Review Blog

Dec 11 2014

Christmas in Australia by John Williamson

cover image

Penguin, 2014. ISBN 9780670077724
First of all, let me start with my favourite John Williamson story. A long time ago, probably around 1987 or so, I was the leader of a very enthusiastic Brownie Pack in Brisbane and the Save the Koala campaign was kicking in. These little girls and I were committed to highlighting the plight of the koala and were planning a presentation for our usual Christmas activity of presenting at our local nursing home and other functions. In those days before my teacher-librarian research skills (indeed teaching skills) were even thought of and certainly before the ease of internet research, I was struggling to find the sheet music and lyrics for John's Goodbye Blinky Bill song. The music teacher at my local primary school said she knew John and had a contact address for him so I duly wrote and explained my dilemma. This wonderful and generous human responded with not only an autographed copy of the sheet music but the 45 record (yes! It was that long ago!) also autographed, with a lovely handwritten note telling me to keep up the good work with these little Australians.
About seven years later, I was teaching in my first post in the South Burnett and John came to Kingaroy. I took my daughter, Mum and stepfather to the concert and after the show, John came out the front of the hall and chatted, signed posters etc and proved himself what I had already known - a top bloke!
Many people will already know the Christmas Photo song but this concept of putting the lyrics into a picture book format with the superb illustrations of Mitch Vane was an inspiration! This is quintessentially Australian Christmas time: cricket and camping, family, food and fun, Santa in a ute and nicknames all around as one Aussie family tries to get everybody into the annual photo.
Mitch Vane's illustrations are perfectly suited to the rambunctiousness of the whole production with much detail for observant readers to discover and compare with their own experiences. A terrific book for exploring family traditions at this festive time of year! By the way, if you enter the ISBN of the book at John Williamson's website , you can download the mp3 of the song for free. Enjoy the magic of our absolutely incomparable Aussie bush troubadour and share with your family. Don't forget to make sure everyone is in the Xmas Day photo!!!
Sue Warren

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