This distinctly Australian Christmas story about the joy of giving and the importance of family was created by the highly acclaimed picture book team of Ursula Dubosarsky and Sue deGennaro.
Ursula Dubosarsky is widely regarded as one of the most talented and original writers in Australia today. Her work ranges from multi-award-winning novels for older readers like Abyssinia, Theodora's Gift, The Red Shoe and the 2012 CBCA shortlisted The Golden Day, to her highly acclaimed and hilarious picture books with Andrew Joyner such as The Terrible Plop. Ursula has also collaborated with Tohby Riddle in their unique and award-winning series that takes an entertaining journey through English language, The Word Spy and Return of the Word Spy.
Sue deGennaro studied film at uni, learnt to weld and draw at art school, then became an aerialist and performance artist. She now lives in Melbourne with her two girls, where her days are spent writing stories of things that make her giggle. She received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship in 2007, and was shortlisted for the Children's Book Council of Australia Crichton Award 2010. She has illustrated 12 picture books, and is the author and illustrator of The Pros and Cons of Being A Frog (shortlisted for the CBCA 2013 Early Childhood Prize). Her most recent books include The Hairy Nosed Wombats Find a New Home with Jackie French, Max & George by Cori Brooke and Bring a Duck by Lesley Gibbs.
It’s Christmas Eve in Australia and Reindeer is all set and ready to go. His tree glows with lights, the presents are wrapped and his little table is covered with delicious fruity things to eat. Everything appears perfect – but reindeer is lonely. When there is such a focus on family, it’s hard to have yours on the other side of the world. To ease his loneliness, Reindeer delivers his gifts to his friends. Each one asks “What’s inside – what can it be?” And Reindeer replies, “Open it and you will see”. Reindeer has been both generous and thoughtful. Each gift is just right. There is a yoyo for Cat, a blow-up octopus for Dog, and roller-skates for Guinea Pig. His friends are thrilled but when they ask him to stay and play, he always has an excuse. He knows he had to get home because…
Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise was the inspiration for the traditional Christmas windows of David Jones in Sydney for 2014 so it is familiar to many children. When the author was approached to create an original story with an Australian theme for the windows, she thought of kangaroos, koalas and possums but then she was presented with the toy reindeer that was to be the centrepiece. This changed her thinking and she began to consider the fact that for many Australians, the Christmas experience “is very often an immigrant experience. Apart from indigenous people, we all appeared here from other cultures.” What must it be like to have those you hold nearest and dearest so far away? So as well as inspiring the magic of the windows she has told a charming story that will resonate with many, young and old. (You can read more of the interview at http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/childrens-authors-christmas-story-decorates-david-jones-windows-20141127-11unep.html#ixzz3qkYimRCb and view the YouTube clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLHi5FVXe6g)
Regardless of the David Jones connection, this is a delightful and different story of the Christmas experience that will engage children of all ages. Even though the central character was decided for her, the author has let him talk to tell a story that has all the characteristics of one that will become a perennial favourite. Our traditional Christmas customs have come from many places and illustrator Sue deGennaro has made a feature of these in the traditional red and green palette encouraging discussions of their origins and why they continue to endure, as well as the way Australians have tweaked them. For example, while Reindeer has the traditional Christmas tree, Cat has something very different.
If, like me, you do a Christmas Countdown opening a new Christmas book to share each day, then this will be a great addition to that collection. I’m putting it at the very end because I think its ending will set up great anticipation for THE day. A standout among the many that are published at this time each year.
Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, NSW