Christmas books for the festive season

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Getting out the Christmas decorations is always an exciting task for my kids (I wish putting them away again was greeted with as much enthusiasm). Apart from the decorations for the tree, our box of Christmas stuff also holds Christmas books – there is much delight in re-discovering these well-known Christmas stories and each year I like to add a new one to the collection.

There are a number of lovely new Christmas stories in book shops this year.

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For a thoroughly Australian Christmas story, James Flora’s Kangaroo for Christmas is my pick. It’s the story of Kathryn, a little girl who receives a most unusual present from her Uncle Dingo – a kangaroo! Naturally, it’s a lively kangaroo and when Kathryn decides to show off her gift, all sorts of chaos unfolds.

James Flora (1914-1998) was a popular commercial artist from the 1940s through the 1980s. He wrote and illustrated seventeen picture books and Kangaroo for Christmas has been brought back into print by Hardie Grant Egmont. Although the story was first published in 1962, Flora’s distinctive illustrations, presented in a constrained palette of greens, browns and pink, have the authentic retro feel that so many modern illustrators strive for today. This one’s a keeper!

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In the spirit of The Jolly Postman, is Alan Durant’s Dear Father Christmas. It’s the story of a little girl (aptly named Holly) who begins a pen pal friendship with Father Christmas. The joys of this book will be found in the small letters, envelopes and fold-out sections included every couple of pages, as Holly and Father Christmas swap all sorts of details about Lapland, the elves, the sleigh and planning for Christmas.

For children who love to pore over fine detail, don’t miss Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Hendry and John Lawrence. It’s Christmas Eve and the house in Exeter Street is full to bursting. There are guests in every corner of the house, all bearing gifts, decorations and delicious festive treats. But will Father Christmas be able to find them all? This charming story captures the spirit of sharing and kids will enjoy spotting the various guests and their gifts in each illustration (my favourite is the vicar and his wife, who have a bed made up for them in the bathtub).

If you’re looking for more festive stories, consider starting your own Christmas library with classics such as The Christmas Book by Dick Bruna, Dear Santa by Rod Campbell and Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs.

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Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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