I have long enjoyed Carol Ann Duffy’s work, a fact which was brought home to me when I read her poem Achillles about David Beckham. I loved the way that she brought popular culture and laureate work together. Something she has continued to do. I hope that I am to receive her latest book The Bees for christmas. I have dropped enough hints!
What I do have however, is copies of the little christmas books that she has written and I have collected over the last three years.
The first of the trio that I bought was Mrs Scrooge. This is an uptodate version of the story with Mrs Scrooge googling information about the way that turkeys are reared for the christmas feast. It also contains credit cards, protests and developers.
Up the echoing stairs to slippers, simple supper, candles, cocoa, cat, went Mrs Scrooge: not scared, but oddly comforted at glimpsing Scrooge’s knockered face.
The language rolls and trips off the tongue, rich with alliteration and assonance. Christmas past, present and future arrive to show Mrs Scrooge the life she has had, has and will have with a happy ending of family near by and developers thwarted.
Posy Simmonds provides the illustrations and they mirror the warmth, detail and emotion.
Another Night Before Christmas is illustrated by Rob Ryan: he of the wonderful paper cutting. This is the story of a little girl trying to stay awake to see if Santa is real.
The hushed street was in darkness. Snow duveted the cars – a stray cat had embroidered each roof with its paws.
An owl on an aerial had planets for eyes. The child at the window stared up at the sky.
I an not quite sure how you pronounce ‘duveted’ but I do love the way that christmas is described; the flirting of the tree in flickers of green and crimson, the reindeer whose breath chiffoned out into the cold and the aeroplanes that sped to the east and the west like a pulled cracker. There are again references to contemporary life with the droning motorways, people in blankets with nowhere to go, cashpoints glowing like icons of light and the satellite filming famine and greed. The story is however timeless.
The Christmas Truce tells the story of the football match on the 25th December 1914 when war was suspended and Christmas spread.
So Christmas dawned, wrapped in mist, to open itself and offer the day like a gift for Harry, Hugo, Hermann, Henry, Heinz….. with whistles, waves, cheers, shouts, laughs.
The illustrations by David Roberts are so evocative showing a devastated waste land of spiky shapes and red cold noses and cheeks.
These books would make fantastic stocking filler. Let’s hope there will be many more.