Tuesday 2 November 2021

Christmas Always Comes

Christmas Always Comes by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley (Harper Collins Children’s Books) PB HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 978 1 460757895

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

It’s Christmas Eve in 1932 when Joey, Ellie and their parents are droving their cattle in the drought. Yet, Joey knows that Christmas always comes no matter where you are. This story is a celebration of kindness and human spirit by an award-winning team.


Award winning author Jackie French has written a heart-warming Christmas tale about an earlier time in Australian history. She doesn’t shy away from realities and masterfully showcases strength, resilience, and Australian culture. The reader wonders how the family will find Christmas. ‘Christmas pudding tomorrow!’ said Joey, eating his cold meat and damper. ‘And presents!’ ‘Shhh! Don’t let Mum or Dad hear,’ whispered Ellie. ‘There’s no shops or money to buy presents or sultanas for a pudding.’


The magic of Christmas is captured simply and beautifully. The dialogue shows character and seamlessly moves the plot along. The reader is encouraged to think about another time and place. Santa had left two kites, and two penny whistles, and some macadamia nuts that looked just like the ones that had been growing along the road. French logically builds and supports the story. She shows that kindness can create miracles no matter where you are. ‘See,’ said Joey, his mouth full of pudding. ‘I told you there were always presents and pudding and a tree at Christmas.’ This is a story that can be read at any time of the year.


Illustrator Bruce Whatley has captured the essence of this time and place beautifully. The eye-catching cover looks like Christmas without a single Christmas icon. So much can be learned about the era from the fence, apricot tree, gladiolas, rosellas, kangaroos, children, and their clothing. The colour palette is perfect for an Australian Christmas. The bright orange endpapers move the reader into the story quickly. The two woolly socks on a barbed wire fence on the title page convey much meaning. Whatley’s illustrations take my breath away and at times seem like paintings. The dry brown land, the empty sky along with a horse and cart and cattle, along with the movement and facial expressions give the story so much heart and layered meaning. The illustrations bring to mind, Dorothea Mackellar’s poem, ‘My Country – I love a Sunburnt Country.’ The old farmer’s face on a single page tells a story.


Christmas Always Comes, is a picture book for children three years and up about Christmas, Australian history, family, strength, and resilience. It’s a book for home, school and library bookshelves that is filled with heart, hope and Australian culture. It is good to see our own stories being told.

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