Wednesday, December 30, 2015

31st December The Nutcracker

As the year ends and I now have time to reflect on year's end in the library and just how many Christmas books we have, I still have trouble discarding favourites and those by favourite authors or illustrators. This year we contemplated culling the large number of versions of The Nutcracker we have, yet as we agonised over which ones to let go we realised that every single version we owned had been borrowed during 2015, so ultimately none went. I have a diehard group of girls who will borrow anything that has to do with ballet, so James Mayhew's Ella Bella Ballerina and Marilyn Singer's Talulah versions had been borrowed several times. That is due too, to the power of a series. Tallulah stories are borrowed frequently. James' ballet series is even more popular at the moment than his Katie and artist series.

The story of the Nutcracker has two sources...a story by German author E.T.A. Hoffman called The Nutcracker and the King of Mice and the ballet The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky which was also based on this story and was first performed in 1872. At Christmas many ballet companies perform this ballet so many children know the story of Clara, the Land of Sweets and the Sugarplum Fairy. It's plot is very appropriate for young children as it is about overcoming obstacles and of course good triumphs over evil.

Some very well known illustrators have done picture book versions, even Maurice Sendak who was involved in designing the sets for a production. If your library doesn't have a version look at these four:
• Jane Ray
• Susan Jeffers
• Alison Jay, and
• Ian Beck (author Berlie Doherty)
From these you will be able to select the 'right' amount of text and still have a 'traditional' version of the story.

The other titles above are for more specific audiences. Bea in the Nutcracker  is an ideal introduction for a very young ballerina. Whatever you choose from above you will get exquisite artwork and a good read. Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

22nd December Merry Christmas from Tomie de Paola

It is very easy to 'do' Christmas reading by just collecting together any Tomie de Paola picture books at hand. In the process you will also learn so much about Christmas traditions elsewhere in the world, about being grateful, about enjoying Christmas and about Tomie de Paola's fascination with Italy and Christmas.

The stories do not need to be read in any particular order, but if you have been eating panettone in the lead up to Christmas it is good to read Tony's Bread  and see where panettone came from and why. If your house is decorated with poinsettia you need to read The Legend of the Poinsettia. I like the way Old Befana explains epiphany and why Italian children get gifts then. My preschool classes who often put on a Christmas play relate well to  The Christmas Pageant. I have included Tomie's new book Look and Be Grateful which strictly speaking is not about Christmas and may well be used more for Thanksgiving, but here in Australia where Thanksgiving isn't a celebration I think this is a good sentiment for Christmas discussions.

Merry Christmas! May the holiday be meaningful, family-and-reading filled.