Can you believe Christmas is one week away? I am equally excited and terrified as I have so much left to do! How does it always sneak up so fast? I can fully understand the Scrooge mentality sometimes as things just tend to get out of control crazy around the holiday. Perhaps it was these kind of thoughts that inspired the creation of this humorous look at the man in the red suit who has just had it with the whole mess. For our eighteenth book in this countdown, I bring a picture book in cartoon strip style and a brilliantly UK origin. Here is Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs, 1973.
As luck would have it, the Guardian writer Laura Barnett just did an excellent interview with Raymond Briggs about this very book two days ago! (I totally did not plan this.) If you would rather read about it over there, by all means, I completely understand. But feel free to come back here for the pictures!
In that marvelous interview, Briggs says that he has always liked to imagine fantastical things as very real and down-to-earth. That is where he believes this story derives. Briggs’ Father Christmas is just sick of the whole deal. The man just wants to retire really, stay in his warm, very normal-looking house, and enjoy his food and drink. Instead he has to traipse around at all times of the night and weather, to squeeze through chimneys and deliver all the gifts. He does his job, very well despite attitude issues; but is thrilled when he can finally return home to his warmth, bed, and grub.
This story is hilarious and stunning. If you aren’t acquainted with Briggs’ work, allow me to rectify that immediately. He is more well-known for his book The Snowman, which is actually also created in this cartoon strip style, but wordless. It has been adapted to film and stage and is gorgeous as well.
With Father Christmas, Briggs’ is downright funny and very non-traditional. This is not the jolly, carefree Santa most kids embrace. I feel he is much more on the spectrum for older readers and adults especially. I honestly haven’t tried this book out on our toddler yet as she hasn’t quite decided how she feels about the whole Santa thing and I don’t want to influence it negatively with such a pessimistic, albeit funny, book.
I love all the details Briggs’ plays up in the story. Two reindeer, because of course he lives in a city with little storage. His home is quaint and small with animal companions. I actually find myself missing my Grandpa when I read this, simply because he is living it up like an old man. When you’ve lived long and worked hard, you are entitled to a little grumbling and selfishness I guess.
Lastly, I of course swoon over the impressive illustrations. I would love to see the originals of his work as I am incredibly curious what scale he works on. The drawings are so intricate and beautifully composed. And I love the wash of color in the murky color palette. His light sources are excellently portrayed and do much to help focus the many-paneled pages. I find myself turning to this book and just taking my time enjoying every panel and smirking at the grumbly old Santa. Perhaps there is a little Scrooge in all of us that just wants a moment to revel in an over-it Christmas. Hang in there, the best of the holiday is yet to come!
Follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas Books 2014!