‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse.”
Okay, you’ve heard those lines before and probably many, many times. Do you know where they originate from though? Well, I’ll tell you. ‘A Visit From St Nicholas’ was penned by Clement Clarke Moore as a Christmas present for his children. The poem was first published in 1822 in Troy Sentinel magazine. As Moore did not put his name to it, there has been controversy as to whether it was written by him or not but most people concede that he did write it.
The poem is written in narrative form so that the story structure appeals to adults and children alike. The setting is a family home in North America on Christmas Eve. All the family are sleeping apart from Daddy who is trying to get to sleep. Suddenly he hears a noise. He rushes to the window and sees what all of us would dearly love to view “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer” driven by a jolly old chap.
After a swoop across the sky, Daddy hears the sound of hooves landing on his roof and then the man himself shoots down the chimney covered in soot. Father Christmas sees Daddy and gives him a cheeky wink. Wow – can you imagine that? He then goes about his work filling the Christmas stockings with goodies. Due to the busy aspect of being Father Christmas, he doesn’t hang around to socialise; he’s off back up the chimney. His parting shot is “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
It would be magical to see the real man but as this is unlikely to happen, you can still have a bit of magic by sharing this wonderful poem with someone on Christmas Eve. I beseech you – read it out on the Eve and you will feel better about the magic of Christmas. Cats and dogs particularly enjoy a good poem.
May the spirit of Christmas touch you whoever you are and whatever your situation is.
If your small children are desperate for it to snow this Christmas, you could give them great joy by trying to get hold of a copy of ‘The Snowy Day’ by Ezra Jack Keats. It was published in 1962 and children from the age of four onwards will love it.
Jacob Ezra Katz was the son of poor Polish- Jewish immigrants who lived in Brooklyn, New York. Jacob suffered from anti-Semitic prejudices and so changed his name to Ezra Jack Keats. His past experiences are reflected in his work as he portrays a sympathy and understanding of what it was like to grow up in a similar community that he lived in.
When Keats wrote ‘The Snowy Day’, it was before multicultural characters and themes had come to children’s literature. In the story, Peter, a young African-American boy wakes up to discover that it has snowed while he has been in bed asleep. When he looks out, as far as he is concerned, the whole world has been covered with snow. He goes outside and enjoys the magical pleasures of a playing in a snow clad world. Watch the animated version of the book – it’s beautiful.
As you can see from the above animation, you get transported into the world of childhood as Peter lies down in the snow to make snow angels; experiments with footprints and knocks the clumps of snow off trees. All of these things are what many of us have experienced as children and are exactly what our little tots do when they discover a snowy world.
Keats is one of those super talented folks who not only writes the text but also illustrates the book too. This adds to the overall magic of it because he uses cut-outs, watercolours and collage in enchanting beautiful art. Even though the book was originally published in 1962, it can still be enjoyed today as it has an enduring timeless quality to it.
Even if our own Christmas is not as atmospheric as we would like it, we can always transport ourselves with a book. Happy reading.
If you have children, you can offer them a great time this Christmas by sharing the wonderful book ‘The Box of Delights’ with them. However, you do not need children in your life to enjoy this magical tale. As an adult, I find that it truly transports me. It was written by John Masefield and published in 1935. It is also available on dvd and is magical in that form too. In fact, it is one of those tales which becomes a Christmas tradition and can be brought out every year.
The old man is abducted
The story is set around the cathedral town of Condicote and begins when the boy, Kay Harker is coming home for the holidays the week before Christmas. He is entrusted with a magical box by an old man who runs a Punch and Judy show. The old man is then abducted. Kay finds out that the box can make you either shrink or run swiftly. It also shows wonders and allows you to travel into the past.
Kay, along with his pals, Maria Jones and her brother, Peter then set about rescuing the old man who is the magician Cole Hawlings. Cole has been kidnapped by scary wolf figures who are minions of the villain, Abner Brown. Brown becomes viler as the plot gathers pace. He eventually kidnaps the entire staff of the cathedral and demands the Box of Delights as ransom. Of course, Kay saves the day.
Reading this book takes children on an enchanting adventure from the snowy encampment of Roman legions to the appearance of the medieval Arnold of Todi, the inventor of the box. There are humorous squabbles between pirate rats and house mice. The pure magic of the book is not simply the only wonderful aspect of it; there is something much deeper. The box symbolizes the imagination and the message is that we must protect our imaginations from the vile forces of commercialism, violence and stupidity.
I think that sometimes we have to embrace the magic of an imaginary world in order to escape from the jingle jangle of commercial greed. If you feel the need to escape from all that just read the book or watch the dvd and away you will go. A word of warning though – don’t forget to return to reality.
Here at Loony Literature, we believe that if you need help smiling, you might consider reading a children’s book. Many grown ups do not realize that throwing adultness to one side and losing themselves in a children’s story is as good as taking medicine. It liberates your soul and makes you feel as if anything is possible. Remember how you felt before you grew up and life got you down?
A wonderful one to try is ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ by Ian Fleming. It was actually written as three separate adventures. The first two were originally published in 1964 and the third one came out in 1965. What is really interesting is that Ian Fleming found his inspiration from a car really called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which was built in 1920 by Fleming’s chum, Count Zoborowski.
The main character of the story is the magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Her owners are the Pott family but their name was changed to Potts for the film. The father of the family, Caractacus Pott is an explorer and an inventor who lives with his wife and their twins.
One day, Caractacus invents a new type of candy which has holes in it that makes a whistling noise as it is being sucked. The owner of a sweet factory buys it for lots of money and that is how Caractacus buys Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Delight yourself by reading about this car which has a mind of her own as she flies and turns herself into a hovercraft. You may not get rid of all your worries but you will certainly forget about them for a time.
If we are to get little ones reading, we have to keep them interested. This means sharing a wide range of books with them. A wonderful book called ‘Lotta’s Bike’ by Astrid Lindgren will most certainly make them want to turn the pages and find out what happens to Lotta. It is aimed at children over the age of three.
The book was published in 1971 and Lotta is one of the most popular characters in Swedish children’s literature. She is little girl who gets into also sorts of scrapes alongside her older siblings, Jonas and Maria. Some parents might view the antics of the children as being a bit too much but children love them and it is a great way of discussing behaviour with kids.
In ‘Lotta’s Bike’, Lotta is hoping to get a bike for her birthday. However, her parents get her something else instead and so she decides to borrow her neighbour’s bike and takes her toy pig Barnsie for a ride. Unfortunately, the bike is too big for Lotta and she loses control of it on a steep hill. As per usual, she has to face the consequences; think rose bush and bicycle owner here.
All the Lotta stories explore everyday events which small children can understand either through personal experience or by it happening to someone close to them. For instance, in ‘Lotta Leaves Home’, Lotta is not happy with her family and decides to run away from home. As you can guess, Lotta soon appreciates the value of her family and her home when she is away from them. All the stories are told with gentle humour which will make your child smile while thinking about the deeper meaning of the story. If you can get your hands on a copy of any of the Lotta books, you will probably enjoy it as much as your little ones.
On our sister site willblyton.com, we’re looking at choosing a setting – any opinions would be appreciated.
Will Blyton - The Alternative Detective
At the moment, I am writing a free in between story for our willblyton.com website. It is called” Will Blyton and The Maggoty Motleys” and I’m being either brave or stupid as the work in progress is being posted. The Will Blyton books are aimed at 9-12 year olds and explore time travel and will be introducing William Shakespeare and his plays in the books and free stories.
The setting for Will Blyton and The Maggoty Motleys is a children’s literary festival in 2006. This probably seems like a strange place to set a children’s story but around that time my family were going to a lot of children’s literary festivals and seeing a very mixed bag of children’s writers. This was one of the reasons I felt the urge to set a children’s story at a fictional festival. Seeing such a range of different…
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Find out what happens when Will Blyton, The Alternative Detective, and his friend, Bongo try to take a photograph of the ghoul at Boris Death’s old house.
"Has anyone seen my body?"
Gangsters Go For Groaningsea!
Garden gnome with wheelbarrow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Residents of Groaningsea be on the alert! Strange happenings are taking place on your very own doorstep. It is thought that a master criminal is on the loose. It is not an ordinary criminal, that much is known. How do we know this? Ace crime reporter, Ambrose Pimple has been on the scene of these extraordinary happenings. Stone gargoyles with secret messages on them have been left on doorsteps in the town. Ambrose Pimple has made the decision not to disclose the secret messages at this point in time as it could cause a spate of copycat crimes. As an ace crime reporter, Ambrose Pimple has delved into the mind of the ruthless criminal over the years. He has to admit, he has not come across such a cunning criminal mastermind of this type before. “The key question,” says Pimple, “is what is so unique about this crime?” He understands that the ordinary public will not be able to answer this penetrating question and so he explains: “The ordinary criminal takes from us. We have all been there when our garden gnomes have disappeared. However, The Gargoyle Gangster, as he will be referred to from now on, has us on the run. He plays with our law abiding minds – he doesn’t whiz our washing from our lines or even pilfer our plants, NO! The Gargoyle Gangster leaves his threatening mark upon our doorsteps. ”
What has this criminal mastermind got in store for Groaningsea next?