Books & Literature

Book Review: Here Comes a Merry Christmas, by Justine Clarke, Heath McKenzie, Arthur Baysting & Peter Dasent

CHILDREN’S BOOK: A heart-warming seasonal tale for kids and their families to share, based on the popular Justine Clarke song.

A perfect addition to Justine Clarke’s Christmas song, allowing little ones to sing and read together

Feature image credit: Penguin Books Australia

Just about every young Australian child’s favourite performer is the wonderful Justine Clarke. She is well known from her Play School days but also as an actor in such projects as Home and Away and the film Look Both Ways, amongst others. Clarke has now become a household name with her children’s songs.

In 2019, she released a song, “Here Comes a Merry Christmas,” co-written with Arthur Baysting and Peter Dasent. This year, the song has been made into a book with stunning illustrations by Heath McKenzie to supplement the text.

At first read, without the song context, the wording is a little odd. The scanning and rhyming is tricky, but once you listen to the song, it all makes sense.

The story is about a family in the Australian outback who are all very excited on Christmas Eve as they prepare for the big day. We see them making Christmas biscuits, decorating the tree, and listening to carollers. We are able to follow the exploits of the family dog as it plays with the lights, causing havoc.

The illustrations are brightly coloured and there is lots to discover and giggle about along the way.  Like the dog nibbling the pastry, the “reindeer antlers” passing by the window, or the “snow falling” from the sky. At the end of the book we are left with a sense of awe and wonder when the family step outside.

The end papers have a beautiful night sky showing the earth and moon, dominated by the Christmas Star shining above.

Here Comes a Merry Christmas celebrates the spirit of Christmas in Australia and the joy experienced as we share the decorating with our families.  It is lovely that the family all look very different, which would make the book appealing to all children and inclusive.

Here Comes a Merry Christmas is a beautiful book by itself, but really needs knowledge of the song to give the full experience. As a companion to the music album, the book takes on another layer. You may already have the music but if not, maybe your little one could receive two gifts this Christmas.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: October 2023
RRP: $19.99

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