‘An impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand yet. I have heard it a hundred times. But what about walking on the ceiling? That’s impossible. What about flying to the stars? That’s impossible.’
‘It isn’t, actually,’ muttered Father Christmas. ‘It isn’t impossible. It’s just not the right thing to do. And that’s a very big difference.’
(Father Christmas And Me by Matt Haig and Chris Mould.)
It’s difficult being human in Elfhelm. Amelia Wishart loves her home with Father Christmas and Mary, but it’s difficult being human in elf territory. Without drimwickery, the elfish magic, there are lots of things Amelia can’t do. Father Vodol says humans shouldn’t be allowed in Elfhelm. When Amelia damages a sleigh, other elves think he is right. Determined to put things right, Amelia sets out to work until she has paid the damages, but terrible things are going on in Elfhelm. Once again, it’s up to Amelia and Father Christmas to save Christmas, and this time there is no convincing anyone to help.
I love this book. Top of my seasonal selection, Father Christmas And Me covers topical issues in a fast-paced and hugely readable adventure. Amelia and Father Christmas have taken part in previous adventures. This is the third book set in this world.
Fake News. The word – or term – of 2017. Father Christmas And Me is all about Fake News. I love the sinister Father Vodol, going out of his way to spread fear of humans. It can be hard to think for ourselves when we’re inundated with opinion, and children are especially impressionable. Taking an issue outside it’s original context can be a great way to help children think for themselves. Should humans be banned from the magical Elfhelm just because they are human? Should rabbits have been chased away? Do we want to construct a wall to keep refugees out?
The other thing this book does well is think about every day mental health. This isn’t mental health treatment. Mental health illnesses. Rather, an acknowledgement that everyone has mental health, as everyone has physical health, and some situations put a strain on our mental health. I also love the magic which can’t take away bad things, but can show you that the world contains magic, and will feel magical again. That’s the most realistic message someone facing a mental health crisis can hear, and realistic is easier to accept than false promises.
It’s a magical world. Santa’s workshop has been reimagined as a full-scale industrial operation, but the magical touches have been left. Houses are made of reinforced gingerbread. Elves learn sleigh-craft at elf school. Letters fly in from around the world. It’s a kid’s dream of Santa’s home turned into a setting, and it is special. The adventure builds up nicely, with hints in the right place. I love how the backstory of Elfhelm’s relations with the rabbits turns into something important, and how the clues are in place.
As well as being a great story, the book is made magical by Chris Mould’s illustrations. Some author/illustrator partnerships are legendary. Dahl and Blake. Donaldson and Scheffler. Matt Haig and Chris Mould belong in this category. Their work goes together like Christmas pudding and brandy cream.
Definitely one for Santa’s sack, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
Title: Father Christmas And Me
Publication date: 12th October 2017
Huge thanks to Canongate for sending a copy in exchange for honest review.