The Leeds Big Bookend’s Twelve Books of Christmas

By Steph Bryant

As we open the final Advent calendar window, accomplish the final gift shopping mission, and carol sing our Santa hats off, Christmas Eve is upon us. But among the best parts of Christmas, aside from the chaotic celebrations and festive frivolities, is the literature. There is a wealth of festive reading to be done – and every person has their own favourites – but here is a selection of books that have made our Christmas lists over the years . . .

  1. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

A classic Christmas book! Dickens provided us with many iconic scenes and characters, with Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from cold-hearted and selfish to a cheery Christmas do-gooder, and Tiny Tim’s famous closing line ‘God bless us, everyone!’. The morals of this Christmas tale remain timeless, and remind us of the true values of the festive period.

For Rebecca Leeming, our newest member of The Leeds Big Bookend team, A Christmas Carol is a solid favourite book of hers: “The book has a sort of magic about it that really captured the child within me, and still continues to do so. For a story to survive so long, and to have been reworked in many different ways, it has to have a message that many people can relate to. The famous phrase ‘Bah Humbug!’ is instantly recognisable by people, old and young; those who have read the book and those who have not, which further demonstrates how Dickens’ story still remains a classic and relevant to the Christmas period in the 21st century.”

The book is also a much-loved story for Big Bookend Co-ordinator, Fiona Gell, who has not only read it several times but taken part in a production, watched many of  the film adaptations, and seen it performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Fiona also has the rare privilege of having access to three first edition copies of it through her work in Special Collections at the Brotherton Library, Leeds University: “I can’t quite imagine Christmas, or my life, without it. A Christmas Carol celebrated its 170th birthday last week, now that’s an enduring story.”

Did you know? Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in just 2 months (October and November, 1843).

  1. Father Christmas – Raymond Briggs

Raymond Briggs presents a rather grumpy Father Christmas in this book, where he awakes from a dream of summertime, to find it is Christmas Eve!! With the busiest night in the year ahead of him, Father Christmas tells the story of his journey around the world spreading festive joy. Supporter of the Big Bookend, Alison Millar, recalls her amusement as a child at the wonderfully hilarious illustrations: “I can still remember the giggles when my sister and I saw the picture of Father Christmas on the toilet!”

  1. The Night Before Christmas – Clement C. Moore

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in my house without the famous rhymes of Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas. As a little girl, this story really captured the magic of Saint Nicholas and his reindeer. My favourite lines were: He had a broad face and a little round belly | That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

  1. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton

A twisted take of Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, Tim Burton invites us to the parallel universe of Jack Skellington and his mission to become the new Santa. Combining Halloween with Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the Walt Disney Company’s most successful franchises since its publication in 1993.

  1. Lucy and Tom’s Christmas – Shirley Hughes

Published in 1985, Shirley Hughes’ classic book is another great one for Christmas nostalgia. Big Bookend team member and blogger, Vicky Pointing, loved this book growing up because “the illustrations are so beautiful and full of fun little details. Reading it always makes me feel festive.”

  1. The Hundred and One Dalmatians – Dodie Smith

Although not a typically festive story, 101 Dalmatians explores the importance of family at Christmas time across England. The Big Bookend’s chairman and children’s story writer, Daniel Ingram-Brown, shares why Dodie Smith’s novel is a Christmas favourite for him: “I’d forgotten what a Christmas book it was. What I really like is the sense of geography. Coming from London I always enjoyed going to Regent’s Park and seeing the houses on the outer circle. I enjoy the journey and the different sorts of places the dogs stay on the way. It gave me a great sense of England with its different towns and villages. The twilight barking and the idea of a network of dogs that could send messages secretly across the country really captured my imagination. And then you have Cruella De Vil, one of the most iconic baddies in a children’s book. A great book to revisit!”

  1. The Snowman ­– Raymond Briggs

Another Raymond Briggs favourite! Although the story is arguably famous from the film adaptation, The Snowman excels as a wordless Christmas storybook. The beautiful images tell a heart-warming (or heart-melting!) story that highlights the power of book illustration.

  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Dr. Seuss

Nestled in his cave in the side of the mountain in Whoville, you will find the bitter, scowling grump that is the Grinch. “The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! / Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.” In true Seussian style, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is delivered in jaunty poetic form, and is guaranteed to spread Yuletide glee when read aloud.

  1. Letters from Father Christmas – J. R. R. Tolkien

This book is a collection of letters that arrived every December for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children, complete with a stamp from the North Pole. The letters related stories of life at the North Pole: from how the reindeer escaped and scattered presents everywhere, to a rather messy note supposedly scrawled by the Polar Bear. Letters from Father Christmas can be appreciated by all ages, with Tolkien’s creativity and inventiveness.

  1. One Snowy Night – Nick Butterworth
One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth

One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth

This wintery tale involves Percy the park-keeper who always takes care of the animals in the park where he lives. But one snowy night, as the cold gets too much for the park wildlife to bear, Percy gets a few unexpected visitors that need his help! Nick Butterworth’s heart-warming tale is perfect for reading inside on a chilly day.

  1. The Tailor of Gloucester – Beatrix Potter

Author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit series, Beatrix Potter apparently declared this book her personal favourite. Written and illustrated by Potter, The Tailor of Gloucester tells the story of a tailor who is working on a waistcoat for the mayor’s wedding on Christmas day. After rescuing some mice from being his cat’s dinner, the tailor falls ill. The mice finish the waistcoat on his behalf and the tailor makes his fortune!

  1. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King – E.T.A. Hoffman

Written in 1816, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King has inspired composers, artists and authors to retell the story over and over again in the last 200 years. Hoffman’s tale is like the original Toy Story, but with nutcrackers instead of cowboys, and the evil mouse king instead of the evil next-door neighbour Sid.

Of course, this list is founded purely on personal opinion and the Big Bookend team’s Christmas traditions. If you have any other Christmas must-reads we have missed out, then do feel free to add them in the comments section below!

Merry Christmas and happy reading from the Leeds Big Bookend!

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