8 cracking Christmas stories featuring animals
Published on: 13 December 2018 Author: Sam Hay and Loretta Schauer
A Very Corgi Christmas is a lovely new picture book from author Sam Hay and illustrator Loretta Schauer, and it's just perfect for the festive season.
So we asked them to choose more brilliant books featuring animals that are great for this time of year...
Sam: Christmas for me is a time of cosy comfort at home with my close family. My children are older now, aged 16 and 11, but they still enjoy digging out their favourite Christmas stories for us to share together, and many of them feature animals. These are just a few of our top picks...
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Sam: This is one of my favourite books. It's stuffed full of memorable animal characters, the brave Beaver family, noble Aslan the lion and the flawed but kind-hearted faun Mr Tumnus. I was enthralled by my first visit to Narnia, where it is always winter and never Christmas. And then when Father Christmas finally arrives, he brings the most magical gifts. Unforgettable.
2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May
Loretta: Everyone knows the best Christmas song ever! But did you know it started out as a book? The original story was written by in 1939 by Robert L. May, and it became so popular that his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, turned it into the familiar song we can all sing along to.
When I was little I was so desperate to meet Rudolf and his reindeer friends that I used to leave out a bunch of carrots for him on Christmas Eve - alongside a mince pie or two for Father Christmas, of course!
3. One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth
Sam: Although this isn't strictly a Christmas book, the snowy weather makes it a firm favourite in our house at this time of year. The story is about Percy the Park Keeper and how he has to make space in his little hut for lots of freezing animals one cold night. The final scene, where everyone is tucked up warm and snug, in every nook and cranny of Percy's hut, reflects the cosiness of Christmas.
4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Loretta: One of my favourite stories of all time - but my first and most enduring memory of Dickens' spooktastic Yuletide tale was watching The Muppet Christmas Carol on TV as a kid, so for me the story has always been populated by animals! I love Kermit as Bob Cratchit, and my favourite character is Tiny Tim, who in my mind is forever a tiny green frog. Always a firm family favourite in our house.
5. The Snowman and the Snowdog by Raymond Briggs
Loretta: Another wonderful Christmas tale featuring a lovable dog. Raymond Briggs' beautiful and evocative pictures enchanted me as a child and I was overjoyed when the original story of The Snowman was revisited, introducing a new star – the Snowdog! The story is a little sad at times but so full of love and tenderness. What a magical adventure!
6. Chapter five of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Sam: It's Christmas time and Mole and Ratty are racing back to Ratty's cosy house when Mole suddenly feels a need to return to his own, long-forgotten home. Ratty's not keen, but he sets aside his own feelings to make Mole happy. And even though Mole's home is cold and dusty with an empty larder, Ratty soon creates a perfect, cosy Christmas. I love the themes of friendship and generosity, not to mention the joy of being in your own home at Christmas, however humble.
7. Mog's Christmas by Judith Kerr
Sam: My kids requested the Mog books so often when they were little that I can probably still recite them from memory. In Mog's Christmas, Judith Kerr perfectly captures a pet's bemused view of the chaos of Christmas. I often look at our cat on Christmas morning and suspect he's feeling similarly puzzled.
Loretta: Over to the Christmas cats! I do love Mog – and especially Mog's funny take on the human world around her. After a confusing day of tippy-toeing Aunts and walking-talking trees, poor Mog retreats to the roof to spend a chilly night alone – missing all the festive fun. But she soon lands with a bump and is welcomed into a warm family gathering of Christmas cheer and cuddles. A perfect bedtime story in the run up to the big night!
8. The Nutcracker
Sam: Not all animals are well-behaved at Christmas, including the naughty rats in The Nutcracker! This is such a wildly imaginative and exciting story. We have many beautiful versions in our house, but my ballet-loving daughter's favourite is one published by Usborne, with musical buttons down the side playing extracts from Tchaikovsky's ballet score. Remarkably, nearly a decade after my daughter received it for Christmas, the batteries still haven't run out. A touch of Christmas magic, perhaps.