The Robin and the Reindeer by Rosa Bailey, illustrated by Carmen Saldana
Published by Hachette Children’s Group, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This charming children’s tale is sure to give you the warm fuzzies no matter your age. We follow a young reindeer who is separated from her herd during a snowstorm. With the help of a plucky robin’s glowing red breast to guide her through the snow, she must learn to be brave so she can reunite with her family.
Saldana’s art is beautiful. It perfectly encapsulates the whimsy of the story, further enhancing the vivid imagery of the text and the fable-esque feel. The prose itself is surprisingly lovely for a book aimed at young children (It’s hard to pin down, but I’d say the language and text length place the book half-way between a picture book and a middle grade novel).
It’s understandably simple, but there are fun elements that mean the book can serve as both a possible explanation behind Rudolph’s iconic red nose (no spoilers, but I’m sure you can guess what I’m hinting at), and as a charming take on the magic behind the northern lights.
Ideal cosy escapism on a cold winter’s day for young and old alike.
Tidings by Ruth Padel
Published by Chatto & Windus, 2016
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This full-length narrative poem is told from the perspective of the Angel of Silence, who gains a voice for 24-hours each Christmas. As dawn breaks, he weaves through time and place, observing traditions that have come and gone, but primarily he watches over two people in London who are experiencing the holiday in very different ways: A 7-year-old girl full of excitement for the big day to arrive, and a 44-year-old homeless man who wanders the streets in the footsteps of an urban fox he has befriended.
The poem is admirable if heavy-handed in the delivery of its messages: that somewhere along the way, we have lost the true meaning of Christmas; that as much as it’s a time full of magic and wonder, it can also be a time of great sadness; and that through kindness and connection we can find hope.
There are a couple of nice turns of phrase, but for the most part I found the text itself very straightforward, lacking the visual flair or emotional resonance that would have made a lasting impact. As it is, this was a fine, well intentioned read, but not one destined to be a classic I’ll come back to each year.