‘The Empty Stocking‘ by Richard Curtis, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb (published by Puffin)
It’s no secret that we LOVE Rebecca Cobb’s illustrations (and we love her even more as a person given that her dedication in this book reads “For my family and Father Christmas” – awesome), so last year we were delighted to buy a copy of this book hot off the presses.
It was interesting to read something by someone as well known as Richard Curtis and try to appreciate it on its own merits, but in the end it didn’t require much hard work as I think this book is great. The relationship between the two main characters (identical twin girls named Sam and Charlie) is given clever little twists, despite potentially being a black and white tale about one child who’s really, really good (Sam) and one child who’s really, really naughty (Charlie).
Sam is genuinely concerned about whether her sister well get any presents from Father Christmas this year as it has been her naughtiest year yet and as it turns out, her worries were well-founded as Father Christmas has got tough this year and decided that he’s going to be cruel to be kind. He makes a crucial mistake, however, when he confuses the twins as they lie sleeping and leaves a huge stocking-full of gifts for Charlie and Sam is left with an Empty Stocking.
Charlie wakes in the middle of the night and discovers this mistake and sets about sharing ‘her’ presents with Sam so they each have exactly the same. This causes Father Christmas’ GoodBadOMeter (fab name!) to flash up something unprecedented – a last-minute change to his plans.
He is therefore compelled to return to the twins’ house and fill both their stockings up to the brim, adding something extra for Charlie at the very last moment.
Needless to say, Sam and Charlie are overjoyed with their presents, though Sam keeps her ‘extra’ present hidden as she’s a little embarrassed. It actually does make me sniffle each time when I turn the final page and said present is revealed, a badge that simply says ‘Good Girl’. *sniffles*
I have misgivings about any child being painted as solely good or bad and was pleased that this book does reveal that Charlie had different motives for her behaviour than might initially have been obvious to others. What makes me sob, therefore, in this book is not the fact that Charlie finally did something that was undeniably ‘good’, but that the bond between the siblings was so strong. One of the things I am proudest of with C and H is how supportive they are of each other and how much they openly care for each other, despite the daily squabbles over who’s got the best Lego Storm Trooper helmet.
A great story and yet I haven’t even beGUN to tell you about how Rebecca Cobb has yet again totally outdone herself with the illustrations. I’m already ridiculously over my (self-imposed) word limit so I’ll simply have to say that she is a utter genius and can do no wrong in our eyes (the Advent pictures she’s been tweeting this year are further evidence of that)