01 December 2009

An advent of Christmas Books - Cowshed Christmas by Gavin Bishop and Joy Cowley

December is here and the countdown to Christmas is underway. We usually have an advent calendar in our house, but not this year. I also have a slowly growing collection of Christmas books so I thought I'd combine the two and provide a review of a Christmas book each day rolling up to the 25th of December.

Firstly, a new one recently out from Random House:
Cowshed Christmas
Illustrations by Gavin Bishop
Story by Joy Cowley
ISBN 9781869790738
Paperback $24.99

The cover invites you in - a cow and a dog are peering around the corner of the shed at something, and we'll just have to open the cover and see what's inside.
As I read the book aloud I knew it felt familiar, thank goodness for Kate De Goldi, talking about this book on Radio NZ on Saturday, who identified The Highwayman as the root of the repetition and rhythm.
This is a very New Zealand Christmas book; we meet animals one by one as they each bring a gift - and both the animals and the gifts have a very Kiwi flavour. It's not just a cow - it's a jersey cow, there's a collie dog, and bantam hens. They bring pavlova, gumboots, a football, jandals, a kiwi on wheels, pohutukawa flowers and a dripping hokey pokey ice-cream is carried by a kune kune pig. And finally on the last page we see a rather Maori-looking mother and infant. 'Little baby Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Little baby Jesus by the stable door'.
Each page is simple in its content, the uncomplicated animals and their gifts outlined in black, produced with Gavin's trademark printmaking technique. Whilst the figures are simple the technique provides texture, and Gavin's talent with watercolour inks renders each page a glowing colour-washed delight, with spatters and stars that take the simple figures and create artworks of each spread. Each animal has a spread devoted to them, followed by the growing band of animals outside the cowshed door.
You could almost sing the text and children will want to join in on the the repetition, and love the story again and again even though we all know right from the start what the ending is going to be. A delightful, timeless and very New Zealand Christmas book to add to your collection, or start one for a child.
Find out more about the author and illustrator:

1 comment:

Annie said...

I love this book... I want to give it to everyone...