope style instead of the printed letters we’ve seen in the past. It reminds me of the old Jolly Pocket Postman books. Inside there are letters that relate to the story but there are also recipes, games, and cut outs that the reader can use and enjoy too. There is also the inclusion of other holidays and traditions which adds some diversity.

The crayons still do crayon things, they’ve melted, they lose their paper wrapping, and they have their colour themed jokes that we’ve seen in past books. Running jokes about where Duncan leaves his crayons are back too with the addresses on the various envelopes.

This time we get to see beyond just the crayon adventures as other things in Duncan’s world are animated too. As Duncan and the house set up for Christmas Daywalt shows us that mugs, decorations and stationary all interact with one another, their little quips and comments part of the charm.

Jeffers’ illustrations bring all this to light with his adorable depictions of these crayons and their holiday activities. Crayons in costumes, playing in the snow and playing rock, paper, scissors with actual paper and scissors is quite wonderful.

If you’ve loved the previous Crayon books this is definitely a fun new adventure, and one that offers more than just a delightful story.

You can purchase The Crayons’ Christmas via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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