Plenty of children’s Christmas books major on the theme of family and togetherness, but far fewer cover the equally important flip side of loneliness experienced by many at this time of year.
In Melrose and Croc: Together at Christmas we meet, for the first time, two of Emma Chichester Clark’s most popular characters as they come to terms with being alone while all around appear to be enjoying a happy, glittery Christmas.
The sense of melancholy that permeates the book is profound. Even with the glamorous backdrop of a southern French seaside town, we feel the isolation of the central characters.
At times the sense of desperation is straightforward, such as when poor, homeless Croc is reduced to walking the streets and sheltering from the winter weather in a cardboard box.
There’s even the odd moment of pathos like the unfortunate passing encounter between Melrose and Croc. Can you spot the star of Emma Chichester Clark’s other Christmas classic, blue kangaroo?
The author has described the pair as being ‘quite a cool gay couple probably. They had a rather romantic first meeting and treated each other with such kindness and respect.’
Melrose and Croc feel palpably real, and are perfectly believable as a couple – like those other great anthropomorphic partners – Pooh and Piglet and Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad.
And if you need another reason to love this book – Emma Chichester Clark is simply the best illustrator of Christmas trees and decorations in the business. I can only wonder how fabulous her actual home looks each December.
Melrose and Croc: Together at Christmas by Emma Chichester Clark is published by Harper Collins.