The Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg
THIS books deserves to be enjoyed by all.
It tells the tale of a boy who can’t sleep on Christmas Eve and ends up with others hurtling at the speed of light to the North Pole on a magical train in his pyjamas drinking hot chocolate ‘as thick as chocolate bars’ on the way to see Father Christmas. Not only does he see the man himself, he’s also given the first gift of Christmas. One he treasures for years later and even though for some the Christmas magic disappears for him it remains.
We have read this over and over and I have yet to tire of it or its message of staying true to what you believe in regardless of what others think. With the stunning illustrations it’s the perfect Christmas story to snuggle up with a hot chocolate – as thick as chocolate bars of course – and marshmallows.
The Santa Klaus Murder
Mavis Doriel Hay, 1936
IT’S dark outside, the snow is piling up, everyone is enjoying the lavish treats and then – a body is discovered. Suddenly we’re trapped inside a country house with nothing but fear and suspicion to sustain us.
There’s nothing to beat a good murder mystery at Christmas as Mavis Hay’s quirky classic is a great example. The titled head of the family shot, everyone with a motive and plenty of red herrings – not to mention a costumed Santa nobody seems to own up to having been.
Perhaps it’s a longing to be back in that murder mystery era or a latent desire to bump someone off. Perhaps I just like sherry more than I’d admit, but the chance to put my feet up each Christmas with a good puzzler has become a tradition.
Perfect for when it’s dark outside, the snow is piling up and everyone is enjoying the lavish treats…
Mystery in White
J Jefferson Farjeon
YOU can’t beat Christmas for a cracking crime story, and so step forward ‘Mystery in White’ by J Jefferson Farjeon.
Written in 1937, it features that classic device of travelling companions in a railway carriage on Christmas Eve all heading to various destinations for the Big Day.
However disaster strikes when their steam train gets stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere.
Desperate to continue their journeys, they head out and find themselves at a deserted house where the lights are on and the door unlocked – but no one is home……
And there’s murder about too.
So far, so Agatha Christie, but clever old Mr Farjeon’s tale is a much more nuanced, deeper story of a family at war, disinheritance – and pure greed.
Who is the killer? The truth will only be discovered when the fateful hour strikes – on Christmas Day, of course.
‘Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas
YOU don’t often think hospitals are places where you can find humour, never mind some of the most humourous Christmas stories I’ve ever read.
But then you read Adam Kay’s ‘Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas and you understand amongst the heartache, surgeries and illnesses you can find a morsel of comedy.
Told in Kay’s typical dry style, he recounts spending his Christmas Eve’s dealing with vomit, understaffed wards, removing festive items from people’s bottoms and much more.
This book, a follow up from his debut best-selling book This Is Going To Hurt, proves once again that all maner of events take place on hosptail wards, especially at Christmas.
‘Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is the perfect stocking filler and reminds us all, no matter how you spend your Christmas, that there is always laughter to be found.
The Enchanted Horse
THE Enchanted Horse by Magdelene Nabb, like its tatty subject buried deep in a dusty junk shop, is an unassuming Christmas tale of love and letting go.
Irina is the lonely child whose pragmatic farmer parents harbour a Scrooge-like attitude to Christmas.
But one day they grudgingly let Irina choose a gift from a junk shop in the nearby village. She spots a shabby wooden horse and instantly wants to care for the toy she names Bella.
To her parents dismay, she spends hours brushing and cleaning the horse, a loving act which, to Irina’s delight, brings Bella to life at night.
The young girl and the horse are soon galloping off on moonlit adventures until one day Bella escapes to join a wild herd.
The story’s dual nature of enchantment and sadness, set against a sweeping winter landscape, really captured me as a child – right up until its bittersweet ending which I won’t spoil.
RAYMOND Briggs distils the childhood Christmas experience into just 30 pages of evocative pencil drawings – without using a single word.
The beautiful illustrations are bursting with innocence and wonder – the boy’s sleepless night, the warm glow of a fire (or a freezer!), the Snowman’s joy in simple domestic discoveries like the electric light bulb or the washing-up liquid bottle.
Soon, their cosy, hushed sleepover – complete with a midnight feast – turns into an unforgettable nighttime adventure, as the Snowman repays the boy for his hospitality by taking him on a breathtaking flight through the blizzard.
And then comes the famously devastating conclusion.
So thank goodness for the 2012 sequel The Snowman and the Snowdog, which ended decades of heartbreak by confirming what we knew deep down all along – that the Snowman will return for another adventure.
Childhood may end, but it never really dies.
I FONDLY remember reading Mouse’s Christmas to both my daughters.
Mouse visits his friends’ (rabbits, badgers, foxes) homes on Christmas Eve to drop off cards and presents but they are all too busy – decorating or cooking – to speak to him.
When heavy snow leaves the dejected Mouse stranded, his owl friend flies him home.
By the time he gets back all his friends are waiting for him to give him the best Christmas ever.
I like the book as it depicts Christmas how it should be – spending time with family and friends.
There is also a little robin and an elf hidden on each page to find.
This was a massive hardback board book – as big as my daughters when we started reading it (until they sadly outgrew it in more ways than one).
The Crayons’ Christmas
FOR any parent or grandparent who’s enjoyed reading The Day The Crayons Quit / The Day The Crayons Came Home books by Drew Daywalt with pictures by Oliver Jeffers, The Crayons’ Christmas is a must have from this ever-popular series.
Having loved sharing the stories and colourful adventures with my daughter, the Christmas version of the crayon’s capers was an essential stocking filler for her last year.
She enjoys reading, drawing and colouring so this was the perfect festive story for her.
Told through a series of Christmas cards, postcards and parcels, this charming and funny children’s book delivers every time, capturing the seasonal joy and experiences in a bright and cheery way.