It’s that time of year again that we begin to share season’s greetings and wish one another a wonderful Winter time, fabulous festivities and, blast it all, a very merry Christmas! My class of nine year-olds (and, while we’re being honest, their teacher!) have been learning all about our Christmas traditions this week. Whether you are an ‘it’s not Christmas until December’ kinda guy or, like me, prefer your Christmas celebrations to begin in October (I use the quote ‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year’ to defend it!), there are some things which just scream ‘Christmas’! Films, music, dodgy knitwear and shamelessly trashy TV spring instantly to mind, but preparing for the Christmas season got me to thinking about some of my favourite Christmas/Wintry books of all time. So, grab a hot chocolate, dust off that elf hat/reindeer antlers/santa suit/musical tie/whatever else your school/employer/family forced you wear to the Christmas Fayre (/work do/party!) and prepare to analyse that most teacher-y of things: a list!
They say you should always leave your reader wanting more, that one should leave something back to make sure every reader reaches the very last word. Well I don’t know who ‘they’ are, nor what their credentials are, so I’m going to kick off with what I think, in my minimal experience, could be the most significant Christmas KidLit of its generation!
I absolutely devoured this magical trilogy about the origins of Father Christmas. The first, and in my opinion the best of a very good bunch, ‘A Boy Called Christmas’, introduces us to Nikolas, a Finnish boy who to the untrained eye is destitute. He does, however overflow with something money cannot buy: hope. When his father travels north to a mythical land leaving him behind with a villainous relative, Nikolas must be braver and more hopeful than he ever thought possible as he encounters frightening baddies, some very suspicious elves (elfs?) and more than a little Christmas spirit.
Matt Haig has created a world which is at once magical and, though it may seem odd to say so, rather quite plausible! Combining festive merriment, humour and whimsy with a powerful moral and emotional hook throughout, this really is the quintessential Christmas story. If you are to read just one new Christmas book in the next two weeks, you could do far worse than to follow Nikolas’ adventure.
The Christmasaurus – Tom Fletcher and Shane Devries (ill.)