Sunday 17 December 2023

Christmas Under the Overpass

Christmas Under the Overpass by Katie Flannigan, illustrated by Katrina Fisher (Little Pink Dog Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN: 9780648964117

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

Melody and her mum ride their bikes under the overpass on the way to and from school. One day, a raggedy man sets up camp beneath the bridge. Melody waves and says, ‘Hi!’ She finds out that his name is Mo. When she and her mum are back at home, Melody worries about Mo. Will he be alone for Christmas? She decides that they should have a Christmas picnic with Mo, complete with presents, craft activities and rainbow fudge. It’s a kindness that brings a smile to Mo’s worn face.

Although Katie Flannigan’s picture book has a Christmas theme, the central message of compassion ensures that this a story for all seasons. Melody casts her eyes beyond the dirty mattress, run-down couch and pile of old clothes to observe the hurt human being in front of her, and she takes the time to discover Mo’s history. This generosity of spirit is enlightening, and encourages readers aged five to ten to empathise with those less fortunate than themselves.

Katrina Fisher’s illustrations are simple but effective, with plenty of festive vignettes to make small hearts sing. Although the book deals with homelessness, the images steer clear of dark motifs. Bright colours pop from the pages, adding a glow of positivity that reflects Melody’s benevolent intentions.

The joy of giving rather than receiving flows effortlessly from Christmas Under the Overpass, and relates to more than material gifts – it encompasses awareness, care and consideration. It’s an important message for all readers, young and old.

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