‘It was Christmas Eve. The children were excited, but mum was hot and Dad was cross. “Christmas is hard work,” said Dad. He wanted the children to help, but they didn’t want to. They were watching television.’
I flipping love the Oxford Reading Tree books. The never ending series of ‘learn to read’ series by Roderick Hunt and Alex Brychta are used in 80 percent of schools making them probably the most widely read children’s stories in the UK.
Unlike the Village with Three Corners books that I used at school, which had coloured hats instead of personalities, or the Janet and John series set in the town of Stepford, some considerable effort has been put into crafting stories that are more relatable.
Although the story propels us into fantasy they always keep a foot in the real world. Check the list of international business names for Santa’s little north pole operation, or the sad note from a girl called Paige asking for a job for her unemployed daddy.
The children are transported via magic key to Santa’s not-so magic kingdom. F. Christmas Ltd. is a world away from the usual elf strewn north pole. It’s set on an icy industrial estate, in rather dated offices, with boxy computers and endless reams of paper covering every available surface. It’s a fair guess at what Santa’s workshop might actually be like.
Of course there is a message to take away too. We see it in the exasperation of the father and in the bins full of Christmas lists, organised into categories of varying politeness: ‘I’ll have…’ ‘Please may I have’, ‘I WANT’. Basically kids, what you need to realise is that some poor bugger has to do all the work, while you sit on your arses and demand stuff.
When they finally track down F C, the children discover that Mr Christmas himself is so busy, he doesn’t even have time to celebrate his big day. Lesson learned, they pull their sleeves up and decorate his house for him. ‘Thank you,’ said Father Christmas. ‘Most children just want things, but you’ve given me a good Christmas.’