The Christmas Carrolls by Mel Taylor-Bessent and illustrated by Selom Sunu

My enormous thanks to Rachel Quin at Farshore for sending me a delightful Christmassy package containing the children’s book The Christmas Carrolls by Mel Taylor-Bessent and illustrated by Selom Sunu. I’m delighted to share a review of The Christmas Carrolls today.

Published by Harper Collins imprint Farshore on 14th October 2021, The Christmas Carrolls is available for purchase through these links.

The Christmas Carrolls

‘A Christmas book about kindness and cheer to make even Scrooge’s heart melt’ Dame Jacqueline Wilson

Funny festive middle grade about the world’s most Christmassy family from the founder of Authorfy, perfect for 8+ readers and fans of Matt Haig, Ben Miller, Sibeal Pounder’s Tinsel, and the Nativity! films

Wish it could be Christmas every day? Well, for nine-year-old Holly Carroll and her family, it is! Living her merriest life in a house with year-round fairy lights and Christmas trees, a carol-singing toilet and a diva donkey who thinks he’s a reindeer, home-schooled Holly tries to spread cheer wherever she goes.

But when she goes to a new school with a singing Santa backpack and first day Christmas cards (during a heatwave in September!), she realises not everyone shares her enthusiasm for spreading cheer. In fact, when the neighbours try to remove the Carrolls from the street and Holly discovers a group of children that may not get a Christmas at all, her snowglobe world begins to crack. Is the world’s most Christmassy girl about to lose her Christmas spirit?

The Christmas Carrolls is a heartwarming, hilarious and inclusive tale about the power of spreading cheer, the magic of friendship and what really matters at this most wonderful time of the year.

My Review of The Christmas Carrolls

Holly’s starting a new school.

The Christmas Carrolls is a smashing book for children. It’s pitched perfectly for middle grade readers so that it would make both a charming class reader and a lovely story to share in the home. As well as being a very entertaining, funny and moving story, The Christmas Carrolls is brilliantly illustrated by Selom Sunu so that less competent or more reluctant young readers have an extra dimension to engage them. I loved the way the acknowledgements are written by Holly rather than the author and thought the inclusion of a dictionary of Holly’s malapropisms and invented words was inspired. Children can have so much fun with these, making up their own vocabulary too. Certainly reading The Christmas Carrolls would alleviate any ‘worhusion’ a child might be suffering!

The plot is super as the Carrolls move into a new home and Holly starts a new school only to find not everyone is as enthusiastic about Christmas as they are. Whilst all is comfort and joy in Holly’s home she quickly finds herself something of an oddity and outsider at school and it is the themes of The Christmas Carrolls that make it such a perfect book for this age group. Fitting in at school, wanting to be liked, making friends, being individual, family life, and the real meaning and finding of happiness are all the issues children can explore through reading this book. I just loved the fact that Holly’s family is mixed race, made clear through the illustrations, because it gives status and acceptance to children living in such families. Add in Archer’s foster home experience and this really is an inclusive book.

The characters are so well drawn, but it is Holly who steals the show. She’s feisty, cheerful and a true individual. It’s wonderful how her unique personality becomes celebrated as she and other children learn that difference doesn’t equate to being wrong. That said, Archer has a special place in my heart as a reader. I found him sensitively portrayed and a wonderful example of not taking others for granted.

I thought The Christmas Carrolls was a brilliant children’s book. Sparkling with Christmas joy and fun, but with a strongly positive message of community and belonging, The Christmas Carrolls is destined to be an annual favourite, becoming every bit as much a tradition of Christmas as those employed by the Carroll family.

About Mel Taylor-Bessent

Mel has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. In fact, one of her favourite childhood memories was when she found her Great Grandmother’s typewriter hidden under the stairs and she spent her whole summer holiday working on her latest ‘masterpiece’. It came as no surprise that Mel followed her passion for writing into university, and after graduating with a Creative Writing degree, she set up her own company at the age of 22 and ran creative writing after school clubs for children aged 7+.

‘Little Star Writing’ grew so quickly that Mel developed a training scheme for 150+ tutors, wrote weekly lesson plans and even ran workshops across Europe, organised two literary festivals and arranged more than 200 author events.

And Mel’s love for writing and children’s books didn’t stop there . . . A few years later, she developed an online platform that brought children all over the world closer to their favourite authors. She called it ‘Authorfy’ and it quickly became one of the leading literacy websites with videos and resources from authors such as Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen, Cressida Cowell and Anthony Horowitz. After winning a few awards, partnering with all major children’s publishers and running campaigns with the likes of World Book Day and BookTrust, Mel returned to her own writing in 2020 and The Christmas Carrolls, the first in a three-book series, was published in October 2021.

For further information, visit Mel’s website, follow her on Twitter @MelTBessent and Instagram. You’ll also find Mel on Facebook.

About Selom Sunu

Selom Sunu studied MA Character Animation at Central Saint Martins in 2016 and since then has balanced a day job with freelance Illustration and Character Design.

Selom is rarely without a pencil in hand and characters are at the heart of everything he creates.

He is a devoted Christian and lives in London with his wife and daughter. Selom’s other interests are singing, playing football, creative writing (poetry), acting and board games.

You can follow Selom on Twitter @MrSunu and visit his website for more information. You’ll also find Selom on Instagram.

2 thoughts on “The Christmas Carrolls by Mel Taylor-Bessent and illustrated by Selom Sunu

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