The Malta Independent 16 December 2017, Saturday

Is-Sinjura Klaws

Wednesday, 29 November 2017, 09:18 Last update: about 16 days ago

By Clare Azzopardi & Illustrated by Lisa Falzon

Did you notice something a bit odd last Christmas? Hmm. You probably wouldn't have. The thing is, that last Christmas eve, Father Christmas was running a very high fever and lay sick in bed, coughing. There was no way he could have even climbed up his sleigh, let alone drive his reindeers across the globe and stop at each house to deliver the presents.

As you can imagine this caused a lot of panic, until ... until Mrs Claus, the wife of Santa, said: "I'll go instead." The elves were momentarily stunned and then burst out laughing "No way!" "U ma tarax!" His outfit won't fit you and you need a dress and how can you possibly drive the sleigh, they argued.

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Mrs Claus enlisted the help of the elfettes and soon she was kitted in a brand new (sleeker) red outfit and recruited help for driving the sleigh and checking the presents' list. She just drew the line at the beard.

Is-Sinjura Klaws, therefore, is the story of how last Christmas eve, Santa did not miss a beat - and it was only thanks to his missus.

As it turned out, Mrs Claus' mission ended up to be more than the dropping off of presents, because while going round the houses, she noticed something very odd: those children who cannot or do not know how to write were unable to write their Christmas letter to Santa. Therefore, as soon as she got back to base, she set out to work hard on a literacy campaign.

This lovely book was inspired after the author, Clare Azzopardi, had a very challenging chat with her little nephew Matthew as he was writing his letter to Father Christmas. "What if Santa woke up feeling unwell on Christmas Eve?" she asked him. The little boy kept insisting that that would be an impossibility, but eventually came up with a solution: "Maybe Mrs Claus would come."

Azzopardi kept mulling over what he said and a story started shaping up, and a rather feminist one at that. "Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie defines a feminist as man or a woman who says, yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. So I thought I could do my part with this book," says Azzopardi.

This does not mean that the book is aimed at girls, and she is very hopeful that parents will read it to both their daughters and their sons.

The feminist underlining tones in Is-Sinjura Klaws are rather appropriate for the time we are living in. As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said recently, "Boys need to be raised to be feminists as much as girls because our sons have the power and the responsibility to change our culture of sexism".

Azzopardi worked hand in hand with illustrator Lisa Falzon, who is based in Berlin. Contrary to her usual start-to-finish digital creations, here Falzon uses a style that is mainly traditional. "I used water colours, pencils and collage because I felt it made it more playful."

Is-Sinjura Klaws has no fixed target age. It is ideal both for reading to children when these are still very young, and eventually for reading by children themselves when they are slightly older. Apart from being an emotional story, perfect to nurture a love of reading, the play on words, alliterations, rhymes and rhythms makes it fun.

'Is-Sinjura Klaws' is on sale from all leading bookshops or directly from merlinpublishers.com


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