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A Sprinkling of Christmas Magic

by Polly Faber

It’s been a super year for Polly Faber. Her novella, The Book Cat (Faber) was published in paperback earlier in the year. And we have been bowled over by her inventive picture books, including Kitsy Bitsy’s Noisy Neighbours, Building a Home and Special Delivery (Nosy Crow). But there’s a very special place in our hearts for her Christmas picture book, Through the North Pole Snow, illustrated by Richard Jones (Walker Books), so we were delighted when Polly accepted our invitation to write a guest blog about the magic of Christmas picture books.

Polly Faber
Polly Faber

All picture books are magic, but maybe Christmas picture books are the most magic. Partly because their subject matter is the ‘most magical time of the year’ and because they tend only to be read for a few weeks in the run-up to the Big Day: Their arrival on the library or bookshop shelf is a sure sign that the season for exciting parcels, twinkling fairy lights, delicious smells and all good things to eat has arrived. But another big part of their magic, I think, is because reading them can become an essential part of a family’s traditions and of the way that they celebrate.

When I was small, the book my parents shared with me every Christmas Eve was Beatrix Potter’s classic, The Tailor of Gloucester. It’s not the cosiest of Christmas tales; featuring desperate illness, poverty, loneliness and a distinctly unhelpful if all too believable cat, but the words, ‘No more twist!’ can still bring a lump to my throat and make my heart thump a little faster. Bringing up my own boys, our particular Christmas favourite was the incomparable Shirley Hughes’ Lucy and Tom’s Christmas, a wonderfully warm and truthful account of the pleasures and exhaustions of the season for both young and old. As the book had gone out of print when my children were small (a crime that has since been remedied I’m delighted to say), I used to haunt the library towards the end of November each year to pounce – rather like an arctic fox, on their copy when it emerged from storage for an extended loan. Let me take this moment to apologise to all the other families in Haringey in the late 2000s who never got a chance to read it. It felt like our book.

The story of Through the North Pole Snow came to me via an irresistible little arctic fox from a BBC wildlife documentary narrated (of course) by David Attenborough. You can watch the clip on YouTube: and perhaps see why my mind travelled in the direction that it did: The arctic fox’s lonely hunt, so wonderfully illustrated by Richard Jones in the book, leading to a discovery of something or rather someone other than a lemming under the snow…Of course, it’s a different take on the season from either The Tailor of Gloucester or Lucy and Tom’s Christmas, but I hope Through The North Pole Snow shares a strand of story DNA with both those old favourites in exploring the joy of making unexpected connections at Christmas and of giving, in its fullest sense.

And the idea that my and Richard’s book will be read by families this Christmas season and, maybe, even form part of a new tradition for somebody somewhere and become their book, is definitely the biggest and best present I’ll receive this year.

I hope, like mine and the fox’s, your heart gets filled this Christmas.

Jo Bowers reviewed this book for us ‘This is a lovely gentle story, filled with kindness and friendship and would be perfect during Christmas season to read aloud to children from 3-6-years-old, both at home and in the classroom.’ You can read the full review here