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