Christmas/Winter Books

I think that if you live in the UK there are lots of children’s books which make you think – Christmas – it’s because of that fabulous tradition pantomime. My local theatre always has about 2 months of panto from the beginning of December and well into January. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Puss in Boots, Peter Pan – something different every year. All of those stories spell Christmas and if you’re lucky – as we were in Kirkcaldy, it’ll be produced and performed by a real veteran of the craft, the late Jimmy Logan was great in panto.

Oscar Wilde stories

I have a book of Oscar Wilde stories for children which is illustrated by P.J Lynch. I love the cover which as you can see is of snowy medieval rooftops and the first story in the book is The Selfish Giant who doesn’t want to share his garden and builds a huge wall around it to keep children out. It’s forever winter in his garden – The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak and the Frost painted all the trees silver. It’s only when he learns to share it that the garden is transformed by the spring. This is a Christian story but if like me you aren’t particularly religious it’s still worth a read, you should be able to read it here in his Happy Prince and other stories anthology.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Again, this series is very Christian, but don’t let that put you off. What is it about cold and ice, it’s always used in literature to portray evil and nastiness? It could just as well be used to mean pure and clean, but that doesn’t seem to happen. In the first book of the series, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Lucy explains about the White Queen: She isn’t a real queen at all, she’s a horrible witch, the White Witch. She has made an enchantment over the whole country so that it is always winter here and never Christmas.

White Queen Narnia

What a ghastly thought, but fear not, at the end of the last Narnia book Father Christmas turns up! C.S. Lewis was a good friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and when Tolkien read that bit he advised Lewis to take that bit out of the book before sending it to his publisher, he felt that it spoiled it but Lewis was determined to keep it in. I’m in two minds about it.

One of my sons was obsessed with the Narnia books as a youngster, in fact I almost lost my voice reading them to him, way past the time when he could read perfectly well himself! Then he got obsessed with the Doctor Who books.

Next week, I’ll chat about some more Christmas/Winter books which I’ve enjoyed, sometimes re-reading them to get me in the mood for the season.

Children’s Classics from Edinburgh


I have a lot of children’s classic books, some which originally belonged to my own children but quite a lot of them I bought because I hadn’t read them and I wanted to catch up with things which I had somehow missed out on.

But the books in the photo above were recent purchases from an Edinburgh bookshop and were incredible bargains. The first one, the small blue hardback is called The Children of Primrose Lane by Noel Streatfield. I swithered about buying this one but when I opened it up and read what Noel Streatfield had written as a preamble, I only got to the first sentence before deciding to buy it, she says: This book is about wartime Britain. That was enough for me.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Graham Rust. Well, who doesn’t love that book and this one is lovely, actually far nicer than the Folio edition, surprisingly.

The Pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Browning and illustrated by Kate Greenaway. Beatrix Potter was appalled by Greenaway’s slightly out of scale drawings but I love them. I have a thing about classic fairy tales, probably because I wasn’t told any by my mother, she told me horror stories about concentration camps instead! Honestly it’s a wonder I turned out so normal, well I think I am! Of course the fairy tale versions that we know have all been sanitized for wee ears. Originally they were scarier and quite naughty.

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien, illustrated by Pauline Baines. It’s a book of verses which was published after The Hobbit. Pauline Baines also did the book covers for C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books in the 1960s.