A selection of stories with a seasonal flavour to help you choose early for reading aloud
Ruby the Donkey
Mirabel Cecil, ill. Christina Gascoigne, Methuen/Walker, 0 416 89190 X, £1.95
Lots of well-observed, accurate information about animals in winter is to be found in this picture book with its gentle story of Ruby and how she is chosen for the nativity play.
Mrs Pepperpot’s First Omnibus
Alf Proysen, Hutchinson, 0 09 127770 1, £3.95
A value for money bind-up of three books of stories about the little old woman who regularly shrinks to the size of a pepperpot. Includes two Christmas tales. Guaranteed to captivate fours to sevens.
For a picture book version with Bjorn Berg’s illustrations in full colour: Mrs Pepperpot’s Christmas (Picture Puffin, 0 14 050.378 1, 95p) in which the indomitable and endlessly resourceful Mrs P. manages to get her husband to buy all the right things for Christmas in spite of having shrunk.
Leon Garfield, ill. Margaret Chamberlain, Macdonald, 0 354 08126 8, £3.25
Victorian London, snow, two poor children, a huge black dog, a rich old gentleman: mix well and you have an old-fashioned tale of virtue tested and not found wanting. Here is mystery, suspense and a splendidly satisfying conclusion – don’t be surprised if your listeners want it again.
Kenneth Grahame, ill. Beverley Gooding. Methuen. 0 416 25430 6, £3.95
A picture book of the Home Sweet Home chapter of The Wind in the Willows. In snowy December Ratty and Mole revisit Mole’s old home: carol singing field-mice, a good feast and much cosiness.
The Story of Holly and Ivy
Rumer Godden, ill. Adrienne Adams. Macmillan, 0 333 02851 1, £3.95
A lonely orphan (Ivy), an unbought doll in a toy shop (Holly) and a lady with a Christmas tree but no-one to share it, all come together to give this story a happy Christmassy ending. Girls especially love it.
Christmas with Grandfather
Eva Bexell, trans. Joan Tate, ill. Gerald Rose, Bodley Head. 0 370 30210 9. £3.25
From Sweden, a set of stories about naughty Carl and Anton and the havoc they wreak at their grandparents’. (All is put right on Christmas Day.) A ‘different’ book, good for juniors.
Warton’s Christmas Eve Adventure
Russell Erickson. Knight. 0 340 28047 6, 95p
Everything is ready. Morton Toad is busy baking. Brother Warton can’t wait for Christmas to come. To pass the time he goes ice-skating and meets Monroe Mole. They get trapped by a blizzard and take shelter in a cave. Unfortunately it’s already occupied – by a bear. But Warton is determined not to miss the family Christmas and even bears can be affected by the season. Another engaging tale about this , likeable couple.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (The Worst Kids in the World)
Barbara Robinson, Faber, 0 571 10593 9, £3.50: Beaver, 0 600 34526 2, 75p
The best Christmas read-aloud ever. As Elaine Moss said in the September issue of Books for Keeps, ‘this is quite the funniest, most heartwarming story of a Christmas pageant in the making. A family of tearaways only go to Sunday School for the tea. But they grab the best parts in the Christmas pageant and by their unvarnished performance bring a deeper meaning to the Nativity play.’
The Snow Kitten
Nina Warner Hooke, Puffin, 0 14 03.1142 4. 95p
It seemed that no-one in the village would give the stray kitten a home no matter how hard the children tried to find it one. But all is resolved on Christmas Eve. Listeners really feel the hardship and loneliness of the kitten. Breaks easily into five episodes.
A Christmas Card
Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 10019 4, £4.50: Puffin 0 14 03.1235 8, 75p
Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 10450 5, £4.95: Puffin, 0 14 03.1442 3, £1.00
Two long short stories by Paul Theroux, illustrated by John Lawrence. Averagely competent 10+ readers won’t get far with these books on their own. Read aloud well. they could make a real impact. A Christmas Card is an eerily mysterious, magical tale. London Snow is a miniature drama set in a London so cold the Thames has frozen over. Both are set at Christmas and finally affirm those things which are most simply and essentially associated with it. Five episodes for each.
Stories for Christmas
Alison Uttley, chosen by Kathleen Lines, Faber, 0 571 11074 6, £3.95: Puffin, 0 14 03.1349 4, £1.00
Twelve stories which include magic, humour, old Christmas customs and a strong sense of Alison Uttley’s beloved countryside.
The Long Christmas
Ruth Sawyer, Bodley Head, 0 370 01068 X, £3.50
This collection which first appeared in 1964 is a real storyteller’s standby. Thirteen stories from around the world – each preceded by a carol or rhyme – cover the ‘long’ Christmas season from St Thomas Day (21st December) to the blessing of the candles (2nd February).
The Christmas Party
George Layton in The Fib and other stories Fontana Lion, 0 00 671808 6, 95p
One of George Layton’s tales of a northern childhood. A very funny account of the school Christmas party.
A Single Star
David Davis (ed.), ill. Margery Gill, Bodley Head, 0 370 01269 0. £3.50 Puffin, 0 14 03.0876 8. 85p
A beautifully selected and extremely useful collection of poems for Christmas.