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
Review Blog – Read Plus
Nov 10 2016
All I want for Christmas is rain by Cori Brooke
Ill. by Megan Forward. New Frontier, 2016. ISBN 9781925059717
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Christmas. Drought. Generosity. Giving. What a stunning picture book this is. The verse story tells the tale of a young girl Jane who looks out at the drought stricken farm that her family is trying to make a living from, and decides that there is only one thing that she wants for Christmas – and that is rain. She comes up with a plan to ask the man with a beard for rain for Christmas when she goes into town.
Children will be very familiar with a countryside stricken by drought, whether they live in the city or in the bush, and Megan Forward’s evocative brown water colour washes bring to life the awful nature of drought. Everything is dusty and the animals are bony and desperate looking. There is no water in the dams and stock has to be hand fed. By following the pictures, children will get a clear picture of what it is like to live on a farm during a drought, and will learn about the heart-breaking jobs that face a farmer. But Jane is a resilient and hopeful child and asks Santa for the gift that her family needs the most – rain. The joy on the faces of everyone when her wish comes through is wonderful to see.
The rhyming story will be great for adults to read aloud to children, and an astute teacher will be able to bring about much discussion about presents and what gift giving really means at Christmas time, and the generous and meaningful wish that Jane makes. If a study of drought is being made in the classroom this would be a boon in presenting what it is like to live on a drought-stricken farm.
This is a truly uplifting Australian picture book about Christmas and I highly recommend it for libraries and classrooms as well as for families at home.