I got this book last year, either for my birthday or Christmas. (The two are so close together it’s hard to remember!) I didn’t get time to read it over the festive period, though, (the joys of working it retail) and it’s not the sort of thing I would pick up at another time of the year. I’m not even going to have time to read it all today, but I wanted to at least look through it to see what it contains, and how it compares to The Christmas Book which I reviewed last year.
The contents of The Christmas Book are split into eleven parts, titled A Family Christmas followed by the chapter titles from the original book. One chapter is omitted, however. That is the The Christmas Story, I.E. the birth of Jesus and the nativity story. I don’t want to get into a religious debate, but surely that’s fairly essential in a book about Christmas?
Anyway, in between these eleven chapter are various stories pulled from various works.
- The Lost Presents from The Snowdrop Story Book
- Santa Claus Gets a Shock from The Happy Story Book,
- A Week Before Christmas from Enid Blyton’s Treasury
- The Christmas Tree Aeroplane from The Second Holiday Book
- A Hole in Santa’s Sack from The Magic Knitting Needles and Other Stories
- The Tiny Christmas Tree from Tales After Supper
- What Happened on Christmas Eve from The Eighth Holiday Book
- The Little Reindeer Bell from Enid Blyton’s Magazine No. 24 Vol. 4
- The Very Full Stocking from Jolly Tales
- In Santa Claus’s Castle from Enid Blyton’s Omnibus (The Faraway Tree story)
- What They Did at Miss Brown’s School from Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year
- The Christmas Tree Party from Tricky the Goblin and Other Stories
- Santa Claus Gets Busy from The Bright Story Book
- The Christmas Tree Fairy from The Enid Blyton Holiday Book
That’s 14 stories in addition to almost a full novel. Looking at the original sources I actually think I have the majority of the stories. I don’t have The Snowdrop Story Book, The Magic Knitting Needles, The Magazine volume, Jolly Tales or The Holiday Book, but I definitely have the other nine.
Saying that, I probably haven’t read that many of them. I haven’t read many of my short story collections yet, so it’s nice to have them all pulled together in one place.
Skimming through the chapters from The Christmas Book, it looks like a few updates have crept in. Mother is sometimes Mum or Mummy, though the rest of it seems the same.
The short stories look like they haven’t been touched. There are references to tangerines as a treat, a handbag that costs thirty shillings, more shillings and crowns earned for chores, telegraph wires to be avoided, . The reindeer don’t have the traditional names we expect now – no Rudolph, Dancer, Dasher etc. Instead there’s Quickfoot and Quick-as-the-wind. And of course the old traditions like mummers and carolling are still explained in the main chapters. The carolling chapter is rather shortened, however with only the opening lines being reprinted and others being skipped entirely.
Some of the nicest old-fashioned Christmas things go quite unexplained. Things such as having toys tied to the tree to be handed out at parties, the child holding the larger end of the cracker ‘winning’ the toy no matter how unfairly that shared the prizes out, candles on a Christmas tree, stockings on the end of your bed, lots of small details that would seem quite alien to modern children!
Reading the short stories one after another shows a few common themes (much like there are common themes and plots amongst the adventure and mystery stories she wrote). Several feature lost bags/purses meaning that things can’t be bought for Christmas, mothers sick or in hospital, fathers away abroad, accidents befalling Santa Clause as he delivers presents, Christmas trees for birds, tiny trees that seem of no use until someone comes along and thinks they’re perfect.
Saying that, each story is charming in its own right with more than enough variations to keep the book fresh. I can imagine children getting one or two ‘chapters’ a night throughout December read to them. The book isn’t illustrated, which is always a shame (though perhaps if it was I would be complaining how bad the illustrations were). There is a nice sort-of illustration for each chapter though,- a title page with a tree or stockings or presents etc on it. I don’t even mind that those – and the cover – are by Mark Beech and are very much in the style of Quentin Blake. I think they’re just fine for a Christmas collection.
All in all it’s a nice book and I enjoyed reading it tonight.