Book Reviews, Childrens Book Illustration, Nicola Killen, Simon & Schuster

Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer

Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer was published 3rd November 2016 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK. Written and illustrated by Nicola Killen, this wonderful, winterful (yup, it needs a word of its own) picture book has set the bells jingling at Mudwaffler HQ.

Said the Mudwaffler… ‘The spirit of Christmas is bursting out of this book in all its snow-falling, jingle bell ringing, footprints in the snow, glory!’

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Christmas is upon us! What a CORKER! of a picture book this is. It has everything.

The limited sepia colour palette works wonderfully in Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer with its splashes of red and minimal outlines. There are dots of silver foil scattered throughout, in the snow, the bells and the whoosh of the reindeer’s trail… AND it has die-cut windows and paths that lend us a teasing glimpse of the next page. You can’t not turn over! AND, AND that’s without the story itself! Which is exciting, sweet and full of everything you want in a Christmas story without being all in your face and showy. There are moments in the text that are non-integral to the story, and which I’m sure might have been edited out of other stories of the like, but here they add so much and really make it shine. In short, it’s perfect.

 

The Story

Soon after falling asleep, Ollie is awoken by a jingle, jingle, jingle outside. It’s Christmas Eve…what could it be? From her window all she can see is a blanket of fresh snow, so she grabs her sledge and steps out into the wintry night, where she hears the jingle, jingle, jingle again.

Ollie sleds with a WHOOOSH down the hill, and the jingle, jingle, jingle gets clearer and louder…

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In the forest, Ollie finds a collar circled with silver bells. Who could it belong to?

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A reindeer of course! Ollie fastens on the collar and climbs onto the reindeer’s back, hoping for a little ride around the forest, but the reindeer has other plans (what a fantastic double spread this is)…

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Ollie and her reindeer soar through the night sky, over snow-covered lands and seas glittering in the moonlight, until Ollie begins to shiver. And so, the reindeer takes her home for a good night’s sleep.

After all, someone else needs the reindeer’s help tonight, too, don’t they…

The Artwork

As you can see from the images here, Nicola Killen’s illustrations capture the feelings and excitement of winter and of Christmas splendidly. I thought it a bold move to use a limited palette at first – I’m so used to seeing picture books overflowing with all the colours of the spectrum at this time of year, but if Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer had been made in the same fashion it just wouldn’t feel as magical. The rosie-red cheeks are the only use of colour on Ollie’s character, and indeed, on some of the full spreads – nothing else is needed.

There are lots of additional characters to spot throughout the book to keep eager eyes busy on multiple re-reads, including owls, squirrels, rabbits and mice, and Ollie’s own cat, who greets her on her return, which is a lovely touch.

I like too, that there is no Christmas tree. I’m sure it’s there, in another room of Ollie’s house as tradition dictates, but the decision to not include even a peek at it (other than a small drawing on the wall in Ollie’s bedroom) makes this book even more special for me. Not that I don’t like a good Christmas tree! It’s just not needed here. Its overused in some books, and I think it can make things ‘tacky’ sometimes, much like the classic 70s hanging decorations! Christmas here is about the magic and I love that.

As the countdown to Christmas begins on the high street in August nowadays I usually try to avoid it as much as possible until it’s actually cold and Christmassy, but this lovely picture book has broken the rule this year. It’s a book I wish was around a few years ago – my two boys would have had this read to them every night, all night, with pleasure.

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Be sure to check out…

Nicola’s website: www.nicolakillen.com

or find her on Twitter: @nicolakillen

Swamp Hugs! Till the next time…

The Mudwaffler

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