03 December 2009

An Advent of Christmas Books - Lucy and Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes

This book is an old one, no longer in print but available second hand. My copy has my son's name inscribed in the front, dated Christmas 1988 and this is the perfect book to share with an excited two-year-old child, as mine was back then.
Shirley Hughes has an extraordinary talent for depicting children in all their round rumpled goodness, and the ordinary household with its mess and domestic clutter.
'Christmas is coming! Lucy and Tom are helping to stir the Christmas pudding. As they stir they each make a wish.' And so begins the series of events leading up to Christmas day. There are cards both received and handmade by the children, decorations and a nativity scene to set out. The glorious mish-mash of gifts they have chosen - a brooch for Mum, a rubber in the shape of a dog for Dad to take to the office... there's a list of each child's chosen presents for the special people in their lives - now wrapped and hidden well - in a different place each day by Tom - Shirley Hughes is a master of the child's idiosyncratic behaviour that we will all recognise.
This is one of my favourite pages which captures the warmth of the kitchen, child on a chair to reach the table, and carol singers at the door.

The Christmas tree is bought and on Christmas Eve they all hang the decorations and arrange their parcels beneath it before the children go to bed, to wake early as all small children do on Christmas morning, before opening presents on Mum and Dad's bed.
This is an English Christmas so there's snow, and a big group of extended family for roast turkey, pudding and crackers, and then the presents from under the tree to be opened, and a lovely page depicting a baby playing with the paper rather than the present, and eventually falling asleep amidst it all. There's a walk with Grandad for grumpy Tom, then a warm family evening with games and lights on the tree.

I love the way the story slowly moves through all the rituals of Christmas, each thing with its own special time to be enjoyed. I do think children rather thrive on knowing what's going to happen, and enjoy looking forward to things as much as actually doing them, the suspense is all part of the event. More than anything it's the warmth of the family which shines from every page. Perhaps for some readers this book will also encourage them to develop their own family rituals around this special time of year.

You can read about Shirley Hughes here, and see some examples of her artwork at The Illustration Cupboard (along with a huge number of other extraordinary illustrators of children's books).
By Shirley Hughes
Puffin Books, (1981), 1987
ISBN 0140504699

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