Earlier on the advent calendar I told you about the Puffin Post at Christmas, this week another children’s book magazine, the Storyteller. Between 1983 and 1985 this anthology collected together new and classic short stories with some great illustrations with a cassette tape to boot.
Inevitably there were the Christmas specials, with a few real gems hidden between the covers. Tony Ross, Michael Foreman, Korky Paul and Geraldine McCaughrean all contribute with some hugely imaginative tales.
In the Great Sleigh Robbery, an adaptation of his 1969 book , Michael Foreman shows what would happen if a gang of master criminals set their sights on Santa. Being super villains they have their own rocket, filled with individual helicopters ready to snatch Santa, sleigh and all.
But they don’t reckon on the children of the world. Unable to sleep in anticipation of Santa’s arrival they are all looking out of their windows and witnesses the abduction.
Being children they soon wake up everyone else up on the planet, who rush out onto the streets of the cities, the jungles, deserts and mountains all over the world, preventing the pirates from landing with their precious cargo.
So Santa makes a deal with the crooks: Help me make my deliveries or stay up here until you are out of fuel.
So they whizz out in their helicopters, laden down with presents. Christmas is delivered in record time and the baddies learn the error of their ways.
The moral of the story: Delivering presents is more fun that stealing! Next Christmas Santa has a new band of helpers on side.
Tony Ross teams up with Geraldine McCaughrean for another Santa caper, Boo Ho Ho, in which the not so jolly old Saint Nick is overcome with a bad case of existential collywobbles.
‘I suppose they like what I take them. I mean they go on asking for things year in, year out. I hear rumours that people enjoy Christmas. But how would I know? I come straight back here, have a large turkey sandwich and then fall into bed totally exhausted.’
So Rudolph hatches a cunning plan, which involves the pair dressing up in increasingly elaborate costumes and attempting to crash various families Christmases in an effort to find out whether they are really appreciated.
But sadly the spirit of the season isn’t alive and Santa finds himself turned away from house after house.
‘Clear off, or I’ll set the dogs on you!’ shouted Mr Brown from the bedroom window. ‘Isn’t it bad enough to have the kids playing those wretched whistles without listening to you?’
So Santa returns to the North Pole more depressed than ever. But Rudolph has one final surprise in store as he brings together the children whose parents have turned them away.
We also learn what Father Christmas gets in his stocking.
‘A pair of socks, a postcard of the North Pole, some jingle bells, another pair of socks, a chimney brush… and from Rudolph a red pullover with reindeer all over it.’
No wonder he’s so miserable.
Finally Korky Paul illustrates a story based on Hans Christian Andersen’s depressing fairy tale, the Fir Tree.
You’ll remember the story is about a tree who is never happy with her lot, always wanting to be big and magnificent like the other pines in the forest.
Then a rather terrifying hairy man turns up with a chainsaw and graphically culls the trees, ready to be sold to eager families.
The little pine tree finally finds happiness as everyone insists she is the most beautiful Christmas tree the world has ever seen.
But sadly, beautiful or not, the fate of all Christmas trees is the same. I’ll leave you with the horrifying image of the little pine rotting like a drunk in the gutter. You are very welcome.
The Storyteller Christmas specials can be read in their entirety here, here and here. Thanks to the unofficial Storytellers website.