A Christmas Story in Twenty-Four-and-a-Half Chapters by Alex T. Smith
I'm not going to say a whole lot about this book because a large part of its charm is discovering it for yourself and not knowing what comes next. Advent calendars were one of my favourite things about December as a child. We reused the same one over and over again. No matter how many times we saw the images, and despite them never changing, we always loved opening the doors one by one.
How Winston Delivered Christmas channels all the excitement of an advent calendar into a wonderfully warm and affirming seasonal story. One chapter is to be read per day in the run up to Christmas and a wide variety of optional activities are entwined in the text.
When Oliver's letter to Santa goes astray, a little mouse called Winston finds it. Determined to make the boy's Christmas dreams come true, Winston embarks on an elaborate journey to deliver the letter personally. As the story is told gradually, and we must wait until the following day to hear the next part, the reader feels like they are joining Winston on his adventure. The suspense makes the story even more immersive and captivating.
nephews write letters to Santa - he wondered what might happen if a letter got lost. In a note at the end, Alex writes: "Of course Christmas isn't just about the things you buy from the shops. I wanted to write a story about the sorts of things that are free - like bravery and kindness. I hope Winston's Christmas adventure shows you that you are never too tiny to be brave and that little acts of Kindness can often make huge differences to other people."
The activities suggested in the book include random acts of kindness, making wrapping paper and a variety of Christmas presents and decorations. There are also lots of child-friendly recipes, especially for homemade biscuits, ensuring the house is full of tasty treats and the fragrant scent of baking during December.
It's possible to read the story without participating in some or all of the arts and crafts and culinary exercises. It might be a good idea to scan through the book in advance to make sure you have everything you need if you would like to join in. Depending on the age of the child or children, you may prefer to skip or postpone some of the crafts according to their interests and abilities.
This book can be adapted to suit any audience. The chapters are not too long but if sharing with the very young or those with a shorter attention span, you could read the text yourself and then summarise it for them. Older children might even like to read it themselves.
The illustrations are gorgeous with a quaint and old-fashioned quality. I don't think a more festive book exists and if you'd like to establish new traditions within your family, this is perfect. How Winston Delivered Christmas is a book that can be returned to annually and even passed on to future generations. As we may be cooped up quite a bit this December, it's even lovelier to have this special story filled with so many activities to enjoy at home.
How Winston Delivered Christmas celebrates the most magical time of the year and manages to make it even more enchanting. This extraordinary book and its remarkable mouse will be delivering Christmas for years to come.
Title: How Winston Delivered Christmas
Author and Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books