04 December 2009

An Advent of Christmas Books - A Right Royal Christmas by Lucy Davey and Donovan Bixley

A new Christmas title from Scholastic New Zealand. Lucy Davey has had a number of cby Scholastic, probably her best-known would be the series about Fifi la Belle, a snooty Siamese cat from Parnell (illustrated by Christine Ross). These aren't particularly to my taste, a bit too much like Lynley Dodd's Hairy Maclary books, but not quite up to Dodd's standard in the rhyme department. This Christmas book, however, is lovely, and in the style of a classical princess tale, without the contrivance of trying to insert New Zealand details in at every opportunity. Sometimes it's quite a relief to have a NZ picture book that isn't obviously Kiwi.
It's Christmas time
and the royal princess wants to have her parents to herself, but the King and Queen love to invite all the waifs and strays in to the palace to share the day with them. Each time the doorbell rings the princess answers it and tells the visitors that there's no room at all, but then her parents invite them in anyway, until the palace is truly overflowing with guests and the princess opens the door to a young couple with a baby nearly due (sound familiar?). The princess tells them there's no room but kind Queen Alice finds them room in the stable. When Princess Claire is sent out later with some food, she finds them with their newborn baby, and discovers that she can find pleasure in sharing Christmas day and all it's joys with others after all.
The rhyming text is full of alliteration and deliciousness - 'Crackers and cranberries, custard and cake; turkey and trifle and plum pudding bake: pumpkin and parsnips, piles of peas; plumps of pavlova, and trayfuls of cheese.'
Donovan Bixley uses a combination of drawing by hand and coloured in Photoshop, a technique frequently seen in picture books these days. I've no objection to computers being used for illustrating purposes, as long as it's not obviously a computer effect, and Donovan has done a great job her
e in the main, apart from some backgrounds which have the characteristic fuzziness of computer effects. This seems most obvious in less detailed pages where the spaces have a surreal glow that would never be accomplished with brush and paint. The characters of the little princess and her warm and patient parents draw you to them, they, along with their quirky visitors, are depicted in the timeless way of fairytales, with long dresses, robes and crowns, but with a distinctly modern sparkle in the eye. The chaos of the castle is brightly festive with classic fairytale touches. I particularly love this illustration from the beginning of the book, with echoes of the princess and the Pea in the multi-layered bed.
Children will love to listen to this story read aloud, and wish they could indulge in the glorious feast. Let's hope they also pick up on the positive message about sharing.
You'll find printables to colour in from this and other Lucy Davey books on her website here. I discovered on her website that she also writes songs for kids too. Check out Donovan's great site here too.

A Right Royal Christmas
Written by Lucy Davey
Illustrated by Donovan Bixley
Scholastic New Zealand, 2009
ISBN 9781869438449

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