Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Fairytale (Christmas) stars and being selfless

Posted on | November 18, 2011 | 10 Comments

Having admitted that Christmas isn’t a major event for us in my previous post, you may be wondering why I’ve a second post so soon with Christmas in the title.

There’s a simple answer: David Lucas.

David Lucas is one of my very favourite illustrators (an appreciation which went only deeper after meeting him in the summer), and when I learned he had a new book out about Christmas I couldn’t resist it.

Christmas at the Toy Museum by David Lucas takes the cast and setting of his previous book Lost in the Toy Museum (my review is here) and explores what the toys in the Museum of Childhood get up to at Christmas.

Disappointed to discover the toys themselves have no presents waiting under the museum Christmas tree they come up with a novel but brilliant idea: “Let us not be downhearted! Why don’t we all give each other ourselves?

The toys have great fun wrapping each other up in beautiful paper and sparkly boxes with ribbons and bows. Then they face the very difficult task (as any child will recognise) of waiting till morning to open their presents.

But there is a flaw in this plan; the very last toy to be unwrapped will have no present himself to open.

Fortunately, overnight the angel on the top of the Christmas tree foresees this situation and on Christmas morning flies down to offer Bunting, the toy with no gift to unwrap, something very special, very magical and full of hope. In fact it’s the sort of thing we might all wish for, although what it is, you’ll have to find out for yourself by getting hold of this beautiful book.

David’s story is simple and elegant, with a sprinkling of fairytale magic over the tale’s profound heart. Of course, for many children Christmas is all about getting new toys, but actually the value of giving each other, giving of themselves, ourselves, of giving time is inestimable, and is an important part of “true” Christmas spirit (both for people who have faith, and those who don’t).

Some readers may feel uncomfortable with this idea of giving yourself selflessly, but it’s an important theme for Lucas. It’s at the core of the first book I read by him – The Robot and the Bluebird – and David discusses different readers’ reactions to this book in one of his recent blog posts.

Whilst I suspect my rational, non-religious approach to Christmas may not be something David shares with me, I definitely share with him an appreciation of generosity, magic, and hope, all of which you’ll find in this book.

David’s stories are very often packed with a lot more punch than they appear to have on the surface, having almost mythic qualities about them, with big powerful themes gently explored. I would be remiss, however, if I only focussed on his storytelling skills. The illustrations in Christmas at the Toy Museum are simply delightful; David mixes a naivety of image with rich patterning, lots of colour (but also plenty of black) with elements of Russian icons, folk art and cubism.

One of David’s leitmotifs in many of his books is the visual scattering of stars, and with this in mind we set about making a star paper chain that could work well as a Christmas decoration.

We folded card (because it’s stronger than paper) and cut out a star in typical David Lucas form to create a chain (just like you would do to create a paper doll chain). Glitter and glue were then used with gay abandon to drench our stars in sparkliness.

Once dry I used paper fasteners to attach each short length of stars together, and then we hung them over our front door.

Whilst we covered the kitchen (and ourselves) in glitter we listened to:

  • Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl
  • I Want a Present for Christmas by Dinah Washington
  • For a family who doesn’t do much at Christmas it’s been rather fun, in a weird way, listening to Christmas music in the middle of November! But here’s something even more fun:

  • Too Many Presents! by Uncle Rock


  • Other activities which could work well with reading Christmas at the Toy Museum include:

  • Making some toys as Christmas presents – here, here and here are some ideas of toys kids can make
  • Creating some Christmas tree or window decorations out of pipecleaners to look a little like some of David Lucas’ stars. Here’s one tutorial from Come Together Kids and here’s another from Chronically Uncool.
  • Playing wrapping up – give the kids some fabric or wrapping paper and some ribbon or tape and let them play at wrapping up their toys (or even each other). My girls love tying things with string and tape so if I were to throw in some nice paper or material I think this is an activity that would keep them happy for quite some time! For a more structured wrapping up game that might be good at a party take a look at How to Play: Siamese Gift Wrap over at Parent Dish.


  • So which camp are you in – Glitter fan or Glitter foe? And what do you think about the idea of giving yourself? Is it too much? Too sentimental? Or does it go to the nub of things?

    Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, reflect my own and honest opinion.

    Share and Enjoy:
    • Digg
    • del.icio.us
    • Facebook
    • StumbleUpon
    • Technorati
    • Twitter

    Comments

    10 Responses to “Fairytale (Christmas) stars and being selfless”

    1. Damyanti
      November 18th, 2011 @ 7:48 am

      We borrowed this book from the library a month ago & was a huge hit. Love the glitter stars too

    2. Zoe
      November 18th, 2011 @ 7:53 am

      Glad to hear your family has been enjoying it as much as ours Damyanti!

    3. Library Mice
      November 18th, 2011 @ 9:41 am

      OH is a glitter foe, hates the stuff (he hates crumbs too); I am undecided LOL.
      I really want to read this book (off to the library website to reserve it!)I will also email this post to my friend who is organising the Xmas storytime at the library for book group, I think she will love your ideas.

    4. Zoe
      November 18th, 2011 @ 9:51 am

      :-) Library Mice. We’re ok with glitter – we just take a zen like approach to it, and know that it will be in our hair, even our food for days after it’s been on our kitchen table…
      I’m thinking of using this book at school for storytime in December too – don’t know what the school’s policy is on glitter!

    5. choxbox
      November 18th, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

      Only you can better yourself Zoe. What a lovely way to countdown to a birthday!

    6. Zoe
      November 18th, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

      Thanks Choxbox, I hope someone helps you look forward to your birthday when it comes round :-)

    7. Stacey
      November 18th, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

      What a fun looking book! And I actually am just fine with glitter- it makes a huge nmess but boy does it make small children happy!

    8. Zoe
      November 19th, 2011 @ 7:48 am

      Yes, Stacey, the happiness it creates outweighs the mess I think in just about every case!

    9. Tara
      November 19th, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

      First, thank you for sharing about David Lucas – now I need to find The Robot and the Bluebird! I love these lines from the link you shared to his blog:
      Why does the idea of self-sacrifice make people cry?
      Because it is the key to happiness.

      I agree…I’m all for this, which helps me as a teacher! About the glitter…a foe! But that’s only because it was a big part of any craft activity with my (now grown) three kids…all that cleaning up I’ve done over the years!

    10. Zoe
      November 19th, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

      Hi Tara, Thanks so much for your comment. I do hope you find The Robot and the Bluebird. I love it, love it, love it and am sure you will too given your chosen quote from David’s blog. As to glitter, you’ve clearly put in your time!

    Leave a Reply





    CommentLuv badge
  • If you love children’s literature you should join…

  • Support your local (UK) bookshop!

  • Categories