Ursula Dubosarsky (text), Sue deGennaro (illus), Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise, Allen & Unwin, Nov 2015, 24pp., $19.99 (hbk) ISBN 9781760113025
I love reading Christmas books with my kids as December 25 approaches – it’s a lovely way to get into the festive spirit. It’s also a prompt for me to explain to my Little Man all about Santa and reindeers and why he should aim to be on the “nice” list.
We’ve been enjoying Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise, which is set in Australia, yet brings in the traditional reindeer and a hint of the jolly man in red. It tells the tale of Reindeer, who is missing his family on Christmas Eve. Reindeer visits his friends in typical Aussie settings – a green garden, the sunny beach and a shop (well, Christmas is about shopping for presents, right, and the book was originally written for David Jones’ 2014 Christmas windows display).
Reindeer delivers gifts to his friends – Cat, Dog and Guinea Pig. Sydney author Ursula Dubosarsky, who has won multiple awards for her children’s books, uses repetition and questions to engage children in the story, encouraging them to guess what the gifts will be. But Reindeer doesn’t want to stay and play with them, instead rushing home. I like that he’s ready for Christmas at his house with “delicious fruity things to eat” and illustrator Sue deGennaro has drawn apples, cherries and carrots. Perhaps that will help encourage young readers to eat “reindeer food”. It’s worth a try, anyhow! The pictures are bright and cheerful with plenty of red and green baubles and bunting to bring in the festive feel. The book has lovely endpapers too – snow balls on a cherry red background.
There’s a happy ending to this story, with a surprise for Reindeer and a Christmas present for him too. What’s in the gift is left a secret, which I find unresolved, but children may enjoy dreaming up their own ideas. I used it as a prompt to ask my kids what they’d like if it were their present, because I still haven’t done my Christmas shopping!
Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise can easily be read in a sitting with one to about 10 sentences per page. It’s fine for bedtime and lovely in the lead-up to Christmas.
Reviewed by Carissa Mason