It's that time again and we offer you a final gift of Christmassy Christmas books to curl up to. What's that? You won't have time to read, what with the kids and the wine and the cooking and the wine and the wine wrapping and the wine! We know but maybe make some time for stories because they are the very stuff of life and you can't write without them. In fact, since this is the season of bonus treats - we have two wonderful books to give away on New Year's Day: for you novelists, Reflections by Diana Wynne Jones (collected writings about her life and craft in a hardback with a foreword by Neil Gaiman) and for you picture book people, John Burningham: Behind the Scenes (his illustrated coffee table book biography with a foreword by Maurice Sendak)*. All the very best to you and yours for a warm and lovely Christmas and an inspired New Year.
'The wolves are running' says the travelling Punch and Judy man, Cole Hawkings, before he gives our young hero, Kay Harker, the mysterious box of the title to care for and protect. Why? Because this is a treasure of such importance that it attracts the weird, funny and scary attention of a gang of crooks led by the dark Abner Brown.
The tone is one of deep winter and mystery wrapped up in lyrical prose. Throw in talking animals and the ever present snow all atop a deep layer of folklore and you have my favourite Christmas read. Who can resist the call of story and this story in particular when you read this...
Kay knew at once that this was Herne the Hunter, of whom he had often heard. ‘Ha, Kay,’ Herne the Hunter said, ‘are you coming into my wild wood?’Yep.
|SCBWI volunteers get their moment on the stage. This year Addy (4th from left),|
Jo (7th from left) and Candy (on the other side of the camera) were heavily involved in organizing the amazing SCBWI conference.
|A Tree for Nick |
by Mary Lou Brown (1959)
So instead of choosing the brightest lights, they choose the ornaments that squeak and sing when touched. Instead of the shiniest tinsel, they choose soft, fluffy toys to hang on the tree.
When they finish, their tree is not the shiniest, nor is it the prettiest. But when Nick arrives and touches the tree, smells it, and hears it, he exclaims, 'This is the prettiest tree I've ever seen!'
It's certainly the most memorable Christmas story from my childhood. Here's wishing you all, the tastiest, most fragrant, most musical Christmas you've ever seen.
|Jo and Maureen at the SCBWI Conference. This year, Jo and Maureen|
won the Undiscovered Voices
My recommendation wasn't my favourite Christmas book as a child because it hadn't been written then. But it was my favourite as a teacher because Nicholas Allan didn't just take one of the world's best known stories and give it a complete makeover, he managed to make it funny too.
|Jesus' Christmas Party|
Nicholas tells the nativity story from the point of view of the exhausted innkeeper. He lets Mary and Joseph sleep in the stable behind his inn and then goes back to bed. But as the night drags on he becomes grumpier and grumpier as he's disturbed by the procession of nativity characters knocking on his door. The book is punctuated by the innkeeper's brilliant catchphrase – 'Round the back!' Eventually he's had enough and goes 'round the back' to find out what's going on behind his inn. Children love it because they're in on the joke – they know there's a great story taking place in the stable and the innkeeper has no idea.
It was a joy to read with a class full of children all joining in.
I watched it every Christmas with my dad and my sister, and we knew the words by heart, and would say them out together: and that is why it is my favourite. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
…though my runner up choice for favourite Christmas story – also a movie – is Die Hard. Well I’m sorry, but it is Bruce Willis and the divinely evil Alan Rickman, and it DOES take place on Christmas Eve, so I’m sure it qualifies.
|Here we are last May (minus Maureen - alas!) at the momentous launch of|
Teri's debut novel Slated. Left to right - Addy, Jo, Teri (seated) and Candy
Instead of talking about my favourite book as a child, I thought I'd talk about a book that was published only this year, but has already rooted itself onto my tinsel-covered Christmas soul: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. Anyone who knows me will know that I haven't shut up about this book since I started reading it for the first time a few weeks ago. (I've just finished my third re-read, which quite frankly says more about my social life than it does about the book.)
There are three reasons why this is my Christmas book of choice:
1. It's awesome
2. It will make you feel so christmassy that walking around town in a onesie bedecked with cartoon reindeer will seem like a reasonable celebration of the season
3. It's AWESOME. Boy meets girl via an anonymous journal that allows them to send each other off on a journey through Christmas New York. You get to experience them exploring their own lives, debating the joys (and sorrows) of the holidays and best of all, fall in love.
What more could you want at Christmas? This book will be making a reappearance in my life every December from here on in.
|And here we are, stealth mobbing Teri when Slated launched in May. Read how we did it here. (left to right) Addy, Maureen, Jo, Candy|
Prize Draw Rules: you only have to comment on this post or on any of our 12 Days of Christmas Series. People who commented before this announcement without realizing there was a prize get a double entry in the raffle, otherwise, it's one entry per name (so you can't go back and comment a gazillion times to increase your chances). Last chance to enter is New Year's Eve, midnight. We will announce the two winners' names on the 7th of January. The winners must contact us before 14th of January with a UK postal address. Sorry we are not posting overseas (have you got an aunt in the UK? Friends?). GOOD LUCK! With thanks to David Fickling Books and Random House Children's Books for the giveaways.