Julia Donaldson: The Christmas Pine

Illustrated by Victoria Sandøy

Published by Alison Green Books, UK, 2021

As Christmas approaches, we look forward to the traditions of this Yuletide season. Stockings hanging on the mantlepiece, tinsel and paper chains decorating the house, gingerbread, and fruit mince tarts in the pantry. Some traditions may be unique to your family, some are unique to whole countries. This story is based on a special tradition that has been continuing for over 70 years between Norway and Britain.

Every year, from the snowy, white landscape of Norway, a spruce tree is chosen to be cut down and sent to the city of London. There, in Trafalgar Square, it is decorated with lights and baubles, a symbol of Christmas and a thankyou from one nation to another for special deeds performed during WWII.

This picture book illustrates the poem created by Julia Donaldson to remember the time when Britain sheltered the King of Norway during the second world war.

From the point of view of the tree, we read about how this Queen of the Forest, a Norwegian spruce tree, is chosen, nurtured, felled, and sent via ship and over land to London.

If trees could have thoughts, I would like to think that it was happy indeed to have given its life for this special commemoration in 2020. Julia Donaldson’s gentle rhyming prose is beautifully illustrated by Victoria Sandøy, a celebrated Norwegian artist, and together they make this a picture book to keep and treasure.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-8 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which feature Christmas trees:

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry

Maisy’s Christmas Tree
by Lucy Cousins

The Christmas Eve Tree
by Delia Huddy
Illustrated by Emily Sutton

Oh, Christmas Tree!
by Sue Hendra
Illustrated by Paul Linnet

The Christmas Tree Ship
by Carol Crane
Illustrated by Chris Ellison

Pip and Posy: The Christmas Tree by Axel Scheffler

The Christmas Tree Who
Loved Trains
by Annie Silvestro
Illustrated by Paola Zakimi

The Christmas Tree
by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

The Last Christmas Tree
by Stephen Krensky
Illustrated by Pascal Campion

The Missing Christmas Tree
by Wilbert Awdry
Illustrated by Tommy Stubbs

Christmas Farm
by Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrated by Barry Root

An Aussie Christmas Gum Tree by Jackie Hosking
Illustrated by
Nathaniel Eckstrom

The Little Fir Tree
based on the story
by Hans Christian Anderson
Illustrated by Christopher Corr

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht Illustrated by Jarvis

The Year of the
Perfect Christmas Tree
by Gloria Houston
Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Night Tree by Eve Bunting Illustrated by Ted Rand

Jon Agee: Little Santa

Illustrated by the author

Published by Scallywag Press Ltd, Great Britain, 2021

Have you ever wondered how Santa became the jolly Santa Claus who climbs down chimneys and leaves presents in stockings at the end of our beds at Christmas time? Have you ever considered whether he had siblings or parents? Have you spent any time thinking about whether Santa enjoys his job, and just how did he get those elves and reindeer to help with Christmas gift deliveries?

No? That’s okay, Jon Agee has provided all the answers in this wonderfully creative and imaginative picture book about Santa.

We meet Santa as a young boy sitting at the family table in the North Pole, surrounded by his family, mum and dad and six siblings. He’s the only one in a red onesie, so there is every chance that you will recognise him!

All is not well; it seems that everybody except Santa finds life in the North Pole hard work, and they would all like to leave and live somewhere warmer…like Florida. On the eve of their leave taking, a blizzard traps everyone in the house under a huge snowdrift. What can they do?

Fortunately, little Santa has mastered the skill of shimmying up and down chimneys, so he volunteers to set out and find food, snowshoes, and help.

On the way, Santa makes some new friends (you can guess who they might be) and rescues his family. The new friends make a big difference to life in the North Pole, and we are left with one satisfying version as to how the legend of Santa Claus may have come to pass!

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books about Santa and Christmas:

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Britta Teckentrup

Emily Brown and
Father Christmas
by Cressida Cowell
Illustrated by Neal Layton

Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

I Love You, Father Christmas
by Giles Andreae
Illustrated by Emma Dodd

Tea and Sugar Christmas
by Jane Jolly
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen

The Night Before Christmas
Illustrated by Jan Brett

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Tailor of Gloucester
by Beatrix Potter

Father Christmas
by Raymond Briggs

The Story of Holly & Ivy
by Rumer Godden
Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Dear Santa by Rod Campbell

Where’s Santa Claus?
by Ingela P. Arrhenius

Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr

The Christmas Bear
by Ian Whybrow
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Merry Christmas to You,
Blue Kangaroo!
by Emma Chichester Clark

Minerva Louise on
Christmas Eve
by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Christmas Wombat
by Jackie French
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Dear Father Christmas
by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Rosie Reeve

Lucy & Tom’s Christmas
by Shirley Hughes

The Legend of the Poinsettia
by Tomie dePaola

Olivia Helps with Christmas
by Ian Falconer

A Christmas for Bear
by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by
Kady MacDonald Denton

How to Hide a Lion at Christmas
by Helen Stephens

Cat in the Manger
by Michael Foreman

Shirley Hughes: Dogger’s Christmas

Illustrated by the author

Published by The Bodley Head, Penguin Random House, 2020

“Dogger has become something of a celebrity. He was put in a glass box, on tour, at the Ashmolean in Oxford and Liverpool Walker Art Gallery. He has one ear flopped down as it should be, and another was cocked up from years of cuddling and has remained that way after 60 years. His eyes are rather far apart, which makes him especially endearing. He’s retired from the celeb circuit now, living in a shoebox, only coming out for the occasional photoshoot.” – The Guardian, Dec 22, 2019

If you have picked up this book and been enthralled by the story, then make sure you go back to the beginning and read Dogger, also written by Shirley Hughes, way back in 1977. This Christmas sequel, released last year, has been written and illustrated by the same lady at the amazing age of 92. The wonder is that the children Bella, Dave and Joe are still much the same age as they were when the first story was conceived over 40 years ago, and life in this new story is much the same as it was then. It’s a time I remember in my childhood, when Christmas lists were posted up the chimney, paper decorations were made for the tree, and hand made cards were given with love.

Dogger is Dave’s favourite toy dog, and almost as old as Dave himself. He is brown and small, with one ear up and the other ear down, and Dave’s constant companion. Dogger has been lost before and Bella, Dave’s big sister, saved the day. As Christmas approaches in this story, Mum takes Bella and Dave to the shops and they very wisely leave Dogger at home, waiting for their return sitting on the windowsill. Nobody wants the stress and trauma of losing Dogger again!

Christmas arrives and we are enveloped in all the familiar traditions of the day, with stockings full of presents, wrapping paper strewn everywhere, grandparents joining the celebrations and a special visit to a lonesome neighbour. The strength of family bonds, the joy of being together and sharing in the deeper meaning of the nativity is expressed so beautifully in text and illustrations.

It’s not until the end of the day, when mum and dad are cleaning up, and all the children are asleep at last, that a wail is heard. It’s Dave and he wants Dogger, but where is he? It seems that this time, Dogger is truly lost. Can Bella save the day again with her kindness, ingenuity and empathy?

This is a wonderful story about family, love, loss and hope. A story that keeps reminding us about the important things in life and caring for others. I can highly recommend it for children 4 years and up to 104 years, after all, it was written by a 92 year old lady, with enough life experience to share her wisdom with everyone.

Below are more of my favourite stories by Shirley Hughes:


Don’t Want To Go!

Moving Molly

Daisy Saves The Day

Bobbo Goes To School

Jonadab and Rita

Alfie Gives a Hand

Alfie Gets in First

Angel on the Roof

Lucy & Tom: At the Seaside

The Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook

Let’s Join In: A First Book of Bedtime Stories

Up and Up

My First ABC

My First 1 2 3

Time For Tea: A First
Book of Cookery

Snow In The Garden: A First
Book of Christmas