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All Time Favourite Christmas Stories
Who doesn't love Mog? Even though Kerr made us accept that the tubby tabby is now chasing mice in the sky in Goodbye Mog, she lives on in the earlier classics. My daughters loved the Mog books and the expression on her face in the picture on the page with the "walking tree" entering the house, is priceless.
Recently re-issued in a special mini-edition, this is a gorgeous book, with Pienkowski's signature silhouette illustrations. The text is taken from the King James Bible, which is hard to beat when it comes to the nativity story and reads like a service sheet for a traditional carol service.
In complete contrast, here is the secular side of the story. Father Christmas or Santa Claus, as he is known across the Pond, doesn't have much in common in this version with the Saint Nicholas his legend is based on. In fact he's a grumpy old man with a cold who does not relish his job at all! "Bloomin' reindeer, bloomin' cat" he grumbles.
As you might expect, this is a lot jollier! The new edition has the strapline: "A present full of presents" and it certainly lives up to the original Jolly Postman, in which the Allbergs came up with the inspired idea of including real letters in envelopes because children love mail and hardly ever receive any. Here the postman is delivering to fairytale characters as before, 20 years after he first heaved his sack on to his back.
This Caldecott medal-winning picture book is a huge classic in America but not nearly so well-known here in spite of a film starring Tom Hanks. In it a man remembers that once, when he was a boy, a mysterious steam train appeared on Christmas Eve and transported him, along with other children to the North Pole to meet Santa. It's as sentimental as that other Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life, but the pictures are extraordinarily elegant.
Who can forget that little mouse sitting on a reel of red thread on the front cover? Over a century later, the story still speaks to children, as the little tailor, running out of food and materials struggles to complete a grand waistcoat for the town's mayor to wear at his wedding on Christmas Day. The miracle is worked by a team of mice who live in the dresser and have to avoid Simpkin the cat.
7. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
"A story about wishing" – written 50 years ago, this still has the ability to bring a tear to the eye and lump to the throat of all but the meanest Scrooge. A little orphan girl (Ivy) wants a doll; a doll (Holly) wants a child and a woman longs for a little girl to look after. With such a premise, you can guess the rest, but if you can't have a happy ending at Christmas, then when?
The first to be published and the best of the Narnia series and possibly the best title of a children's book ever! Do get a version with picture by Pauline Baynes and step into the world where "it is always winter and never Christmas." The actual arrival of Father Christmas has always jarred with me but it's worth it for the White Witch, Aslan, Mr Tumnus et al.
Christmas books should be beautiful and this one is stunning, with its sumptuous dark blue jacket and silver decoration by Peter Bailey. It contains four already published stories by the author of His Dark Materials: The Scarecrow and his Servant, I Was a Rat, Clockwork and The Firework-Maker's Daughter. These will be enjoyed by children who are not quite ready for the big trilogy. And you can start with I Was a Rat, which has a twist on a familiar story associated with Christmas...
A Christmas book set in the middle of summer? Yes, but this is by the ever-versatile Geraldine McCaughrean, one of the most original writers for children today, who has won every possible accolade and deserves them all. A family car breaks down on a summer holiday and the family are forced to take refuge in a B&B called Forever X, where it is always 25th December. Mysterious and sometimes sinister happenings follow.
"And so I've reached 10, without even mentioning Tolkien's Father Christmas Letters or Raymond Briggs's Snowman – Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Aled Jones singing Walking in the Air! Or Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales. Or any version of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer or The Twelve Days of Christmas ....
It reminds me of when I was small and a stocking wasn't big enough for our presents, so my sisters and I graduated to pillowcases. There is just too much good stuff to squash into a choice of 10. I hope you find one to read with the mince pies and rum butter."
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