Review Blog

Dec 17 2014

Once upon a Christmas compiled and edited by Beattie Alvarez

cover image

Christmas Press, 2014. ISBN 9780992283858
(Age: 9+) This is a collection of Christmas stories, poems and illustrations, dedicated to Santa Claus. With contributions from many of Australia's well known and best loved authors like Duncan Ball, Ursula Dubosarsky, Vashti Farrer, Kate Forsyth, Pamela Freeman, Susanne Gervay, Juliet Marillier and Sophie Masson, and illustrations by a variety of artists, this is a wide ranging collection of memoirs about Christmas, some folktales and poetry. Those looking for stories that celebrate the birth of Christ will find only a few references to this event, although I found the poignant poem by Anne Bee, The Donkey a beautiful reminder of the Nativity as was the poem The Mouse by Nette Hilton
I browsed through this collection picking out stories by my favourite authors. In the Inglenook by Juliet Marillier tells the tale of two abandoned Christmas decoration toys who are rescued by a mother who remembered them from her childhood. Robert's tree by Pamela Freeman describes how Robert's Christmas tree grew so big that it had to be put in the ground. For older readers, reading the poignant, Christmas at the Homeless Shelter by Adele Geras, could mean a discussion about the true meaning of Christmas and how they could perhaps help those in need at this time. Babushka and the Star a traditional Russian Christmas legend retold by Sophie Masson is a beautiful tale of Babushka, who 'will never stop looking for the little child born under the miraculous star.'
Some of the stories describe how the authors celebrate Christmas, Grandma's Christmas by Susanne Gervay brings a picture of her much loved parents and how their contributions to Christmas are being passed down through the generations. Isabelle Merlin in Childhood Christmas - plus a cake describes how she loved her Christmas celebrations in France, and even gives an easy French Christmas log cake recipe that would be easy for young readers to make with the help of an adult. These memoirs could give rise to a writing activity in class, with each child writing about how Christmas or another important holiday is celebrated in their family. The diverse writings could prove to be discussion point in the class about many beliefs and customs in Australia and around the world.
Each page is decorated with Christmas bells and holly and there are some lovely full page coloured illustrations, disconcertingly placed in the middle of the book, rather than with the story they illustrate.
All in all this would be a very useful collection to have in a library and the varied texts could lead to lively discussions and directed writing about Christmas.
Pat Pledger

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