This afternoon, I was able to put my occasional bookhelper’s hat on and be part of the Mostly Books team managing a mammoth event and signing at OLA school in Abingdon. OLA Librarian Mrs Hickford had invited many of the local state primary schools to join her pupils – and so the main hall was packed to the gunwales with 9-11 year olds who had all come to see Matt Haig, who is on tour promoting his new children’s book, The Girl Who Saved Christmas, the sequel to A Boy Called Christmas.
The first book came about when Matt’s young son asked him what Father Christmas was like as a child. Hence he wrote about Nikolas who has to endure hardship as a child, but has a big heart. He seeks out the Elves in Elfheim in the Far North, hoping to find out what happened to his father, and the rest is ‘history’. In the sequel, we are transported to Victorian times where Amelia is a chimney sweep in the workhouse. She will become the first receiver of a Christmas present and keep the magic alive. The two books can be read in sequence, although the second stands on its own too, (and Carey Mulligan has done the audiobooks).
The books sound absolutely lovely for ages maybe 8+. There are Elves who sing and Trolls who burp, there’s magic and reindeer and in the new one Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria appear too. Matt’s presentation to the schoolkids introduced them to the main characters, to Chris Mould who has illustrated them, and most importantly, to the ‘Barometer of Hope’ – which the audience had to move up to its maximum reading by shouting out magic Christmas words. The children loved it, and there were long queues to get books signed afterwards.
Matt is one of those amazing authors who is as happy writing for children as adults. I’ve long been a fan of his adult novels (having read and reviewed The Radleys here, The Humans here and the wonderful The Last Family in England just pre-blog). I told Matt that The Last Family in England made me cry. I also told him that Victoria said he needed a hug for writing his memoir about depression Reasons to Stay Alive. She said In her Shiny review, ‘If I ever get to meet Matt Haig, the first thing I would like to do, now I’ve read his book, is give him a hug.’
I didn’t quite give him a hug, but Matt was absolutely lovely and signed the adult books I’d brought with me with lovely comments. Thank you Matt. It was a splendid afternoon.
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