How did Father Christmas come to be? It’s a blindingly obvious question but one that’s rarely been answered. Author Matt Haig seized on the brilliant idea after his son asked him “What was Father Christmas like as a boy?”
A Boy Called Christmas is a rip roaring adventure in the style of all you favourite children’s books, all at once. It’s a deliciously moreish book, which my nine year old gobbled up in two nights, a personal best.
I took rather longer, only because I kept getting distracted by Chris Mould’s fantastic monochrome illustrations which manage to capture both the action and atmosphere of the far north.
I asked Chris about some of the books that inspired him to draw A Boy Called Christmas, and also to give a glimpse into the creative process behind the book’s central image. But first, what was he like as a boy at Christmastime?
Chris Mould: ‘I was a real pain to my parents at Christmas. That sticks in my mind a lot and I get reminded of it now constantly. It was Christmas Eve that did it. Too excited. Up all night being ‘physically’ sick with anticipation of the big day.
My first thought on this is an obvious one. I think my love for this was probably more about the title than anything else. Just because it holds so much promise. It is of course, T’was the Night Before Christmas. On which there are hundreds of variations, but the build up and wonderment behind the premise was always what it was about for me.
I always loved Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s a well trodden path for illustrators and a very visual text so it has an impressive list of imagineers that includes Arthur Rackham, Ronald Searle and PJ Lynch.
I also think the other Christmas books produced by Dickens are overlooked. The Chimes in particular.
It’s a huge leap forward but Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman resonates with me as a book that, though not strictly a Christmas book, is still a part of that winter fireside tale telling tradition that evokes the seasonal feel we get from a snow filled story.
Letters from Father Christmas. A book by Tolkien containing letters to his children that arrived every year, bearing a stamp from the North Pole.
Tales of the reindeers and elves and the goings on behind the scenes of the big day. Eye opening, magical moments for his own children. Shared with everyone else’s.
My favourite piece in A Boy Called Christmas would definitely be Nikolas fitting into his coat.
It’s such a defining moment and very relevant to Nikolas growing into the role of becoming an adult and becoming Father Christmas.’
Thanks Chris, have a happy Christmas.
A Boy Called Christmas is published by Canongate.