Category Archives: Christmas

Book Spotlight: The Efficiency Claus by Devra Robitaille

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The Efficiency Claus comes from the author of the Muffy Dog series, and the recently released teen read, The Henge.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. only Under-claus is on the warpath against fun and frivolity!

In a world gone mad Santa’s chief of staff, Under-claus, is trying to suck all the magic out of Christmas and digitize, organize, computerize and industrialize the North Pole. He will replace the toy factory assembly line with cyber-elves and deliver all the toys by drone. Santa will be destroyed and the world will become a sadder place for it. Under-claus simply must be stopped.

Alarik Aldrich is the supervisor of the day shift and he and his son Rooney mobilize the E.L.F., the Elf Liberation Force, to take Under-claus down and rescue Santa, but not before Under-claus forms the Efficiency Army and war is declared.

The Efficiency Claus is an improbable tale of victory over a villain of dastardly proportions; an adventure that will warm your heart and stir your soul and yes, put the magic back into Christmas. Oh……and there’s cake, lots and lots of cake.


Now get a real taste for the story with this excerpt from The Efficiency Claus.

The kitchen was a most unusual place up here in the newly renovated and efficient North Pole because Under-claus had never been there. He was scathingly patronizing about what he considered to be women’s work, he disapproved of women in fact altogether, and would have banned them if he didn’t need to eat and have his laundry clean and get his letters typed. Yes Under-claus was a selfish person, as we know by now, but in this case it served the elves well. They were able to play some music and sing, they were able to joke and laugh, as long as they weren’t too loud. And of course a lot of good cheer managed to get into the food this way.

The kitchen was a long room with a whole wall of ovens and stoves. It was very warm and bright with a golden yellow brightness that looked like home and hearth. Long tables ran the length of the room and a sheer army of glorious elven women were stirring and singing and cracking eggs into bowls. There were tall ones and small ones, plump ones and skinny ones. A plump and very pretty elf with glorious bronze curls stuffed carelessly into a hat, but falling out all over the place, was walking along the rows and, putting a friendly hand on one shoulder, she was saying, “That’s nice dear, keep stirring.” Then she’d move on to the next and dip a finger into the batter and lick it, “Mmmmm,” she was saying, “that’s delicious!” She walked to the oven and peaked in and nodded, then to the next oven and made a little sniff. “This one’s done Martha,” she said, turning to one of the women, who bustled over with big red mitts on her hands and took the steaming pudding out of the oven and put it on a copper cooling rack. The place smelled absolutely heavenly, sweet and spicy, of orange peel and cinnamon and vanilla.

Adalicia and Lyric were standing in the doorway absolutely entranced. They watched and sniffed and were transported by the lilting Irish folk song that the women were singing at the moment. Usually they would sing the songs of all their ancestors, cycling through every different elven culture. They all knew all the words. Some were even in their native tongues, Gaelic and Celtic, Sumerian and Ancient Greek. Addy couldn’t believe her eyes and ears, or for that matter her nose. The room was awash with the glory of plum pudding, and mince pies; Christmas fruit cake and sticky toffee pudding. One entire table was dedicated to cookies and gingerbread, another had all manner of fruit pies and cakes lined up. It was a sensory overload that almost made Addy and Lyric faint right there in the doorway.

Addy waved frantically at the lovely woman with the messy curls as she turned and spotted them. “Mum! Mum!” she cried losing her composure. Mrs. Blithe waved back and, wiping her hands on her apron, she made her way through the crowd of baking elves, being careful not to knock anything over or bump anyone and spoil their rhythm. Baking was a very delicate and magical art and took a lot of concentration, and of course singing, to pull off properly. Mrs. Blithe often mentioned to Mrs. Kulkarni that if the ban on music ever reached the kitchens, everyone would starve.


And something about the author…

London-born Devra is a prolific composer, songwriter and keyboardist, as well as an author of books for kids. She had a successful career as a professional musician in England, playing keyboards and touring with Mike Oldfield of ‘Tubular Bells’ fame, before moving to America in the nineties. She has been music director for several theatrical productions in Los Angeles, including a show she co-wrote, which was optioned for Broadway. Her first children’s book series is a trilogy of books about a dog named Muffy. Muffy and the Dog Catcher, Muffy’s Florida Adventure, and Muffy and the Medicine Cat are all available now on Amazon. Devra has also written a Christmas fantasy adventure book aimed at middle grade readers, The Efficiency Claus, and a sci-fi fantasy space adventure called The Dream Stealers, and her teen book, The Henge is available now. Devra now lives in Florida with her family on the Sarasota Bay. She loves to kayak and bike and is a consummate foodie.


For further information about Devra and her books, visit her Amazon author page, have a look at The Hologram Library website, or follow her on Twitter. The Efficiency Claus can be purchased here.

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How Santa Changed by Karl Steam

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howsantachangedHow Santa Changed by Karl Steam, illustrated by Maksum Stasiuk, picture e-book, published in 2016.

Over the years Santa’s job became bigger and more demanding and things had to change. One man could hardly cope with making all those toys and delivering them. Whilst Santa was initially resistant to change, Mrs Claus knew he needed help. Find out how reindeer, elves and Santa’s chubby, jolly belly came about.

How Santa Changed is a cheery Christmas book, perfect for reading aloud in the lead up to Christmas. The story is told through rhythmical verse, which is fun, and I really liked the ending.

One of the best features of this book is its gorgeous artwork. Each illustration is highly detailed and lovely to regard. We spent a lot of time just looking at the pictures.

How Santa Changed is suitable for preschoolers and primary school children.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

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pigelfPig the Elf by Aaron Blabey, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2016.

It’s Christmas time, and the greediest dog of all, Pig, has made a very long list of all the things he wants from Santa. He loves Christmas for all the presents that Santa will deliver, but in true Pig fashion, things don’t go the way he desires.

We have loved all of the Pig the Pug books so far, so we were excited to see what Pig would get up to at Christmas. Pig is very greedy, so it wasn’t surprising that his Christmas list was incredibly long. You can read parts of the list within the back cover of the book. I laughed reading some of the things he asked for, such as a beard, and a trained shark. Oh Pig, just what would you do with those?

Pig the Elf is a great book to share with young children during the holiday period. The story is humorous, and the language rhymes, which is fun to read aloud. The illustrations are cute and quite festive. I particularly liked Pig in his red suit; though he looks rather crazy when he is informing Trevor that he will be waiting up for Santa. Of course, there is also a message in there about being grateful instead of greedy, I’m not sure Pig will really embrace it though.

We all enjoyed Pig the Elf, and I’m sure it will be a favourite for many Christmases to come. It is most suitable for toddlers and primary school children, as well as the young at heart!

Mrs Miller – Christmas Killer by Paul Nolan

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mrsmillerMrs Miller – Christmas Killer by Paul Nolan, e-book, 98 pages,published through Createspace in 2016.

Holly Glover is starting at a new school at the start of December. She finds it strange that there are no Christmas decorations up, and the school is so quiet, with none of the usual childish banter and laughter. She soon discovers that the Head Teacher, Mrs Miller, hates christmas to the point where it has been banned at the school. Mrs Miller terrorises the teachers and students alike, and immediately takes a dislike to Holly. Can Holly bring Christmas back to Mount Pleasant Middle School?

This Christmas themed short novel was a fun read that I finished in one sitting. The story had a funny side, especially when Holly’s Dad was around, though there’s nothing funny about the despotic nature of Mrs Miller’s rule of the school.  I would not have liked being a student under her reign! It also hit on some more serious matters, like making new friends, death, and supporting your loved ones so they don’t feel hurt.

The characters were well-written. I liked Holly and her new friends, Meera and Chris. Mrs Miller is very scary, and I can see why no one wants to cross her. I liked the way that she was contrasted against her deputy, Mr Castle. Holly’s father seems somewhat eccentric. Everything he does is humorous for everyone except Holly, who finds his behaviour utterly mortifying. Between his terrible spray tan business, clothing choices, belchy old van, and his obliviousness to Holly’s embarrassment, Mr Glover tops the list of most embarrassing Dads. I feel a bit sorry for Holly, since she has to endure such embarrassment at a new school, but he’s her Dad, he loves her, and he doesn’t mean to embarrass her. I love that two of the teachers at Holly’s school are called Miss Meek and Mr Mild!

Mrs Miller – Christmas Killer is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. I enjoyed it, it’s a good story to read before Christmas.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Mini Christmas Trees

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Our yard is home to a number of pine trees of several different varieties. My husband took advantage of this to get into the Christmas spirit with the kids. He let them pick a small branch to cut from the trees (he did the cutting). They each filled a ceramic mug with dirt, and then planted their tree cutting into the mug. Then they got decorating! L decided not to decorate hers, as she felt it was perfect just the way it is.

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Christmas Stamping

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We cracked out the Christmas glitter paint and foam Christmas stamps to make some festive art.

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Foam stamps.

Usually I would put the paint onto sponges so that the stamps don’t get overloaded with paint. Unfortunately we were out of sponges, so some of the pictures were a bit gloopy, but they still look nice. And importantly the kids had fun!

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An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland

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aussiexmasAn Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland, hardback picture book, first published by Scholastic Australia in 2005.

Twas the Night Before Christmas gets a makeover, Aussie style!

An Aussie Night Before Christmas is quintessentially Australian. Everything from possums to water tanks, Pavlova and Shazza, to beer left out for Santa. There is so much nostalgia in this Aussie Christmas story! An old rusty ute pulled by kangaroos, with Santa at the wheel in his red stubby shorts and thongs. This is pretty much how I imagined he would be lying in bed on those hot summer nights of Christmas eves past. And we always left out beer for Santa to drink, because delivering presents all over is thirsty work! Now all he gets is a cup of milk that has probably soured in the heat…

The story follows the basics of the original, but spruced up with Aussie colour. The language is lyrical and quirky; great for sharing aloud and having a bit of a chuckle. The illustrations complement the text perfectly. They are festively bright, and clear yet detailed. Santa’s flowered shirt really is something!

I love this Australian version of an old favourite Christmas poem; it is perfect to share with my children on Christmas Eve. I hope this is a tradition that will continue for many years to come in our family.

An Aussie Night Before Christmas is suitable for all ages, but could be read alone by lower primary school children.

 

 

Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree by Christopher Awdry

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thomasxmasThomas and the Missing Christmas Tree by Christopher Awdry and illustrated by Robin Davies, paperback picture book, first published in 1999, this edition published by Dean, an imprint of Egmont Ltd in 2011.

The Fat Controller has tasked Thomas with bringing the Christmas tree to the carol party. Thomas is excited to perform this job, but things don’t quite go to plan. A massive snowfall strands Thomas, and his friends set out to rescue him. Will the tree arrive in time for the party?

Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends has been a firm favourite in our house for many years, both on the screen and on the page. In fact, Thomas was one of my favourite characters as a child as well! So a Christmas story featuring Thomas was a must for us. With its familiar characters and simple story of camaraderie and heroism, Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree has been enjoyed particularly by my three year olds in the lead up to Christmas (and all year around; it is Thomas after all!).

The illustrations are bold and clear, great for younger children. The unassuming language presented in plain text makes it easy for early readers to have a go reading the story for themselves. My older kids found this to be an easy read, though they still enjoyed it. I liked that there were some of the lesser known trains featured in the story. My boys liked the part where Harold the Helicopter brought Santa!

Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. Any little Thomas fan would be delighted with this book.

Christmas Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

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xmaswombatChristmas Wombat by Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Whatley, paperback picture book, published by HarperCollinsPublishers in 2011.

The wombat from Diary of a Wombat is back, and this time it is Christmas. What kind of havoc can she wreak when Santa pays a visit?

Being a wombat sounds pretty good, with all that sleeping, scratching and eating. The wombat’s quest for carrots really is comically singular! She challenges reindeer and even a polar bear to claim all the carrots she can. She has such spunk! The expressive nature of the illustrations bring her to life.

Christmas Wombat is easy to read and the illustrations are gorgeous. This is a great book for sharing with the kids around Christmas.

Christmas Wombat is suitable for toddlers through primary school children.

A Very Duplo Christmas to You!

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We have a big tub of Duplo that gets played with everyday. On Christmas Eve Big L and A were entertaining the boys with the Duplo, building cars and houses. I challenged them to construct a Christmas tree, and then left them to it. After a while A came and found me to show me what they had built.

One large Christmas tree complete with star on the top, a couple of presents and a Santa, all made from Duplo! Merry Christmas!

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