Why does a cold always strike when you least want it to? Thankfully I seem to be getting over the worst of it, but it has meant missing a performance of “Messiah” that we had booked to attend. We will just have to listen on CD, but it is not quite the same.’ This means that I will have to depends on my books to bring the Christmas spirit into our lives and whilst I have re-read some old favourites, I have also had the chance to read a couple of fantastic new additions.
The first of these books is one that has taken the children’s book world by storm this year and it is “A boy called Christmas” by Matt Haig. It is the story of a young boy’s journey to find his father and how he saves relations between elves and humans. It is also the story of how he gradually becomes the person known as Father Christmas, aka Santa Claus. A wonderful mix of fairy tale and fantasy that whilst showing the depths of human behaviour also shows how goodness overcomes evil and that it is possible to live happy peaceful lives. The illustrations are by the truly original and inventive Chris Mould. I particularly like his front covers for “The Daily Snow”, all of which had me chuckling to myself.
“Snow Sister” by Emma Carroll is a fairly short little story, aimed at the 7-9 year olds. It is the story of Pearl and her desire to keep the memory of her dead sister Agnes by creating a ‘snow sister’ whenever it snows. This is a Victorian tale about family and what is really important in life. Yet again Emma Carroll has produced a story that provided deep satisfaction and a sense of the Christmas season. (NG)
“Reindeer Girl” by Holly Webb is not a direct Christmas story but it deals with the magical events that unfold during Lotta’s visit to her Sami family, especially her grandmother, in Norway. It is a beautiful story about family and also about caring for the animals we are responsible for. Holly Webb writes some fantastic books and this has just joined the list of those that the younger reader (7+) will love. (NG)
“The Legend of Holly Claus” by Brittney Ryan, illustrated by Laurel Long is the story of Santa Claus’ daughter and her fight to break a curse that has been placed upon her and the Never land where she and her parents live. It is an original and very entertaining story that makes a great addition to the pantheon of Christmas stories. (NG)
I first read “Nikolai of the North” by Lucy Daniel Raby when it first came out several years ago and then read the second book in the series. It is the story of how Nikolai became Father Christmas after defeating the evil Queen Magda, who has killed all of the elves except Nikolai himself. It is a real adventure story
“Refuge” by Anne Booth, illustrated by Sam Usher is a beautiful and simple retelling of the Christmas story and it reminds us that Jesus was a refugee and had to flee to Egypt as a baby. It is told in short and clear sentences by the donkey who carried Mary and the baby and the final line is one we should all remember, “…and we found refuge.”
For the younger readers there are some old favourites and some humorous new friends to be made. Firstly there is “Librarian’s Night before Christmas” by David Davis, illustrated by Jim Harris. It is based on the original story by Clement C. Moore and tells the story of a librarian working on Christmas Eve and what happens when Santa and his Elves turn up to help. There are some serious messages underlying the humour and it is a book that will make most librarians chuckle.
Judith Kerr has caused quite a stir with her new “Mog’s Christmas Calamity” which was created as part of the Sainbury’s Christmas advert. In this adventure our favourite cat manages to create the problem and then save the day for all concerned. It is a lovely ‘feel good’ story and will join the original “Mog’s Christmas” in becoming a seasonal favourite.
A story that evokes the feelings of Christmas without being about the festival is “Snow” by Sam Usher. this is the tale of a young boy and his excitement on discovering snow has fallen. We can positively feel his anguish as he has to wait while his grandfather gets ready to take him to the park. Eventually they gt out and join all their friends for snowball fights and sledging, so a fantastic time is had by all concerned.
My final winter choice is a short illustrated story by Lani Yamamoto and it is called “Stina”. This is an Icelandic story about a young girl who cannot cope with the cold and gradually cuts herself off from the outside world, but even this does not make her feel warm, in fact quite the opposite. Then one day two children take shelter from a storm and Stina wonders why they are so warm being outside, whilst she is cold in the house. A lovely story with a strong moral running through it
(NG) Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for access to these titles as online proofs.