A pukeko in a ponga tree! New Zealand Christmas picture books

There are some amazing Christmas picture books around, but one thing you really notice looking at many, is how cold they make you feel! The stories they tell are often those of a Northern Hemisphere Christmas.

I remember reading wonderful, chilly Christmas books as a child — like Shirley Hughes’ Lucy and Tom’s Christmas — and not being confused by this at all (I think the thing I appreciated most about Lucy and Tom’s Christmas were the amazing illustrations — Shirley Hughes! — of all the presents they made for their family), but around this time of year, it’s always nice to pull out and enjoy Christmas books that are set in New Zealand, written by New Zealand authors, and written specifically with a New Zealand audience in mind — featuring beaches and barbecues and complete with sweltering, overdressed Santas. So, here goes with a list!

Syndetics book coverA pukeko in a ponga tree (the twelve days of Christmas) / adapted by Kingi M. Ihaka ; illustrated by Dick Frizzell.
“A New Zealand adaptation of the traditional Christmas song, featuring such gifts as four huhu grubs, seven eels a swimming, and a pukeko in a ponga tree” (Library Catalogue)

We say: On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me, a pukeko in a ponga tree! This is such an iconic title, with great illustrations to enjoy with your child!

Syndetics book coverA kiwi night before Christmas / Yvonne Morrison ; Deborah Hinde.
“A retelling of Moore’s Christmas poem, with a New Zealand twist.”

We say: This one is also available with sturdier, board pages to share with younger children.

Syndetics book coverThe Christmas caravan / Jennifer Beck ; [illustrations by] Robyn Belton.
“Children’s Christmas story about a boy called Simon who decides to decorate the caravan he and mother share and enter it in a competition for the best decorated home. The other residents of the caravan park contribute by tidying the grounds and recycling rubbish into useful adornments. Text illustrated by Robyn Belton who also illustrated, author, Jennifer Beck’s award-winning, ‘The Bantam and the Soldier’.” (Syndetics summary)

We say: Short-listed for the NZ Post Book Awards in 2003, and we think you’ll enjoy it as much as we did!

Syndetics book coverA Kiwi jingle bells / Yvonne Morrison ; Deborah Hinde.
“A New Zealand version of Jingle bells describing a summer Christmas holiday at the beach” (Library Catalogue)

We say: Lots of fun to sing along with!

Syndetics book coverA Kiwi Christmas carol / words by Chris Gurney ; pictures by Philip Webb.
“The story of Dickens’ A Christmas carol retold with a New Zealand twist.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe elves and the cloakmaker / words by Chris Gurney ; pictures by John Bennett.
“A Kiwi retelling of the traditional story of The elves and the shoemaker. In this case the cloakmaker Kahu and his wife are weaving cloaks and fall asleep and the Patupaiarehe come in the night to finish them off.”

Syndetics book coverAll I want for Christmas is my two front teeth / [words and music by] Don Gardner ; illustrated by Katz Cowley.
“Poor Monkey’s two front teeth are missing! The Tooth Detective is on the case, but maybe Santa can help. Will Monkey get his special Christmas wish?”–Back cover.

We say: From the author of The Wonky Donkey — need we say more?

Syndetics book coverGrandma McGarvey’s Christmas / story by Jenny Hessell ; illustrated by Trevor Pye.
“Grandma McGarvey sets up camp in the caravan park on Christmas Eve, but she hears Santa can’t make it this year – he’s sick in bed. Usually Grandma McGarvey would step in, but this year she’s got her own Christmas party to run. She goes back to her caravan, changes into her dressing gown and sleeping cap and gets ready for her Christmas Eve feast. But the flames from the Christmas Pudding scare the dog, who hides up a tree! While rescuing the dog she stumbles upon the families of the camping ground, who are having a party outdoors. Dressed as she is in her red dressing gown and cap, the children mistake her for Santa! So Grandma and the dog decide to stay and join the party” (Publisher description)

Can you think of more? We’d love to add titles we’ve missed in, so comment and let us know!