06 December 2009

An Advent of Christmas Books - The Twelve Days of Holidays by Yvonne Morrison and Jenny Cooper

Christmas books aren't all sweetness and light. Just as I'd rather listen to Silent Night than Jingle Bell Rock, I'd also rather read a Christmas story which has a fair dose of tradition. Today's book has only the merest tinge of tradition and I won't be giving it to anyone as a gift this year!
The nod to tradition is that it is modeled on The Twelve Days of Christmas (and you could certainly sing it to that tune); but instead of gifts, each day sees a very stressed mother yell another order at her daughter, accumulating day by day.
'On the twelfth day of holidays, my mother said to me:
Be good and you can stay up... go and bug your father ... I can't wait till school starts ... have you fed the dog yet ... elbows off the table ... write to your grandma ... don't break your new toys ... go, wash your face ... help me wash the dishes ... play with your sister ... tidy up your bedroom ... and please will you turn off that TV!' On the thirteenth day she's sent off to Gran's.
There is a good deal of humour in the illustrations - created using lead pencil and watercolour. The whole family looks slightly mad and have Jenny Cooper's familiar big heads, seen in a number of other books she's illustrated (Shut the Gate, On a Rabbit Hunt, Peter & the Pig, The Reluctant Little Flowergirl and others).
Perhaps I took against this book largely because of the way the mother is depicted - with her mouth is wide open, yelling, in all the early illustrations, and downturned, sad and worn out, in the latter pages. Now I know as well as anyone that Christmas is a stressful time, but there's more to the holidays than kids watching TV all day, and mums can have a good time in the holidays rather than yelling at the kids constantly. Look out for the cat - he doesn't get a mention in the text, but the cat is involved in every scene (except the one featuring the family dog), and is a real character and far more worthy of our attention than the ever-present TV.
Read about Yvonne Morrison on the Christchurch City Libraries great author resource here, and they also have an interview with Jenny Cooper here. Yvonne has also written a number of other Christmas titles for children - Brian the Big-Brained Romney, A Kiwi Jingle Bells and A Kiwi Night Before Christmas.

The Twelve Days of Holidays
Written by Yvonne Morrison
Illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Scholastic New Zealand
Paperback, 2009
ISBN 9781869439163

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