Over the last few years there's been a number of Australian-themed holiday (and non-holiday) books published. Often they are influenced by and expand on classic stories, rhymes and songs, including Australian settings, animals and familiar objects to create relatable tales for Australian children.
One of the first of these was An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland, and there's a reason it's still so popular. It moves the classic poem to an Australian bush setting and includes more than a few Australian in-jokes - including a couple for the parents reading.
So how can a book like this be used in the classroom?
New Stories from Old Stories
An Aussie Night Before Christmas retells the old 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, moving it the the summer heat of the Australian bush. It's a very modern feeling story, with Mum and Dad sitting down to watch tv sports and Santa arriving in a rusty old ute.
Retelling old stories is a really interesting concept for students to investigate. They can discuss other stories, rhymes and songs which could be retold in new ways or investigate other stories which have been retold. They can discuss the choices of the story teller - where they choose to stay with the original story and where they move away from it. And they can have a go at retelling the story themselves.
A Very Australian Portrayal
An Aussie Night Before Christmas tells an Australian story - but is it the Australian story? This is a great opportunity for students to engage with the idea of generalisations, stereotypes and ideas of identity. They can identify which things seem familiar to them and which ones are different. They can talk about what 'Australian' mean to them and what it might look like to someone from another country.
An extension on this is to ask students to write their own version which shows a different Australian night before Christmas. They could bring in their own family traditions or ones they discuss with their classmates. This could be a great small group or whole class activity.
Why Are Stories Like This Important?
Why should we have Australian versions of stories? What does it mean to students to see their own country in a book, to see images which make more sense than sleighs and reindeer? This could open some fascinating conversations about representation in stories and carols - it would be especially useful if you want students to create their own Christmas carols or stories.
This is a great book for all ages at Christmas time. There's a lot of really interesting discussions and chances for writing and other creative activities. If you don't have a copy to share with your class, I highly recommend it.