Christmas is Love and Me... by Emma Dodd
Emma Dodd's books are amazing. They're extremely gentle and powerful at the same time. They're utterly adorable without ever being too cute. They communicate so much affection without ever becoming maudlin. They're incredibly sweet but never syrupy.
Then there's the illustrations which are absolutely stunning. They're simple and uncluttered but manage to convey so much emotion. The striking colours and strong shapes catch the attention of babies and toddlers. There's just enough text to ensure the pages turn at a pace that holds their interest.
I discovered Me... when my youngest was born and we received it from a relative. It's about a baby penguin who is just getting used to the world and finding their place in it. The enormity of the universe and how fast everything moves contrasts sharply with their smallness (and it’s a great book for introducing the concept of opposites). When the baby penguin says, "you are big and you are kind, when I'm with you, I do not mind," you can sense how safe and loved they feel.
Me... evokes the bond between parent and child so beautifully and I am always moved by it no matter how often I read it. The last line always gets to me: "I may be small, but I can see the biggest thing to you... is me." Me... has been made into a play for small children, which looks as magical as the book, and I would love to see it performed live.
Christmas is Love is a bit young for my children (3 and 5), although they did like looking at the pictures, but I couldn't resist getting it anyway. The story explores what the festive season means for a baby reindeer and its family. It's absolutely gorgeous - the illustrations are fabulous, with gold and silver foil illuminating snowflakes, starry skies and parts of the landscape. Christmas is Love is not just a book - it's a work of art you can hold in your hand.
A delightful celebration of everything that Christmas represents: Happiness and "joy overflowing," smiling faces aglow, "the wonderful feeling that everything's right" and "love that lasts all year." This perfectly captures the essence of the season. The tenderness between the young reindeer and its parent is expressed brilliantly, as is the thrill of the first fall of snow.
There are no religious undertones and it doesn't mention Santa either. It transcends cultural barriers and is suitable for all families, no matter what they do or do not believe, or whatever their own traditions might be.
Like Me..., the text of Christmas is Love is short and simple, yet profound and thought-provoking with a poetic quality. There's a peace and quiet that radiates from these books and they're as comforting and snug as a thick blanket. Despite both books being set in cold places, the stories are incredibly cosy and you can't help but feel warmed after reading them. Exceptional gifts for a baby, toddler or expectant mother this Christmas.
About the author and illustrator: Emma Dodd was brought up in a family of artists and wanted to be an illustrator from as far back as she can remember. Emma has worked on over 40 children's books either as illustrator, author or both. I Love My Mummy, written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Emma, won the Booktrust award in 2010. Cinderelephant won Peter's Picture Book of the Year 2013 and I Love Bugs was nominated for the 2011 Kate Greenaway Medal.