Book review: Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien

In December my attention was drawn to a book by JRR Tolkien, which I had not previously read. I mentioned it to hubby and was both surprised and delighted on Christmas Day to open a package containing a hardback copy.

Photo of Letters from Father Christmas with a picture of a person clothed in red carrying a strangely shaped parcel across a snowy landscape.

Letters from Father Christmas is a book intended for children. JRR Tolkien wrote illustrated letters to each of his four children while they were young in the years from 1920 to 1943. The letters transcribed in the book are also shown as illustrations of Father Christmas’s handwriting and pictures of his home and adventures at the North Pole.

This edition published in 2012 was edited by Baillie Tolkien (a daughter-in-law of JRR Tolkien). It was first published in 1976. There have been other revisions.

The same imagination that created The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings lovingly invented an imaginary world for his own children to enjoy. There is humour and excitement in these letters, which surely appeal to readers of all ages.

Letters from Father Christmas is also available as a paperback, CD-audio and in a deluxe edition.

Three more books I read in November 2020

The books reviewed here are all fiction. One is a children’s book.

Book cover The Tiger and the RubyThe Tiger and the Ruby by Kief Hillsbery is a book from BorrowBox. The tagline is A journey to the other side of British India. It is historical fiction set mainly in India in the time of the East India Company. There is a mystery, which a relative of the main character sets out to solve a long time afterwards. I found the book interesting, but there were many snippets of history, which I did not find memorable. I found it hard to remember that it was a work of fiction. It was interesting and well-written. The story jumped from the time of the mystery to the time of the narrator, who was of a later generation.


Dust coverThe Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham is one of the books I recently inherited. I had read it many years ago, but couldn’t remember anything about it until the very end. In the last few pages I realised that I had read it before. It has similarities to The Franchise Affair with its background in post-WWII Britain. The variety of characters and the effect of decisions made by some of them on the lives of others make a good novel. I didn’t understand all the language of the criminals apart from ‘slop’ being back-slang for police. The changes in everyday English from the 1950s to the present day are very noticeable.

The edition I read was from a book club – World Books. Its publications had a standard appearance, demonstrated in the photos. The second photo shows how a dust cover protects a book.
Spine of book with inside of dust cover

Book cover The Girl who saved ChristmasThe Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig is the second in a series, but stands alone. I had not read any of Matt Haig’s children’s books before. It is a mixture of fantasy and historical fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I found on BorrowBox.

What I read in August 2020 (Part 5)

The last two books I read in August were on Borrowbox.

I was looking for some light reading, so I searched for Phaedra Patrick and found a book which had WWishes under the Willow Tree coverishes under the Willow Tree: A season of second chances on the cover, but the title of Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone. I enjoyed reading it, although I couldn’t work out how the main character was managing to keep paying with cash, while he had few customers in his jewellery shop! The chapter headings are semiprecious stones with their attributes. One of the questions for readers groups is about belief in the attributes of stones to affect people’s lives. I do not believe this, but it made a good story. The characters are well-drawn and there are unexpected events and plenty of suspense to keep the pages turning. I read it in a day.

The book has different titles in the UK and the US: Wishes under the Willow Tree in the UK and Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone in the US.

I looked for The Handmaid’s Tale, but it was out on loan. However, my search term of Atwood also brought up Atwater. Mr Popper’s Penguins, which I thoroughly enjoyed as a stage play with puppets last year, was originally a children’s book written by an American couple, Richard and Florence Atwater. I borrowed it and read it in an afternoon. It was very interesting to notice how the book had been adapted for the stage. The book was illustrated by Robert Lawson and the e-book published by Open Road Media. There were a few chapters in the book, which were impossible to transfer to a stage production with a tiny cast. However, the play was true to the book with minor adaptations. Mr Popper was absent-minded in the book. In the play this appeared as clumsiness, which worked well. Either way his mind was not on his work! There are several American words, which British children might find difficult, but it is a very funny book. The biographical details of the authors were interesting. They were born in the 19th century. Florence, who edited the book into a form accepted for publication in 1938, lived until 1979.