‘Alfie’s Christmas‘ by Shirley Hughes (published by The Bodley Head)
After yesterday’s review of a Shirley Hughes classic, it seems only right that today we share her newest Alfie story, a Christmas one published this year.
C and H have become somewhat obsessed with Alfie, and his little sister Annie Rose, after C was given a gorgeous treasury of their stories for his birthday back in the summer. We’ve since found a few more of the books and we now work our way through them in much the same manner as those dedicated people who paint the Severn Bridge, or in the same vein as ‘Friends’ is now shown on TV – we get to the end of our stack and then just go right back to the beginning again. It is a ginormous testament to the books’ brilliance that the stories always seem fresh even after an unknowable number of repeated readings.
Every single scene on every single page of this book is, as always, observed perfectly and although certain details of daily life have definitely been updated since ‘Lucy & Tom’s Christmas’ was created, there is still a focus on family togetherness and simple fun. Perhaps this is even more important now, when there are umpteen other distractions available to all of us, all of the time…
As with the Lucy and Tom book, one of my favourite moments in ‘Alfie’s Christmas’ is the recognition of that lull after lunch. Annie Rose gets a bit cross, Alfie and Dad realise they need batteries to make a new toy work and Great-Uncle Will suggests that he and Alfie go outside to use Alfie’s new scooter. As a child and still as an adult, these potential impediments to the momentum of my favourite day of the year always cause worry. Will people still want to play games later? Will someone not like their present if it doesn’t work straight away? Will people disappear for walks, naps, etc., and then just not come back? These things rarely happen and they certainly don’t in the magical world that Shirley Hughes has created here, so I’ll know just where to turn for comfort when the niggles set in this year 😉
This book fits perfectly within the Alfie and Annie Rose series and it makes me all tingly (and a bit teary, too, if I’m honest) to think that there really, genuinely is an author and illustrator who will mean as much to C and H as she did to me as a child. For most of us, Christmas is filled with traditions that have been passed down to us or that we’ve started ourselves. For us – at Christmas and in life – the work of Shirley Hughes is one of ours.