Christmas Book Advent Calendar : The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot

The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot

oday’s Christmas Book Advent Calendar features ‘The Christmas Day Kitten’ by James Herriot – a story about love and loss around Christmastime.

James Herriot’s writing is a particular comfort read of mine and his heartwarming tales around his busy veterinary practice in Yorkshire are the perfect cozy books to read around Christmas.

Last year, a friend on Instagram recommended ‘The Christmas Day Kitten’ by James Herriot as a lovely festive picture book. The reason that I like it so much is because it doesn’t read as a child’s tale but as a simple story told by Herriot with a focus on a message that is meaningful during this time of year. Complemented with detailed and beautiful drawings by the illustrator Ruth Brown, ‘The Christmas Day Kitten’ is a lovely addition to our library of Christmas books.

‘The Christmas Day Kitten’ is a story about Mrs Pickering, who lived in a beautiful sprawling Yorkshire farmhouse. The owner of three beautiful Basset hounds, James Herriot was often called to Mrs Pickering’s house to attend to her beloved dogs. When he visited he couldn’t help but notice a scrawny cat who stayed a little while by the fireside and often disappeared, shortly afterwards. When asked about her disappearance, Mrs Pickering remarked that ‘Debbie’ was a stray who came and went – where she exactly lived, nobody knew.

One Christmas morning, James Herriot was called most urgently to Mrs Pickering’s home to attend to the not the Basset hounds – but Debbie. This is the story of what happened to Debbie and the heartwarming present she left for Mrs Pickering that Christmas Day.

As always, Herriot’s stories have that twist that makes our eyes well up and our hearts feel full of emotion.

This is a wonderful little tale and the beautiful illustrations and simply penned lines are a beautiful gift to the reader. My favourite illustration from the book is that of Herriot driving through the snow filled streets of the deserted market square on Christmas morning. The hills are clad in deep swathes of snow and though the shops are closed, merry lights are twinkling in the shop windows.

Are you a James Herriot fan? If so, can we ever forget ‘Uncle James’s fabulous annual Christmas hamper, stuffed with all sorts of goodies from Fortnum and Mason?

Christmas Book Advent Calendar: ‘Jill’s Gymkhana’ by Ruby Ferguson

Jill’s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson (illustration from Caney, A Stable for Jill).

The theme for today’s bookish advent is that of Christmas presents. What is Christmas Day without presents, especially for young children? I’m going to describe a few extracts from Ruby Ferguson’s marvellous children’s book – ‘Jill’s Gymkhana’ – the first in a long series of books about a horse mad heroine.

I think that we can agree, that for true bibliophiles, Christmas presents can be divided into the ones that have us jumping for joy (bookish presents) and presents that leave us a little less excited (non-bookish presents).

For horse-living Jill Crewe of Ruby Ferguson’s ‘Jill Books’, Christmas morning was filled with the anticipation of receiving ‘horsey gifts’.

Lying in bed on Christmas morning and lighting her bedside candle, Jill spied several interesting looking parcels on the table beside her bed.

The contained cards and Christmas money from her Godmother, a fountain pen from her Mother, a boring boarding school book from cousin Cecilia entitled ‘ The Madcap of the School’, a manicure set from one aunt, a set of handkerchiefs from another and a pair of yellow string gloves from her best friend Ann.

Jill immediately thought of a number of horsey things she could have bought instead of her Mother’s fountain pen but tried to quell these unworthy thoughts.

Later in the day Ann and a family friend called Martin come to visit and there is tea, iced buns and a proper Christmas cake. There’s a meaningful passage between Martin and Jill’s family over the exchange of expensive presents on Martin’s part. Martin argues that Jill and her Mother have done so much to make his Christmas time feel joyful with their company and he urges them to accept his gift in return.

But most of all I liked how Jill made her mum a big cup of tea in a favourite fluted green cup and saucer and presented her with the tea in bed on Christmas morning. I think that was extremely thoughtful!

At the end of the day, this is what Jill had to say about her first Christmas in Chatton,

“After getting all these wonderful presents, especially the horsy ones that I hadn’t expected, I think you will agree with me that it was a very nice Christmas.”

Christmas Book Advent Calendar : A Christmas Card by Paul Theroux

‘A Christmas Card by Paul Theroux’

This is the first in a series of my Christmas book advent Calendar, describing some especially festive moments of a few favourite books.

Today’s chosen book, has the theme of a spooky, eerie and magical Christmas.

‘A Christmas Card’ by Paul Theroux is a short Christmas novella set in the countryside of the east coast of the USA. Paul Theroux was himself born in Medford, Massachusetts and the snowy scenes and cold climate described in the book are indeed evocative of that part of the world during wintertime.

The story is told through the eyes of a young boy called Marcel. One year, Marcel’s father returns from working abroad in Asia and it is his idea to spend Christmas in the solitary country house, deep in the woods that the family has recently acquired. The small family consisting of Father, Mother, Marcel and his little brother Louis, set out early one winter morning from their warm apartment in the city, towards the wilderness of the woods along the coast. They drive all day and as evening and darkness approaches and they are stuck in a heavy snowstorm, Father realises that he is lost.

The family seek shelter for the night in an old, rambling looking mansion – what they presume to be a hotel and the owner, an old man in a crooked hat and black cape shows them the old treasures paintings in his house and the next morning just disappears.

He does, however, leave them a Christmas card on the mantelpiece that young Marcel believes has magical powers. The card provides them with magical bursts of light, guides them and has a will of its own …

As opposed to a cosy Christmas tale, ‘A Christmas Card’ by Paul Theroux is a bit of a spooky, eerie Christmas tale. If you enjoy a hint of magic and the supernatural during Christmas time, then this might be the ideal novella for you. The perfect length to read over an afternoon, with a mince pie and a hot chocolate to hand.

Let me know of your favourite books to read during Christmas.