Cuddle up and get cosy with the best Christmas reads, chosen by authors
Published on: 04 December 2017 Author: Emily Drabble
Authors and illustrators including Frank Cottrell Boyce and Liz Pichon share the books that are just perfect to settle down with and read in the run up to Christmas - ideally in a cosy jumper, by a massive log fire...
My favourite Christmas book is Raymond Briggs's Father Christmas. It was published when I was one, so I grew up imagining Briggs's Father Christmas was the real deal. As an adult, I read it to my daughter and recognised Father Christmas's resigned grumpiness as very close to my own attitude to the yuletide season...
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss is one of my all time favourite Christmas books, though I'd happily read it at any time of the year. The Grinch is such a wonderfully grumpy character and it's such a brilliant story to read out loud.
I also have to admit my youngest daughter has called me The Grinch and told me not to be so 'Grinchy' quite a few times over Christmas... usually when I've been untangling Christmas fairy lights, which seems to be a miserable yearly ritual! The other Christmas book I love is Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs. Gorgeous drawings, brilliantly observed, and funny as well.
My favourite Christmas book is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Narnia in the grip of winter is a Christmas landscape and the meal at Beaver's Dam is a wonderful Christmas dinner, rounded off by an unforgettable visit from Father Christmas himself. Magical.
I feel very strongly about shared family reading – the best way for children to learn the value of books is to see a parent enjoying reading too – and Santa Claude by Alex T Smith is a giggle for the adults as well as the kids. What's also splendid about Claude is that he's always tries so very hard to be helpful, and Santa Claude is not only extremely funny, but sends a lovely message about being kind at Christmas.
Also, The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg is a festive classic, and rightly so. What's best about it is that it encapsulates one of the most exciting aspects of Christmas for children, opening things, and it's a satisfying object to own and give. The inclusion of familiar fairytale characters means that it feels familiar even to new readers.
The Little Prince byAntoine de Saint-Exupéry: it's a story that never fails to warm my heart and seems to me to speak of the values I hold most dear, at Christmas especially. Through the eyes of the little prince, in his vision of the planets and adorable drawings, we see anew the wonder of the universe, our fragile place in it, and the universal power of friendship and kindness to overcome loneliness.
My Christmas book - well, Christmas chapter - is 'Dulce Domum' in The Wind In The Willows. The book was one of my Mum's favourites and she kept handing it to me until I read it. Mole feels homesick and he and Ratty return to Mole's neglected, dusty home. While they search for food, field mice carol singers come knocking... It's Ratty's kindheartedness and sensitivity to his friend that get me every time!
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss is a book that, for me and my kids, is not just for Christmas. It's an all-year-rounder and without doubt my favourite ever children's text. That rhyme! As smooth as silk and such a delight to read aloud. Funny, clever, sharp as a tack, yet incredibly warm. My heart grows two sizes every time I read it.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, about a china rabbit who must lose his way in the world to warm his heart... and all of ours. After a year like 2017, everyone is in need of a little bit of heart-warming.
Frank Cottrell Boyce
My cosy Christmas read is definitely The Fir Tree by Tove Jansson. The Moomins normally hibernate but one year, they are woken by a frantic Hemulen who tells them they must prepare for Christmas. They get the impression that Christmas is a terrifying monster. Funny, profound, and very, very cosy. It appears in The Invisible Child which has just been published in a beautiful edition by Sort Of books as a fund-raiser for Oxfam.
I often spend the time around Christmas re-reading classic children's literature. Last year, I re-read all of Alan Garner's books in chronological order, which was one of the most exciting reading experiences I've ever had! This year, I'm thinking of re-reading Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence, which I haven't looked at for many years, but am looking forward to very much.
My favourite cosy Christmas reads are anything by Jenny Colgan, whose books such as The Christmas Surprise and Christmas at the Cupcake Café are just PERFECT for an easy 'eat a box of chocolates (or two)' and warming read. I always pre-order and save these for December.
Well, it's not a comfy read, but my Christmas book is going to be The Lorax by Dr Seuss, from 1971. It will remind me not to buy too many Thneeds this Christmas. Let's design things – especially plastic ones – so they never get used only once. If politicians could make environmental decisions using a Lorax-rule (is this a once-only grab, or is this sustainable for ever?) it could help a lot of our planetary problems.
My book to revisit at this time of year is Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. I am a forever Moomins fan; a Moomins book - Comet in Moominland -was the first one I paid for with my own money. I can remember buying it in Aberystwyth on a very long family holiday when I was 8 or 9. Then, of course, I read all of them.
Moominland Midwinter is just right for this time of year. Moomintroll wakes up mid-hibernation. His family are all still asleep, the world is new and different and dark, and he's never seen snow before. It's a story about finding your way out of loneliness and making new friends and we all need stories like this - especially on long cold nights.
The Christmas holiday is a wonderful time to forget your day to day troubles and curl up with a good fantasy. The perpetual winter of Narnia makes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis an atmospheric read for a snowy evening.
My cosy Christmas read is My Name is Bob, the heartwarming tale of a stray cat who is searching for a friend, and brings joy to everyone he meets.
I've leaned on The Gruffalo's Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler for several years now. The pages are full of snowy adventures with the brave little Gruffalo, and it's one you can read over and over and never tire of – a beautiful sequel which I think I prefer to the original story.
This was an almost impossible decision to make, as we love Christmas in our house, and have managed to collect shelf-loads of Christmas books dating back to the 1940s. But in the end I went for our well worn copy of Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present by John Burningham. Burningham's work will need no introduction, and I think this is one of his very best books. The production by Walker Books is beautiful, capturing the delicacy of Burningham's artworks, and with its large scale, you almost feel like you're crunching across the snow at night yourself, making it perfect for bedtime book snuggling. A true classic.
My cosy Christmas read is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Who can resist the book that created the DNA of Christmas, especially at this time of year? Scrooge, the Cratchits, the ghosts... what's not to enjoy?
My favorite Christmas book must be It's Christmas, David! by David Shannon. My son is also called David and when he was little, he shared a lot of similarities with David in the book. We used to roar with laughter together reading about this naughty little boy and so especially around Christmas this brings back good memories!
One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith is a huge favourite in my family: I loved it as a child and so did my own children, who are now reading it to their children. This kidnap and rescue story has everything – warmth, humour and above all excitement, with a nice Christmassy ending.
Another childhood love of mine was Richmal Crompton's William. I was eleven – William's own age - when I started collecting the books about him, but whereas I was eleven for only one year, William is always eleven. The ten stories in William At Christmas are taken from ten different books, describing ten different Christmases, all equally hilarious - whether William is bemoaning the unwelcome pencil cases and history books given to him by his prim aunts, ruining a pantomime, or singing 'Christians Awake' very loudly and out of tune.
Now the temperature has dropped, and it is actually snowing outside, it is time to light the fire, turn off the computer and the phone and cancel the gym subscription. Instead, pick up a book, as thick and heavy as a yule log, to lose yourself in while the drifts deepen, and the clock chimes into the night.
I urge you to curl up with John Masefield's The Box of Delights. I've spent most of the year adapting this marvel for the stage, and it is a wonderful Christmas read - menacing carol singers, rotten rats, and magical woodland creatures all combining to put the adventure back into advent like no other story. The obvious companion piece is Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, not only also set at Christmas, but one of the most bewitching, haunting children's fantasies ever written. Both books are gorgeous, lyrical and deeply memorable, just as a Christmas read should be.
My cosy Christmas reading list absolutely must include A Christmas Carol. Cold nights, carol singers, comforting food and the wonderfully cantankerous Scrooge just go together. A favourite of mine since childhood, I cannot imagine Christmas without it!
For my cosy read, I'd like to choose One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, which contains the cosiest passage of all time. Pongo and Missis are tired, hungry and exhausted - but they have the good fortune to meet a kind spaniel. They hide behind a sofa while the spaniel furtively shares his hot buttered toast with them - and eventually they get to fall asleep by the fire. Kindness, warmth and toast - it's just perfect.
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