Wednesday 11 December 2019

Decking the bookshelves with longer Christmas reads...

That's it! If we're going to fit in all the Christmas stories we want to read in our house then I think we're going to have to start in July. Every year we think we have plenty of time and every year the weeks disappear as quick as the boxes of chocolates under the tree. What with Christmas plays, fayres, Santa visits, there is very little time to read at all. So when we do get to curl up in front of the fire, accompanied by the cosy, twinkling Christmas lights, we need our book to be a good one!
Unlike Christmas picture books, longer stories require more time and more commitment. There's the old, familiar, comforting ones and then there's the new releases. But which do we choose? Do we take a gamble a new one or stick with the old favourites?
This is where book reviews can help! Although they are purely subjective, they can provide a guideline for what to expect and maybe highlight festive reads that have passed you by completely. 
So without further ado, here are our current round-up of Christmassy chapter books. 

Winnie and Wilbur: The Santa Surprise by Laura Owen and Korky Paul

Published by: Oxford University Press, 2018


This pocket sized delight packs a festive punch. Short, snappy and sizzling with festive frolics, these two brilliant characters are creating Christmas chaos from the south pole to the north. 
Kind, generous but haphazard Winnie is desperately worried that Santa won't have any presents at Christmas so she organises a Christmas he won't forget. But transporting packages and a rather unexpected polar bear to the North Pole is no easy task. Travelling from pole to pole, using a combination of magic and mayhem, Winnie ropes in enchanted vegetables, a gingerbread house and Wilbur's brand new PawTech to help her reach Santa on time...but will her Christmas treat go according to plan or is there a better gift she can give to the big man himself? A warm, wintry tale of kindness, fun and friendship. 

One Christmas Wish by Katherine Rundell and Emily Sutton

Published by: Bloomsbury, 2017


Where Winnie and Wilbur is magically modern, this book, written by one of my favourite authors, has a timeless, almost old-fashioned feel to it. It filled with as much magic as Christmas itself, but the magic feels older, wiser and gentler - a definite classic with echoes of 'A Christmas Carol' and the 'Nutcracker'.
 When Theodore is left home alone on Christmas Eve- with no one but a sleeping babysitter for company- he makes a wish upon a strange looking star (or is it a plane?). Suddenly four of his ancient Christmas ornaments come alive, leading on a magical, snow-filled journey across his hometown.
The characters are joyful; the angel, rocking horse, tin soldier and robin all shine with joyful personalities and all are searching for something, just like Theo. In fact, Theo doesn't feel like the main character in this story, as he is led on a journey by his enchanting companions. 
The tale is a cosy, Christmas treat so traditional that the modern day setting didn't quite work for me.  However, put aside the odd mention of phones (and planes) and you have a tale, that's certainly a little random, but full of endearing charm. 

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs and retold by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Robin Shaw

Published: 2018, Puffin


A Christmas classic retold in words by a highly esteemed author. What could be better? 
Nothing...? The cover is stunning, the snowy tale is widely known and I couldn't wait to share this with my children.
Except, as I started to read it, it all felt a little bit strange and I couldn't put my finger on why. 
Until it came to me...I was reading the story not seeing the story.
The biggest draw of this beautiful story in picture book and film format is that it unfolds in front of our eyes through pictures with no need for any explanation. It's as silent as the snow and as stunning as the hearing myself speak the story felt odd. There were details about the characters I didn't know, names and explanations that felt new and unfamiliar and unnecessary. 
But my children didn't feel like this. This story was integral to the whole of my Christmas childhood but not so familiar to them. They've seen the film, know the sequel and were hungry for we got stuck in. And gradually my unease fell away. 
The tale is told in a simple, classic style. With a story that speaks so strongly (and silently) for itself, there's no need to embellish it with fancy language and Michael Morpurgo doesn't. The result is a charming, Christmassy tale about a boy who is whisked away into the magical night skies by the snowman he creates. Tuck it into a Christmas eve box along with the film, cosy pyjamas, slippers, a hot chocolate and an edible snowman and you'll have a magical Christmas treat. 

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