Santa's secret by Mike Dumbleton

cover image

Ill. by Tom Jellett. Random House, 2012. ISBN 9781 74275239 6.
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Picture book. Christmas. Humour. After a hard day's work delivering presents all over the world on Christmas Eve, Santa is exhausted, but what keeps him going will surprise younger readers, as he doffs his warmer northern hemisphere clothing and gets into a wonderful pineapple designed shirt and shorts and heads for Australia. On the way he practices his Australian speech, and when he lands, feels into the back of the sleigh to bring out his expected gift, a surfboard. He dons his wetsuit and heads for the beach, catching wave after wave in the little sun drenched bay around which are perched a community of shacks. Jellett has lovingly recreated an Australian Christmas, with children happily surfing and swimming, the shore line stretching around the cove, with the little shacks and caravans fenced from the beach. The illustrations reflect many such communities along the coast, recalling for me many happy summers at Aldoinga Beach and Lady Bay. The detail of the little coastal community is intriguing and draws the eye to look further, spotting the rainwater tank, iron roof, Weber bbq, thongs and so on.
The large old bewhiskered man surfing attracts many onlookers, not least the many children cavorting in the sea. When at last Santa retires to his own small shack, complete with tyre swans at the steps, he gives his surfboard to the kids, knowing that next year he will have another in his bag of presents.
A lovely story to present to children at Christmas, this one is redolent of the celebration in the southern hemisphere, and not a Christmas tree or plum pudding in sight. It makes a welcome change from the cliched presentation of Christmas, and gives a class much to discuss about sharing and giving, peculiarly Australian words, and how they spend their Christmas.
Fran Knight