Merry Christmas, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester-Clark

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Merry Christmas, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester-Clark

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: Seasonal instalment in the Blue Kangaroo series, vividly illustrated and enchanting. Unusually, Lily does not get into any scrapes this time, but there is a suitable nod to child psychology nevertheless. If you need a safe, non-religious Christmas themed book for a pre-schooler (especially a girl) this is a good choice.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: October 2006
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 0007197144

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I like the Blue Kangaroo series. It features human characters rather than rabbits or bears. It is simply but smoothly written and illustrated in an unmistakable style that appeals to children and adults alike. Its setting is unashamedly (sub?)urban, white, dare I say middle class; what with Aunt Jemima and Aunt Florence, bookcase lined living-room, the big garden, and Lily's own room upstairs. The family itself consists of Lily, a spirited and energetic little girl prone to creating mayhem; a rather harassed but loving mother, father that rarely makes an appearance apart from pictures and a baby brother. Apart from the fact that NONE of the female characters in these books seem to ever wear trousers (which is bit disconcerting for a mother who doesn't posses a single skirt, but my 5 year old doesn't seem to mind), the setting of Blue Kangaroo is one both I and my daughter can identify with easily (luckily the household income or ownership data is not provided).

But that is not really the main point, what is important is that Blue Kangaroo books so far have been very well grounded in the psychology of small children. They all deal with some typical aspect of preschooler behaviour, mostly concerned with testing boundaries and learning to deal with consequences of their normal reckless thoughtlessness; and they all have a bit of a moral lesson in them. The lesson is never given in an obvious, in-your-face way though and it's usually left for the child-reader to work out for themselves. The device that Chichester-Clark uses to great effect is the Blue Kangaroo himself, a small cuddly toy, favourite of Lily, bearer of some of her anxieties and a bringer of gentle magic to each of the stories.

Unusually for the series, in this book Lily does not get into any trouble. In fact, she has been very good, made cards for everyone, decorated the house and put presents under the tree. There is also one for the Blue Kangaroo. He, however, doesn't have a present for Lily, and he lies awake worrying. Can anybody help? Cue chimney, white beard and red coat - and the Christmas magic flourishes.

To be honest, this book is not as good as other Blue Kangaroo titles. Lack of troubles for Lily somehow takes the edge off. But it's still a nice story, showing the normal build-up to Christmas, aware of the fact that it's not the turkey dinner but the present opening that constitutes the climax for the children; and it also touches on anxieties some small children might have about 'doing the right thing' over Christmas - especially if nobody helps them to make (or at least pack) presents for other members of the family.

One thing that might put some people off is the fact that religious aspect of Christmas is non-existent.

However, the mood of the season as it is in most households is evoked well - with the family gathering, mince pies, the big green tree and stripy stockings hanging awaiting Father Christmas's visit; while Blue Kangaroo (and his helper) provide the touch of magic that will enchant the children. My daughter's face lit up when the Kangaroo's worry was dispelled by the appearance of the Father Christmas who came to help.

The writing is simple yet not dumbed down and yields itself well to reading aloud.

With festive silver decorations on the cover and characteristic, vivid and elegant Chichester-Clark illustrations this book is a good choice for a stocking filler (though I wouldn't take it literally as it's a rather large format paperback). Even better, it would work well in the build-up to Christmas as a prompt to talk about it with your child. In Poland (or few other continental countries) I would buy it for a Saint Nicholas Day (6th of December), when good children get little pre-Christmas presents; unfortunately there is no such occasion in the UK.

If you are looking for a safe Christmas-themed gift for a little girl (ages 2 up to 5 would be a rough guideline, though it's definitely a preschooler book) this is a good if safe choice, especially for ones already familiar with the Blue Kangaroo as they will love meeting the familiar characters in the festive setting. Or buy it in combination with another Blue Kangaroo book as an introduction to the series - Where Are You Blue Kangaroo? is my favourite .

This book was sent to us by Harper Collins Children's Books.

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