By Raymond Briggs (Picture Puffin)
ISBN 10: 0-14050-125-8 ISBN 13: 978-0-14050-125-4
Our industry seems to cheerfully neglect Raymond Briggs’s graphic narratives which have reached more hearts and minds than Spider-Man or Judge Dredd ever will, yet his books remain among the most powerful and important in the entire field. This one for instance was awarded The Library Association’s Kate Greenaway Medal.
Father Christmas is a slim, slight children’s book from Briggs that has become a perennial delight. With its sequel (and there are editions available with both books combined into one package) it creates a warm yet curmudgeonly Santa who is gruff, curt, common, complaining, dedicated, competent and reliable – in fact the very image of the British worker from a time long gone by.
Created in the last days of the our post-war recovery, and before the infamous “Winter of Discontent” permanently tainted the image of the working man, this typical granddad mutters and putters but still gets the job done right and on time. The old duffer wakes up, realises the date, feeds the animals (dog, cat, chicken, reindeer), has a spot of breakfast and gets down to it. He lives alone in a brick two-up, two-down, (with attached stables, naturally) and once the sleigh is loaded up, he’s away!
Grumbling about the weather he drops off all the presents, stopping for a packed lunch, at the appropriate time, of course, and when finished heads home, nodding off a bit, with frozen feet, job done for another year.
The bright expansive and welcoming art is a seductive device that keeps this fantasy day-in-the-life thoroughly grounded in the everyday, and the total lack of saccharine and schmaltz is still a refreshing antidote to the paternalistic, condescending oaf the modern Christmas Industry foists on us.
This is such quirky, deceptively subversive and beautifully understated fun, that you must deck your shelves with this cracker.
© 1973 Raymond Briggs. All Rights Reserved.