Christmas is the hottest time of the year in Australia. It’s a time for cold beer, beaches, barbecues and backyard cricket. Unlike the traditional cold and snowy winters we see portrayed in movies and books from our frostier cousins in the Northern Hemisphere, an Australian Christmas has a character all its own.
“A Bush Christmas” is a story in verse by Clarence James Dennis (1876-1938), a famous Australian poet whose talent is in a league with that of Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson. C. J. Dennis was very popular, his humorous poetry sold well and by 1917 he was considered the richest poet in Australian history.
He grew up in country South Australia whose landscape inspired him to write about Australian bush folk. In 1931 he wrote “A Bush Christmas”, a poem that turns a traditional Christmas day upside down, which seems totally in keeping with a land down under.
Dee Huxley’s illustrations for this book could be the subject of a separate long essay as I am captivated by this Australian artist’s work. She is able to adapt her unique yet versatile style to give each story she illustrates a visual interpretation that fits like a glove, while still remaining unmistakably recognisable as her work.
If you are in Australia and would like to see a great collection of Dee Huxley’s art, head to the beautiful Blue Mountains, just under 2 hours’ drive from Sydney and visit the “Pinerolo” cottage run by yet another great Australian, Margaret Hamilton. During her long career as the publisher of children’s books, Margaret published quite a few amazing children’s books illustrated by Dee Huxley and owns a wonderful collection of original illustrations by her and other Australian artists.
C. J. Dennis’ and Dee Huxley’s bush Christmas is quintessentially Australian, the poem’s slang and wry humour, the typical bushlander family full of outback character, the neighbour “old Rogan” who comes over once a year for some “tucker and beer”, give the reader a unique insight into the larrikin characters of outback Australia. Head to the Australian outback of the early 20th century and experience a Christmas day like no other!
This book is one of my absolute favourite Christmas stories, not least because I live in Australia and love the great picture books created by the many talented authors, illustrators and publishers that this country has to offer.
For other great Christmas and winter-themed books click here.
If you'd like to win this book, click here to find out how, then watch out for more Australian Christmas book reviews coming up in this Advent review series.