Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’

I think it would be hard to find anyone who isn’t aware of the basic plot line of this classic story from Charles Dickens. Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas, and charity – all he cares about is his own money. One Christmas he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley who tells Scrooge that he is to be visited by three ghosts who will teach him to change. Over the course of the story, Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas and reverses his attitude to charity and caring for the less fortunate.

A Christmas Carol is a story that never fails to get me into the Christmas spirit, no matter how many times I have read it. As a novella, it is easily read in a few sittings (no need to worry that you’ll still be reading it on January 1st) and the message is still relevant. In fact, not only is the message relevant but perhaps more important than ever, in our society of pushing and shoving for black Friday deals, excessive spending and ever more extravagant gifts. Scrooge (and we) learn that Christmas is about giving – not just our money, but our time, our compassion, our love.

Merry Christmas, and, in Tiny Tim’s words, ‘God bless us, every one’

Patrick Ness – ‘A Monster Calls’

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One thing that I really love about children’s fiction is that it often deals with big topics; ones that we can sometimes feel uncomfortable discussing with young people.

Conor’s mum is sick, facing a range of treatments that only seem to make her worse. In the midst of this troubling time, Conor receives a visit from an ancient monster, who wants one thing from him. The truth.

I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t entirely sold on the concept of the book. It took me a little while to get into, but when I did I loved it. I really enjoyed the fairy – tale -like stories that the monster tells to Conor, as well as the twists and turns thrown at him. A Monster Calls is a highly emotional story, and it did make me shed a tear or two… and despite the title it is actually not a story about monsters, but about the very things that make us human. Conor’s final truth is completely understandable and heartbreaking.

A must – read if you enjoy tear-jerkers.