Book Reviews: December 2018

Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson
Pub Vintage £10.99

In this very attractive book are twelve of Jeanette Winterson’s tales with a Christmas theme, some that appeared in other forms over the years, accompanied by recipes for each of the twelve days of Christmas. In addition to various ghost stories, animal fables and urban fairy tales, we find out how to make Susie Orbach’s Christmas Eve gravlax, hear about notorious non-cook Kathy Acker’s “New York Custard” and find Ruth Rendell’s delicious red cabbage recipe, an entry made all the more poignant because for many years Winterson stayed for a part of the Christmas period with Ruth who was wonderfully supportive to her.
Part memoir, part a collection of fascinating fables, all beautifully written, this is a gift that you will want to keep yourself.
'Winterson’s winter tales unfailingly succeed in their endeavour to leave you aglow' The Guardian

Scandikitchen Christmas by Bronte Aurell
Ryland, Peters & Small £16.99

This is a lovely book full of festive Scandinavian treats, ranging from aquavit and glogg recipes; edible gifts such as peppernuts, Swedish toffees through to venison shanks, sour cabbage, gravlax and Jansson’s temptation, and truly delectable desserts such as Christmas kringle, saffron layer cake and almond ring cake. With enticing photos and an engaging tone, this is a useful and delicious addition to any cookery shelf.

A Muddy Trench: A Sniper’s Bullet by Jacquie Buttriss
Pen and Sword £25

When Rosie and Robert Stewart’s mother died, they had to sort through the contents of her packed house. The last box in the attic, hastily emptied into plastic bags before the house clearance men came, proved to be a treasure trove, and a forgotten history. Hamish Mann had been their great uncle, unknown to them except as a single faded photo from their childhoods. The box was stuffed the brim with papers which contained Hamish’s brief life as an aspiring writer and soldier, before he died in the Battle of Arras in 1917.
The Stewarts enlisted the help of Steyning author Jacquie Buttriss to bring Hamish’s story to the wider public, and she has painstakingly pieced together his life, and with his own vivid accounts and poignant poems has created a fascinating insight into life in the trenches and Hamish’s journey from teenage patriotic fervour, to the sadder, more fearful, wiser young man he became in two short years. A timely reminder of the horrors of war.

Snow in the Garden by Shirley Hughes
Walker £12.99

Collected here is a charming collection of stories, poems, crafts and recipes, all with a Christmas theme, from one of our best children’s authors, Shirley Hughes. With her trademark illustrations and gentle wit and empathetic understanding of a small child’s viewpoint, this is the perfect way for 3-6 year olds to get excited about Christmas.

I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree by Fiona Waters and Frann Preston-Gannon
Nosy Crow £25

This a an absolutely gorgeous poetry anthology for children. There is a nature poem for every day of the year, laid out on each double page spread with a linking theme and beautiful illustrations. The poems range from simple nursery rhymes to longer ones, from poets such as WB Yeats, Carol Ann Duffy and Benjamin Zephaniah. A book that will be treasured for many years.

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig
Pub Canongate £9.99

Readers of Matt Haig’s latest three marvellous books for children – A Boy Called Christmas, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and the most recent, now in paperback, Father Christmas and Me, will be familiar with the amusing character the Truth Pixie with her unfortunate compulsion - 'Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.' Now she has a story all for herself, illustrated by wizard with the pen Chris Mould. Good fun for all.

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