A funny, charming and moving tale, that allows us to peek into the life of Father Christmas when he was a just an ordinary boy called Nickolas
Have you ever wondered what Father Christmas was like as boy? How he came to live in the Far North surrounded by elves? Where the idea for giving presents came from? Why he wears a red hat? If you’re interested in any of these questions, then ‘A Boy Called Christmas’ is the perfect book for you.
In this funny, charming and moving tale, Matt Haig lets us peek into the life of Father Christmas when he was a just an ordinary boy called Nickolas. Here we follow Nickolas as he escapes evil Aunt Carlotta (who very much reminded me of all those wicked relatives in Roald Dahl’s books) and sets off to find his dad who has disappeared on an expedition in the Far North. After several adventures, including making friends with a reindeer whom he names Blitzen, Nickolas is finally reunited with his dad. But, of course, life is never that simple and Nickolas has to decide whether to join his dad’s expedition or challenge the one person he loves most in the world and do what he believes is right.
The omniscient narrator (that is the narrator who knows everything and can get inside every character’s head) has largely gone out of fashion. In most cases, this is a good thing: few writers can truly engage modern readers without focusing on the thoughts and emotions of just a handful of characters. Matt Haig’s narrator, however, works perfectly, acting as a unique character within the story in a way that is reminiscent of the Lemony Snicket series of unfortunate events.
Nickolas is an appealing character and I’m sure child readers will be able to identify strongly with this lonely but determined boy. Older readers, including adults such as myself, are more likely to be entertained by the humour in the narrator’s commentary and the incidental characters. My personal favourite is Miika the forest mouse: although he has never seen, smelt or tasted cheese, Miika believes in the existence of cheese and has his own personal quest to find the mythical dairy product.
Chris Mould’s beautiful black and white illustrations are an added bonus to an already engaging story. There are far too many to pictures to praise – from the map of the Far North to the many pictures of Nickolas, including a fun strip showing him age from a scrawny boy to a rounded old-man with a fluffy white beard. However, I can’t finish the review without a quick mention of the wonderful pictures of the elves, and the picture of the troll on p137 with his ‘I luv Mum’ tattoo – truly delightful.
If you enjoyed this book and are looking for a different type of adventure in the Far North, try Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre.
Publication date: November 2015
Publisher: Canongate Books
Author: Matt Haig
Review first published on The Bookbag