Less violent than I might have hoped, Anthony McGowan and Chris Riddell’s I Killed Father Christmas begins instead with an argument about the economy.
‘I don’t care about poor children or the economy, I want a robot and a racing car, and a helicopter that really flies.’
Jo-Jo is dragged into his parents’ constant arguments when he presents them with a lengthy Christmas list. His father accuses him of being greedy and selfish, then his mother hits back, accusing dad of killing Christmas.
If Dad has killed Father Christmas, Jo-Jo deduces, it must be his fault as he created the argument in the first place by asking for two many presents.
So Jo-Jo takes it upon himself to right his wrong and dresses up in one of his mum’s red shirts. He stuffs pillowcases full of his old things to give to his friends and neighbours in lieu of an appearance from the man himself.
McGowan is best known for his gritty and grotesque books for older children, like the hard hitting the Knife that Killed Me and Henry Tumour (a story that begins with the word ‘Arsecheese’). Unsurprisingly he dials it back here for his younger audience (‘Poo-Face’), but the book still retains a pleasing verisimilitude.
Riddell is on top form here. I particularly enjoyed his portraits of the festive family.
The former children’s laureate is probably too busy battling corporate monsters for the soul of Christmas, but one day I’d love to see him produce a full scale Christmas book.
I Killed Father Christmas is published by Barrington Stoke – read the first chapter here