Father Christmas – Raymond Briggs

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 point.

This is a strange little book. I’ve encountered Briggs before (Fungus the Bogeyman, and The Snowman, both of which will show up later in this list), but I had never read this one. C also didn’t quite know what to make of it, since Briggs’ Father Christmas is a crotchety old grump who would definitely rather be on a sunny summer island somewhere than trawling through the snow delivering presents.

It doesn’t pass the Bechdel, since the only character who talks to FC is a milkman out very early on his rounds as FC is finishing up. It also doesn’t have any sign of any people of colour.

It’s an interesting book to read with a child though because most of the story happens in the pictures. I am a very text based person, so this is always a bit of a challenge for me, and one which I kind of enjoy, because it does make the whole experience a little more interactive and active. C and I chatted about the pictures and what was happening in them, and I read the bits of text that were there. I think challenging these norms of what makes “a story” with children is really important. So that aspect I really enjoyed.

I don’t know how I feel about this Father Christmas though. I am unashamedly a Christmas person – I love it. And at the end C said to me thoughtfully, “I don’t think Father Christmas is really this grumpy.” I kind of have to agree, kid. 😉

And there is something kind of sad about this lonely grumpy old man who does this thankless task every year he doesn’t even seem to enjoy. I dunno that I can really get on board with that.

It does raise interesting questions about taking people for granted, though, which was kind of interesting to talk about with C.

So I have mixed feelings about it. I want to like it, because I enjoy what Briggs’ does with picture books, and I like his aesthetic, but I’m not sure. What do you think?

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