Newest Review: ... panels and situations like Santa resorting to valet parking for his reindeer in Las Vegas. It's quite a nice idea by Briggs in these boo... more
When the Snow Melts
Father Christmas Goes on Holiday - Raymond Briggs
Member Name: Jake Speed
Father Christmas Goes on Holiday - Raymond Briggs
Advantages: Good fun
Disadvantages: Not terribly long
Father Christmas Goes on Holiday is a children's book by the author and illustrator Raymond Briggs and was published in 1975. The book is a follow up to his original 1973 Father Christmas book where we met a very British and very Raymond Briggs version of Father Christmas. This Father Christmas lives in an ordinary house with his beloved cat and dog and grumbles a lot about his rather stressful occupation - his favourite word to describe things being 'bloomin'. The original book was all about Father Christmas attempting to complete his seasonal deliveries in time for Christmas Day and make sure all the children got their presents but Briggs poses another question here. What does Father Christmas do for the rest of the year? The answer is take a very well deserved holiday after all that ice, sludge, and hard work at Christmas. But where to? How about Scotland, France or Las Vegas?
This is a pleasant and entertaining sequel to the original Father Christmas book and while the first one was probably slightly more memorable with its snowy Christmas atmosphere and our first introduction to this very down to earth incarnation of Father Christmas, this is excellent too and allows Briggs to introduce a bit more humour as Santa visits various locales and meets new people. Enjoyable panels and situations like Santa resorting to valet parking for his reindeer in Las Vegas. It's quite a nice idea by Briggs in these books, the way he makes Father Christmas very ordinary and a big of a grumbler, just a very human character. He's sort of like a fluffier version of Jim Royle but we know he's a big softie beneath all the bluster and complaining. 'What do we know about Father Christmas?' said Briggs once in an interview. 'He's old and fat and has a working-class sort of job a bit like my dad, who was a milkman. Because he's been doing it all his life and he gets cold, dirty and tired, it's perfectly logical that he would be fed up with it and so he is going to be grumpy!'
Briggs always brings some honesty into his children's books and is never too saccharine. He'll always add at least one slightly bitter little sprinkling of something into the cake, the downbeat coda to The Snowman being a case in point. Father Christmas Goes on Holiday reminded me somewhat of Briggs' earlier Gentleman Jim a little in the way that it thrust a very down to earth central character into extraordinary situations. Father Christmas is obviously not ordinary but Briggs manages to make him so and yet STILL make you believe this is the one and only Father Christmas. You could imagine him living next to you but he's still Santa! Jim's flight of fancy in Gentleman Jim were often imagined though and he obviously stood out far less than Father Christmas. Therefore it is always fun here to see Father Christmas in sun baked climes sipping drinks and letting his, er, beard down after all that hassle he has to endure each Christmas. He's now getting sunburn instead of hauling himself down chimneys in sub-zero temperatures.
Briggs' Father Christmas is a very unpretentious character and it's one of the reasons why you like him despite the grumbling. It's like Captain Haddock in the Tintin books. Haddock is always complaining and a bit grumpy but you love him because he's very human. The Father Christmas books were, like The Snowman and The Bear, turned into an animated feature for Channel 4 with the voice of Mel Smith. The Mel Smith Father Christmas film is very good if I remember and well worth a look when it's inevitably wheeled out again next December if you've never seen it before. Briggs' books are famous for their pastel illustrations and once again some of the art here is wonderfully cosy and old-fashioned and the author has fun with the various locations our white bearded hero visits. Fantasy is the most important theme in Briggs' work (probably because he has a fairly downbeat view of real life) and although Father Christmas is not lost in a fantasy world like Jim Bloggs or his Unlucky Wally character, there is a fantastical and enjoyable element to having Santa depicted as a ordinary person and going on holiday. It's actually quite a fantastical twist to take a humanist approach to this Yuletide icon.
I'm always interested in the possible inspiration for some of Briggs' books and ideas. I do remember reading a Charlie Brown book once where Charlie and Linus had a discussion about what Father Christmas does for the rest of the year. Does he go on holiday for example? Maybe Schulz and Briggs just both had the same idea. The text here is fairly basic but there are a decent amount of 'bloomins' from Father Christmas and one or two sly in-jokes - like one about a Scottish butchers named Hamish McHamilton, this of course being the name of the author's publishers. There is some text in French too during our hero's sojourn to the continent and it's fun but might slightly befuddle younger readers. I generally think though that younger children will enjoy both this and the original Father Christmas book quite a lot. This is a nice companion piece to the original Father Christmas and a lot of fun with the usual lovely art by Briggs. These books are certainly worth getting hold of for younger children. Anyone who is a fan of the author and especially enjoyed The Snowman and Gentleman Jim will like this too. The last time I looked you can buy a used paperback copy of this for next to nothing.
Summary: More Raymond Briggs Father Christmas capers
- A Traveller in Time - Alison Uttley
- Angry Birds: Side-Splitting Joke Book
- Who's Horrible in History - Terry Deary
- Angelina and the Royal Wedding - Katharine Holabird
- Spells: A New Kind of Faerie Tale - Aprilynne Pike
- Della Says OMG! - Keris Stainton
- I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You - Ally Carter
- The Wave: The Classroom is Out of Control - Morton Rhue