A very quacky Christmas by Frances Watts and Ann James

cover image

ABC Books, 2017. ISBN 9780733329623
(Ages: 3-7) Highly recommended. Themes: Christmas, Giving. Samantha Duck is getting ready for Christmas. She's putting up tinsel around the reeds, singing her favourite Christmas song ("We wish you a quacky Christmas") and hanging her Christmas stocking. "Christmas is not for animals", her tortoise friend Sebastian tells her. Samantha carries on regardless. "Christmas is about giving and sharing isn't it? And animals like to give and share, don't they?" she asks. Faced with this infallible logic, Sebastian reluctantly agrees to help her deliver presents to animals all over the world ("That's impossible!" he exclaims). The other animals on the farm are impressed with Samantha's idea, donating their wool, eggs and other products to be made into Christmas gifts. Samantha and Sebastian work hard day and night making and wrapping gifts, but the delivery is the hard part. Donkey lends them his cart but how will they make it fly? It isn't until Sebastian thinks of all the generous animals and starts believing that Christmas is for animals that their running and flapping help the cart take to the skies. "Christmas is for animals", he says.
In a world where the true religious meaning of Christmas has been all but lost this is welcome reassurance that even non-religious Christmas is worthy as a time of giving and sharing. If you want or need a story that celebrates the humanity and generosity of Christmas without harking on the religious tradition, this is fantastic. It echoes the Santa Claus narrative but focuses on the ability of everyone to be generous and make someone else happy. It is also about how believing in the impossible makes it possible: the true magic of Christmas.
The text seems effortless in its simplicity and reads exceptionally well. The black line and watercolour illustrations from the talented Ann James (I'm a Hungry Dinosaur, It's a Miracool, Shutting the Chooks In) are stunning and Samantha and Sebastian are very endearing characters.
Nicole Nelson