Hello everybody! Today, I’m bringing you some wintry reading recommendations from Helen Peters, author of many lovely middle grade books. Onto the post!
Thank you, Amy, for giving me the chance to indulge in one of my favourite topics! I absolutely love a traditional Christmas, and I adore Christmas books. I think my love of the season is probably due to my dad’s enjoyment of it. As a farmer, he rarely took time off or did anything frivolous, but his enjoyment of Christmas was infectious. He would collect holly and ivy from the fields to decorate the house, and every Christmas Eve he read us Donkey’s Glory, by Nan Goodall. I can’t remember much of the story, but I vividly remember loving Dad reading it to us as we all sat around his armchair by the fire. And my mum always read us Robin Finds Christmas, by Molly Brett, with such beautiful and evocative illustrations that I still remember them clearly.
When I started writing, it was a great opportunity to indulge my love of Christmas. Before I wrote a full-blown Christmas story, I managed to sneak Christmas scenes into two of my early books: The Farm Beneath the Water and A Piglet Called Truffle both have final chapters set at Christmas. A Kitten Called Holly was my first actual Christmas book, and I can’t describe the thrill of seeing Ellie Snowdon’s gorgeous cover, complete with snow, holly and a robin. I’ve since written two other Christmassy titles in the Jasmine Green series, A Donkey Called Mistletoe and A Puppy Called Sparkle, and they’ve been some of my very favourite books to write.
My favourite Christmas story as a child was William’s Truthful Christmas, by Richmal Crompton, in which William Brown is inspired by the vicar’s sermon on the value of truthfulness to give his honest opinion of the presents he is given by his relatives, with hilarious results. My children loved it too, especially in the audiobook version read by Martin Jarvis. Honestly, if you don’t know it, give yourself a treat and listen.
When I had my children, I started a collection of Christmas books that we could read together every year. The first was Little Angel, by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Ian Beck. An angel who’s afraid of flying and a shepherd boy who’s afraid of wolves visit the Bethlehem stable together and form a friendship that helps them overcome their fears. It’s as beautifully written and atmospheric as you would expect from Geraldine McCaughrean, and Ian Beck’s illustrations are magical.
Another favourite was The Little Reindeer, by Michael Foreman, in which a tiny reindeer at Santa’s workshop accidentally gets wrapped up on the production line and loaded on to Santa’s sleigh. He falls on to a rooftop in a big city, where a boy is tending his pigeons. The boy and the reindeer form a secret friendship, but the reindeer can’t stay forever. It’s such a beautiful story, and I love that it’s set on top of a tower block; there are gorgeous spreads of the reindeer flying across the city with the boy on his back.
Bless You, Santa! by Julie Sykes, with wonderfully warm and cheery illustrations by Tim Warnes, is the story of what happens when Santa catches a terrible cold on Christmas Eve. It was a big favourite with my kids and is a brilliant one to read aloud to toddlers; I loved doing all Santa’s sneezes!
Jane Ray is one of my all-time favourite illustrators, and her beautiful edition of The Twelve Days of Christmas is utterly charming; I just want to live inside those pictures! My children both did ballet and they loved the retelling of The Nutcracker by David Freeman, magically illustrated by Joanna Isles. I really love the Walker Illustrated Classics, and the beautifully designed and illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol was the perfect introduction to this story for my children when they were about eight and ten. We began it on 1st December and read a bit every day, finishing on Christmas Eve. It was such a success that we read it for several Decembers in succession.
Another great read-aloud book when they were older was Mistletoe and Murder, in Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike series, set in a snowy Cambridge over Christmas. It was a perfect book to share every evening in that quiet time between Christmas and New Year.
These days, my children are long past the age of being read to, but they still hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve, after which they kindly humour me by participating in our oldest Christmas tradition, sharing the lovely Walker Books edition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, with its wonderfully traditional black-and-white illustrations by Matt Tavares.
I’d love to know other people’s cherished Christmas books – what should I add to my collection?
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read Helen’s books, and if so, what’s your favourite one? I’d love to know your answer to Helen’s question you! Come chat in the comments!
Speak very soon,
2 thoughts on “My Favourite Christmas Books by Helen Peters”
I find now it isnt about the faith thing, rather what people do and kind acts for humans and other creatures. Seeing creatures of all sorts in festive stories is wonderful and a very worthy thing. A reminder to all that kindness and friendship goes beyond the walls we live in.
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Yes, I’d agree with that!