Thursday, December 18, 2014

'Twisty Christmas Tales'

Published by Phantom Feather Press
RRP $22.00

 A great Xmas Stocking filler reviewed by Maggie Rainey-Smith

In the introduction to this Christmas collection, David Hill recalls a Christmas dinner when his uncles had to pour a whole jug of custard to douse a fire on the tablecloth.  This sort of sets the scene for the theme of the 'seriously weird' and frequently quirky Christmas stories edited by Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller and A.J. Ponder.  As the title suggests, these are 'Twisty Christmas Tales'.  There are some well known authors including the editors and some less familiar names.

                My personal favourite 'Kiwi Christmas' is a modern twist on the traditional nativity story by Joy Cowley.  The Angel Gabriel is a fantail and instead of a stable, there's a shearing shed.  In another story by Simon Fogarty, 'Santa's Sack', a problem sister gets take away in Santa's sack with promises to make her better behaved before she is given back.  Problem brothers and sisters crop up in other stories too. Santa and his reindeer move into a local neighbourhood to regroup while their home is being repaired, disguising themselves as the 'Jones Family' in 'New Neighbours' by Anne Wilkins.

                    In 'Dear Santa', a boy living in a box under Auckland Harbour Bridge writes a letter wanting a bike and some medicine for his sick brother.  'Christmas in Space' by Peter Friend involves an ingenious Christmas tree solution in a space ship with 97 families on board, taking into account the problems of weightlessness and lack of room for a real tree.    A story I really liked 'Jack in the Box' by Dan Rabarts, is about one of Santa's elves flying over New York seduced by the smell of hot dogs and the difficulties in delivering to apartment blocks.

                There seems to be a theme for everyone, with all the usual chaos and clutter that Christmas seems to bring.  There's sadness too which is always amplified at this time of year when our hearts are set on family and feeling good and wanting everything to be okay, and often it isn't.  There's an 'equality elf' in one of the stories, time travel to a Grandmother's Irish childhood Christmas, and a very mischievous Manuka Christmas tree that causes havoc.  I really enjoyed 'A Modern Kiwi Christmas' by Kerrie Anne Spicer, a story in rhyme that sees Santa shooting past Kaikoura, Cruising Cape Reinga and then departing to drop gifts to the Aussies.

                The recommended reading age is from primary to intermediate.  It is a good choice for a stocking filler and families can share the stories across the age-groups... with a few hat-tips to adults like all good children's stories.  Not all the stories will appeal to all the children, but there's probably a story for everyone.

                The sales for this collection are going to support The Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand. 

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