Published: 27th September 2017
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: Hardback Picture book (borrowed from the library)
Dottie is waiting for the Christmas feeling to arrive—that fizzy, excited feeling, where everything is a bit magical. But this year, Dottie, her brother, Jem, and their dog, Shortbread, are staying with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma and Grandpa are trying hard, but Christmas just isn’t the same . . . A gorgeous, heart-warming story about misplacing the Christmas spirit, and finding it again.
I’m totally feeling Dottie this year and am missing that Christmas feeling myself.
Dottie and Jem are staying with their Grandparents. Which under normal circumstances would be a happy affair, but it’s Christmas and their Grandparents just aren’t doing Christmas right!
That Christmas Feeling contrasts Dottie and Jem’s previous Christmas experiences with their parents versus the lead up with their Grandparents both visually and verbally. As the days leading up to Christmas race by in a blur, Dottie grows increasingly anxious that none of their usual Christmas traditions are being upheld. It’s the lack of these usual activities (baking, decorating etc) that she feels is to blame for the lack of Christmas spirit and feeling.
In a clever twist, That Christmas Feeling is a book that is simultaneously very festive (speaks about Christmas traditions, presents, a dog named Shortbread and a character named Holly) and yet lacks a distinct festive feeling as Dottie struggles to find hers. This is achieved through the clever use of contrast in colour – flashbacks to previous Christmases are bright and clearer, whereas the current one is muted in colour and lacks that sense of Christmas magic – and tone – Dottie is detailing the many ways this Christmas is not like previous ones and why it feels so wrong!
That Christmas Feeling is a narrative about so much more than just the led up to Christmas. It’s about the bond between siblings, trust, faith, home, and family. I was really moved by the interactions between Dottie and Jem, and the way he constantly reassured her and took her outside to see a unique twist on the missing Christmas elements (eg trees and lights being the stars in the sky).
But perhaps the most unique aspect of this picture book is the narrative twist at the end. I’m not going to spoil it here, but I was so overjoyed at seeing such an unexpected twist and plot device used so effectively in a picture book. It’s not the kind of twist I’m used to seeing that’s for sure.
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