Middle Grade Reviews

Review: I Killed Father Christmas by Anthony McGowan





Now that I had killed Father Christmas, I knew I wouldn’t get any of the toys on my Christmas list. No robot, no racing car, no helicopter that really flies, no anything.

But that wasn’t what was making me sad. What was making me sad was the hole in the world where Father Christmas used to be.

(I killed Father Christmas by Anthony McGowan. P17)


It’s Christmas eve and Mum and Dad are fighting again. Dad says Jo-Jo is greedy for writing a long Christmas list. He says Jo-Jo is stealing presents from the poor children. Then he says Jo-Jo has killed Christmas.

Killed Christmas? Did Father Christmas die carrying that big heavy sack? Can it really be Jo-Jo’s fault that Father Christmas is dead? Jo-Jo reckons it is his job to fill the hole where Father Christmas used to be. Armed with a red coat and a pillow case full of presents, Jo-Jo sets out to do Father Christmas’s job.


A charming story based on the misconceptions of a young child. Jo-Jo’s heart is in the right place, and he shows the reader that Christmas is about giving, not receiving.

Mum and Dad’s argument stems from worry about money. Anthony McGowan captures the pressure Christmas puts on families in a child-friendly way. There’s no judgement on Jo-Jo for wanting lots of toys for Christmas. He’s a nice kid, it’s OK that he’s excited. Is it OK that he’s not bothered about poor kids and economics? Father Christmas teaches him that the magic of Christmas is about carrying love with your heart. That love can be big enough for the whole world. It’s a sweet message, and a lovely place to start thinking about world issues.

Jo-Jo’s imagination goes wild when he overhears Dad talking. It reminded me of being a child at Christmas, when the boundaries of what was possible seemed to shift. If a man can fly around the world in one night, why should bad thoughts not start a crazy chain of events which leads to that man’s death?

The story also tackles the big question children have at a certain age. The one where that flight around the world seems a bit too good to be true. Luckily Father Christmas is on hand to explain everything, and Jo-Jo goes home for another magical Christmas. This is a lovely narrative for children of late infant/early primary age.  

Chris Riddell’s illustrations were a big attraction for me. I love his style – he uses so many different lines, and his pictures have a slightly gothic edge. These are coloured, and more gentle than a lot of his pictures, not unlike the infamous Mr Underbed. Father Christmas is my favourite illustration – he’s so big and round and friendly. Riddell has captured the warmth of Father Christmas’s character.


Thanks to Barrigton Stoke who sent a copy in exchange for honest review.

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