On Our Bookshelves in December

December Book Review


Books, specifically the reading of them, play a pretty major part in our family’s daily rhythm. In the past I’ve written a few ‘bookish’ sort of posts but nothing consistent. So as part of my way to welcome in the new year, I’ve decided to give you a monthly (hopefully) round up of some of the books we have explored. I find book reviews like this immensely interesting (ok, think what you like. I’m a book tragic.) and tend to spend an inordinate amount of time browsing your reviews, then, dare I admit it, I often find myself increasing my bookshelf capacity to keep up with all the ‘must read’ titles I discover. So as part of my 2015 plans, I’m throwing this idea on it’s head and going to share my two bobs on the book review front.

Since today is the last day of December and for the past month almost all my read-aloud-to-the-children reading has been completely out of our Christmas basket, it seems a good idea to share a couple new titles which have become favourites.


:: Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen:

A passing glance as I walked past a bookstore while visiting family (trying hard to be restrained) caused this title to jump into my hands. And I’m so delighted it did. I highly recommend it.┬áThe story of a young girl and her family, living on the Nullarbor, relying on the weekly ‘Tea and Sugar Train’ to deliver provisions to their remote location. This book tells the story of young Kathleen waiting for the one extra special train of the year, the Christmas train. It’s arrival not only meant that her family would once again have tea, sugar and other provisions but she would also receive a gift. Her delight in the gifted book was tangible as was the joy evident in the exquisite illustrations. Forgetting to buy sugar and having to wait another week till the train came again was forgotten in the shear joy of a family celebrating Christmas.

As a side note, this train was still supplying those communities right up to 1996 – I had no idea until I read this story. Connecting the true story of such a remote community with a celebration which all (or most) children can relate to, Christmas, made this historical recount all the more poignant. It is probably the best Australian Christmas story I have ever seen (in my view) and the illustrations are beautifully realistic.


:: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, Illustrated by P.J.Lynch

This title is on many a ‘best of’ list of Christmas stories and now that we have a copy in our Christmas basket, I’m going to add it to our favourite list as well. The story of raw love and devotion is displayed both through the words of the well-loved storyteller, O.Henry, as well as the original illustrations by P.J.Lynch. It provides such a simple way to reflect and discuss the important things in life – love and generosity.


:: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, Illustrated by P.J.Lynch

Another delightful Christmas story set in Victorian times with the realistic illustrations transporting us back to that earlier period. The author says the she wrote this story to ‘Illuminate … the message of Christmas – hope.’ She certainly achieved this. The three main characters begin with an air of hopelessness but by the end of the story their lives are all greatly enriched by their relationship with each other.


:: Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble

This became the absolute favourite of my youngest boy. The illustrations seemed to draw him into the story and although the family life portrayed in the story is nothing like our modern, Australian lifestyle, he seemed to relate to them intimately. I think the underlying story of a family working together and the love they demonstrated goes beyond all boundaries and differences becoming a connecting link to the story being told. The sadness and hardship which was threaded through the story culminated in a better-than-expected solution and a delightful prospect for the future.

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