Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present
Walker Books, 2023
48pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99
Christmas Eve and Father Christmas has arrived home at the North Pole, exhausted from pulling his annual all-nighter, and, after settling the reindeer in, all of whom are just as tired, he climbs into bed. But then he discovers that there is still one present left in his sack – a gift for a little boy who lives in a hut atop the Roly Poly Mountains far, far away.
Will Father Christmas get out of bed, get dressed and make the arduous trip to deliver this gift. Of course he will, because he knows that the little boy’s parents are too poor to get him a gift so the only thing he receives is what Father Christmas leaves him.
Every year books about Christmas come and go as regularly as the season itself, and it is rare to find one so good that it has endured for 30 years but this is one of those, and this is a special 30th anniversary edition.
Father Christmas decides to let the reindeer sleep and sets out on his journey alone, encountering all sorts of challenges but finding people ready to help him when he needs it, as he continues doggedly onward with no thought of not achieving his goal. Burningham’s iconic illustrations add so many layers to the story so although the text is straightforward consisting primarily of Father Christmas explaining his problem and strangers offering to help, there are riches to explore and opportunities for adult and child to talk about what’s really happening so they can retell the story of the return journey shown in just one wordless spread by themselves. What else could possibly go wrong? And not only will they empathise with Father Christmas finally getting back into bed, but they can speculate about what it might have been that he left for Harvey Slumfenberger.
Some of the parents of our younger readers will remember this from their own childhoods, so there is the added bonus of creating new memories as they share this with their own children. Nestling in my box of best Christmas books is the original and this one will be there too – my granddaughters will have a copy each.