All I Want for Christmas is Rain (Cori Brooke, illus by Megan Forward, New Frontier)
All I Want for Christmas is Rain is the first collaboration between author Cori Brooke and illustrator Megan Forward, though each have several previous picture-book credits. There are plenty of ‘Aussie Christmas’ books around for kids, but many feel tacky and more suitable for tourists. This one is neither. The simple narrative is pretty much all there in the title, bar the expected—and satisfying —conclusion. Although the story flows smoothly, the text is presented in rhyming couplets that don’t always scan soundly so it’s not easy to read aloud at first sight. The story itself, though, should appeal: little Jane’s optimistic pilgrimage to a certain red-and-fur-clad fellow (incongruous in the heat of a bush summer) is motivated by a selfless desire to ease the strain on her own and other farming families. This book’s strength is in its images: full of energy, motion and detail, yet still singing with the oppressive, desperate, wide red-brown heat of dry rural Australia. Forward’s landscapes and characters (both human and animal) are a mellow wet-on-wet watercolour style not unlike Freya Blackwood’s illustrations, while the ghosting of pencil sketch-lines brings a wiry underlying strength to the images. It’s always nice to see Australian colours and experience portrayed for young children, and this book does it well.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is an editor, writer and bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop