Saturday, 31 December 2011
Seasonal reading 4: The Thirteen Days of Christmas
In vaguely 17th Century England, the Kitson children (Prudence, James and Christopher) live with their widower father and grown up sister Annaple. Annaple is a distressingly poor cook, but in all other ways mix of the romantic and the bossy. The children try to use her romantic nature to advise the wealthy merchant Francis Vere to woo her; however his initial romantic idea (a partridge in a pear tree) pleases her so much on Christmas Day that he doesn't stop there, and since he is used to buying in bulk the family is soon inundated with livestock and their produce, threatened by the mayor with fines for blocking traffic and are the talk of the town.
This is a fantastic short historical novel. My copy (published 1977) has lovely illustrations by the wonderful Shirley Hughes. The most recent edition is illustrated by Hilda Offen; I haven't seen it, and while her illustrations are not to my taste, the charm of the story would not deter me from buying it. The delight of this story is not just the imaginative explanation of the origin of the carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, but also the inclusion of Christmas traditions and carols such as The Dancing Day carol and Here We Come A-Wassailing. It would be a wonderful book to read to children 7+, a chapter a night from 23rd December (the first chapter is on the Feast of St Nicholas, 6th December, but then there is a gap until Christmas Eve) with the final chapter on The Feast of Three Kings, 6th January, so is a perfect Seasonal Read! If you don't know the wonderful Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band carol albums, they would be be the perfect accompaniment to reading this book. You can find them all on Spotify.
I hope you've enjoyed my seasonal reading suggestions. What are yours?