Sunday 23 December 2012

... and that's it from the Slushpile for 2012 (apart from our prize draw of course)

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.

Addy Farmer 
The Box of Delights by John Masefield was first published in 1935. It has it all - snow, magic, fighting, a mysterious stranger and an absence of adults apart from wicked ones. It's also as mad as a box of frogs.

'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?’

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.

Candy Gourlay 

A Tree for Nick
by Mary Lou Brown (1959)
My favourite Christmas story has to be a short story I read in one of the Cathedral readers we used when I was in grade school in the Philippines. A Tree for Nick by Mary Lou Brown (circa 1959, according to the notes) was about a brother and sister decorating a tree for a Christmas Tree competition. They're eager to win, but every time they have to choose an ornament they can't help thinking about their younger brother Nick, who is blind.

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 

Maureen Lynas 

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 Allan
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.  

Teri Terry

Teri Terry My all time favourite Christmas story is Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But I have a confession to make: I first met this story on the TV screen, though I did get the book later! And I mean the original animated version, the one that has been around since I was a wee little ‘un (that is a very, very long time, but I refuse to specify just how long).

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

Jo Wyton 

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.


  1. Happy Christmas everyone! I've really enjoyed reading the Christmas posts. Thanks.

  2. AH ah! I get two entries - happy dance!!! And Maureen that Jesus' Christmas Party is one of my favourite books EVER - he's ROUND THE BACK! Wonderful stuff and thank you slushpilers - yours is still probably my favourite blog ever.And can I nick that picture of us all on stage? Happy days indeed x

  3. Loved reading all the posts in the 12 Days of Christmas series! Thank you all and Happy Christmas!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thought that pic of Teri Terry looked a tad intimidating till I spotted what was round her wrist (try saying that after all the above-mentioned Christmas wine...)!
    Loved this series of posts - see you on the other side.

  6. I love reading all you posts. They are fabulous and very informative. Happy Christmas to you all x

  7. This has been a brilliant, insightful and fun series - as ever, you girls have really dished up festive feast!
    Here's wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year - may 2013 be loaded with publishing contracts, great reviews and whopping sales!
    And hey, enter me for the draw - I'll personally fetch the giveaway in November! :-) x

  8. I loved the stealth mob thing earlier in the year, and it's even better now since I met so many of you at the conference in November! The Grinch would have been a favourite of mine, but only the TV movie as I never read the book (Gasp). Last Christmas, I bought "The Christmas Unicorn" by Anne Currey for my niece. Indigo is digging it this year now that she's 3.5 and can really understand it. The pictures are lovely and it's a sweet story about a little girl named Milly who meet a unicorn named Florian. What a great name for a unicorn. Have a cool Yule, ya'll! Colleen :)

  9. Merry Christmas slushpilers. Look forward to seeing you all in 2013.

  10. Merry Christmas everybody!!

  11. Can't wait to see what you have in store for us in 2013! Your 12 Days..series was the perfect holiday gift! Thanks for all you do...

  12. I'm very aware that my fellow slushpilers would like to join for the prize draw too - so I hope the slushpile community won't mind but we will let Maureen, Addy, Teri and Jo join in the raffle ... I will recuse myself since the books came from my publisher!

    1. And I shall excuse myself because I've got FAR too many books to read already!!

    2. yay! Need more books. Jo - I'll read some for you if that helps.

    3. Jo - I'm sorry, but there was a small phrase in your comment I didn't understand. What is this 'too many books'?

  13. Thanks for the Christmas posts - enjoy reading the blog.

    Merry Christmas!

  14. The series of posts during Christmas was brilliant. Thanks ladies. Merry Christmas and a Book-filled New Year.

  15. Thank you so much for all these great posts. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and all the things you wish for in 2013 :)

  16. The Holly and the Ivy by Rumer Godden! What a Christmas book (makes me bawl every time).

    Thanks for this -as always. And I didn't know about either of those books you've put up. If I get any money this Christmas, I think it'll be enough to buy the John Burningham one. Yippee (and if it's even more, I may even by Diana Wynne Jones' one, too -though I feel terrified to admit it, given how much some of you guys love her, I've never read any yet...). Happy happy Christmas and here's hoping 2013 will be the best yet. Love Clare.

  17. Thanks for the excellent Christmas posts - they were more fun than my advent Calendar! Merry Christmas

  18. Thanks to all of you-what a wonderful Twelve Days of Christmas Slushpile line-up it was! Hope you all got some well-deserved rest.

  19. Thanks for a great blog. Twelve Days of Christmas was GREAT! Looking forward to a super creative 2013.


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