Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Merry Bookmas

It is 24 nights before Christmas and all through the house,
Matt is not sleeping and nor is the spouse.
My stocking is hung by the chimney with care
In the hope that he will leave lots of books in there.

Seasons Greetings.

To celebrate that December has finally arrived we thought we would recommend our favourite Christmas reads. There is another reason to dust them off early too- so far this year there is a danger that Matt's favourite Christmas book will be the Argos catalogue. I feel the need to get to grips with what Christmas is really about. You know- donkeys, cats, pigs, postmen and blooming chimneys.

But what is your criteria for a fine Christmas book, dear lady? Well, since you asked, I think that a good Christmas book needs great illustrations, a heartwarming tale, an ounce of moral fibre, and also to take you straight into a snowy, holly filled world. I also want it to smell of Baileys and crackle like a coal fire. Matt wants the book to feature Father Christmas, elves, and presents. And a blue swivel office chair- oops Argos again.

So without further ado here are our 12 books of Christmas.

Twelve Lords a Leaping
That book in the library with flaps and set on a farm that we read last year? 
Thanks for your help, Matt. After thorough research I think the book in question is Christmas with the Boot family. A pleasant book for young ones indeed.

Eleven Ladies Dancing
The Snowman is the beautiful story of the boy who befriends said snowman. I actually have my sister's copy from 30 years ago. Don't tell her. However this story has such a sad ending that I can rarely bring myself to read it. Try thinking of this book without hearing Aled Jones singing in your noggin too.

Ten Pipers Piping
Twas The Night Before Christmas is the epic tale of St Nicholas' visit on Christmas Eve. Our book makes amazing noises and plays Jingle Bells. This is one of the few noisy books I actually enjoy. However the language is a little ye olde for Matt.

Nine Drummers Drumming
Norman the Slug Who Saved Christmas is a super seasonal sequel. It is brief and bright so a pleasant read. Matt is not sure about the presents wrapped using slime. I am pretty certain he will love that idea in a year or two though.

Eight Maids a Milking
Stick Man is a lovely Julia Donaldson book about the perils of being a stick. It has a nice Christmassy happy ending. However the book does fill me with guilt as we do commit many a stick offence- swords, kindling, etc.

Seven Swans A Swimming
How The Grinch Stole Christmas  is an entertaining tale with great illustrations and lovely rhymes. However, Matt is not too sure. He likes Max the dog but covers up The Grinch on some of the pages. He is not a huge fan but (Sam) I am.

Six Geese A Laying
Lucy and Tom At Christmas is another gem by Shirley Hughes. It heralds back to a simpler time and it brings back nostalgic memories of Christmasses from the not too distant past. I love that Tom gets overwhelmed and goes for a walk with his Grandad. It ticks a lot of boxes, this one.

Five Gold Rings
The Night Before The Night Before Christmas is a fine example of Richard Scarry's chaotic picture books. Chaotic in the sense that there is so much going on which makes them challengin to read aloud. Try saying Mr Frumble's Ski-pickle-do in the midst of an epic bedtime. However, this Christmas book is worth the effort as it does have a nice feel to it. It is also about being helpful which is noice.

Four Calling Birds (Mog would like that)
Mog's Christmas  & Mog's Christmas Calamity.
As huge Judith Kerr fans we are thrilled to be able to put two Mog Christmas books on our shelves. The original book is like a pair of comfy slippers- soft, familiar, and ripe smelling. Hang on- that might just be Matt. Forgive me -Christmas is the time for shoddy jokes.  feel like part of the family. I am always amused at the  simple but spot-on (like the flea treatment) detail of life from the cat's point of view. Mog's fear of the walking, talking tree reminded me of my own cat and her fears. The original is still the better of the two in my humble opins. 

I am not sure about the new Sainsbury's advert with the CGI Mog but we like the new book. Matt loves a fire engine and I like the feel good ending. However, [spoiler alert] I could live without the fire at the heart of the book. It is a book for the picture book market so I am not sure it needed to go that far. The book is called a Christmas calamity not a life threatening crisis. It can be forgiven, however, seeing as the proceeds go to Save The Children so it really has been produced in the spirit of Christmas.

Three French Hens
Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs has informed my understanding of the big fella more than any other book. I loved the sheer domesticity of it when I was younger. The voyeur in me has always liked prying into the household scenes with FC too. It is a little laborious trying to read this comic strip format and its minimal text to a preschooler. It is worth it, though. Matt does question why this FC is grumpy but it has taught Matt to use the word bloomin' which amuses me greatly. Matt has pointed out that there is a distinct lack of workshop but it has not put us off. He loves us to cuddle up and read this book.

Two Turtle Doves
Olivia Helps With Christmas is a throughly modern take on a children's Christmas book. I Love this book with a capital L. Olivia amuses me and I feel a great affinity with her parents. Matt likes pigs and Christmas so he is willing to accept a gilt as the main character. It is an amusing tale of the rituals of waiting, preparing, and enjoying Christmas as a family. As well as the multitude of ways children try to help and how the parents must hold their breaths. It reminds me of a time when I would let Matt help me to wash my hair. It would hurt, only be washed at the front, and I swear he peed in the jug the one time. Back to the book- Matt loves the scene with the Christmas tree. You will just have to find out what happens for yourselves.

A Partidge in a Pear Tree.
Our sixpence in the pudding and our star at the top of the book tree is The Jolly Christmas Postman. We like The Jolly Postman but the seasonal version of this book is a real cracker (ho hum). It has plenty of activities for busy little hands which is a blessing and a curse for bedtime but let's stay in the Christmas spirit. It also has the loveliest scene (second only to Sophie stroking her face with the tiger's tale) of the postman battling the blizzard to find his way to the warm and bright Santa's workshop. 

This scene also contains one of my favourite pieces of writing in any children's book.
It really draws you into that late winter's afternoon, does it not?

If you are going to pin me down for a moral core to the book we can look to the humble postman who works tirelessly. We can mention the kindness between friends e.g. Goldilocks and also the temporary festive forgiveness between enemies e.g The Wolf. It is all there. Even a peep show for the postman. Make of that what you will.

There you have it. I wonder what books you think we have overlooked? I would love to hear your favourite seasonal reads. Especially if you write them down on an envelope containing a book voucher and pop it in my stocking. 

Of course there is another rather famous Christmas story. Matt has been interested in the nativity story since last year when he dressed up as Joseph. He spent weeks playing Baby Jebus's Dad the carpenter in the shed in the garden. The idea of a baby being born in a stable pretty much blows Matt's mind. What more could he want in a story?

I do find children's versions of the nativity too remote for the modern Matt. So, I decided to write my own. I split it into 24 sections and popped them into his advent envelopes so that each day we have an installment of the story of the nativity from the donkey's point of view. The underlying message being that Christmas is about sharing your hay with anyone who needs it. An important lesson for my little Farmer Christmas. 

Whatever Christmas means to you we hope that you have everything you need and all the books that you can read.

1 comment:

  1. Oh what a brilliant post! I love The Snowman and Father Christmas, and Stick Man is our year-round fave, but am yet to tuck into any of these, they've made me feel all magical and festive... I will get on it!