Friday, 21 October 2016

The Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer Boy (2016)
Marlene Bennetts
Ill. Trish Bowles
Emjay Publishing
32 pages, paperback
ISBN 978 0 473 37300 9

At a time when Christmas books seem to involve greedy children and farting reindeer, it is a real pleasure to come across a book, The Little Drummer Boy, that has the celebration of Christ’s birthday as a central theme.

Young Liam is feeling homesick and isolated. He is living with his Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Ron on their farm, because his mother and new-born brother are still in hospital. The approach of Christmas adds to his worries; Liam wants to be home for Christmas because “It’s nearly time to decorate our tree. Dad always lifts me up so I can put the angel on the top.”

Aunt Cheryl tries to cheer Liam up by playing her CD of The Little Drummer Boy so Liam can march around singing, “Pa rum pum pum pum.” She then has Liam’s teacher offer him the part of the Little Drummer Boy in the Christmas Eve nativity play in the church. This kind action backfires. Liam is close to tears because he realises he won’t be home for Christmas.

Uncle Ron takes Liam out to select a Christmas tree, and he is the one who lifts Liam up to put an angel on the top. Liam continues to pray for his mother and brother and in a wonderful ending, his prayers are answered. His parents arrive with his new brother. “Was Jesus this tiny?” asks Liam. They also have a gift for Liam – a drum, which he duly uses in his performance as the Little Drummer Boy. Liam is delighted with everything and remembers to thank Jesus before he goes to sleep.

“Thank you, Jesus, for hearing my prayers, even when I talk loud or quiet.”

Trish Bowles has often collaborated with Marlene Bennetts in creating picture books. Her colour illustrations are skilfully matched to the story, adding to the appeal of Liam’s quest to have his family together for Christmas. The picture of Liam being reunited with his family is particularly charming. (It is also nice to see that Liam sometimes wears odd socks.)

This is a lovely picture book for everyone who cares about the real meaning of Christmas.

[The official launch of this book was held at South Library, 66 Colombo St, Beckenham, on Thursday 27 October 2016 at 10.30am, with Hon. Ruth Dyson MP doing the honours.]


Trevor Agnew

October 2016

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