Thursday 9 November 2017

A Christmas Menagerie

A Christmas Menagerie edited by Beattie Alvarez (Christmas Press) PB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780994528049

Reviewed by Allison Paterson

Christmas is a time of sharing, a time for families to gather and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the delight of a collection of short stories. A Christmas Menagerie contains twelve well-crafted animal tales, each with its own special touch of Christmas charm.

Written by both established and emerging authors, most of the stories are structured as fables with anthropomorphised animals and a moral to explore. Janeen Brian’s clever wombat discovers his perfect Christmas tree. Sophie Masson’s Barney Brown the bear has some trouble with the baking of his Christmas cake, that is, until he discovers the magical ingredients of sharing and friendship. From the environmental message of Victoria Nugent’s hatchling turtle, whose journey to the ocean is confused by Christmas lights, to the humour of A.P. Harper with Colin the sausage dog and his misadventures, children will enjoy the short stories that are perfect for an evening read in the lead up to Christmas.

I particularly enjoyed the originality of Michael Pryor’s dieting, slim, trim Santa in his lycra suit and his helper, an exhausted pig. Santa’s helper has been entrusted with the consumption of Santa’s snacks, but he just can’t eat any more cookies and milk! 

Included are entertaining stories from Gabrielle Wang, Sherryl Clark, Rachel Nightingale, J.A. Thorndyke, Michael Grey, Rebecca Fung and Michael McGoldrick.

Illustrated by Kathy Creamer, Fiona McDonald, Ingrid Kallick and Yvonne Low, the images add a touch of old-worldliness to the tales. The cover, which may not appeal to all young readers, does enhance the quaint nature of the collection and is reminiscent of times past. Lovely for sharing with children of early to mid-Primary years, A Christmas Menagerie offers the chance to dip in and enjoy each unique tale while adding to the seasonal cheer.

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